NCAA Football

20 Most Impactful College Football Recruiting Classes for 2012

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20 Most Impactful College Football Recruiting Classes for 2012

John David Mercer - USA TODAY SPORTS

As we approach the bowl season, it's an interesting exercise to take a look at how the 2012 college football recruiting classes actually panned out against how they were expected to contribute to their respective teams. To rank the 20 most impactful college football recruiting classes for 2012, we averaged the team recruiting rankings (pre-season) from Rivals, ESPN, and Scout, to get our Top 30 overall.

To find out what actually transpired, we evaluated the statistics from each of these 30 teams to figure out just how much of an impact freshmen made to each. The baselines of 250 yards rushing, 250 yards receiving or 30 tackles were our baselines for impact. Each team was evaluated for the number of impactful freshmen they had this season, and just how much of a difference those guys made.

Some of the results surprised us while many of the teams that fell in the Top 10 weren't much of a surprise at all, given they are recruiting champions just about every season, which carries right over to the field.

Recruiting classes on paper are one thing, the impact these classes make on the field are another all together. Enjoy!

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No. 20 Tennessee Volunteers


The No. 20 Tennessee Volunteers had one impact freshman given our standards, defensive back LaDarrell McNeil who tallied 58 tackles on the season. The 6'1", 195 pound Dallas native should be a fixture for some time to come in Knoxville, but certainly shouldn't be alone with the arrival of Butch Jones and the recruiting ability he brings to the table as the new head coach.

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No. 19 Nebraska Cornhuskers

Bruce Thorson - USA TODAY SPORTS

The No. 19 Nebraska Cornhuskers also had one impact freshman, this time on the offensive side of the ball. Imani Cross, a 6'1" 225 pound running back ripped apart Big 10 defenses this fall, carrying the ball 55 times for 324 yards and seven touchdowns. Cross finished in the red zone with efficiency as a nice compliment to Rex Burkhead and Ameer Abdullah, and should have an even bigger role in years to come.

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No. 18 Clemson Tigers


The No. 18 Clemson Tigers had one impact freshman as well, safety Travis Blanks who tallied 51 tackles (2 TFL) out of the secondary for Dabo Swinney's squad. Blanks' numbers placed him seventh on the team in tackles, and suggests plenty of promise ahead for the 6'1" 195 pound Tallahassee, Florida native. Look for even more impact from the 2013 Tigers class if the rankings have much to say about it.

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No. 17 Virginia Tech Hokies


The Virginia Tech Hokies came in at No. 17 on our list of most impactful recruiting classes, due to the outstanding performance of freshman running back J.C. Coleman who carried the ball 102 times for 486 yards and two touchdowns. Coleman was the most efficient true running back for Frank Beamer's squad-- and the second-leading rusher to QB Logan Thomas-- and promises to carry the load in Blacksburg going forward.

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No. 16 Florida State Seminoles


The Florida State Seminoles came in at No. 16 on our list due to the outstanding play of freshman wideout Kelvin Benjamin who hauled in 29 catches for 482 yards and four touchdowns, good for third on the team in total receiving yardage and second in touchdowns. Benjamin's average of 16.6 yards per catch was second on the team, and indicative of some nice separation speed which should make him a long-term threat for Jimbo Fisher's squad down the road.

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No. 15 Washington Huskies


The Washington Huskies are No. 15 on our slate due to the first-class performance from safety Shaq Thompson who was one of the most-heavily recruited athletes in the 2012 class. The 6'2" 215 pound Sacramento native already has the eyes of NFL scouts firmly fixed on Seattle after a 66 tackle (8.5 TFL) and three interception season in 2012. Shaq Thompson is definitely one to watch going forward, and won't be the only young talent we see suiting up for the Huskies going forward.

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No. 14 Cal Bears


The No. 14 Cal Bears freshman class was led by wideout Chris Harper who tallied 41 catches for 544 yards and two touchdowns, becoming one of Zach Maynard's favorite targets in the process. Second to only all-everything star Keenan Allen, Harper was undoubtedly the Bears' second wideout and should put up big numbers in Berkeley down the road. Cal has four, four-star recruits and 11 three-star guys arriving next fall to help bring the Bears back to PAC-12 relevance.

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No. 13 Utah Utes


While the No. 13 Utah Utes limped to a 5-7 finish in 2012, they did have freshman signal caller that showed some serious promise. Travis Wilson threw for 1,311 yards and seven touchdowns on a team that struggled to find an offensive identity all season long. Wilson split duties with senior Jon Hays in the early going, but separated himself by mid-season. With a No. 28 2013 recruiting class which includes 20 three-star guys, the Utes will look to bounce back next fall.

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No. 12 Oklahoma Sooners


The Oklahoma Sooners came in at No. 12 due to the standout performance of freshman wideout Sterling Shepard who grabbed 41 passes for 578 yards and three touchdowns. The 5'10 188 Oklahoma City-born speedster should be a big part of Bob Stoops' gameplan next season as well and will be joined by one of the top recruiting classes in the country.

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No. 11 Florida Gators


The No. 11 Florida Gators are the first team on our list to have two impact players in 2012. Running back Matt Jones carried the ball 49 times, picking up 259 yards and two touchdowns in spot duty to relieve star RB Mike Gillislee. Jones should see the lionshare of carries next fall. Linebacker Antonio Morrison collected 31 tackles (2 TFL) which was good for eighth on the team on a roster loaded with upperclassmen. The Gators have a Top 3 class coming in for 2013 and should only continue to improve.

