Each College Football Team's Most Intriguing Freshman

Brian PedersenFeatured ColumnistMay 28, 2014

Each College Football Team's Most Intriguing Freshman

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    LSU signee Leonard Fournette, the No. 1 overall recruit in the 2014 class, is the Tigers' most intriguing freshman.
    LSU signee Leonard Fournette, the No. 1 overall recruit in the 2014 class, is the Tigers' most intriguing freshman.USA TODAY Sports

    The youth are our future. Not just for the world, but for our college football teams, too.

    Each year, as the recruiting cycle runs its course and hundreds of high school football players make their collegiate choices, we're told a little bit about each of these potential future stars. Each gets a rating and a ranking. They all have their best skills.

    Then national signing day comes, and for coaches, it's on to the next year.

    But before we can start getting too interested in what the 2015 recruiting class will bring us, let's take a closer look at the top talent from 2014. Or rather, the top prospect for each and every FBS college football team—a quick glimpse at interesting players who have yet to take a snap in college.

    Here's our look at every school's most intriguing freshman, whether it be an early enrollee, a just-graduated senior or a player from the 2013 class who redshirted and will get into the mix this fall.

Air Force Falcons

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    Keenan Curran, S

    Height, weight: 6'2", 180 pounds

    The 2013 season was one of the worst Air Force has ever gone through, with issues on both offense and defense. Stopping the pass was among the most troubling problems for the Falcons, who addressed that issue with its top two recruits, including Keenan Curran.

    Curran, a 3-star prospect from the Seattle area, played both quarterback and safety in high school. Knowing how both sides work might help him get onto the field and help Air Force stop the pass a little better.

Akron Zips

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    Anthony Clark, DE

    Height, weight: 6'4", 250 pounds

    Akron's biggest immediate need is to fill some holes on its defensive line, where multiple openings are available for the Zips' defense-heavy recruiting class to contribute. One of the most intriguing prospects is Anthony Clark, a 3-star pickup from Akron who had offers from Pittsburgh and West Virginia.

Alabama Crimson Tide

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    Tony Brown, CB

    Height, weight: 6'1", 175 pounds

    Rated as the No. 9 player overall and the second-best cornerback in the country, Tony Brown could be the next great Alabama defensive back. The 5-star recruit from Texas enrolled early, and his time with the Crimson Tide during spring practice puts him in great position to contribute right away.

    He will get a chance to work with and alongside rising star safety Landon Collins, and that duo should once again put Alabama among the nation's best in terms of pass defense.

Appalachian State Mountaineers

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    Shaedon Meadors, WR

    Height, weight: 6'2", 180 pounds

    Appalachian State returns 17 starters from last year's team as it makes the move to FBS, but the Mountaineers will still need some help to replenish a receiving corps after graduating its top two targets. Shaedon Meadors, a 3-star recruit from South Carolina, chose Appalachian State over offers from Marshall, Rutgers and Wake Forest.

Arizona Wildcats

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    Cameron Denson, CB

    Height, weight: 6'1", 170 pounds

    Arizona's wide receiving corps is loaded with talent for 2014, which is why highly regarded receiver prospect Cameron Denson will most likely make his collegiate debut as a defensive back. He starred as both in high school in Tucson, as well as on punt and kickoff returns.

    The 4-star recruit, who ended his prep career by winning a state title on Arizona's home turf, also had offers from Arizona State, Oklahoma State and West Virginia.

Arizona State Sun Devils

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    Derik Calhoun, LB

    Height, weight: 6'0", 215 pounds

    Arizona State saw its top defensive players head to the NFL after this past season, meaning the Sun Devils need to get some fresh blood into that unit to keep it among the best in the Pac-12. Derik Calhoun, ASU's top recruit for 2014, should be one of the candidates to contribute early.

    The 4-star Calhoun, who enrolled early, was originally a commitment of USC before the Southern California-based star decided on playing in the desert.

Arkansas Razorbacks

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    Bijhon Jackson, DT

    Height, weight: 6'2", 334 pounds

    Arkansas struggled last year when it came to trying to stop the faster and more dynamic offenses that are starting to populate the SEC. Preventing the run was particularly troubling, but that might not be the case once Bijhon Jackson gets on the field.

    The 4-star prospect was the top-rated player out of the state of Arkansas, and his massive size should be helpful in plugging up interior running lanes. Jackson, who also had Alabama and Ole Miss on his tail, is considered the fifth-best defensive tackle recruit in the nation.

Arkansas State Red Wolves

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    Chuks Ota, DT

    Height, weight: 6'2", 285 pounds 

    Arkansas State's run of success the last few years, despite constant head coaching changes, was paced by defensive tackle Ryan Carrethers, who ended up getting drafted by the San Diego Chargers in the fifth round.

    His potential replacement is local product Chuks Ota, a 3-star prospect who was the 12th-best player in the state of Arkansas.

Army Black Knights

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    E.J. Turner, ATH

    Height, weight: 5'10", 170 pounds

    Most of Army's incoming freshmen don't get announced until the summer, after official military appointments are issued. But 247Sports has noted a few players who have signed letters of intent, with E.J. Turner showing the most promise.

    Hunter, a 2-star prospect from Alabama, could find a role on either side of the ball for new coach Jeff Monken's team.

Auburn Tigers

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    Roc Thomas, RB

    Height, weight: 5'11", 196 pounds

    Auburn has taken the concept of early enrollment to the extreme, with 20 of its 24 recruits showing up for classes anywhere from January to late May. They all have the same goal in mind: to get a jump on preparations for being a part of the team that was 13 seconds away from winning the national title in 2013.

    Of that group, the one who is getting the most buzz is Roc Thomas, a 5-star recruit who was the No. 23 overall player in the class of 2014. Already being looked at as a future replacement for last year's star tailback Tre Mason, Thomas is coming off a 2,200-yard, 32-touchdown season as a high school senior.

