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Wes Lunt, Trey Metoyer top list of instant impact early enrollees


Oklahoma State is replacing its 28-year-old quarterback with a fresh-faced high school graduate. Five months after leading Rochester (Ill.) High to its second consecutive state title, Wes Lunt, a 6-5, 210-pound freshman, has been named the starting signal-caller for the defending Fiesta Bowl champs. The early enrollee won the right to replace Brandon Weeden after going 15 of 23 for 215 yards and two touchdowns at the Cowboys' spring game.

I'm overwhelmed," Lunt told reporters after the announcement. "It's such a humbling experience. Coming in early, I knew I had a chance to compete for the job, and to get it is just overwhelming. I know that we're still going to compete through summer and two-a-days, so it's not over."

Lunt represents the most notable example of a newcomer who helped his case by enrolling early and participating in spring practice. But he's certainly not alone. Here's a look at 15 early enrollees, both true freshman and JUCO transfers, who could make names for themselves this fall.

Rivals' Rating: Four stars

High school: Rochester (Ill.) High

Barely a blip on the national radar a few weeks ago, Lunt may now face the most daunting task of any true freshman in the country. He'll attempt to replace Brandon Weeden, the minor league baseball prospect turned Oklahoma State great who holds all of the Cowboys' major passing records. But Lunt seems up to the challenge. He threw for more than 7,000 yards and 65 touchdowns during his junior and senior seasons and could thrive in an offensive scheme that resembles the one he ran at Rochester. In spring practice, he beat out junior Clint Chelf and redshirt freshman J.W. Walsh for the starting gig.

Rivals' Rating: Five stars

Prep school: Chatham (Va.) Hargrave Military Academy

Metoyer initially signed with Oklahoma as part of the 2011 class, but failed to qualify academically and spent a year at prep school in Chatham, Va. Now that his studies are in order, the 6-2, 198-pounder is ready to make up for lost time. Metoyer reeled in 108 catches for 1,540 yards and 23 touchdowns during his senior year at Whitehouse (Texas) High in 2010, and began to replicate that success at the Sooners' spring game, making six receptions for a game-high 72 yards. "He's a guy that can be a big-time impact for us offensively," co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel told reporters.

Rivals' Rating: Four stars

High school: Raleigh (N.C.) Millbrook

Marshall missed Georgia's spring game with a pulled hamstring, but displayed enough pre-injury potential to demonstrate why he was so sought after coming out of Raleigh (N.C.) Millbrook. After racing for 4,552 yards and 52 touchdowns during his high school career (a Millbrook record), he stands a good chance of splitting carries with sophomores Isaiah Crowell and Ken Malcome. There will be additional young competition in the Bulldogs' backfield, though: Todd Gurley -- Rivals' No. 42 recruit in the 2012 class -- is also preparing to make his D-I debut.

Rivals' Rating: Four stars

High school: Elk Grove (Calif.) Pleasant Grove

Although Armstead didn't commit to Oregon until Jan. 29, he still enrolled early enough to compete during spring practice. He remains a work in progress, but the 6-8, 297-pounder has sky-high potential. He has experience playing on both sides of the ball -- he racked up 42 tackles and 3.5 sacks while blocking for an offense that averaged 288 rushing yards as a senior -- and it's hard to imagine the Ducks not taking advantage of his natural physical and pass-rushing gifts.

Rivals' Rating: Four stars

Junior college: Northwest Mississippi

Hawkins wasted no time establishing himself as a frontrunner to open the season as the Longhorns' starting left tackle. He's coming off first-team NJCAA All-America honors at Northwest Mississippi, and, perhaps more notably, looks the part of a BCS starter: He's a mobile 6-5 and 320 pounds. Texas could also use offensive line help. It allowed 2.15 sacks per game in 2011, a pedestrian 73rd in the nation.

Rivals' Rating: Three stars

Junior College: Northeast Mississippi

The obvious choice for a high-profile Alabama newcomer is running back T.J. Yeldon, a five-star recruit who amassed 179 total yards (88 rushing, 91 receiving) during the Crimson Tide spring game. And Yeldon should see plenty of playing time backing up Eddie Lacy. However, a newcomer who could see even more early action is Belue, a high-impact JUCO transfer out of Northeast Mississippi. Nick Saban needs to replace both Dre Kirkpatrick DeQuan Menzie in the secondary, and while Dee Milliner has one starting spot locked up, Belue has emerged as the favorite to claim the other. Belue registered 24 tackles, eight pass breakups and one interception last season.

