The day for underclassmen to declare their desire to play in the NFL has passed.
Now the attention turns to filling vacant coaching positions and recruiting. As technology and the internet has expanded, recruiting has taken on a bigger and bigger role with fans. There are countless sites devoted to recruiting that fans pay their hard earned dollars to in order to get an inside view of players that their team is recruiting. Recruiting has turned into a big business. But it's still hit and miss and not all of these prospects are going to pay dividends immediately, several need time to mature and also need opportunity.
For the purpose of this blog I'm going to use the ESPN 150 as a point of reference. Looking back at the Top 10 over the last few years it's a pretty impressive list.
2007- Joe McKnight, Eric Berry, Noel Devine, Terrance Toliver, Jimmy Clausen
2008- Da'Quan Bowers, Julio Jones, Terrell Pryor, A.J. Green, Patrick Peterson
As fans we look at these recruits and a lot of times expect them to come in and play at a high level right out of the box. Sometimes that happens but other times it takes the right kid, the right situation (playing time, coaching staff, etc) and the right position (some positions are easier to come in and start at than others). Right now 5 of the Top 10 ESPNU Top 150 have not verbally committed. But how many of these guys can come in and have an immediate impact for your team next year? Let's take a look back at the Top 10 of the ESPNU 150 Class of 2010 and see how they did in their Freshman seasons.
#1 Ronald Powell, Florida (ATH/DE)
Played in 13 games; had 16 solo tackles (25 total), 1 sack and 2.5 TFL
Named to Coaches SEC All-Freshmen Team
Named to Phil Steele's Postseason All-Freshman 5th Team
#2 Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas (DE)
Played in 8 games; had 6 solo tackles (13 total tackles), 1.5 sacks and 3 TFL
#3 Dominique Easley, Florida (DT)
Played in 7 games; had 1 solo tackle (4 total tackles)
#4 Jordan Hicks, Texas (OLB)
Played in 12 games; had 9 solo tackles (21 total tackles), 1 sack and 1 TFL
#5 Michael Dyer, Auburn (RB)
182 rushes for 1093 yds, 6.0 ypc and 5 TD
Named to Coaches All-SEC Freshman Team
Named to Phil Steele's Postseason All-Freshman 2nd Team
#6 Lemarcus Joyner, FSU (CB)
Played in 14 games; had 18 solo tackles (23 total) with 1 interception
returned 16 kickoffs for and avg of 20.5 yds/return
#7 Robert Woods, USC (WR)
65 receptions for 792 yds and 6 TD
led team in receptions and receiving yds
Named to Phil Steele's Postseason All-Freshman 1st Team
#8 Seantreal Henderson, Miami Fl (OT)
Named to Phil Steele's 2010 Postseason All-Freshman 2nd Team
#9 Matt Elam, Florida (ATH/SS)
Played in 13 games; had 16 solo tackles (22 total), 1 sack and 3 TFL
#10 Jonathan Dowling, Florida (S)
appeared in two games before being kicked off the team in November
Let's remember that these are just stats from these prospects Freshman years and these guys have several great years in front of them. That being said, from a fans prospective- which is looking for who can have an immediate impact for my team- it's more likely that you need to look at offensive skill positions (see: Michael Dyer and Robert Woods) to find guys that can really come in and make a significant impact in their freshman seasons. You can also look further down the ESPNU 150 to find more examples of this. South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore was the #19 prospect on this list and he had an outstanding season rushing for over 1100 yards and helping to lead the Gamecocks to an SEC East Championship. The #26 prospect WR Justin Hunter (Tennessee) came in and caught 7 TD passes.
Looking at this years ESPNU 150 from the perspective that the skill position players have a better chance to make a major impact we are left with 3 running backs (when looking at the Top 10). Isaiah Crowell is the #5 prospect and is still deciding between Georgia and Alabama. Malcolm Brown is #7 and is verbally committed to Texas and Aaron Green is #10 and a verbal commit to Nebraska. Out of the Top 10 those are the players that are most likely to come in and have an immediate impact. It really doesn't mean anything until these guys step on campus and their coaches see if they are ready to play but I thought it was interesting to look back at who had a big immediate impact from last years 2010 ESPNU Top 150 and what that might mean for 2011.