247Sports: Ten early impact players from 2011 recruiting class
Vols TE Cameron Clear was projected as an OT, but he'll replace Luke Stocker
Isaiah Crowell may be the third UGA frosh to run for 1,000 yards for Mark Richt
Jaxon Shipley (Jordan's brother) could complement Mike Davis at WR for Texas
With the notable exception of No. 1 overall recruit Jadeveon Clowney, the 2011 recruiting class is finally in the books. Some prospects are already enrolled in college classes, while others are still planning for prom. But almost all of them will be on a college campus in the fall.
At that point, big men on campus will become low men on the totem pole.
Regardless of how highly touted and successful a player is on the high school level, nothing guarantees college success. Early playing time is a rare commodity in big-time college football. Even some of the most highly touted prospects will have to wait their turn on the next level.
But a select few will be called upon very early.
Here are 10 players -- listed alphabetically -- who could make a big impact early in their college careers.
Cameron Clear, TE, Tennessee
At 6-foot-6 and 260 pounds, Clear has a frame that looks capable of adding plenty of "good" weight. Clear was projected by many -- including 247Sports -- to be a future offensive tackle, and a good one at that. But Clear was insistent that he wanted to give tight end a shot first. With his decision to attend Tennessee, he should get every opportunity to take that shot.
With the departure of Luke Stocker to the NFL, Tennessee will be looking to add an impact tight end to its roster of young offensive talent. Clear should be ready for the challenge.
With his size, he will be very capable of handling the physical rigors of the position and the in-line blocking that accompanies it. But Clear doesn't get enough credit for his skill as a receiver. He has incredibly soft hands, good feet, good enough speed and usually has a big height advantage on nearly all defenders.
If Clear doesn't get the job done, look out for fellow freshman Brendan Downs, an under-the-radar but very capable prospect who is already on campus in Knoxville. Tennessee could potentially have two big-time tight ends of the future.
Isaiah Crowell, RB, Georgia
Coming off of a rare losing season in Athens, Mark Richt's coaching seat is as hot as it has ever been. The 2011 recruiting class helped cool it off just a little bit, and the jewel of the class was Crowell -- the nation's top running back prospect.
Since Musa Smith's 1,324 yards rushing in 2002, Georgia's only other back to reach 1,000 yards has been Knowshon Moreno. Crowell could be No. 3.
During his post-Signing Day comments, the excitement in Richt's voice was unmistakable when he talked about Crowell and his potential. Crowell is a back who can catch the football, run between the tackles and make plays in space. Assuming he can pick up the blocking aspect of the position on the next level, all of the tools are there for Crowell to step in immediately.
With the instant success of Marcus Lattimore at South Carolina and Michael Dyer at Auburn, there is no reason to think Crowell won't continue the trend of impact freshman tailbacks.
Reese Dismukes, C, Auburn
It's pretty rare for a freshman to step onto a defending national championship team and compete for a starting job, but Dismukes looks like he has a great opportunity to do just that. Following its success last season, Auburn will be dealing with a lot of turnover. One void that will need to be filled is at the center position.
Dismukes is a physically tough player. He has good size at the position at 6-3, 272 pounds, and he is trial tested. Dismukes led his high school team to a state championship. He then had strong postseason showings in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic and the Under Armour All-American Game.
On top of all that, Dismukes is an early enrollee and is already taking part in the Tigers' offseason program. He will get plenty of reps in during spring practice. The stars are aligned for Dismukes to potentially step in as a rare four-year starter on the offensive line.
Ben Koyack, TE, Notre Dame
In his first full year recruiting for the Fighting Irish, Brian Kelly did an outstanding job of addressing needs with elite prospects. He may also be changing the style of player that Notre Dame recruits, because Kelly placed an emphasis on toughness in this class.
Because of that success addressing needs, Notre Dame has a number of potential impact players from the 2011 class. Defensive linemen Aaron Lynch and Stephon Tuitt and outside linebacker Ishaq Williams could play early. But while defense was a major priority in this class, Kelly is an offensive mind. Additionally, one of Notre Dame's biggest offensive weapons is gone in tight end Kyle Rudolph.
With Rudolph departing for the NFL and very little behind him as far as proven options, Koyack will have a terrific opportunity to get in the mix early and often for what should be a high-powered Notre Dame offense. At 6-5, 230 pounds, the Under Armour All-American is physically ready -- and he will need to be.
Viliami Moala, DT, California
Sometimes early playing time is as simple as the right fit. At 6-2, 320 pounds, it's probably tough for Moala to find clothes that fit. However, a 3-4 defense fits him just perfectly. There may be better defensive tackles in the country, but there may not be a better one for that scheme.