Ball State Cardinals

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    David Morrison, QB

    Height, weight: 6'2", 170 pounds

    Ball State won 10 games last season but has to replace several key pieces from that team, most notably four-year starting quarterback Keith Wenning. No obvious successor was in place in 2013, which means 3-star recruit David Morrison could be in the mix. He was rated as the state of Indiana's 21st-best prospect last year.

Baylor Bears

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    KD Cannon, WR

    Height, weight: 6'0", 162 pounds

    Speed is a key ingredient to the offensive brew that Baylor has put together the last few years, and once again the Bears' recruiting reflects their need for speed. KD Cannon fits right into that recipe and could quickly become one of Baylor's next great wide receivers.

    Cannon, a 5-star in-state wideout, committed to Baylor last August but still did the rounds and visited Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Texas Tech before sticking with the Bears.

Boise State Broncos

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    Dylan Sumner-Gardner, S

    Height, weight: 6'1", 193 pounds

    Boise State typically recruits better than most mid-major programs, though the Broncos took some hits this past season when Chris Petersen left for Washington and some prospects followed suit. But 4-star safety Dylan Sumner-Gardner didn't get scared off; instead, he showed up early and participated in spring practice.

    Sumner-Gardner, from Texas, was previously a Texas A&M commit but then decided to follow A&M coach Marcel Yates when he was hired by Bryan Harsin to be the Broncos' defensive coordinator.

Boston College Eagles

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    Connor Strachan, LB

    Height, weight: 6'2", 240 pounds

    Boston College will look very different from the 2013 team that went 7-6, as the Eagles graduate a great number of key starters from the group. All those openings make it possible that some members of the 2014 recruiting class will be asked to contribute early.

    A good candidate to do so is Connor Strachan, a 3-star in-state prospect who was the top recruit from the state of Massachusetts. The No. 15 overall inside linebacker in the nation also had offers from Massachusetts and Virginia.

Bowling Green Falcons

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    Clint Stephens, WR (NSFW in video)

    Height, weight: 5'9", 170 pounds

    One of the few places where defending Mid-American champ Bowling Green needs to fill a hole is in the receiving corps, where it lost its top two targets from 2013. Though on the small side, Clint Stephens is a 3-star prospect from Florida with reported 4.45 speed whose offers included ones from Marshall, Miami (Fla.), Tennessee and Wisconsin.

Buffalo Bulls

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    William White, LB

    Height, weight: 6'1", 220 pounds

    The loss of Khalil Mack, a first-round draft pick who was as dominant as any mid-major defender in recent memory, prompted Buffalo to load up on linebacker recruits this offseason. The Bulls' top three prospects are at that position, including 3-star recruit William White.

    White, from Detroit, also had offers from Cincinnati and Indiana.

BYU Cougars

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    Fred Warner, LB

    Height, weight: 6'3", 205 pounds

    It's not the standard method of succession to have a team's best defensive player, who ends up getting drafted, be replaced by a highly touted incoming recruit. But that could be how BYU handles the loss of outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy thanks to the arrival of Fred Warner.

    Warner, a 4-star prospect from California, chose the Cougars over Arizona, California, USC and Washington. He'll be thrown right into the mix to help replenish a unit that lost five of its top six players form a year ago.

California Golden Bears

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    Erik Brown, WR

    Height, weight: 6'1", 170 pounds

    In order for Sonny Sykes' pass-heavy style to work at California, he's going to need to have a wealth of playmakers all over his offense. The Golden Bears didn't have many of those last year, but it looks to be getting one with Erik Brown.

    Brown, a 4-star prospect from Fontana, Calif., was rated as the nation's No. 26 receiving recruit. He was originally a Washington commit before jumping from the Huskies' camp last November for Cal.

Central Florida Knights

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    Kyle Gibson, S

    Height, weight: 6'0", 170 pounds 

    How far has the league formerly known as the Big East (and now called the American) fallen? Central Florida won the Fiesta Bowl as the American's champ yet sports the only 4-star prospect to sign with any AAC team, according to 247 Sports.

    That 4-star recruit is Kyle Gibson, the 40th-best player in Florida and the No. 28 safety in the country. He picked UCF after decommitting from Vanderbilt just weeks before signing day, but he'll face an uphill battle to get significant playing time in 2014 due to the Knights returning their entire starting secondary from last season's 12-1 team.

Central Michigan Chippewas

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    Alex Neering, DE

    Height, weight: 6'6", 230 pounds 

    Though Central Michigan won three straight to finish at 6-6 last year, it did so against weak competition after struggling when faced with good teams. The biggest problem was a poor defensive line, which is an invitation for 3-star recruit Alex Neering to contribute immediately.

    Tall yet still thin for his position, Neering was rated well enough in high school to be considered Michigan's 39th-best prospect in the 2014 class.

Cincinnati Bearcats

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    Kevin Mouhon, LB

    Height, weight: 6'0.5", 223 pounds 

    Family connections can be a great way to land solid recruits, which is partly how Cincinnati managed to sign its top prospect from 2014, Kevin Mouhon.

    The younger brother of standout Bearcats defensive lineman Silverberry Mouhon, Kevin might not have as cool a name but does have some pretty good game. He was considered the 17th-best inside linebacker in the country this past year, and after originally committing to Tennessee last summer, he jumped to Cincinnati in January.

Clemson Tigers

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    Deshaun Watson, QB

    Height, weight: 6'3", 205 pounds

    Clemson's well-oiled machine of an offense needs some new high-octane parts after losing its quarterback, running back and top two receivers. The Tigers have available pieces for most of those holes, but when it comes to the quarterback spot, the best option going forward might have just arrived a few months ago.