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No. 10 Michigan Wolverines

Rick Osentoski - USA TODAY SPORTS

The No. 10 Michigan Wolverines had two players make an impact in 2012, one on offense and one on defense. Tight end Devin Funchess picked up 230 yards and five touchdowns, becoming the primary red zone target for both Denard Robinson and Devin Gardner in the process. On the defensive side of the ball, linebacker James Ross III collected 31 tackles (2.5 TFL), good for 10th on the team full of ball-hawks and aggressive tacklers. Michigan shouldn't miss a beat in 2013 as another Top 5 class makes its way to Ann Arbor.

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No. 9 USC Trojans


The No. 9 USC Trojans had two guys that really stood out to us-- freshman wideout Nelson Agholor and stud defensive end Leonard Williams. At 6'1" 185, Agholor has a nice combination of speed and strength which allowed him to become the Trojans' primary deep threat, tallying 340 yards and two touchdowns on only 19 receptions.

Leonard Williams totaled 50 tackles on the season, 13 of which were for a loss. Williams could be an early-season All-American candidate in 2013 and will be joined by the best recruiting class USC has seen in years.

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No. 8 LSU Tigers


The No. 8 LSU Tigers also had a pair of guys that made a substantial impact-- Jeremy Hills and Jalen Mills. Hills carried the ball 130 times for 631 yards and 10 touchdowns, establishing himself as the Tigers' primary ground threat. Cornerback Jalen Mills seemed to be everywhere at once this season, picking up 52 tackles (2 TFL) and putting up the fourth-best overall stats on a very talented defensive unit. These two Tigers freshmen definitely left their mark this season.

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No. 7 Texas Longhorns


The Texas Longhorns come in at No. 7 on our list behind the performances from a dynamic duo of running backs, Johnathan Gray and Daje Johnson. Gray led the Longhorns in rushing during the 2012 regular season with 683 yards and three touchdowns while Johnson provided a consistent offensive spark all season, picking up 490 yards and two touchdowns. Concerns about the future of the Texas program are lingering, and damaging future recruiting to some extent, but Texas is Texas-- they'll find a way to stay competitive.

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No. 6 Miami Hurricanes

Steve Mitchell - USA TODAY SPORTS

The No. 6 Miami Hurricanes had two guys which made a big impact this season, but one stood out. Freshman running back Duke Johnson was one of the nation's bes young skill players in 2012, racking up 947 yards and 10 touchdowns for the 'Canes. Defensive back Deon Bush was also solid, tallying 34 tackles for the Miami defense. Miami's recruiting class for 2013 hasn't been as strong as in years past, so more of this year's freshmen will need to rise to the occasion in 2013.

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No. 5 Texas A&M Aggies


The Texas A&M Aggies come in at No. 5 on our rankings due to big-time performances from guys not named Johnny Football. Running back Trey Williams and wide receiver Mike Adams combined for 1,357 yards and nine touchdowns on the 2012 season. Sure, this was in large part due to the exploits of their Heisman Trophy winning quarterback, but regardless, both guys were huge finds that slipped under the noses of the other programs in the state. Look for this to become the trend in coming years as the Aggies are on a recruiting roll that doesn't look to be losing momentum anytime soon.

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No. 4 Georgia Bulldogs

John David Mercer - USAT TODAY SPORTS

When you think of the impact of true freshmen this season, you think of Georgia running back Todd Gurley. Gurley rushed for 1,260 yards and 16 touchdowns this season, one of two guys that helped the Georgia Bulldogs be our No. 4 impactful recruiting class. Freshman linebacker Jordan Jenkins also pulled his weight for the Dawgs, racking up 30 tackles, seven of which were TFLs. With a top 10 recruiting class in 2013, loaded with three and four-star guys, things are looking up in Athens.

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No. 3 Oregon Ducks


The No. 3 Oregon Ducks were led, first and foremost, by a massive 2012 from Hawaii-born signal caller Marcus Mariota. Mariota was one of the best QBs in the PAC-12 this season, racking up 2,511 yards and 30 touchdowns through the air, and running for four more, including a 135 yard rushing performance against Arizona. The running game was keyed by Kenjon Barner, but true freshman Byron Marshall had a productive season with 445 yards and four touchdowns. The Ducks are here to stay, like it or not.

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No.2 UCLA Bruins


The No. 2 UCLA Bruins had three guys that made a substantial impact on bringing the Baby Blue and Gold back to prominence in Los Angeles. First, quarterback Brett Hundley was outstanding all season. Throwing for 3,411 yards and 26 touchdowns, Hundley will be the man for Jim Mora for several seasons to come. Steven Manfro was a nice addition to the Bruins' receiving corps, adding 287 yards and a touchdown this fall. Defensive back Randall Goforth rounds out the three impactful Bruins with 34 tackles on the season.

The rich look to get richer in 2013 as the Bruins await another Top 20 recruiting class.

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No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide

John David Mercer - USA TODAY SPORTS

Yes, again, the Alabama Crimson Tide are at the top of the heap. Led by the performances of T.J. Yeldon and Amari Cooper, this Tide class was the best in the country. Yeldon rushed for 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns, while Cooper was one of the best receivers in the SEC, tallying 895 yards and nine touchdowns. Not to be outdone, linebacker Trey Depriest was top-notch, racking up 56 tackles (4 TFL) on the season. The Tide are the Tide. Get used to it.

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