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Not Just Kids: Top Impact Freshmen in College Football

Tim Bielik@bielik_timSenior Analyst IJuly 23, 2009

NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 02:  Wide receiver Julio Jones #8 of the Alabama Crimson Tide looks to make a move on Sean Smith #4 of the Utah Utes after making a catch in the second quarter during the 75th Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Louisiana Superdome on January 2, 2009 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Over the past few seasons, freshmen new to college football have not shied away from the spotlight. In fact, many have thrived on the jump to the next level.

2008 introduced the college football world to guys like Julio Jones, Terrelle Pryor, and Jeff Demps. One year ago, they were in high school.

The following season, all three of these freshmen played in BCS games and had huge roles on those teams.

With the start of the 2009 season just around the corner, who are some of the next impact freshmen ready to take the spotlight?

Here are some candidates for the guys that can be freshmen sensations in no particular order.

Russell ShepardQB, LSU

After watching this kid on TV, I can say that he is an athletic freak of nature.

Not only can he run with speed, but he has a decent arm as well.

He might not start in Baton Rouge, but Les Miles might find it hard to keep this talent off the field, and might try to pair him with blue-chip WR Rueben Randle.

Shepard showed his electricity in his senior year and into the Under Armour All-American Game this past season. He should be the next big superstar in Death Valley for the Tigers.

Andre DeboseWR, UF

One word use in all his evaluations: explosiveness. Debose should make people in Gainesville one day forget about Percy Harvin.

Urban Meyer is not afraid to throw freshmen into the fire, and Debose should be no exception. With 4.4 speed, Debose will add to the diverse weapons Tim Tebow has to work with.

And with the depth of Florida's offense, Debose can work his way into the lineup and he won't have to be the primary option. That will make him all the more dangerous this year and in years to come.

Bryce BrownRB, Tennessee

Probably the most publicized recruit of 2009, Brown found himself a spot in the Volunteer backfield with new coach Lane Kiffin.

With explosiveness and home run ability, it will take him little to no time to find a starting spot and become the focal point of the Tennessee offense.

It should take him time to adjust because of the level of defenses in the SEC East, and it might not get shorter if he starts immediately.

But if Brown plays like a star in Knoxville, Kiffin will look like a genius for his crazy antics as a coach/publicist.

Corey BrownWR/DB, Ohio State

Brown was one of two Gateway, Pa. superstars to sign on to Ohio State along with LB Dorian Bell. And with the lack of established starters at WR and DB, a great fall camp could land him significant playing time.

Having receiving skills would help Brown at DB as he has great ball skills and should bring immediate impact to a secondary weakened by the loss of Malcolm Jenkins.

Ohio State also needs WR help, and in the Army All-American Game, Brown showed tremendous catching ability.

No doubt versatility should get him some playing time right away.

Manti Te'oLB, Notre Dame

Probably the best prospect from the Hawaiian Islands, Te'o should have no trouble landing time on the Irish defense.

Te'o has amazing athleticism, and is an absolute hard-hitter, both of which should make him a fan favorite in South Bend.

He is expected to play in 2009, but then will drop off the radar for a Mormon mission, but Irish fans are expecting great things about him his freshman season.

If he does, Notre Dame will have a bright defensive future ahead of it.

Matt Barkley - QB, USC

USC always seems to land one of the top quarterbacks in the country nearly every season. Barkley, top prospect on many recruiting sites, is no exception.

He came into Los Angeles in January to immediately compete for the Trojans' starting job, and he has a legitimate shot to take the job during his freshman year. Like Meyer, Pete Carroll plays freshmen in his rotations regularly.

Barkley has the ability to make all the throws and presents the total package of a prototypical Trojan pocket passer.

He can be one of the best to pass through SC and his freshman season could be the beginning of an amazing career.

Regardless whether all or none of these guys end up being superstars at their respective schools, they have given their fanbases hope for a strong future when their current superstars graduate or leave early for the NFL.

Edit: Part 2 of this series can be found at http://tinyurl.com/freshmenpart2.

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