National Signing Day 2019: Recruits Most Likely to Light Up CFB as True Freshmen
Freshmen enter the college football world with dreams of being an immediate contributor, but only a select few will actually hold a sizable role during their first year on campus.
Not all situations are created equally. Multiple factors―some outside of control―determine a player's path to snaps.
The most important is individual talent. While anyone headed to a Football Bowl Subdivision school has clearly showed it, the transition from high school takes a massive amount of learning. Combine those two, and that freshman may play.
If that happens, how's the depth chart? Are multiyear starters returning or are a couple of first-string positions up for grabs?
As 2019 national signing day on February 6 nears, here are seven prospects are in the most favorable spots to be major contributors as true freshmen.
George Karlaftis, DE, Purdue
Purdue returns both Kai Higgins and Giovanni Reviere, but they combined for only eight tackles for loss in 2018. The Boilermakers desperately need more disruption up front.
George Karlaftis has that ability.
The 4-star defensive end surpassed the 100-tackle mark in three straight high school seasons. As a senior, he posted an unruly 56 takedowns for loss with 17.5 sacks. That is not a misprint.
Since he's an early enrollee, the West Lafayette, Indiana, native has an even greater chance of earning a starting job right away in 2019.
Baylor Cupp, TE, Texas A&M
Last season, Jace Sternberger led Texas A&M with 48 receptions, 832 yards and 10 touchdowns. Because of that excellent year, the junior wisely decided to chase an NFL dream.
However, his departure left a massive void at the position. The Aggies' other tight ends totaled three catches in 2018.
Not only does Texas A&M have an opportunity for Baylor Cupp, but the offense needs production from the incoming 4-star. The Texan caught 20 passes for 492 yards and six scores as a senior in high school.
Cupp needs to leap Glenn Beal on the depth chart and could become a key target for quarterback Kellen Mond.
Daxton Hill, S, Michigan
When he arrives on campus in the summer, the 5-star safety will need to make up considerable ground in precious little time.
Good thing Daxton Hill is comfortable with that.
Throw on the highlight reel, and you'll see a hyperaware, aggressive blur flying all over the field. Hill―the brother of Oklahoma State and soon-to-be NFL running back Justice Hill―has a real opportunity to soar to the top of the depth chart at Michigan.
Brad Hawkins and J'Marick Woods will attempt to create separation at free safety this spring, but neither player is the obvious favorite to replace Tyree Kinnel. Hill, an Oklahoma native, can be the opening-game starter.
Trey Sanders, RB, Alabama
Clemson wrecked Alabama for the national championship, but anyone declaring the end of the Crimson Tide will be disappointed in 2019. Tua Tagovailoa will continue smashing defenses next season.
Because of that, it's entirely reasonable to suggest a timeshare in the backfield. Following the departures of Damien Harris and Josh Jacobs, Najee Harris deserves to start. The sooner a game is out of reach, though, the sooner his carries will be limited.
Trey Sanders and Brian Robinson Jr. will be vying for a majority of those snaps―plus the rotational reps when Harris needs a breather.
There will be enough snaps to go around anyway. But if Sanders is the second-stringer, he'll be a familiar face on a high-powered offense.
Even if he falls short of his ultimate Heisman Trophy goal.
Jadon Haselwood, WR, Oklahoma
CeeDee Lamb will be Oklahoma's undoubted No. 1 target, but nothing is set behind the All-Big 12 receiver.
Beyond tight ends Grant Calcaterra and Lee Morris, no returning wideout had more than 10 catches last season. Charleston Rambo flashed his upside in the Orange Bowl yet managed only eight grabs all year. Nobody can really hold off Jadon Haselwood.
During his final year in high school, the 5-star amassed 53 receptions for 1,032 yards and 11 touchdowns. The Georgia native snatched an impressive 75-yard score in the All-American Bowl.
That propensity for explosive gains should be evident quickly, particularly since Haselwood is an early enrollee.
Derek Stingley, CB, LSU
"I wish he could play in the bowl," the LSU coach said before the Fiesta victory over UCF, per Brody Miller of NOLA.com.
According to Bruce Feldman of The Athletic, Orgeron said Stingley was "covering our No. 1 receiver like a glove" in Fiesta Bowl practices. Orgeron also called the cornerback "really advanced."
Kristian Fulton will be a starter, but the Tigers need to replace All-SEC standout Greedy Williams. Even if Stingley doesn't lock up that role immediately, he'll probably hold it once 2019 is over.
Kayvon Thibodeaux, DE, Oregon
Jalen Jelks was Oregon's only defensive lineman to record more than five tackles for loss in 2018, and he's headed to the NFL. Kayvon Thibodeaux has a chance to shine right away.
While the Californian is the highest-rated recruit in Ducks history, Thibodeaux has a considerable void to fill. Jelks collected 29.5 tackles for loss during his time at Oregon.
Thibodeaux's top competitors are redshirt seniors Gus Cumberlander and Gary Baker, but they combined for only six stops in the backfield last year. Although they can provide valuable depth, neither offers a level of explosiveness even close to Thibodeaux.
Given the defense's current outlook, something has gone terribly wrong if he's not a popular freshman All-American choice.
All recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.