CFB Recruiting: 10 Committed 2021 Prospects Who'd Make Their Teams Better Now
Part of the fun of recruiting is projecting just where and how guys are going to fit into the team they're going to, and we're all guilty of anointing players before they step on campus.
Why wouldn't we? Every victory in a living room could lead to the next megastar who takes the programs we cheer for to the next level.
But with kids committing earlier and earlier these days, many of the fans at least get to find joy in "recruiting championships" while their teams are struggling on the field. In some cases, there are guys in next year's class who certainly would help things this year, too.
For some of those programs, it's the difference between being competitive and not. For others, a difference-maker who could impact the game right away could be the missing piece in a national championship run.
This year with COVID-19 making it difficult for normalcy in any facet of life, we should be happy with any football. But it's nice to think about how a star prospect in next year's class could help our favorite teams if they were already on campus in the mix.
Let's take a look at some committed prospects for the 2021 class who may be able to make their teams better right now, even if they suited up tomorrow and played Saturday.
Deion Colzie, Notre Dame Wide Receiver
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish joined the ACC for one season, at least, and nothing has stopped them from being one of the top teams in college football yet.
Though they struggled to beat Louisville in a slugfest, the Irish have veteran Ian Book at quarterback, an elite defense and enough quality players at running back (led by Kyren Williams) that they can make some noise every week and are a viable candidate for the College Football Playoff.
But the Irish certainly miss skilled pass-catchers like Chase Claypool, who is taking the NFL by storm as a rookie, and exceptional tight end Cole Kmet, both of whom are playing on Sundays. They are struggling to find difference-makers in the receiving game.
Javon McKinley is the only receiver doing anything on the field this year.
The 6'4", 193-pound pass-catcher from Athens (Georgia) Academy wasn't really heavily pursued by the hometown Bulldogs, but the Irish got him over a slew of other SEC offers. He is an elite high jumper who can go up and get jump balls, and he also possesses breakaway speed.
This is a guy who would start this year for Notre Dame most likely, or at least be firmly in the rotation. Having a weapon like him would rejuvenate an offense that has been stagnant at times in 2020.
Raesjon Davis, LSU Outside Linebacker
When you lose as much next-level talent as the defending national champions did, you've got to expect a significant step down. That's exactly what LSU coach Ed Orgeron is dealing with this season.
The Bayou Bengals have sputtered to a 2-2 start with losses to Mississippi State and Missouri and wins over Vanderbilt and South Carolina. In the combined two losses, the LSU defense has allowed an astounding 89 points.
Yes, LSU misses defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, who was replaced by Bo Pelini after taking the Baylor Bears head coaching job. But they're also missing difference-making talent in the front seven.
Inserting a guy like Raesjon Davis would be a big benefit.
Davis is a 6'1", 215-pound outside linebacker who is the second big recruiting coup in the Golden State for Orgeron in the past two years, following starting cornerback Elias Ricks (who finished his high school days in Florida at IMG Academy).
With LSU struggling to tackle and have impact plays pressuring quarterbacks, Davis would be an asset if he could hop a plane and suit up now.
Davis can do it all. He's a coverage-first 'backer, but he can also rush after the passer and is a big-hitting sure tackler. This is the type of all-around athlete the Tigers had last year on the second level that they're lacking. He would be a guy who could impact the team now and almost certainly will in 2021.
TreVeyon Henderson, Ohio State Running Back
There's absolutely nothing wrong with what the Ohio State Buckeyes have in the offensive backfield this year.
Flanking Heisman Trophy hopeful quarterback Justin Fields will be Oklahoma graduate transfer Trey Sermon, who is a big, bruising back. Then there's redshirt sophomore Master Teague III, another player who is the type of prospect who could be an all-around back.
The Buckeyes have plenty of additional talent who could break out, too.
But they don't have anybody like TreVeyon Henderson, who will be arriving in Columbus with the 2021 class.
The 5'11", 195-pound running back from Virginia is, simply put, elite. He and defensive end Jack Sawyer are going to be "Those Dudes" in next year's class for the Buckeyes, who are going to wind up with one of the nation's top hauls again.
Yes, Sawyer very easily could fit right here because he's going to impact any team from the time he steps on campus. But 247Sports analyst Charles Power compares Henderson to Christian McCaffrey on his 247Sports profile, and you can't tell me the Buckeyes can't use a guy like that right now.
He's what they'll miss with J.K. Dobbins' game-breaking ability, and while Ohio State is going to compete for the national title again this year, you have to wonder if a legit home run hitter at running back is something they'll miss.
They've got the star quarterback. They've got the nation's top offensive line. They've got elite studs all over that defense. But do they have an All-American runner? That's the big question. Henderson will be that guy in 2021.
Ja'Tavion Sanders, Texas Edge-Rusher
At this point of the season with Texas sitting at 3-2 and the Jekyll-and-Hyde nature of the Longhorns, it's impossible to tell how the rest of 2020 is going to go for Tom Herman's team.
They could completely collapse, leaving Herman's future in limbo, or they could finally begin to play up to their talent's capability.