    Deshaun Watson, a 4-star dual-threat passer from Georgia, enrolled in January and went through a full spring of practice drills in his quest to beat out Cole Stoudt for the starting job. More mobile than Tajh Boyd, Watson has a chance to add another dimension to Clemson's dynamic offense if he gets the gig.

Colorado Buffaloes

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    Shay Fields, WR

    Height, weight: 5'11", 160 pounds

    No one is going to mistake incoming recruit Shay Fields for Paul Richardson, Colorado's star wide receiver from last year, in terms of size. But the 3-star prospect could match what Richardson did last year in terms of results.

    Fields, from California, was originally a Boise State commit, but after pulling that pledge he picked the Buffaloes over offers from California, USC and Utah.

Colorado State Rams

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    Bryce Peters, RB

    Height, weight: 5'11", 200 pounds

    Colorado State has to completely redo its run game and offensive line on a team that ran the ball really well in 2013. Having quarterback Garrett Grayson back helps, but the Rams need a quality running back who can do what Kapri Bibbs did in his one season.

    That could be Bryce Peters, a member of the same 2013 recruiting class as Bibbs who redshirted last year. The 3-star prospect from Texas has a similar build and skills and has waited patiently for his chance.

Connecticut Huskies

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    Arkeel Newsome, RB

    Height, weight: 5'8", 184 pounds

    There's something to be said about being able to hang onto the top talent in your own neighborhood. And while Connecticut isn't a recruiting hotbed for college football, the Huskies did land the No. 1 overall player in the state in the form of Arkeel Newsome.

    Newsome, a 3-star prospect who has the same build and style as current UConn starter Lyle McCombs, chose the Huskies over Massachusetts.

Duke Blue Devils

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    Johnathan Lloyd, ATH

    Height, weight: 6'0", 185 pounds

    Duke's surprising run to the ACC title game helped out the recruiting effort a little bit, but not enough to where the Blue Devils were able to make serious inroads within North Carolina. But one in-state guy they did get to secure, 3-star athlete Johnathan Lloyd, could be a hidden gem.

    Lloyd, who also had offers from Clemson and East Carolina, was a dual-threat passer who could contribute at various offensive positions. He enrolled early at Duke to improve his chances of getting on the field as a freshman.

East Carolina Pirates

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    Marquez Grayson, RB

    Height, weight: 6'1", 190 pounds 

    For as great as Shane Carden is as East Carolina's quarterback, the prolific passer wouldn't have been as effective had he not been paired with solid rusher Vintavious Cooper out of the backfield. Now with Cooper gone, the Pirates must find a similar complement to Carden's passing game.

    That could be Marquez Grayson, a 3-star recruit who redshirted last season. The No. 34 running back in the 2013 recruiting class, he chose ECU over offers from Clemson, Duke, North Carolina State and South Carolina.

Eastern Michigan Eagles

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    Kenny Jones, WR

    Height, weight: 6'3", 190 pounds

    Eastern Michigan went 2-10 last season, but a good number of its starters are back as well as plenty of key reserves. It may be hard for a freshman to crack through, especially on offense, but one who looks like he'll impress the new coaching staff the most is 3-star recruit Kenny Jones.

    An Indianapolis product, Jones had offers from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa State and Louisville, among others.

Florida Gators

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    Jalen Tabor, S

    Height, weight: 6'1", 182 pounds

    Florida's offseason recruiting involved a lot of late pickups, including the acquisition of 5-star defensive back prospect Jalen Tabor, who flipped from Arizona in January to be part of what looks to be another solid Gators defense.

    Tabor, who enrolled early, could partner with 2013 freshman standout Vernon Hargreaves III to form one of the best young secondary tandems in college football.

Florida Atlantic Owls

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    Jason Driskel, QB

    Height, weight: 6'2", 215 pounds

    Florida Atlantic is low on the totem pole in Florida, both in comparison to in-state foes and out-of-state competition for recruits. Yet the Owls are starting to load up on some talent and get some names, including Jason Driskel.

    The younger brother of projected Florida starting quarterback Jeff Driskel, Jason is a 3-star prospect who committed to FAU before its midseason coaching change in 2013 and stuck with the program. He's not apt to play much this year with Jaquez Johnson firmly entrenched as the starter, but his enrollment early at the school is a great sign of the program's progress.

Florida International Golden Panthers

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    Alex McGough, QB

    Height, weight: 6'3", 198 pounds 

    The average score in Florida International's games last year was 37-10. The Golden Panthers went 1-11, so it's not hard to figure out which side they fell on that average and why getting the offense going is imperative for any improvement to happen.

    That could happen at quarterback, and 3-star prospect Alex McGough has a chance to compete with E.J. Hilliard for the starting spot. McGough, from Tampa (24 of FIU's 25 signees are from Florida), also had interest from Florida Atlantic and Wake Forest.

Florida State Seminoles

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    Matthew Thomas, LB

    Height, weight: 6'3", 224 pounds

    Matthew Thomas is still considered a freshman, but he's not that much of a newcomer for Florida State. The former 5-star prospect from the 2013 recruiting class played in the Seminoles' first few games last year before going down with a season-ending shoulder injury.

    He was given a medical redshirt, and now fully healthy he is expected to be on the field regularly for the defending national champs. FSU lost two linebackers to the NFL, and though there's plenty of talent at the position, it looks like Thomas will be among the main contributors.

Fresno State Bulldogs

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    Michael Lazarus, LB

    Height, weight: 6'2", 205 pounds 

    Fresno State wasn't well-regarded on defense, but the Bulldogs did make a lot of big plays thanks to their aggressive style. That approach requires a lot of depth, so even with all of last season's linebacker starters returning, there's a chance 3-star prospect Michael Lazarus makes an impact.

