The importance of recruiting in undeniable, yet despite all the hoopla around National Signing Day, the vast majority of prospects who make their highly anticipated decisions won’t have significant impacts on their programs for at least a year or two.
But then there are the rare cases, the players whose abilities are simply too great and whose fits in their new teams are too perfect. In January, we looked 12 recruits who enrolled early at their new schools who could become stars right away. Now that signing day has passed and we know where the rest of the recruits of the class of 2016 are headed, here are 10 more players who could make an immediate impact.
Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn
The five-star defensive tackle should immediately enter Auburn’s defensive line rotation and help bolster a defense that allowed 5.3 yards per play and 4.6 yards per carry in 2015. With defensive tackles Montravious Adams, Dontavius Russell and Devaroe Lawrence back, the Tigers don’t need Brown to become an immediate starter, but his quickness off the ball and size (6’4”, 322 pounds) will ensure he sees the field. As Alabama showed, having too many talented defensive linemen to put on the field at one time is a great problem to have.
Tren’Davian Dickson, WR, Baylor
Corey Coleman leaves Waco after setting Baylor’s single-season touchdown receptions record in just six games in 2015. In his stead enters Dickson, who set the national high-school single-season touchdown receptions record with 39 as a junior. The Bears also lose Jay Lee (38 catches for 758 yards with eight touchdowns in 2015), creating plenty of available targets for the Gatorade Texas Football Player of the Year. However, Dickson will have to contend with fellow four-star wide receiver recruit Devin Duvernay, who brings his 4.32-second forty-yard dash time to Art Briles’s up-tempo attack.
Rashan Gary, DT, Michigan
The top prize in this year’s recruiting class joins a Wolverines defense that has loads of talent returning on the line, including defensive tackles Ryan Glasgow and Maurice Hurst and defensive ends Chris Wormley and Taco Charlton. Those four players alone bring back 34.5 tackles for loss and 16 sacks from 2015. But Gary may prove to simply be too gifted to keep off of the field. At 6’4”, 287 pounds with a 4.74-second forty-yard dash time and a 32-inch vertical, Gary has the athleticism, power and speed to be able to play just about anywhere on the line.
N’Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State
With three of their top four targets gone (Devin Lucien, D.J. Foster and Gary Chambers), a new quarterback under center and a new offensive coordinator (Chip Lindsey) calling the plays, the Sun Devils’ passing game will require a complete rebuild in 2016. Whether Manny Wilkins, Bryce Perkins or Brady White will emerge as the new passer likely won’t be clear until the fall. In the meantime, the Sun Devils will hope Harry, the No. 16 wide receiver in this year’s recruiting class, can make a quick adjustment. An exceptional athlete, Harry should give Arizona State’s offense a productive deep threat.
Mique Juarez, LB, UCLA
A supernatural athlete who plays linebacker but is capable of contributing just about anywhere, including on offense. Sound familiar? It should in Westwood, where a player who fit that description, Myles Jack, leaves for the NFL. Juarez, who committed to the Bruins on signing day after decommiting from USC in October, could help fill Jack’s void. He even played some quarterback and scored 60 touchdowns (23 passing, 36 rushing, one kick return) this past season. But linebacker is where Juarez’s future lies, and with good reason. He made 397 career tackles at North Torrance (Calif.) High and had 21 tackles for loss as a senior.
Tommy Kraemer, OT, Notre Dame
The Fighting Irish return plenty of depth on the line, including three starters, for the 2016 season, but Ronnie Stanley’s transition to the NFL creates a large void. Brian Kelly has more experienced options available in Hunter Bivin and Alex Bars, but neither was as highly touted of a recruit as Kraemer, the No. 3 offensive tackle in this year’s recruiting class. The 6’3”, 310-pounder is noted for his physicality, particularly as a run blocker, and could develop into an anchor on the line like Stanley.
Greg Little, OT, Ole Miss
What do you do when your former No. 1 offensive tackle recruit leaves early for the NFL and your other starting tackle graduates? Bring in the next top-ranked tackle. Hugh Freeze poached Little out of Texas and kept him away from Alabama in part because of the strong opportunity for early playing time. Now it’s up to the 6’5”, 318-pound Little to capitalize on the departures of Laremy Tunsil and Fahn Cooper. He’s already proven he can handle the best of what his own recruiting class has to offer.
Demario McCall, RB, Ohio State
The No. 5 running back in the 2016 recruiting class is a perfect fit for the H-back role in Ohio State’s offense. And what better time for McCall to arrive than when H-backs Braxton Miller and Jalin Marshall are off to the NFL and Curtis Samuel may be sliding back to running back to take over for Ezekiel Elliott? McCall’s biggest obstacle to immediate playing time is likely Dontre Wilson, who has struggled to make an impact in Columbus so far due to injuries. McCall had his own injury issues that hindered his senior season at North Ridgeville (Ohio) High, but he racked up over 2,000 yards on the ground as a junior.
Ed Oliver, DT, Houston
As the first five-star recruit to sign with a school currently in the Group of Five since Deontay Greenberry pledged to Houston in 2012 and the highest-ranked recruit to sign with Houston in Scout.com’s history, Oliver has all but assured he is too highly touted to spend his freshman year on the sidelines. Defensive tackle Tomme Mark’s graduation opens up a spot in the Cougars’ rotation, where Oliver could slot in. The No. 6 overall recruit in the class of 2016, Oliver had 24 tackles for loss and seven sacks as a junior.
Miles Sanders, RB, Penn State
For the second year in a row, expect the Nittany Lions to boast a breakout freshman in their running game. Saquon Barkley will draw the bulk of the carries in Penn State’s backfield after rushing for 1,076 yards on 5.9 yards per carry as a freshman in 2015. But Sanders’s immense potential will force James Franklin and new offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead to give him some opportunities, too, especially with No. 2 back Akeel Lynch’s transfer to Nevada. The top running back recruit in the class of 2016 brings great patience to allow his blockers to create lanes, excellent vision to spot holes and remarkable acceleration to then burst through those holes.
*All rankings from Scout.com