National Signing Day Rewind: Instant Impact Players

Nothing is certain in recruiting, but here is our best guess at the players that will have a chance to make an impact for their team in 2014.

SEC -- listed in order of 247Sports Team Ranking

Alabama Crimson Tide : OT Cameron Robinson (6-7, 335 pounds; West Monroe, La.): Massive offensive lineman who is already on campus and will be in spring ball. Consensus five-star prospect and ranked as the No. 1 tackle in the country.

LSU Tigers : RB Leonard Fournette (6-1, 226 pounds; New Orleans, La.): The top-ranked player in the country has drawn comparisons to Adrian Peterson and Les Miles told CBSSports.com on Wednesday he could play in the season opener against Wisconsin.

Texas A&M Aggies : DE Myles Garrett (6-4, 240 pounds; Arlington, Texas): The Aggies will make use of five-star wide receiver Speedy Noil, but Garrett, the top ranked player in the country according to some, could be a difference maker on a defense that needed help in 2013.

Auburn Tigers : WR D’haquille Williams (6-3, 213 pounds; Mississippi Gulf Coast C.C.): Auburn cleaned up with the junior college prospects, including Williams, the No. 1 JUCO in the 2014 class. Williams is already enrolled and will have an impact in 2014.

Tennessee Volunteers : ATH Jalen Hurd (6-3, 230 pounds; Hendersonville, Tenn.): The Vols have plenty of options for instant impact in a 33-player class, especially when 14 of them, including the highly-touted Hurd, will be available for spring ball.

Georgia Bulldogs : WDE Lorenzo Carter (6-5, 232 pounds; Norcross, Ga.): Five-star running backs Sony Michel and Nick Chubb will be stars eventually, but with Gurley back it is Carter who has the best chance to star for the Bulldogs in 2014.

Florida Gators : CB Jalen Tabor (6-1, 182 pounds; Washington, DC): The Gators are becoming a landing spot for top defensive backs. Tabor, a five-star flip from Arizona, is already enrolled in Gainesville.

South Carolina Gamecocks : WDE Dante Sawyer (6-2.5, 262 pounds; Suwanee, Ga.): The Gamecocks are losing a lot of talent along the defensive line, giving Sawyer and others an opportunity to step in and play.

Ole Miss Rebels : OG Roderick Taylor (6-3.5, 305 pounds; Jackson, Miss.): Taylor held offers from Alabama, Florida State, Georgia and LSU but stuck with the Rebels since July. He’s got the size to compete for playing time on an offensive line that relied on several seniors in 2013.

Kentucky Wildcats : QB Drew Barker (6-4, 210 pounds; Hebron, Ky.) and DT Matt Elam (6-5, 372 pounds; Elizabethtown, Ky.): These two in-state stars are not only the faces of this historic class, but now the most identifiable players in the Wildcats’ program.

Arkansas Razorbacks : ATH Jojo Robinson (6-0, 183 pounds; Miami, Fla.): Robinson is a four-star prospect with room for improvement, but the Razorbacks need playmakers at wide receiver badly and he’ll have a shot to take on that role this fall.

Mississippi State Bulldogs : RB Aeris Williams (6-1, 205 pounds; West Point, Miss.): Williams was the state’s Mr. Football and a longtime Bulldogs commit. There’s room to crack the lineup at running back if Williams can hit the ground running this summer.

Missouri Tigers : WR Nate Brown (6-3, 210 pounds; Suwanee, Ga.): With L’Damian Washington and Marcus Lucas gone, there will be room for Brown, a physical four-star with good hands, to step in and earn a spot in the wide receiver rotation.

Vanderbilt Commodores : SDE Nifae Lealao (6-5, 282 pounds; Sacramento, Calif.): Vanderbilt was hit hard by decommits when James Franklin left, but Lealao is a prospect that followed Derek Mason from Stanford. The four-star All-American can, and will likely, have a spot on the D-line rotation in the fall.

B1G -- listed in order of 247Sports Team Ranking

Ohio State Buckeyes : LB Raekwon McMillan (6-2, 242 pounds; Hinesville, Ga.): McMillan was ready to play college football yesterday. The five-star left SEC country to come play for the Buckeyes and will have an immediate impact on their D in 2014.