Sadly for Horns fans, though, the past few years would lead you to believe the former is what's going to happen, and that's mostly because of the defensive ineptitude. It's obvious that Todd Orlando wasn't the problem, as they fired him, brought in Chris Ash and are experiencing the same putrid results.
A guy like star athlete Ja'Tavion Sanders would make a difference right now.
The 6'3½", 220-pound all-around playmaker could be a top-tier player on either side of the ball, and that's why he's a 5-star talent. The Denton prospect likely will be a pass-rusher for the Longhorns, and who could blame them if he is. They need all the help on that side of the ball they can get.
With Joseph Ossai really the only impact playmaker who can get after a quarterback, play the Jack position or with his hand down, the Horns need other guys who can speed up a signal-caller's clock by breathing down his neck.
Sanders is that guy. Expect him to step right on the field for Texas because there's really no other choice, and boy, the team would love to have him right now to insert as a plug-and-play guy who could help Ash's defense in 2020.
Keeshawn Silver, North Carolina Defensive End
Though they almost came back against Florida State, North Carolina's Cinderella national championship hopes went up in flames with the loss to the Seminoles a couple of weeks back. Let's be honest, though: Coach Mack Brown's team was always going to be a couple of recruiting classes away.
What the Tar Heels are doing in this turnaround is still remarkable.
They've got weaponry all over the offense, and the defense has done its share of wrecking, too. But one place they haven't been that good at so far is getting after the quarterback, mired somewhere in the middle of the ACC.
In last year's cycle, Brown began building up the defensive line with guys like Desmond Evans and Myles Murphy, and those guys are going to be able to get after quarterbacks for the next few years, whether they do it with their hands down or at outside linebacker.
They're getting some big help in 2021 with Keeshawn Silver, a 6'5", 275-pound versatile lineman whose body is intriguing in that he is a huge, basketball-type athlete who could stay on the outside and develop his raw pass-rushing skills or add 30 pounds and get after quarterbacks as an interior force at the point of attack.
Either way, he is the kind of player the Heels don't have on their roster, and they have tended to struggle this year wreaking enough havoc along the defensive front to cause much damage to opposing offenses.
Despite his lack of polish, Silver is too good of an athlete with too much of an upside to keep off the field, and he is a player who could help Brown in the rotation this year, giving them another potential difference-maker who can help build the defense.
Julien Simon, USC Outside Linebacker
If you're looking for many playmakers from that 2020 USC recruiting class, you're going to be searching for a long time. It was a historically awful haul for coach Clay Helton.
This year's group, though, is right back on point for the Trojans, and it's because of guys like dynamic outside linebacker Julien Simon. The 6'2", 221-pound playmaker is simply the kind of defender who has been absent from USC classes the past few years.
The Tacoma, Washington, product can play any of the linebacker positions and is even athletic enough to play safety at his size, but he almost certainly will settle on the second level, where he projects as a guy to get snaps right away next year.
With the Trojans set to kick off soon and with plenty of questions on defense, he'd probably find himself firmly in the mix if he was on campus already.
New defensive coordinator Todd Orlando has made quite a splash in recruiting defensive guys capable of making an impact, and that's huge news for the Trojans. It's been proved already he wasn't Texas' problem, and prior to going to Austin, he had a sterling reputation, so he may have needed his fresh start in L.A.
Simon absolutely would have helped fill the need of a depleted position in 2020, too. Just a couple of weeks ago, it was made public the Trojans would be without Jordan Iosefa and Solomon Tuliaupupu, who will miss the season after knee surgeries.
"We have men there, but when you talk about the quality on defense and special teams, those are losses," Helton said, according to Reign of Troy's Alecia de Artola.
The future of the defense is looking up at Troy, but '20 still has plenty of question marks.
Clayton Smith, Oklahoma Defensive End
Everything that was said on the Texas slide about the Longhorns needing defensive superstars can pretty much be copied and pasted here, too.
Somehow, every year, the Oklahoma Sooners find a way to beat their heated rivals in the Red River Showdown, and coach Lincoln Riley has proved his team is the cream of the Big 12 the past few years, despite the slow start this season. But that doesn't mean there aren't deep-rooted defensive issues.
Coordinator Alex Grinch is going to be looking for another gig if he can't turn things around in a hurry.
Oklahoma can do that by welcoming big-time prospects like Clayton Smith into the fold. The 6'4", 220-pound hybrid edge-rusher is going to be the kind of player who can impact the defense in a lot of different ways. Whether it's from a stand-up position or with his hand down, Smith is going to play next year.
Grinch and Co. probably wishes he could suit up in Norman this year.
The Sooners are trying to rebuild a defense, basically from the ground up, and there are schematic issues, sure, but there are also just not the kind of big-time playmakers on that side of the ball. For every Kenneth Murray, there are players who will never sniff the NFL.
Grinch is trying to change the caliber of talent on that side of the ball, and Smith represents that. He is big, plays with a nasty streak and can get after quarterbacks and ball-carriers from all over the field. This is the kind of recruiting win out of Texarkana, Texas, the Sooners need.