    Lazarus, considered the No. 16 inside linebacker in the country, picked FSU over the likes of Arizona State, Washington and Wisconsin.

Georgia Bulldogs

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    Lorenzo Carter, DE

    Height, weight: 6'5", 232 pounds

    It took until the last minute, but Georgia was able to land the top in-state recruit of 2014 when Lorenzo Carter committed and signed with the Bulldogs on national signing day. Besides the local pride angle, it was also a huge get to steal the 5-star recruit away from the likes of Florida, Florida State and LSU.

    Carter, listed as the No. 18 overall prospect last season, has the ability to play linebacker or defensive end, something that new Georgia defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt will take advantage of.

Georgia Southern Eagles

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    Kameron Maye, ATH

    Height, weight: 6'0", 177 pounds

    Georgia Southern's move up from FCS may also include an increase in passing under new coach Willie Fritz, who will look to diversify what, for years, had been an option offense. That will put a premium on guys who can do a lot of things—like 3-star recruit Kameron Mayewho will have a chance to contribute as a receiver and in the backfield.

Georgia State Panthers

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    Ed Curney, LB

    Height, weight: 6'0", 215 pounds

    Georgia State's first year of FBS play was not a good one, with the Panthers going 0-12. But enhanced recruits should help move Georgia State up the ladder, starting with Ed Curney.

    The 3-star prospect was considered the No. 61 inside linebacker in the country last year and will help fill the hole left by 2013 senior standout Robert Ferguson.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

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    Myles Autry, ATH

    Height, weight: 5'9", 175 pounds

    Myles Autry may not have played in an option offense while in high school, but his athleticism and speed will give him a good chance to be a strong piece of Georgia Tech's system this fall.

    Autry, a 3-star prospect from Norcross, Ga., didn't commit to the Yellow Jackets until national signing day. That was a few days after visiting defending national champion Florida State, but he must have felt being with Tech was a better fit.

Hawaii Rainbow Warriors

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    Don'Yeh Patterson, WR

    Height, weight: 6'2", 195 pounds

    Great wide receivers are always important at Hawaii, where the passing game has been a key to the Rainbow Warriors' game plan for years. The next in that line could be Don'Yeh Patterson, a 3-star recruit from California.

    Patterson, who had offers from Arizona, Colorado State and Utah, could be Hawaii's latest version of a possession receiver who can make big plays.

Houston Cougars

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    Tarrin Mitchell, DB

    Height, weight: 6'0", 175 pounds

    Houston's most noticeable hole to fill heading into the 2014 season is in the secondary, which was good last year but needs to replace several key contributors. The Cougars loaded up on defensive players in recruiting, and one who could get a shot early is Tarrin Mitchell.

    The 3-star prospect from Dallas reportedly runs a 4.55 40-yard dash and chose Houston over Arkansas State and Louisiana-Lafayette.

Idaho Vandals

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    Michael Garner, APB

    Height, weight: 5'10", 167 pounds

    Idaho's recruiting for 2014 went heavy on the junior college transfers, with 16 of the 23 signees coming from post-secondary schools. But the Vandals' top prospect, 3-star Michael Garner, is coming out of high school in San Diego.

    Garner, who also had an offer from Arizona, will battle to replace leading rusher James Baker.

Illinois Fighting Illini

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    Jihad Ward, DT

    Height, weight: 6'7", 286 pounds

    Most of Illinois' top recruits for this upcoming season are from the junior college route, but the one that could end up contributing the most right away came via the prep school route. Jihad Ward, a 3-star prospect, spent a year at the Globe Institute of Technology in New York after finishing high school in Philadelphia.

    Considered the fourth-best defensive tackle at the prep school/junior college level, Ward picked the Fighting Illini over South Florida and West Virginia.

Indiana Hoosiers

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    Dominique Booth, WR

    Height, weight: 6'0.5", 205 pounds

    Indiana's potent offense remains mostly intact from 2013, with one notable exception: Cody Latimer is gone, a second-round pick of the Denver Broncos. There are other receivers who can step in for him currently on the roster, but none is as hyped as 4-star recruit Dominique Booth.

    Booth, out of Indianapolis, was the state's fourth-best overall prospect and the No. 38 receiver in the nation. He enrolled early and should be in the mix for heavy playing time this fall.

Iowa Hawkeyes

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    Jay Scheel, ATH

    Height, weight: 6'1", 170 pounds

    Iowa returns nearly its entire starting lineup from 2013 on offense, which is only partially a good thing. It helps with consistency, but that unit was very vanilla last year and in need of some punch. That's where Jay Scheel could come in.

    The 3-star prospect was a dual-threat quarterback and receiver in high school, accounting for 39 total touchdowns through the air and on the ground. Iowa State, Minnesota and Nebraska also offered him.

Iowa State Cyclones

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    Allen Lazard, WR

    Height, weight: 6'4.5", 207 pounds

    Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads made a concerted effort to beef up the offense in the offseason, both in terms of his staff and his future players. He brought in former Kansas coach Mark Mangino to be his offensive coordinator and then provided Mangino with a potential star in Allen Lazard.

    Lazard, a 4-star prospect who was Iowa's second-rated player in the state, averaged more than 21 yards per catch last season and picked the Cyclones over Notre Dame.

Kansas Jayhawks

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    Traevohn Wrench, RB

    Height, weight: 6'0", 180 pounds

    A reliable running back is the key to most successful offensive schemes, and Charlie Weis could use some reliability from his offense at Kansas. Maybe he'll get that from Traevohn Wrench, the Jayhawks' top recruit for 2014 and the second-best prospect from the state.

    Wrench, a 4-star recruit who was the No. 23 running back in the country, picked Kansas over offers from Kansas State and Michigan State.