As a squatty, powerful nose tackle, Moala is exactly the type of plugging space-eater that 3-4 defensive coordinators love. He demands multiple blockers and can play two-gaps with ease. In the U.S. Army All-American game, Moala showed flashes of that dominance. With a 490-pound bench press, he will walk onto campus as potentially the strongest player on the Cal team.
Cal could use the defensive help, too. In a rare losing season, the Bears gave up more than 45 points in three losses.
Donte Moncrief, WR, Ole Miss
Ole Miss had a season to forget in 2010. Losses -- and bad losses at that -- piled up and the only big plays to be found seemed to derive from some impromptu scrambles out of a quarterback who is gone. That limited success didn't hurt the Rebels' recruiting, though. In fact, it may have helped.
Several talented skill players signed with Ole Miss on Wednesday, ready to scrap for immediate playing time. This class was not recruited to watch and learn. It was recruited to play -- immediately. While CJ Johnson and Nickolas Brassell may have gotten the most headlines for Ole Miss, Donte Moncrief may be the most ready to contribute from day one.
Moncrief has great size (6-2), already has strength (205 pounds) and he is the most polished receiver coming in for the Rebels. He also has tremendous hands and is a very underrated athlete. His testing numbers were among the best at Ole Miss' camp last summer.
Somehow, Moncrief has gone under the radar. We think he will be a well-known name very soon in SEC circles.
Demetrious Nicholson, CB, Virginia
Someone must have forgotten to tell Mike London that he was recruiting for a perennial ACC bottom-dweller that just finished with a 4-8 record. With a top 20 class, Virginia has a number of prospects -- Darius Jennings, Dominique Terrell and Clifton Richardson -- who could turn around that win-loss record. But maybe the safest bet to step in and make an immediate impact is Nicholson.
The No. 2 cornerback in the country, according to 247Sports, will be looking to fill a void for the Cavaliers. With the ability to step in immediately, you can be sure that Nicholson will get his shot.
If he does indeed win the starting job, or at least significant playing time, you will know it. He will likely be tested early and often because All-America candidate Chase Minnifield will be the corner of the other side of the field.
Jaxon Shipley, WR, Texas
Talent has never been an issue at the University of Texas. As the premier program in perhaps the premier state for college football talent, Texas has scores of highly rated and highly talented players on its roster. But after a shocking 5-7 season, entitlement has been highlighted as an issue within the program.
A top five finish in recruiting brings a crop of hungry freshmen to Austin. Many newcomers will be eager to compete for starting jobs, and the most college-ready of the group is Shipley.
The brother of former Texas great and current Cincinnati Bengal Jordan Shipley, Jaxon Shipley may already be the most polished receiver on the Texas roster. Rising sophomore Mike Davis was Texas' leading receiver in 2010, and Shipley looks poised to step in and be a great complement to Davis.
Because of his familiarity with the Longhorn program, Shipley's adjustment should be easier than most incoming freshmen. His skill set is certainly there. He has the hands, speed and technique to contribute early. The need for playmakers on offense may be the most compelling reason that you can expect to see a familiar face running wild in Austin.
Josh Stewart, CB, Oklahoma State
At only about 5-9, it's hard to project that Stewart is going to be a future first rounder. But his projection on the college level is much more positive.
There aren't many cornerbacks who are as skilled and natural at the position in the 2011 class. Stewart is great in and out of his backpedal, has tremendous hips and is a ball-hawking playmaker. If Stewart can come in and grasp the defense from the mental side of things, he could be a real contributor -- even if he's not at cornerback.
With more and more teams playing a wide-open, pass-happy style offensively, the nickel package is becoming increasingly important. Stewart is exactly the type of freshman who could come in and defend the slot as a nickel back. He would have less deep responsibility, more like-sized athletes in front of him, and he has tremendous anticipation skills and quickness to break on complementary routes.
Jordan Walsh/Austin Blythe, G, Iowa
Iowa, as much as any other program in America, is a school that builds its identity around the offensive line. With two starting seniors departing on the offensive interior in Julian Vandervelde and Josh Koeppel, someone will need to step up to the sled. Why not one of the best offensive guard recruits in the country? Or two?
Walsh and Blythe are nearly identical on paper. Walsh is a 6-3, 275-pound guard from Glen Elyn, Ill. Blythe is a 6-3, 275-pounder from nearby Williamsburg, Iowa. Both are rated as four-star prospects in the Top247, and both are physical, tough linemen who should thrive under the hand of coach Kirk Ferentz.
It is rare to see a freshman start right away in college football, much less two freshmen. But both Blythe and Walsh should give the Iowa coaching staff and the upperclassmen plenty to think about this season.
For more recruiting coverage heading into National Signing Day, visit 247Sports.com.
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