Michigan Wolverines : DB Jabrill Peppers (6-1, 2-5 pounds; Paramus, N.J.): Too much talent not to give the longtime Wolverines commit a chance to play right away. Expected to start in the secondary but could return kicks or play on offense as well.  

Penn State Nittany Lions  : TE Mike Gesicki (6-5, 236 pounds; Manahawkin, N.J.): The nation’s top tight end is just one of a trio of high rated targets (along with receivers Saeed Blacknall and Chris Godwin) for Christian Hackenberg in 2014.

Michigan State Spartans : DT Craig Evans (6-3, 200 pounds; Monroeville, Pa.): At this moment, five-star Malik McDowell’s NLI has not been made official, but both he and Evans, a four-star former Wisconsin commit, will have opportunities to contribute immediately on a defensive line losing three seniors from the two-deep.

Wisconsin Badgers  : WR Krenwick Sanders (6-2, 195 pounds; Jesup; Ga.): He may just be a three-star, but Sanders had offers from Florida, FSU, UGA and North Carolina. There’s far from a plethora of talent at the wide receiver position in Madison right now, so he will have a chance to step right in and compete.

Nebraska Cornhuskers : OG Tanner Farmer (6-3.5, 302 pounds; Highland Park, Ill.): Three-star quarterback Zack Darlington is already on campus, but if health issues get in the way it could be Farmer who ends up as the most impactful member of this class in 2014.

Maryland Terrapins : OT Damian Prince (6-5, 295 pounds; District Heights, Md.): Prince is a five-star stud who could’ve gone anywhere but chose to stay with the hometown Terps.

Northwestern Wildcats  : CB Parrker Westphal (6-0, 186 pounds; Bolingbrook, Ill.): The Wildcats had a small class this year, but Westphal helps bring some in-state star power to the group.

Indiana Hoosiers : WR Dominique Booth (6-0, 205 pounds; Indianapolis, Ind.): There are plenty of snaps to go around in Kevin Wilson’s offense, and this in-state four-star hopes to get his fair share.

Iowa Hawkeyes : RB Markel Smith (5-11, 210 pounds; Saint Louis, Mo.): Smith and C.J. Hilliard give the Hawkeyes two interesting prospects at running back. Smith has the body to contribute immediately, but both could have an impact down the road.

Minnesota Golden Gophers  : RB Jeff Jones (5-11, 196 pounds; Minneapolis, Minn.): Jones picked up quick offers from Michigan and Florida after being named MVP of the Under Armour All-America game but chose to stay home.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights : RB Josh Hicks (5-10, 180 pounds; Palmetto, Fla.): Hicks may not crack the starting lineup in fall camp, but with the injury issues the Scarlet Knights have faced at running back the Under Armour All-American could get a shot midseason.

Illinois Fighting Illini  : DL Jihad Ward (6-7, 286 pounds; Philadelphia, Pa.): Too talented not to play him, particularly on the defensive line (where the Illini have depth issues).

Purdue Boilermakers  : LB JaWhaun Bentley (6-2, 245 pounds; Hyattsville, Md.) and/or LB Gelen Robinson (6-2, 232 pounds): Two of the top rated prospects in Purdue’s class fill immediate needs.

PAC 12 -- listed in order of 247Sports Team Ranking

Southern California Trojans : CB Adoree Jackson (5-9.5, 182 pounds; Gardena, Calif.): Jackson, the highest rated uncommitted prospect on signing day, joined JuJu Smith, Damien Mama and Viane Talamaivao to give the Trojans the best class in the Pac-12.

Stanford Cardinal : SDE Solomon Thomas (6-2.5, 258 pounds; Coppell, Texas): Thomas donned the same nerd glasses former Stanford defensive stars. He’ll likely follow in their footsteps.

UCLA Bruins : ILB Zach Whitley (6-2, 223 pounds; Houston, Texas.): The Bruins loaded up on the defensive side of the ball in this class, getting a handful of stars in the back seven. Whitley and fellow linebacker Zach Young (New Orleans, La.) held offers from SEC schools and chose the Bruins instead.

