I’m not big on ranking school’s recruiting classes on National Signing Day. I feel the same way about ranking NFL Draft classes as soon as the seventh round ends. You can’t determine the true value of a school’s recruiting haul, or an a NFL teams draft class until after the players get on the field in pads and start hitting.
So in lieu of giving you yet another set of class rankings, let’s take a closer look at a few prospects whose names you need to remember when college football takes over your Saturdays again this fall. The prospects mentioned here are all going into favorable situations that will give them the opportunity to play and contribute early on:
1) Robert Nkemdiche, DE, Ole Miss, 6-5 270lbs, Grayson High School (Loganville, Georgia)
Okay, I get it. I’m not going out on much of limb here since Nkemdiche has long been considered to be the top overall prospect in the 2013 class. However, consider my reasoning for placing him at the top of this list. Ohio State coach Urban Meyer made a great point during ESPNU’s Signing Day coverage today. He talked about how he places a lot of emphasis in on what a prospect does on film against elite competition in high school when he’s recruiting for his teams. Specifically, Meyer talked about how he likes prospects who excelled while playing in the toughest divisions in their states. Nkemdiche certainly fits that bill. He competed at the highest level of high school football in talent-rich Georgia and still looked like a man amongst boys on film. Pure pass-rushers and cover cornerbacks generally have the easiest transitions to the speed of the college game. Look for Nkemdiche to be a frequent visitor to opponent’s backfields this coming season in the SEC.
2) Kelvin Taylor, RB, Florida, 5-11, 216lbs, Glades Day High School (Belle Glade, Florida)
Like pass-rushers and cover corners on defense, elite running backs are usually good bets to make immediate impacts as freshman. Kelvin Taylor, son of ex-Jacksonville Jaguar and New England Patriot Fred Taylor, has the talent and he’s going into a good situation at Florida with Mike Gillislee’s departure. He’ll have to compete with Matt Jones for carries, but Taylor will get every opportunity to be the feature back for the Gators.
3) Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson, 5-11, 180lbs, Immokalee High School (Immokalee, Florida)
Clemson’s going to remain relevant in the college football world next season thanks to Tahj Boyd’s decision to come back to campus with Sammy Watkins. Clemson knew they needed to add some athletes to their defense this offseason, and they scored a majored victory today when they signed Mackensie Alexander. Cornerbacks probably have the least difficult transition from high school football to college football. Alexander isn’t just a finesse corner, he is more than willing to come up and hit in run support. Like Kelvin Taylor, he is coming into a good situation at Clemson which means he should be on the field pretty early.
4) Ricky Seals-Jones, WR/Athlete, Texas A&M, 6-5, 230lbs, Sealy High School, (Sealy, Texas) & JaQuay Williams, WR, Texas A&M, 6-3, 205lbs, Sandy Creek High School, (Tyrone, Georgia) (committed after a year at prep school)
We know that we will see plenty of Texas A&M games on national television next season, so there’s a good chance you’ll get to know Ricky Seals-Jones and JaQuay Williams. A&M had to get Johnny Manziel some weapons since Ryan Swope and Uzoma Nwachukwu have moved on. Seal-Jones, who attended the same high school as NFL Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson, is a big target who may eventually grow into a tight end, while JaQuay Williams will arrive in College Station after a year of prep school after he was named the top wide receiver prospect in the state of Georgia in 2012.
5) Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama, 6-2, 240lbs, Auburn High School, (Auburn, Alabama)
Foster’s story has been well documented. Regardless of how any feels about the way he handled the recruitment process, there is no doubt that Foster has been an SEC caliber talent for quite sometime. He is instinctive and he doesn’t shy away from contact. Nick Saban isn’t afraid to play young linebackers early (see Roland McClain in 2008), so don’t be surprised if you see Foster lining up at inside linebacker for the Crimson Tide at the Chick Fil-A kickoff game against Virginia Tech.
Other prospects who will likely be impact players early on this fall: Vonn Bell, S, Ohio State, 6-0, 190lbs, Ridgeland High School, (Rossville, Georgia), Antonio Conner, S, Ole Miss, 6-2, 200lbs, South Panola High School, (Batesville, Mississippi), Eddie Vanderdoes, DT, Notre Dame, 6-3, 310lbs, Placer High School, (Auburn, California), Johnathan Allen, DE, Alabama, 6-3, 245lbs, Stone Bridge High School, (Ashburn, Virginia), Derrick Henry, Athlete/RB, Alabama, 6-3, 243lbs, Yulee High School, (Yulee, Florida), Derrick Green, RB, Michigan, 6-0, 215lbs, Hermitage High School, (Richmond, Virginia), Trey Johnson, LB, Ohio State, 6-1, 215lbs, Central Gwinnett High School, (Lawrenceville, Ga.), Su’a Cravens, S, USC, 6-1, 205lbs, Vista Murrieta High School, (Murrieta, California), Matthew Thomas, OLB, Florida State, 6-3, 205lbs, Booker T. Washington High School, (Miami, Florida)