247Sports: Ten early impact players from 2011 recruiting class
With the notable exception of No. 1 overall recruit Jadeveon Clowney, the 2011 recruiting class is finally in the books. Some prospects are already enrolled in college classes, while others are still planning for prom. But almost all of them will be on a college campus in the fall.
At that point, big men on campus will become low men on the totem pole.
Regardless of how highly touted and successful a player is on the high school level, nothing guarantees college success. Early playing time is a rare commodity in big-time college football. Even some of the most highly touted prospects will have to wait their turn on the next level.
But a select few will be called upon very early.
Here are 10 players -- listed alphabetically -- who could make a big impact early in their college careers.
With the departure of Luke Stocker to the NFL, Tennessee will be looking to add an impact tight end to its roster of young offensive talent. Clear should be ready for the challenge.
With his size, he will be very capable of handling the physical rigors of the position and the in-line blocking that accompanies it. But Clear doesn't get enough credit for his skill as a receiver. He has incredibly soft hands, good feet, good enough speed and usually has a big height advantage on nearly all defenders.
If Clear doesn't get the job done, look out for fellow freshman Brendan Downs, an under-the-radar but very capable prospect who is already on campus in Knoxville. Tennessee could potentially have two big-time tight ends of the future.
Since Musa Smith's 1,324 yards rushing in 2002, Georgia's only other back to reach 1,000 yards has been Knowshon Moreno. Crowell could be No. 3.
During his post-Signing Day comments, the excitement in Richt's voice was unmistakable when he talked about Crowell and his potential. Crowell is a back who can catch the football, run between the tackles and make plays in space. Assuming he can pick up the blocking aspect of the position on the next level, all of the tools are there for Crowell to step in immediately.
Dismukes is a physically tough player. He has good size at the position at 6-3, 272 pounds, and he is trial tested. Dismukes led his high school team to a state championship. He then had strong postseason showings in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic and the Under Armour All-American Game.
On top of all that, Dismukes is an early enrollee and is already taking part in the Tigers' offseason program. He will get plenty of reps in during spring practice. The stars are aligned for Dismukes to potentially step in as a rare four-year starter on the offensive line.
Because of that success addressing needs, Notre Dame has a number of potential impact players from the 2011 class. Defensive linemen Aaron Lynch and Stephon Tuitt and outside linebacker Ishaq Williams could play early. But while defense was a major priority in this class, Kelly is an offensive mind. Additionally, one of Notre Dame's biggest offensive weapons is gone in tight end Kyle Rudolph.
With Rudolph departing for the NFL and very little behind him as far as proven options, Koyack will have a terrific opportunity to get in the mix early and often for what should be a high-powered Notre Dame offense. At 6-5, 230 pounds, the Under Armour All-American is physically ready -- and he will need to be.
As a squatty, powerful nose tackle, Moala is exactly the type of plugging space-eater that 3-4 defensive coordinators love. He demands multiple blockers and can play two-gaps with ease. In the U.S. Army All-American game, Moala showed flashes of that dominance. With a 490-pound bench press, he will walk onto campus as potentially the strongest player on the Cal team.
Cal could use the defensive help, too. In a rare losing season, the Bears gave up more than 45 points in three losses.
Several talented skill players signed with Ole Miss on Wednesday, ready to scrap for immediate playing time. This class was not recruited to watch and learn. It was recruited to play -- immediately. While CJ Johnson and Nickolas Brassell may have gotten the most headlines for Ole Miss, Donte Moncrief may be the most ready to contribute from day one.
Moncrief has great size (6-2), already has strength (205 pounds) and he is the most polished receiver coming in for the Rebels. He also has tremendous hands and is a very underrated athlete. His testing numbers were among the best at Ole Miss' camp last summer.
Somehow, Moncrief has gone under the radar. We think he will be a well-known name very soon in SEC circles.
The No. 2 cornerback in the country, according to 247Sports, will be looking to fill a void for the Cavaliers. With the ability to step in immediately, you can be sure that Nicholson will get his shot.
If he does indeed win the starting job, or at least significant playing time, you will know it. He will likely be tested early and often because All-America candidate Chase Minnifield will be the corner of the other side of the field.
A top five finish in recruiting brings a crop of hungry freshmen to Austin. Many newcomers will be eager to compete for starting jobs, and the most college-ready of the group is Shipley.
The brother of former Texas great and current Cincinnati Bengal Jordan Shipley, Jaxon Shipley may already be the most polished receiver on the Texas roster. Rising sophomore Mike Davis was Texas' leading receiver in 2010, and Shipley looks poised to step in and be a great complement to Davis.
Because of his familiarity with the Longhorn program, Shipley's adjustment should be easier than most incoming freshmen. His skill set is certainly there. He has the hands, speed and technique to contribute early. The need for playmakers on offense may be the most compelling reason that you can expect to see a familiar face running wild in Austin.
There aren't many cornerbacks who are as skilled and natural at the position in the 2011 class. Stewart is great in and out of his backpedal, has tremendous hips and is a ball-hawking playmaker. If Stewart can come in and grasp the defense from the mental side of things, he could be a real contributor -- even if he's not at cornerback.
With more and more teams playing a wide-open, pass-happy style offensively, the nickel package is becoming increasingly important. Stewart is exactly the type of freshman who could come in and defend the slot as a nickel back. He would have less deep responsibility, more like-sized athletes in front of him, and he has tremendous anticipation skills and quickness to break on complementary routes.
Walsh and Blythe are nearly identical on paper. Walsh is a 6-3, 275-pound guard from Glen Elyn, Ill. Blythe is a 6-3, 275-pounder from nearby Williamsburg, Iowa. Both are rated as four-star prospects in the Top247, and both are physical, tough linemen who should thrive under the hand of coach Kirk Ferentz.
It is rare to see a freshman start right away in college football, much less two freshmen. But both Blythe and Walsh should give the Iowa coaching staff and the upperclassmen plenty to think about this season.