Kansas State Wildcats

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    Dalvin Warmack, RB

    Height, weight: 5'9", 185 pounds

    Kansas State once again loaded up on junior college transfers in its latest recruiting class, and those players represent most of the top prospects in the group. But a high school recruit who should get some looks is Dalvin Warmack.

    Warmack, a 3-star rusher from Missouri, fits into the mold of previous small-but-strong K-State backs. Kansas, Missouri and Western Kentucky also offered him.

Kent State Golden Flashes

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    Zack Singer, DT

    Height, weight: 6'2", 280 pounds

    Kent State was in the middle of the pack in terms of defense last season, allowing about 27 points per game. Now the Golden Flashes must rebuild up front, which gives 3-star recruit Zack Singer a chance to contribute right away. The Las Vegas product was rated the 12th-best player in Nevada.

Kentucky Wildcats

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    Drew Barker, QB

    Height, weight: 6'4", 210 pounds

    Kentucky's 2014 recruiting class was as impressive as they come, especially for a team that was 2-10 and mostly noncompetitive a season ago. The group is full of potential impact players, but the one who brings the most excitement right away is 4-star prospect Drew Barker.

    Barker, the sixth-best pro-style passer in the country last year, enrolled early and saw significant action during spring ball and in the spring game. He's in a battle with several other quarterbacks for the starting job, but of the group he has the most long-term potential for success.

Louisville Cardinals

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    Reggie Bonnafon, QB

    Height, weight: 6'2", 195 pounds 

    Louisville's move into the ACC comes with a new coach and a new offensive philosophy brought in by Bobby Petrino. It also means a different approach to recruiting, though local prospect Reggie Bonnafon seems to fit no matter what the Cardinals are looking to do.

    Bonnafon, a 3-star prospect, was rated as the nation's No. 11 dual-threat passer. His other offers were from Illinois and Kentucky, but even with the coaching change, the Louisville native decided to stay home.

Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns

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    T.J. Posey, LB

    Height, weight: 6'0", 226 pounds

    With a hole to fill in its solid defense, Louisiana-Lafayette may turn to one of its top recruits from 2014 for immediate impact. T.J. Posey, a 3-star recruit from Alabama, chose the Ragin' Cajuns over offers from Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi State and Tennessee.

Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks

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    Anthony Monken, QB

    Height, weight: 6'5", 205 pounds

    Louisiana-Monroe has to replace Kolton Browning, a four-year starter at quarterback, and the program has a lot of options. The front-runner is Brayle Brown, a junior who served as Browning's backup last season, but the Warhawks have several other passers on the roster and two coming this summer.

    Anthony Monken was the top-rated player in ULM's 2014 recruiting class. The 3-star pro-style quarterback is out of Illinois.

Louisiana Tech Bulldogs

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    Cedric Johnson, DT

    Height, weight: 6'1.5", 298 pounds

    Louisiana Tech lost four of the top six players from its defensive line rotation, a unit that wasn't that bad but didn't get noticed because the offense struggled so much. Being strong up front will still be important in 2014, which is why Cedric Johnson is such a valuable recruit.

    The 3-star Johnson, considered the No. 96 player in talent-rich Texas, picked Louisiana Tech over offers from Baylor, Illinois and Oklahoma.

LSU Tigers

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    Leonard Fournette, RB

    Height, weight: 6'1", 226 pounds

    The top overall recruit from the 2014 recruiting class is being projected as an instant contributor for LSU, which has to replace its entire backfield from last year's 9-3 team. Leonard Fournette comes in with quite the pedigree, having rushed for more than 7,600 yards and 90 touchdowns in his high school career.

    He also has very lofty goals and expectations for himself, telling Sports Illustrated's Ben Glicksman he intends to be a Heisman candidate, All-American and national champion before his time is through with the Tigers.

Marshall Thundering Herd

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    Kendall Gant, S

    Height, weight: 6'2", 185 pounds 

    How big was Marshall's 10-win season and bowl victory over Maryland last year? It helped the Thundering Herd land the only 4-star prospect to sign with any Conference USA team, according to 247Sports, in the form of safety Kendall Gant.

    Gant, considered No. 262 overall nationally in the 2014 class, was a longtime Georgia commit before backing off his pledge to the Bulldogs the day before national signing day. His arrival at Marshall was reportedly due to academics, according to Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald.

Maryland Terrapins

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    Damian Prince, OT

    Height, weight: 6'5", 295 pounds 

    Maryland's move from the ACC to the Big Ten will take some getting used to for its fanbase, but the transition will go a lot smoother if the Terrapins are able to continue to land Big Ten-like talent such as 5-star offensive tackle Damian Prince.

    Prince, a local player who was the No. 2 tackle overall in the country, chose Maryland over Florida, Florida State and South Carolina. He'll be asked to help keep the quarterback upright and healthy, a key to the team having success in its new league.

Massachusetts Minutemen

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    J.T. Blyden, RB

    Height, weight: 5'11.5", 195 pounds

    Massachusetts didn't have a rusher average more than 4.0 yards per carry last season other than its quarterback, which was one of many reasons why the Minutemen went 1-11 on the year. Though several backs return, that lack of production (and a new coach, Mark Whipple) should pave the way for J.T. Blyden to get a look.

    Rated the 20th-best player in Pennsylvania, Blyden passed on offers from Eastern Michigan and Rutgers to play for UMass.

Memphis Tigers

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    Shareef White, LB

    Height, weight: 5'11.5", 219 pounds

    Memphis had a very underrated defense in 2013, and it will bring most of that unit back this year. And that side of the ball should continue to be the Tigers' strength for years to come based on this past recruiting class, which is defense-heavy and spearheaded by 3-star prospect Shareef White.

    White, from Mississippi, originally committed to Sun Belt power Louisiana-Lafayette before picking Memphis over the Ragin' Cajuns and Ole Miss.

