Impact freshmen (cont.)
Notre Dame: LB Manti Te'o
Coach Charlie Weis pulled off a major coup when he convinced Te'o, a Hawaiian ranked as the nation's best linebacker prospect by Rivals.com, to come to South Bend. During spring practice -- when Te'o was still in high school -- Weis said he expected Te'o to come in and compete immediately. Weis just wasn't sure exactly where Te'o would play. "Manti's a person who can play Sam, Mike or Will," Weis said in March. "He can play any of those positions. I think what you do is find out where you're most vulnerable, where you're weakest, and then you put him at a position where he can compete."
Rutgers: QB Tom Savage
Senior Dom Natale -- a great name for a player at Jersey's flagship university -- should begin the season as the Scarlet Knights' starter based on his play during the spring, but expect plenty of clamoring for the 6-4, 220-pound Savage if the offense falters. The competition for the job, which also includes all-name nominee Jabu Lovelace, will extend into camp, Rutgers coach Greg Schiano told reporters at Big East Media Day on Tuesday. "I'm not opposed to playing a true freshman there," Schiano said. "But you have to take into account, if you play a true freshman, that there are some things you're going to have to live with. Does that still give you the best chance to win? If the answer is yes, then you do it."
South Carolina: CB Stephon Gilmore
Gilmore, from Rock Hill, S.C., won a first-team cornerback spot in the spring and should start when the Gamecocks open against N.C. State on Aug. 3. But don't expect Gilmore to be limited to defense. He also should take snaps at quarterback as part of coach Steve Spurrier's "Wild Gamecock" formation. As Wild [insert mascot name here] formation names go, Wild Gamecock is second only to Virginia Tech's "Wild Turkey" formation, which features tight end Greg Boone.
Tennessee: RB Bryce Brown
Rivals.com's top-rated recruit in the class of 2009 dragged his recruitment into overtime, but the 6-foot, 215-pound Brown picked a program that could use a boost at tailback. Senior Montario Hardesty is Tennessee's only established back, leaving plenty of opportunity for Brown and fellow freshman David Oku to win carries during camp.
Texas A&M: RB Christine Michael
The Aggies averaged just 2.9 yards a carry last season thanks mostly to an offensive line ravaged by injuries. Texas A&M boasts a pair of quality backs in Cyrus Gray and Bradley Stephens, but the 5-11, 200-pound Michael possesses the strength to break tackles and the speed to break away for scores. Expect him to get a chance to earn carries in camp.
UCLA: WR Randall Carroll/OL Stan Hasiak/TE Morrell Presley/OL Xavier Su'a Filo
Coach Rick Neuheisel pledged to upgrade the talent at UCLA and he appeared to do that while recruiting the class of 2009, beating out USC for Carroll, Presley and Su'a Filo and Cal for Hasiak. Neuheisel will waste no time giving his top recruits a chance to play. He said during Pac-10 media day young linemen Hasiak and Su'a Filo would have a chance to compete for starting jobs immediately. Meanwhile, Carroll and Presley should have a place in a passing game now led by redshirt freshman quarterback Kevin Prince.
USC: QB Matt Barkley
Trojans coach Pete Carroll's "always compete" mantra means Barkley still may have a slim chance to unseat projected starter Aaron Corp. "To me, it is really clear right now," Carroll said at Pac-10 media day. "Aaron Corp came out of spring practice the No. 1 guy. But he wasn't that far ahead of Matt Barkley, which was a total shock to us." If Corp remains the starter, Carroll and his staff will face a tough decision over whether to make Barkley the backup or redshirt him and use Mitch Mustain or Garrett Green as the backup.
Utah: QB Jordan Wynn
Wynn finds himself in a position similar to USC's Barkley. The early-enrollee from Oceanside, Calif., surprised coaches during spring practice and made it a three-man race to replace Brian Johnson. Junior Corbin Louks leads, and junior college transfer Terrance Cain also has a shot, but Wynn's quick progress has left Utes coach Kyle Whittingham with a more difficult choice.
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