A three part series that takes a look into the 5 Star recruits, and how they fared in their first season on campus.
Part 3 looks at recruits ranked 1-8 heading into least season. These young men were the most highly sought after recruits in the nation lead by South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney, the consensus number one player coming out of High School. He set the bar high despite only starting one game last season. Another impact freshman was Texas RB Malcolm Brown, who lead the Longhorns in rushing and was a vital part and key ingredient of the resurgence in Austin. Expect to see a jump in stats from many of these players, most notably Clemson’s Tony Steward who looks to start for the reigning ACC champs.
Note: Ratings are based on an average of the top recruiting services around the web.
8. OT La’el Collins, LSU
Season Stats: 46 total snaps with 5 knockdowns
What he did: Saw limited action in 7 games with the Tigers as a reserve OT. Played in 46 total snaps. Despite the limited time on the field, Collins was named to the Freshman All-American team by CBS Sports.
What to look for: With a pair of NFL caliber OT’s, Collins will make the move inside to OG this spring. Has a great blend of size and quickness that the coaches have raved about. Brings versatility to the Tigers line and can play bout inside and outside at OT. Will compete with Josh Dworaczyk for the starting job at LG this season. Recipient of the Most Improved Award after spring drills.
7. DE Ray Drew, Georgia
Season Stats: 8 tackles, 2.5 for a loss. 3 QB hurries, Fumble recovery
What he did: Played in 7 games while lining up at OLB in the Bulldogs 3-4 defense. Named SEC Co-Freshman of the week after his game against Vanderbilt in which he had 3 tackles, 2.5 for a loss and a fumble recovery.
What to look for: Drew, who bulked up to 270 lbs. this offseason, will play as a 5-tech for Mark Richt and his 3-4 defense. Drew was recruited as a DE, so moving back to his natural position should pay off in terms of production. Will share time with senior DE Cornelius Washington, but due to his versatility and shear amount of talent, Drew will be hard to keep off the field this fall.
6. LB Tony Steward, Clemson
Season Stats: 5 tackles
What he did: Saw limited action as a freshman. Played in the teams’ first 5 games and recorded 5 tackles, 4 coming in the Tigers’ first 2 games, before tearing his ACL in practice.
What to look for: Steward is now healthy and looked great in off-season drills and practice. Will battle Quandon Christian (36 tackles) for the starting OLB spot alongside Stephone Anthony and Corico Hawkins in what should be one of the best LB groups in the ACC.
5. RB Malcolm Brown, Texas
Season Stats: 172 carries for 742 yards with 5 TD’s
What he did: started 7 times for Texas and appeared in 10. Brown led the Longhorns in rushing yards and rushing TD’s. Best game came against Oklahoma St were he had 135 yards on 19 carries with 2 TD’s in a loss. Had three games in which he eclipsed the century mark in rushing. Became the first freshman to lead Texas in rushing yards since Cedric Benson. Named to 2nd team Freshman All-American by Yahoo Sports, and was the AP Big 12 newcomer of the year.
What to look for: Will be the starter once again for the Longhorns and will lead what should be one of the best RB corps in the NCAA with fellow sophomore Joe Bergeron and incoming freshman Johnathan Gray. Brown was named to the Preseason All-Big 12 first team by several media outlets. Named to the watch list for the 2012 Maxwell Award, honoring the nation’s most outstanding player.
4. S Karlos Williams, Florida State
Season Stats: 8 tackles, 8 Kickoff returns for 188 yards
What he did: Williams came to Tallahassee last season with much hype. Coach Jimbo Fisher called him “once-in-a-decade type talent.” However, Williams’ freshman season was fairly uneventful only appearing in 12 games and seeing the vast majority of his time on special teams. He Returned 8 kickoffs for 186 yards with a long of 33 against Maryland. Injured his wrist against Florida in the last regular season game and missed the Champs Sports Bowl in a win against Notre Dame.
What to look for: After being asked, and declining to switch to offense in the offseason, Williams settled in on defense, and will be in a heated battle with Junior Terrance Brooks (17 tackles, 6 pbu) for the starting FS spot.
3. OT Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama
Season Stats: Appeared in 8 games
What he did: Committed, then uncommitted to Auburn on signing day, before signing with Alabama just a couple of days later. Kouandjio arrived in Tuscaloosa with much hype and fanfare. Was a reserve Tackle his freshman season and participated in the Crimson Tide’s first 8 games until a severe knee injury forced him to miss the remainder of the season.
What to look for: Barrett Jones, Alabama’s LT last season will slide to Center to replace the departure of William Vlachos. This will leave an opening spot at LT that Kouandjio should grab and run with. Will have some competition from Austin Sheppard and Kellen Williams, but Kouandjio is by far the most talented and best option. It says something to his ability if the coaching staff trust him enough to take over the blindside from last season’s Outland Trophy Winner.
2. DT Anthony Johnson, LSU
Season Stats: 12 tackles, 1 sack, 2 tackles for loss
What he did: Was stuck in a backup role behind Bennie Logan and first round pick Michael Brockers last season. Although Johnson never started and playing time was limited, he did appear in all 14 games for the Tigers. His best game came against Mississippi State where he had 2 tackles for a loss including a sack. Named to the All-SEC Freshman, and Freshman All-American teams.
What to look for: With Michael Brockers now playing on Sundays, Johnson should step in next to Bennie Logan and help lead one of the top defenses in the nation. Johnson’s combination of strength and speed should put opposing coaches on notice this season. Regarding his defensive front, Les Miles said “should make it difficult on an offense to move the football.”
1. DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
Season Stats: 36 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 8 sacks, 6 QB hurries, 5 forced fumbles
What he did: Clowney didn’t wait long to make his impact felt in South Carolina. He recorded 7 tackles and a QB hurry in his first ever collegiate start. In week 2 against Georgia he registered 2 sacks and forced a fumble which helped propel the Gamecocks to a 45-42 victory in Athens. In the Capital One Bowl game against Nebraska, Clowney registered 2 sacks and 4 tackles in a 30-13 victory. Finished second on the team in sacks with 8 despite only starting 1 game as a freshman. Clowney earned SEC freshman of the year, and a spot on the All-SEC 2nd team. He was also named as a 1st team Freshman All-American from multiple outlets.
What to look for: With Melvin Ingram now in the NFL, Ingram will finally have his chance to start on a weekly basis. Will play on one of the best Defensive lines in the SEC, and forms a lethal due at DE with SeniorDevin Taylor. Was named to multiple All-SEC 1st team lists and was also named to The Rotary Lombardi Award watch list. Clowney should improve on his tackles numbers from last season and should emerge as arguably the best DE in the SEC, if not the entire country.
Jeremy Cabler covers the NFL Draft and College Football for Rant Sports. Check out his Scouting Reports