Miami (Fla.) Hurricanes

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    Chad Thomas, DE

    Height, weight: 6'5", 255 pounds 

    Miami didn't have to go far to find its top defensive recruit for this past class, grabbing Chad Thomas out of South Florida with the hope the 5-star prospect can help on the line right away.

    Thomas, the third-best defensive end in 2014, also visited Alabama and Florida before deciding to stick with the hometown Hurricanes.

Miami (Ohio) RedHawks

59 of 128

    Paul Moses, RB

    Height, weight: 5'11", 200 pounds

    Miami was one of the worst offensive teams in the country in 2013, averaging just 9.8 points and 225 yards per game en route to a 0-12 season. Part of the problem was that its top two rushers were the quarterbacks and the fourth best was a wide receiver.

    That lack of production bodes well for Paul Moses, a 3-star recruit from Toledo, Ohio, to contribute immediately.

Michigan Wolverines

60 of 128

    Jabrill Peppers, CB

    Height, weight: 6'0", 205 pounds

    Not only is Jabrill Peppers one of the most highly regarded recruits to ever sign with Michigan, but he's also prompting fans to compare him to former Wolverine Charles Woodson because of his potential to be a two-way star.

    Peppers, a 5-star athlete who was the No. 3 overall prospect in 2014, played both as a defensive back and running back for his high school in New Jersey while also starring as a returner.

    He showed off all of those skills during the Under Armour All-American Game, and while he seems locked into a starting job in Michigan's secondary, he may very well end up contributing all over the field.

Michigan State Spartans

61 of 128

    Malik McDowell, DE

    Height, weight: 6'7", 290 pounds

    It took a lot longer than planned to get him on board, but Malik McDowell's signing with Michigan State should help keep the Spartans defense revving on all cylinders for several more years.

    The 5-star prospect from Detroit committed to Michigan State on national signing day. However, a family issue involving his mother not supporting the school choice held up his letter of intent until April 1.

    Rated as Michigan's top recruit, the third-best defensive end in the country and the No. 32 overall prospect in the 2014 class, McDowell should prove to be worth the wait.

Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

62 of 128

    Darrius Liggins, DE

    Height, weight: 6'4.5", 230 pounds 

    While he's not the highest-rated player from Middle Tennessee's 2014 recruiting class, Darrius Liggins draws some of the biggest notoriety because of how the Blue Raiders ended up getting the 3-star prospect.

    He originally committed to Mississippi State, a story in its own right since he hails from the same town (Oxford) where Ole Miss is located. When it came time to signing, he picked MTSU over Louisiana-Lafayette and Southern Mississippi.

Minnesota Golden Gophers

63 of 128

    Jeff Jones, RB

    Height, weight: 5'11", 196 pounds

    Minnesota's improvement over the years has been credited to being able to recruit from all over the Midwest, not just within the state. But keeping the best local talent coming to the program has been important too, which is why getting Jeff Jones was a big deal in 2014.

    The top-rated player from Minnesota, he is a 4-star prospect who had late offers from Florida and Michigan but decided to stay with the Golden Gophers. He may not play much this year with David Cobb holding the starting job, but he could see some touches to get prepared for the future.

Mississippi Rebels

64 of 128

    Markell Pack, WR

    Height, weight: 6'2", 180 pounds

    A year after bringing in the nation's No. 1 recruit in Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss failed to secure a 5-star prospect in the Class of 2014. No bother, as the Rebels still collected a solid group that's led by what might be their next great wideout: Markell Pack.

    Pack, a 4-star in-state prospect, has the potential to join recently drafted Donte Moncrief and current Ole Miss star Laquon Treadwell in what's becoming a pipeline of receiving talent. Pack chose the Rebels over Alabama, Florida State and other southern schools.

Mississippi State Bulldogs

65 of 128

    Jamoral Graham, ATH

    Height, weight: 5'11", 180 pounds

    Mississippi State's offense ran smoothly when Dak Prescott had the ball in his hands, but the dual-threat quarterback couldn't do it all by himself. The Bulldogs need other playmakers, which is where Jamoral Graham could factor into the plans this fall.

    Graham, a 4-star in-state prospect, scored touchdowns as a rusher and receiver. He also threw a TD pass in high school last year while contributing as a defensive back as well.

Missouri Tigers

66 of 128

    Nate Brown, WR

    Height, weight: 6'3", 210 pounds

    Missouri's offensive plans took a big hit in the offseason when it lost top receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, but the Tigers might have the next-best thing on its way to town in the form of 4-star recruit Nate Brown.

    Brown, a prospect from Georgia, has the same size that helped make Green-Beckham so special. Georgia, Georgia Tech and South Carolina were also after the pass-catcher.

Navy Midshipmen

67 of 128

    Jarvis Polu, DE

    Height, weight: 6'4", 250 pounds

    The kind of players that Navy gets aren't usually high on the national recruiting lists, as the military career and its benefits provide more of a draw than the athletics. Still, the Midshipmen have a few 3-star recruits coming in for 2014, led by edge-rusher Jarvis Polu.

    Polu, from Nevada, had offers from San Diego State, Washington State and Wisconsin. He had originally committed to Army before switching to a different branch of service.

Nebraska Corhnuskers

68 of 128

    Nick Gates, OT

    Height, weight: 6'5", 270 pounds

    Nebraska's recruiting footprint has been slowly moving away from Texas and other areas it regularly frequented as a member of the Big 12, with a greater emphasis on searching all over the country. That change helped the Cornhuskers land a potential future star offensive lineman in Nick Gates.

    The 4-star prospect from Las Vegas chose Nebraska over Arizona and Oregon, which shows the 'Huskers can compete out West for prospects as well as they used to in the Lone Star State.

