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The 8 Debate

Feb. 18, 2013
Feb. 18, 2013

Table of Contents
Feb. 18, 2013

GOLF PLUS
LEADING OFF
THE MAIL
INSIDE: THE WEEK IN SPORTS
MICHAEL JORDAN AT 50
2014 WINTER OLYMPICS
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The 8 Debate

Highest Impact Freshmen

For the fifth time in six years, Alabama has landed the nation's No. 1 recruiting class, according to Rivals.com. But with the Tide bringing back so many veterans, it may be a couple of years before all those blue-chippers play significant roles. So which other highly touted incoming freshmen will grab the limelight from the outset?

This is an article from the Feb. 18, 2013 issue

1 Robert Nkemdiche DE Ole Miss

The nation's top overall prospect, an explosive 6' 5", 260-pound bull rusher from Loganville, Ga., injects a much-needed dose of elite athleticism into a Rebels defense that ranked ninth in the SEC in points allowed last season.

2 Greg Bryant RB Notre Dame

The five-star Delray Beach, Fla., native spurned the SEC. Instead, the elusive 5' 11", 197-pound tackle-breaker will help bolster an Irish backfield that loses the top two rushers from last year's 12--1 team.

3 Christian Hackenberg QB Penn State

A stabilizing figure for a scandal-ravaged program, he committed last February and stuck with the Nittany Lions despite NCAA sanctions. A classic drop-back passer, the 6'4", 212-pound Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy grad will compete with untested underclassmen for the starting job.

4 Matthew Thomas LB Florida State

A huge Signing Day pickup for the 'Noles, Thomas was Rivals' second-ranked outside linebacker. The 6'3", 205-pound Miami native joins a team that must replace nearly the entire front seven from the nation's second-ranked defense.

5 Derrick Green RB Michigan

Third-year coach Brady Hoke finally gets the traditional power back he needs to run his preferred pro-style offense. The 6-foot, 220-pound Green, Rivals' No. 8 overall prospect, is the Wolverines' highest-rated running back prospect in more than a decade.

6 Jarrett (Anu) Solomon QB Arizona

While there are five quarterbacks Rivals rates higher than Solomon, the 6'1", 202-pound Las Vegas native is facing a more favorable depth chart than any of them. A dual threat who won four Nevada state championships, Solomon will compete with 2012 backup B.J. Denker and USC transfer Jesse Scroggins.

7 Thomas Tyner RB Oregon

First-year Ducks coach Mark Helfrich plans to keep Chip Kelly's blur offense, so he needs a speedy tailback to replace All-America Kenjon Barner. The 6-foot, 200-pound Tyner, a native of nearby Beaverton, is known for his speed (state record in 100 meters) and durability (38 carries for 640 yards in a game last season).

8 LaQuvionte Gonzalez WR Texas A&M

Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin loves four- and five-receiver sets but loses three of last year's starters. Gonzalez, generously listed at 5' 10" and 160 pounds, can provide the same jitterbug effect as Heisman winner Johnny Manziel. Expect Sumlin to get him on the field and find creative ways to get him the ball.

Ole Miss had never had a five-star commitment, but this year coach Hugh Freeze brought in three such prospects, including No. 1 overall player Robert Nkemdiche (left), to land the seventh-ranked class, according to Rivals.com.
PHOTODALE ZANINE/USA TODAY SPORTS (NKEMDICHE TOP)PHOTO ILLUSTRATIONPHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY SI IMAGINGMARK LOMOGLIO/ICON SMI (NKEMDICHE)ROBERT NKEMDICHEPHOTOMARK LOMOGLIO/ICON SMI (HACKENBERG)CHRISTIAN HACKENBERGPHOTOJOHN ALBRIGHT/ICON SMI (BRYANT)GREG BRYANT