Oregon Ducks : RB Royce Freeman (5-11, 215 pounds; Imperial, Calif.): Freeman could benefit from De’Anthony Thomas’ exit to the NFL, but at 215 pounds don’t expect him to be a DAT-style back.

Arizona State Sun Devils : DT Dalvon Stuckey (6-3, 300 pounds; Pearl River C.C.): Stuckey is just a three-star JUCO prospect, but turned down offers from Auburn, Miami and Nebraska to fill an immediate need with Will Sutton and Carl Bradford gone.

Arizona Wildcats : CB Cameron Denson (6-1, 170 pounds; Tuscon, Ariz.): Arizona doesn’t have a ton of top-tier talent, but this four-star athlete leads a nice group of defensive prospects for the Wildcats in 2014.

Washington Huskies : ATH Budda Baker (5-9, 174 pounds; Bellevue, Wash.): Baker was previously an Oregon commit, and chose the Huskies over UCLA (some retribution for Myles Jack’s departure a year earlier).

California Golden Bears : WR Erik Brown (6-1, 170 pounds; Fontana, Calif.): Cal fans hope this four-star wide receiver can help ignite the Bear Raid and reverse the slide from Sonny Dykes’ first season.

Oregon State Beavers : WR Datrin Guyton (6-3, 195 pounds; Manor, Texas): Guyton’s evaluations are all over the board, and some believe he could be a sleeper that the Texas schools let escape.

Utah Utes : ATH Tavaris Williams (5-11, 185 pounds; Fort White, Fla.) Williams got some late attention from Boston College and Wisconsin after committing to the Utes in November. Likely a change-of-pace back if he is going to contribute early.

Washington State Cougars : RB Squally Canada (6-0, 185 pounds; Milpitas, Calif.): Not just an All-Name Team player, but also the headliner of this Cougars class and potential contributor in 2014.

Colorado Buffaloes : WR Shay Fields (5-11, 160 pounds; Bellflower, Calif.): Fields is the gem of Colorado’s class, picking the Buffs over Boise State and Cal after decommiting from USC at the end of October.

BIG 12 -- listed in order of 247Sports Team Ranking

Oklahoma Sooners : RB Joe Mixon (6-2, 195 pounds; Oakley, Calif.): Bob Stoops told CBSSports.com on Wednesday that the five-star back will be part of the offense in 2014, both carrying the ball and catching passes out of the backfield. Also, keep your eye on Michiah Quick.

Texas Longhorns : WR Armanti Foreman (5-11, 176 pounds; Texas City, Texas): Quarterback Jerrod Heard is perhaps the most important signee for the future, but Foreman, a four-star inside receiver who also had offers to Baylor and Florida, has a better chance of making an impact in 2014.

Baylor Bears : WR KD Cannon (6-0, 162 pounds; Mount Pleasant, Texas): All-American is one of four wideouts in Baylor’s 2014 class. Art Briles believes its the best class of wide receivers in the nation.

Oklahoma State Cowboys : LB Gyasi Akem (6-2, 211 pounds; Broken Arrow, Okla.): Akem is one of the highest rated members of the Cowboys class at a  position with five players graduating. The four-star may be raw, but he’ll have a chance to contribute.

West Virginia Mountaineers : ATH Dravon Henry (5-11, 185 pounds; Aliquippa, Pa.): Henry was ranked by 247Sports as the top prospect in Pennsylvania. The versatile four-star will likely end up in the defensive backfield, but could emerge anywhere.

Texas Tech Red Raiders : DT Rika Levi (6-2, 350 pounds; College of San Mateo) -- Defensive tackle is arguably the biggest need for the Red Raiders and this 350-pound four-star could fill that void nicely.

TCU Horned Frogs : OT Ty Barrett (6-5, 310 pounds; Dallas, Texas): The offensive line loses three senior starters, giving Barrett, a three-star with offers from Arizona State and Baylor, an opportunity to jump in and the rotation immediately.  

Kansas State Wildcats : DT Terrell Clinkscales (6-4, 310 pounds; Dodge City C.C.): Four-star was one of the most sought after junior college prospects.  