Nevada Wolf Pack

69 of 128

    Patrick Choudja

    Height, weight: 6'4", 230 pounds

    Nevada brings back a lot of depth and experience on its defensive line, paced by standout end Brock Hekking. But the Wolf Pack can always use more, which is why the signing of top recruit Patrick Choudja should reap benefits.

    Choudja, a 3-star recruit from California, also had offers from Arizona State, Boise State, Fresno State and Washington State.

New Mexico Lobos

70 of 128

    Desmond Branch, DE

    Height, weight: 6'3", 225 pounds

    Though the overall results didn't show it, New Mexico had a pretty efficient offense thanks to a hybrid option/spread rushing attack. But none of that mattered because of how bad the defense played, which is where the improvement needs to happen.

    A potential big piece of that improvement could come from Desmond Branch, the highest-rated player out of New Mexico last season. A 3-star prospect, he picked the Lobos over rivals UTEP and New Mexico State.

New Mexico State Aggies

71 of 128

    Nick Jeanty, QB

    Height, weight: 6'1", 170 pounds

    New Mexico State's nomadic existence as an independent last season paid off in the form of its top recruit in 2014, as Miami-area 3-star prospect Nick Jeanty chose the Aggies over Central Florida and Ohio.

    He will battle with 2013 backup King Davis and others to replace Andrew McDonald this fall.

North Carolina Tar Heels

72 of 128

    Mitch Trubisky, QB

    Height, weight: 6'3", 210 pounds

    North Carolina's second-half surge in 2013 was attributed to a lot of key players, including quarterback Marquise Williams. But he doesn't have the job locked up for this fall, not with former 4-star recruit Mitch Trubisky waiting in the wings.

    Trubisky, who redshirted last season due to senior Bryn Renner's presence—though Renner was injured midseason and lost for the year—was the No. 8 dual-threat passer in the country coming out of high school in 2013.

North Carolina State Wolfpack

73 of 128

    Kentavius Street, DE

    Height, weight: 6'2", 264 pounds

    Dave Doeren's offense should be more consistent this season than in his first year with the Wolfpack, but the defense still has some work to do. Getting Kentavius Street involved in stopping things up front can help with that effort.

    Street, from Greenville, North Carolina, was considered the state's third-best prospect and the No. 5 strong-side defensive end in the country. He'll be looked at to contribute early after picking NC State over Miami (Fla.) and Ole Miss.

North Texas Mean Green

74 of 128

    Tee Goree, WR

    Height, weight: 6'3", 175 pounds

    North Texas' breakout season in 2013 featured a lot of senior standouts, especially on offense. That included the Mean Green's two best receivers, who are now gone and need to be replaced.

    North Texas signed three 3-star wideouts this offseason, led by Tee Goree. He picked UNT over offers from Colorado, Louisiana-Lafayette and Memphis.

Northern Illinois Huskies

75 of 128

    Deion Hallmon, CB

    Height, weight: 6'0", 175 pounds

    While electrifying quarterback Jordan Lynch was Northern Illinois' most exciting player from 2013, the graduate whose departure will be most felt is Jimmie Ward, a safety who ended up getting drafted in the first round by the San Francisco 49ers. The Huskies have plenty of weapons on offense, but the secondary lost a lot of impact players.

    Though not a safety, 3-star prospect Deion Hallmon has a chance to be as important to NIU's defense as Ward was. The Florida native also visited Temple and Syracuse before choosing to play for Northern Illinois.

Northwestern Wildcats

76 of 128

    Garrett Dickerson, DE

    Height, weight: 6'4", 240 pounds

    Northwestern's uneven 2013 season didn't prevent it from pulling in a solid class, including four 4-star recruits and a good helping of in-state talent. The most notable prospect, at least in terms of being able to contribute right way, is 4-star defensive end Garrett Dickerson.

    The New Jersey product chose Northwestern from a list of suitors that also included Alabama, Michigan, Ohio State and Stanford.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

77 of 128

    Malik Zaire, QB

    Height, weight: 6'0", 208 pounds

    Notre Dame has holes to fill all over the field, yet the position with the most intrigue involves the return of an old starter and his young challenger.

    Everett Golson, who sat out the 2013 season with academic issues, is battling with redshirt freshman Malik Zaire to be the Fighting Irish's starting quarterback. Zaire, a former 4-star prospect from the 2013 class, was impressive in spring practice and has publicly declared that he'll be Notre Dame's starter for the Aug. 30 opener against Rice.

    Golson led Notre Dame to a perfect regular-season record and a spot in the national title game after the 2012 season, but after missing a year, he could see himself get passed over by the Irish's next great quarterback.

Ohio Bobcats

78 of 128

    Joey Duckworth, QB

    Height, weight: 6'3", 215 pounds

    Replacing a three-year starter at quarterback is never easy, but at least Ohio has some options for who will succeed Tyler Tettleton under center. The Bobcats could go with Derrius Vick, a dual-threat passer who was Tettleton's backup last season, or give 3-star pro-style prospect Joey Duckworth a shot.

    Ohio was one of seven Mid-American schools to offer Duckworth, who was rated the 36th-best pro-style quarterback in the 2014 recruiting class.

Ohio State Buckeyes

79 of 128

    Raekwon McMillan, LB

    Height, weight: 6'2", 242 pounds

    Ohio State's linebackers are always among the strongest in the nation, and that group got even better with the signing of 5-star prospect Raekwon McMillan.

    The top-rated inside linebacker in the country, McMillan chose the Buckeyes over a laundry list of top programs including Alabama, Auburn, Clemson and Georgia. The Georgia native got a jump on his college career by enrolling in January and made great strides during spring practice.

Oklahoma Sooners

80 of 128

    Joe Mixon, APB

    Height, weight: 6'2", 195 pounds

    With the size, speed and strength to be either a running back or receiver, Joe Mixon has the potential to be one of the most impactful freshmen ever for Oklahoma. And that's a school that produced Adrian Peterson, who set the FBS freshman rushing record 10 years ago.

