College Football Predictions: the Impact of True Freshmen
by Trevor Whenham - 8/18/2011
With fall practices underway we are getting a better sense of which true freshmen in college football are fitting in well and are going to get a chance to contribute from the start, and which ones are likely to take a while to find their place. Here are my college football predictions for six guys who have a chance to be a big factor for their teams -- and therefore for bettors -- right out of the gate:
Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina - The top recruit in the country is a good place to start. The defensive line isn’t usually a place where young players shine, but then young players rarely have the size and stunning athleticism of Clowney.
Expectations are huge for Clowney, and after stealing him from higher-profile programs Coach Steve Spurrier will be hungry to show off his new prize to help fuel future recruiting.
The biggest thing Clowney has going for him is that he is joining a D-line that is already pretty good. That means he doesn’t have to carry the load alone, and that opponents can’t just key their attention on him.
The early reports from practice have been very strong for this monster, and he has a chance to be great with time. He also has a chance to be pretty darned good right off the bat.
Spurrier caught freshman lightning in a bottle last year with Marcus Lattimore, so we know he has the touch with youngsters.
Isaiah Crowell, RB, Georgia - Lattimore’s success last year has helped increase expectations for Crowell, the top running back recruit in the country, to a higher point than ever before. He’s an athletic freak with the body to succeed already. Most significantly, though, Georgia needs him to succeed, so they will be giving him every opportunity.
The running game was terrible last year, and they have lost most of the pieces from that unit. Crowell will be featured from the start on a team that will be looking to establish the run early and often to support very promising QB Aaron Murray.
I’d be even more optimistic if the offensive line wasn’t a cause for concern, but this guy has a real chance to make some noise.
Ty Montgomery, WR, Stanford - There is no better way to start your college career than by catching passes from the best QB in the country. Montgomery is a guy who was obviously going to Stanford since he was a sophomore, and early indications are that he was worth the wait.
There is room to shine at wideout this year for the Cardinal, and Montgomery has looked like a veteran in his first fall practice. Coming into camp there was some talk that he might be redshirted to give him time to grow. There is no question of that now, and he could be a starter by the time September rolls around.
Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville - One of the nation’s top QB prospects, Bridgewater made what suddenly seems like a brilliant decision when he chose Louisville over Miami. The Cardinals lost their top two QBs last year, so there is plenty of opportunity for a new player to shine here.
Former walk-on Will Stein is the penciled in starter right now, but Coach Charlie Strong is a talented and aggressive coach, so he will be hungry to use this highly-talented speedster as soon as he can.
Strong has offensive line issues, so Bridgewater’s freakish speed and dual threat abilities are going to be an asset. There are much worse places for a youngster to get his footing than the brutal Big East. He will learn fast on the job.
Harvey Langi, RB, Utah - The Utes lost their top two running backs from last year, so there is lots of room for someone to step up, and the highly-regarded Langi, who Utah took away from some big name programs, has a good chance to shine.
He hasn’t yet been brilliant in fall practices, but then neither has anyone else at the position for the Utes. Langi will be part of the rotation right away, and as he gets comfortable I expect him to eat up more and more playing time.
Savon Huggins, RB, Rutgers - I still can’t believe that Huggins, the fourth-rated RB in the country, wound up at Rutgers. He had his share of big offers, yet he decided to stay in-state and go to a program that had a flash of greatness a few years ago that they have had a hard time living up to.
Still, playing for the Scarlet Knights isn’t a bad decision for a running back -- Ray Rice is a very high fantasy football pick for the Ravens this year, and he played under basically the same system still in place at Rutgers.
Huggins is one of those guys who has a knack for bouncing off the first contact and finding positives out of negatives. He’s big and strong and ready to contribute, and given how bad the running game was last year he will have no shortage of opportunities to shine.
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