Kansas Jayhawks : RB Traevohn Wrench (6-0, 180 pounds; Gardner, Kan.): Wrench is a four-star according to the 247Sports Composite ranking and had an offer from Michigan State before his senior year. With James Sims gone, the Jayhawks have a hole at running back.

Iowa State Cyclones : WR Allen Lazard (6-4.5, 207 pounds; Urbandale, Iowa): Lazard had plenty of opportunities to leave for more traditional powers, but the 4-star receiver decided to join his brother at his father’s alma mater.

ACC (and Notre Dame) -- listed in order of 247Sports Team Ranking

Florida State Seminoles : RB Dalvin Cook (5-11, 190 pounds; Miami, Fla.): Star wide receivers Ermon Lane and Travis Rudolph could both make impacts in 2014, but Cook will be in spring ball and is a perfect all-purpose backup to Karlos Williams.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish : LB Nyles Morgan (6-1, 225 pounds; Crete, Ill.): The Irish needed linebackers badly, and Morgan, an academically qualified four-star from the Chicago area, leads a large group of commitments that fill that need.

Miami (Fla.) Hurricanes : DE Chad Thomas (6-5, 240 pounds; Miami, Fla.): The best defensive player in the state of Florida should get an opportunity to break the rotation on a defensive line that has not wowed anyone in recent seasons.

Clemson Tigers : WR Artavis Scott (5-10, 175 pounds, Tarpon Springs, Fla.), WR Demarre Kitt (6-1, 182 pounds; Tyrone, Ga.), WR Trevion Thompson (6-3, 188 pounds; Durham, N.C.): Scott and Kitt are early enrollees, but all three are four-star receivers who can step in immediately with Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant gone.

Virginia Tech Hokies : S Holland Fisher (6-1, 200 pounds; Fork Union Military Academy): Fisher needed to spend a year at Fork Union to qualify, so if his enrollment is not impeded he should make an impact on Bud Foster’s defense.

North Carolina Tar Heels : RB Elijah Hood (5-11.5, 222 pounds; Charlotte, N.C.): The former Notre Dame commit is an early enrollee for the Tar Heels and a big recruiting win for Larry Fedora. The offensive backfield is crowded, but Hood will find a way to contribute immediately.

Virginia Cavaliers : S Quin Blanding (6-2, 220 pounds; Virginia Beach, Va.): Five-star DL Andrew Brown is on campus already but Blanding could be the freshman with the biggest impact in 2014. No. 1 safety in the country, played WR in HS and could contribute on offense.

NC State Wolfpack : DE Kentavius Street (6-2, 264 pounds; Greenville, N.C.): Dave Doeren pulled nearly half of his 33-player class from in-state, with the four-star defensive end as his gem.

Pittsburgh Panthers : OT Alex Bookser (6-6, 295 pounds; Pittsburgh, Pa.): The four-star offensive lineman fielded offers from Ohio State, Penn State, Alabama and Tennessee. Continues the trend for Paul Chryst after landing elite offensive tackle Dorian Johnson in 2013.

Louisville Cardinals : LB Sharieff Rhaheed (6-2, 202 pounds; Fort Pierce, Fla.): Todd Grantham and Terrell Buckely worked hard to keep Rhaheed from fading from his Cardinals commit after Charlie Strong left Louisville. At 6-3, 210 pounds, Rhaheed fits perfectly into Grantham’s 3-4 scheme.

Syracuse Orange : ATH KJ Williams: (6-2, 190 pounds; Bethlehem, Pa.): Syracuse offensive coordinator George McDonald wants to go up-tempo with quarterback Terrel Hunt in 2014. Williams, the highest rated prospect from the program’s 2014 class, could benefit.

Boston College Eagles : Jonathan Hilliman (6-1, 210 pounds; Jersey City, N.J.): Hilliman also held offers from Alabama, Arkansas and Florida. In choosing Boston College, fans are hoping Steve Addazio landed the next Andre Williams.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets : ATH Myles Autry (5-9, 175 pounds; Norcross, Ga.): This three-star athlete from Norcross, Ga. chose to join his big brother, Anthony, with the Yellow Jackets. Could play A-back or have an immediate impact as a return specialist.