Smith is a guy who could make an impact on any defense in the nation, and he just happens to be stepping into one of the best programs that has a bad defense. That spells immediate playing time.
Kingsley Suamataia, Oregon Offensive Tackle
There's not quite any elite unit in the country that is facing the same type of overhaul as Oregon's elite offensive line from a season ago.
From last year's Rose Bowl champion Ducks, Shane Lemieux, Calvin Throckmorton, Jake Hanson, Brady Aiello and Dallas Warmack are gone, and Lemieux and Hanson were drafted. While Outland Trophy winner Penei Sewell was expected to return, he opted out. Now, Sewell likely will be the top OL taken in April's draft.
But where does that leave the Ducks? The answer is searching for answers.
According to James Crepea of The Oregonian, Steven Jones, T.J. Bass, Alex Forsyth, Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu, George Moore, Ryan Walk, Sam Poutasi and Dawson Jaramillo are battling for starting jobs.
"It's been fun because it's a blank slate," Oregon offensive line coach Alex Mirabal told Crepea. "You start from scratch, you don't assume that they know anything. It's been really, really fun and as a teacher, that's what I love to do. I love to teach, I love to guide, so it's been great, and they've been sponges, they've been awesome. We just don't have experience so what do you do, you go to go out and get the experience—go play."
If you could throw Kingsley Suamataia in the fold, it would be a huge deal. While he doesn't really have a top-10 draft pick ceiling, the 6'5", 280-pound prospect from Orem, Utah, is going to wind up being a huge coup.
In a year where offensive linemen really highlight the class, Suamataia faces perhaps the best opportunity for immediate playing time, and he has the talent to make an impact this year. With long arms and quality athleticism for a guy his size, he is going to be a great player.
Maybe he doesn't have as high of a season as Tommy Brockermeyer or Amarius Mims, but he is going to play a whole lot at an early stage for coach Mario Cristobal.
Brock Vandagriff, Georgia Quarterback
Despite last weekend's disappointing second-half collapse in a loss to Alabama in what was the SEC's showcase game of the season, there's very little wrong with Georgia.
For coach Kirby Smart's team to still have as much elite talent as it does, despite presumed starting quarterback Jamie Newman opting out and another high-profile transfer JT Daniels not playing yet, it's saying something about the way he's recruited.
But Bulldogs fans want that elusive national title that hasn't come since 1980. The program has already proved everything else other than getting over the title hump.
Maybe 5-star quarterback Brock Vandagriff is the program savior who will finally be able to do it.
Say what you want about his high school production, everybody in the nation pretty much wanted the 6'3", 205-pound Bogart, Georgia, native, and he is heading to Athens after decommitting from Oklahoma. It's not out of the question he finds himself immediately in the mix for the starting gig.
The Dawgs have Daniels, yet walk-on Stetson Bennett is starting. Carson Beck was a quality signee last year and may have a bright future, but he didn't have the kind of clout Vandagriff brings with him.
He has the big arm, height and athleticism to even run a run-pass option offense. No matter which offensive scheme you place him in, he can shine. Vandagriff maybe isn't as polished as he's going to be, but he has superior talent to basically everybody in the nation.
Caleb Williams, really, is the only other big-name quarterback to match his skill set.
No matter how much of a nice story Bennett has been this year, he isn't the type of elite quarterback who can elevate his team's level of play. Vandagriff may be just that. It would be cool if UGA could throw him into the mix this year just to see.
Xavier Worthy, Michigan Wide Receiver
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh decided to go with big-armed Florida native Joe Milton at quarterback, but everybody is wondering just who he is going to throw to in Ann Arbor.
Five of the top seven Wolverines receivers from a year ago are gone, including Nico Collins (opted out), Tarik Black (transferred to Texas) and Donovan Peoples-Jones (headed to the NFL). While Ronnie Bell is expected to be the team's top target, Michigan is definitely looking for playmakers on the perimeter.
They'd love to have one of next year's prize recruits, Xavier Worthy, suited up and ready to go this year.
The 4-star prospect from Fresno, California, was a major cross-country recruiting coup by Harbaugh, and he was wanted by basically everybody in the country. Worthy has 10.55 speed, according to his 247Sports profile, which is unbelievable.
He's a no-doubt game-breaker who also possesses elite ball skills and could be a difference-maker no matter where he plays. At 6'1", 160 pounds, he's still a bit undersized, but he would be impossible for the Wolverines to keep off the field this year—and will be in 2021.
With his high school season moved to the spring because of COVID-19, Worthy's final chance to show everybody what he could do before getting to college was going to be in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, but it was canceled last week.
"I haven't played with pads and a helmet on since December of last year, so I was looking forward to it," Worthy told MLive's Ryan Zuke. "I really wanted to play. I wanted to show people I can play with the best, because I think they still have doubts. I wanted to show people I can compete with the best."
He'll get every opportunity in 2021 and even would have this year for Harbaugh.
Follow Brad Shepard on Twitter at @Brad_Shepard