In the last Five Star Focus series we examined how last seasons blue chip prospects did and what to expect as sophomores. In this series we dive-in a take a look at what the new crop of freshman have in store for the 2012 season.
In part 2 we look at the best of the best, the top 10 freshman in the country. While some will be behind expiernced upperclassmen to being their careers, there are a few that will be expected to make an immediate impact. WR’s Dorial Green-Beckham of Missouri and Maryland’s Stefon Diggs could very well be their teams top pass catcher, and Texas RB Johnathan Gray brings a High School legacy that is second to none. They might not all fill the stat sheets this season, but in a few years they all could be the face of their respective teams.
Note: Ratings are based on an average of the top recruiting services around the web.
10. WR Stefon Diggs, Maryland
-Diggs comes in as the second highest rated WR, and as one of the highest ranked recruits ever to play at Maryland. After many thought he was going to leave his hometown state as a high school senior and sign with Florida, he shocked everyone by committing to the Terrapins. Diggs has a great blend of speed, strength, and agility, and will open up the season somewhere between third and fifth on the depth chart. He can carry the ball and return the ball just as good as he can catch it, and seeing as the Terrapins returning WR’s only combined for 4 TD’s last season, Diggs will have the opportunity to make an immediate impact in numerous ways this season.
9. S Shaq Thompson, Washington
- After a failed Minor league stint with the Boston Red Sox this summer (Thompson was 0-39, 37 K’s) the Rivals and USA Today All-American comes to Washington with a legitimate shot at starting week 1. Thompson will have to fight off senior Justin Glenn (52 tackles) for playing time at FS, in a secondary that returns 3 other starters. Even if Thompson doesn’t win the starting job initially, the Huskies will find a place for him on a secondary that gave up a 285 yards/game through the air last season. Thompson has the size of an NFL safety and a playmaking ability that matches. Here’s hoping that his football career gets off to a better start than his baseball career.
8. WR Eddie Williams, Alabama
-Williams comes to Alabama as a true athlete. He could have easily lined up at Safety and competed for immediate playing time. Instead, Williams will enter camp as a WR, and without a true #1 on the roster it seems like a good idea. After the loss of their top 4 WRs, the Crimson Tide, and AJ McCarron, needs to find someone who can be the next Julio Jones, or even just the next Marquis Maze. And at 6’4 215 lbs, Williams certainly could be that guy. Kevin Norwood and Kenny Bell (26 combined catches) will probably start week 1, but look for Williams to emerge as the season wears on.
7. DE Noah Spence, Ohio State
-Spence will most likely enter the season in a battle for JT Moore for a backup role behind Nathan Williams. However, it’s still uncertain if Williams will be 100% after injuring his knee and undergoing arthroscopic surgery last fall. If Williams can’t recover quickly enough, Spence has an opportunity start, or at the worst become a top rotational pass rusher for the Buckeyes. This is something they desperately need after giving up an average of 106 ypg last season on the ground, their worst since 1999.
6. DT Eddie Goldman, Florida State
-Goldman is one of two top DL prospects to commit to Florida State. Goldman is space eating run stuffer who has excellent quickness for his size. He has the potential to become one of the better DTs in the nation down the line. With 9 returning starters, and both return DTs back, he will have to work his way up the depth chart. In front of him are three seniors who all saw significant playing time last season, and sophomore Timmy Jernigan who won ACC Freshman Defensive Player of the year. Goldman might not make the immediate impact, but he has a chance to leave a lasting legacy.
5. S Landon Collins, Alabama
-Collins, the top DB in the country comes into Alabama after being recruited right out of the heart of LSU country. He’s going to have to earn his playing time via Special teams while sitting behind one of the top safeties in the nation Robert Lester. But if anyone values playing their best players to win games regardless of age, it’s Nick Saban. Collins will see the field, just where and when is the question. It’s possible that Ha’sean Clinton Dix could make a move to CB, and if so, and that would give Collins a chance to battle Vinnie Sunseri for time at FS. Either way, Collins has a bright future ahead at Alabama.
4. OT DJ Humphries, Florida
-The #1 OL prospect in the country enrolled early at Florida in order to gain a leg up on his competition. With Xavier Nixon entrenched as the starting LT, Humphries will most likely see his reps come on the right side as he battles Matt Pachan and Chaz Green for playing time. Given the lack of depth and inability to block last season, Humphries very well could be starting sooner rather than later.
3. RB Johnathan Gray, Texas
-Johnathan Gray comes to Austin after producing one of the more prolific HS careers in recent memory. The Gatorade National Player of the Year ended his career with a total of 10,890 yards and national record 205 touchdowns. Gray will look to continue his dominance while wearing burnt orange; however don’t expect 20 carries a game for Gray. In front of him are two more than capable sophomore RB’s in Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron, who combined for 1,205 yards and 10 td’s last season. Gray will get his shot however, he’s too talented not to. Look for Mack Brown to utilize him in the ‘Wild Horn’ position that Fozzy Whittaker held last season. Even though he won’t be in on every play, he should, and most likely will, make an immediate impact for the Longhorns
2. WR Dorial Green-Beckham, Missouri
-Green-Beckham comes to Missouri after being named the National High School player of the year by several outlets including Sports Illustrated, Parade Magazine, and USA today. The 6′ 6″ freshman, who runs like a deer, should be a great fit in Missouri wide-open spread attack. With leading receiver TJ Moe returning (54-649-4), Green-Beckham will battle with Marcus Lucas for the #2 option for the Tigers to begin the season. But make no mistake; Green-Beckham will most likely be the guy the Tigers will depend on as the season progresses.
1. DE Mario Edwards, Florida State
-Coaches and players raved about his combination of size, speed, and motor this summer. When asked about Edwards, Brandon Jenkins had this to say, “Mario Edwards is a big guy who can move,” Jenkins said. “He reminds me of Marcell Dareus from Alabama. He’s catching on real quick.” At 6-5 and 290 lbs, Edwards will be giving OTs fits off the edge. Unfortunately for him it might not happen much in 2012. He’s currently stuck behind NFL prospects Bjoern Warner and the aforementioned Brandon Jenkins at DE. Not to mention SR Tank Carradine who had 38 tackles and 5.5 sacks last season also figures to be in the mix for playing time. Edwards skill set will make him a force to be reckoned with, and will be tough to keep him on the sideline, but you might not see the entire package until 2013. Combined with five star DT Eddie Goldman, the ‘noles defense could be a major burden for opposing offenses for several years.
2012 Freshman: 23 – 11
Jeremy Cabler covers the NFL Draft and College Football for Rant Sports. Check out his Scouting Reports