Rivals' Rating: Four stars

Prep school: Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy

Now that third-round draft pick DeVier Posey has moved on to the NFL, the Buckeyes need someone to step up at wideout. Not one returning player had more than 294 receiving yards last year, and Ohio State ranked a meager 115th in the FBS in passing offense. Thomas could ignite a turnaround. The nephew of Keyshawn Johnson, Thomas collected 86 receptions for 1,756 yards and 21 scores as a senior in 2010 and made 12 catches for 131 yards during the Buckeyes' spring game. Look for him to see plenty of targets this fall.

Rivals' Rating: Four stars

High school: Miami (Fla.) Norland

It's difficult to say exactly how much Brown gained by enrolling early. Louisville closed all of its workouts to the public except for its spring game, which Brown missed with a minor knee injury. But don't be surprised if the Miami (Fla.) Norland standout moves in the starting lineup at some point during the season. Coach Charlie Strong isn't hesitant to feature true freshman in important roles, and Brown is an immense talent (he was a U.S. Army All-American). The 6-1, 225-pounder could capture the outside linebacker spot vacated by Preston Brown's likely move to the middle of the field.

Rivals' Rating: Four stars

High school: Citra (Fla.) North Marion

The Gators didn't have any player compile more than 432 receiving yards in 2011, exemplifying their need for an aerial threat. Pittman could fill that void. A 6-1, 190-pound playmaker, Pittman excelled this spring despite being recruited partially as a defensive back. He's not blazingly fast, but he hauled in an impressive 43-yard reception during Florida's spring game. Those are the type of plays that should earn him ample playing time this fall.

Rivals' Rating: Four stars

High school: Cincinnati (Ohio) Colerain

Bolden earned plenty of respect for his fearless attitude and physical playing style this spring. He probably won't crack the starting lineup, but the 6-2, 225-pounder should earn a spot on the two-deep depth chart and see lots of early playing time. His senior statistics make a compelling case: He totaled 86 tackles, six tackles for loss, three sacks and one forced fumble while leading Cincinnati (Ohio) Colerain to a 10-2 record.

Rivals' Rating: Four stars

High school: Tallahassee (Fla.) North Florida Christian

The latest in a lineage of heralded Florida recruits, Blanks did enough this spring to prove that he deserves a role in the Tigers' secondary. He's an established winner -- he led Tallahassee (Fla.) North Florida Christian to a Class 2A title in 2011 -- and began to breakout after enrolling early, making seven tackles in the spring game. It remains to be seen, but Blanks appears to have the potential to become Clemson's main nickel back by season's end.

Rivals' Rating: Three stars

Junior college: Riverside (Calif.)

Smith didn't arrive at Texas Tech with much of a reputation. His other offers came from Nevada, New Mexico, New Mexico State and San Jose State, and he was largely overlooked during his JUCO stint at Riverside. But he's certainly received attention since arriving in Lubbock. Smith has become the frontrunner to begin the season as Texas Tech's starting middle linebacker after dominating numerous scrimmages and notching an interception during the Red Raiders' spring game.

Rivals' Rating: Two stars

High school: Katy (Texas) High

Thompson has been billed as the heir apparent to Tavon Austin, West Virginia's undersized senior receiver about to enter his senior season. But if Thompson keeps performing the way he did this spring, the Mountaineers should find a way to utilize both this fall. The 5-7 dynamo out of Katy (Texas) High caught a team-high eight passes for 66 yards and a score during West Virginia's annual spring game.

Rivals' Rating: Three stars

Junior college: Fort Scott (Kan.)

A JUCO transfer from Fort Scott (Kan.), Gunter worked out with Miami's first-team defense all spring. He was even more impressive during the spring game: He forced a fumble, broke up a pass and recorded a team-high seven tackles. The Hurricanes are loaded at safety with the return of Ray-Ray Armstrong and Vaughn Telemaque, but they could use some help at cornerback. Gunter looks ready to pitch in immediately.

Rivals' Rating: Three stars

High school: Lutcher (La.) High

Tulane obviously isn't nearly as well-reputed as any other program on this list. But any time that a recruit exits spring practice as a first-team cornerback just a few months after graduating from high school, it demands attention. Batiste earned a spot atop the post-spring depth chart after scoring on a 66-yard interception return in Tulane's spring game. He collected 122 tackles during his senior year at Lutcher (La.) High.