Duke Blue Devils : WR Trevon Lee (6-1, 175 pounds; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.): Lee was a late commit after the Blue Devils’ stellar 2013 season, adding a Sunshine State skill position player to Duke’s ever-evolving offense under David Cutcliffe.

Wake Forest Demon Deacons : DT Zeek Rodney (6-1, 265 pounds; Rock Hill, S.C.): Rodney committed to Wake Forest late in the game, buying into Dave Clawson’s pitch. He won’t be Nikita Whitlock immediately, but he’s a steal in this class considering the coaching change.

AAC -- listed in order of 247Sports Team Ranking

South Florida Bulls : DB Jamie Byrd (5-11, 190 pounds; Dade City, Fla.): Three-star safety from Iowa Western Community College chose the Bulls over Arizona and N.C. State, among others. Will be in spring practice and likely on the field this fall.

UCF Knights : ATH Chris Williams (6-1, 180 pounds; Kingsland, Ga.): Former Alabama commit flipped this week after a late UCF visit. Touted as a playmaker for his impact in all three phases, he should at least get a look as a return specialist in 2014.

Cincinnati Bearcats : LB Kevin Mouhon (6-0, 223 pounds; Norcross, Ga.): The younger brother of Bearcats’ defensive lineman Silverberry Mouhon (led the team in sacks in 2013). The three-star linebacker is the program’s first-ever Army All-American.

Temple Owls : CB Cequan Jefferson (5-11, 175 pounds, Fork Union Military Academy): Matt Rhule deserves from credit for this group, ranked No. 4 in the AAC. Top prospect already on campus. Jefferson chose the Owls over Virginia Tech.

Houston Cougars : OL Carter Wall (6-4, 304 pounds; Navarro College): The Cougars are pretty well-stocked with 17 returning starters, but Wall, an early enrollee from junior college, is the highest rated prospect of the group Houston did lose some experienced players on the offensive line to graduation.  

East Carolina Pirates : OG Quincy McKinney (6-4, 300 pounds; Hutchinson C.C.): McKinney is three years removed from high school, and ready to contribute immediately. He is the No. 5 junior college guard in his class and chose the Pirates over Louisville and N.C. State.

Southern Methodist Mustangs : RB Daniel Gresham (5-9.5, 236 pounds; Fort Worth, Texas): Gresham committed to Texas as a sophomore, flipped to Louisville as a junior, then lost his offer when Bobby Petrino took over for Charlie Strong. Kansas State and Miami offered late in the game but SMU had already locked down this big college-ready tailback.

Memphis Tigers : LB Shareef White (5-11, 219 pounds; Greneda, Miss.): Jarvis Cooper may be the most intriguing prospect of Memphis’ class due to his local ties and desire to play on both sides of the ball, but White is less of a work-in-progress at this point. White chose the Tigers over Mississippi State late last month, joining high school teammate Genard Avery in the 2014 class.

Tulsa Golden Hurricane : QB Jabe Burgess (6-3, 200 pounds; Greenwood, Ark.): Early enrollee is one of the Top 50 pro-style quarterbacks in this class. Will participate in spring drills and could push Dane Evans for the starting job.

Tulane Green Wave : WR Niguel Veal (5-11, 180 pounds; New Orleans, La.): Tulane needs help at wide receiver, and this three-star local prospect is already on campus as an early enrollee.  

Connecticut Huskies : LB Vontae Diggs (6-4, 200 pounds; Downers Grove, Ill.): The Huskies have the lowest rated class in the AAC (No. 99 nationally), which suggests that Bob Diaco’s first class will be more developmental projects than instant impact. Diggs is versatile (he played quarterback and receiver in high school in addition to all linebacker positions and defensive end), so we’ll give this three-star linebacker the best odds of making a difference early.




CBS Sports Writer

Chip Patterson has spent his young career covering college sports from the Old North State. He's been writing and talking about football and basketball for CBS Sports since 2010. You may have heard him... Full Bio

Show Comments Hide Comments
Our Latest Stories