    Mixon, a 5-star recruit from California, chose the Sooners over Florida State, UCLA and Wisconsin. Oklahoma lost its top three running backs from last year, so that seems like his best shot to get involved immediately, though he'll likely get looks in the receiving corps as well.

Oklahoma State Cowboys

81 of 128

    Ra'Shaad Samples, WR

    Height, weight: 5'11", 160 pounds

    With a wealth of wide receivers last season, Oklahoma State had the luxury of being able to keep Ra'Shaad Samples on the sideline for future use. But the Cowboys no longer have that depth, which means Samples will finally get a chance to show his stuff.

    A 4-star prospect from OSU's 2013 recruiting class, Samples was considered the 29th-best wide receiver in the nation. Since then he's managed to increase his speed, running a reported 4.32-second time in the 40-yard dash, per Jake Trotter of ESPNDallas.com.

Old Dominion Monarchs

82 of 128

    Daniel Appouh, LB

    Height, weight: 6'4", 230 pounds

    Old Dominion had no problems scoring during its transitional FBS season last year, averaging 42 points per game. But the Monarchs allowed 34 per contest, a number that ballooned to 50.4 when not facing FCS foes.

    That means playmakers are needed on defense, which is where Old Dominion's top-rated recruit happens to play. Daniel Appouh, a 3-star prospect from Maryland, took visits to Illinois and West Virginia before landing in Norfolk.

Oregon Ducks

83 of 128

    Royce Freeman, RB

    Height, weight: 5'11.5", 215 pounds

    Oregon's high-powered offense doesn't fly as much as you'd expect from a team that scores as much and as quickly. Instead, the Ducks produce tons of yards on the ground thanks to what seems like an endless supply of great running backs.

    The next one down the pike could be Royce Freeman, a 4-star product of California who chose Oregon over Alabama, UCLA, USC and many others. The Ducks are stacked in the backfield for 2014, but they've never shied away from giving some early exposure to a standout freshman, so look for him to get a shot this fall.

Oregon State Beavers

84 of 128

    Datrin Guyton, WR

    Height, weight: 6'3", 195 pounds

    Oregon State's offense featured a superior pass-catching combo in 2013, but only quarterback Sean Mannion remains after Brandin Cooks went pro early. Mannion has other weapons to throw to, and is getting another good one in Datrin Guyton.

    Guyton, a 3-star Texas product who had 14 touchdown catches and averaged nearly 23 yards per reception last year, picked the Beavers over TCU.

Penn State Nittany Lions

85 of 128

    Saeed Blacknall, WR

    Height, weight: 6'3", 210 pounds

    Most of Penn State's best recruiting for 2014 came after James Franklin was hired as coach, as the former Vanderbilt leader not only secured some solid uncommitted players down the stretch, but also got some pledged stars to flip.

    Saeed Blacknall was one of the flippers, a 4-star prospect who decommitted from Rutgers and then picked the Nittany Lions over LSU, Boston College and others.

Pittsburgh Panthers

86 of 128

    Adonis Jennings, WR

    Height, weight: 6'3", 185 pounds

    With Tyler Boyd entering his second year of college, Pittsburgh has one of the best receiving weapons in the country at its disposal. But nothing says the Panthers can't have two great wideouts, which is what they may have if Adonis Jennings pans out as hoped.

    Jennings, a 4-star prospect from New Jersey, was also a track star in high school. He was committed to Rutgers until November, when the Panthers swooped in and beat out teams like Iowa for his services.

Purdue Boilermakers

87 of 128

    Gelen Robinson, DE

    Height, weight: 6'2", 232 pounds 

    Purdue was atrocious on defense during its 1-11 season in 2013, particular against the run. Now it has to replace most of its starting defensive linemen, which paves the way for some of the more notable recruits from this past class to get involved.

    Topping that list is Gelen Robinson, a 3-star prospect who was the ninth-best player in Indiana and the No. 28 overall defensive end in the country. He had offers from several other Big Ten schools but decided to be a part of rebuilding a once-solid program.

Rice Owls

88 of 128

    Samuel Stewart, APB

    Height, weight: 5'8.5", 184 pounds

    Rice's surprise run to the Conference USA title in 2013 was fed by numerous seniors, which means many holes have to be filled. The offense has a few that Samuel Stewart could take care of on his own.

    A 3-star recruit from Houston suburb Cypress, Stewart has a combination of speed and strength that could aid the Owls' run game and receiving depth.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights

89 of 128

    Josh Hicks, APB

    Height, weight: 5'10", 180 pounds

    Knowing that the program cannot just rely on recruits from its own state (Rutgers' top prospect from New Jersey was rated that state's 16th-best player) or the general region, the Scarlet Knights are trying to be as national as possible with their recruiting as they move into the expansive Big Ten.

    Furthering that cause is one of Rutgers' top prospects from 2014: Josh Hicks. The 3-star speedster from Florida has reported 4.45 speed in the 40-yard dash and chose the Knights over Miami (Fla.).

San Diego State Aztecs

90 of 128

    Dionte Sykes, WR

    Height, weight: 6'4", 200 pounds

    San Diego State doesn't have many holes to fill from the team that made (and won) another bowl game last season, but the Aztecs could always use more go-to receivers. Two top pass-catchers graduated from the 2013 squad, which opens the door for 3-star prospect Dionte Sykes to see the field.

    Sykes, from the Phoenix area, originally committed to UCLA but decided to move further south, where his size will come in handy.

San Jose State Spartans

91 of 128

    Ian Fieber, QB

    Height, weight: 6'1.5", 185 pounds

    Replacing a quarterback who threw for nearly 4,200 yards and 33 touchdowns isn't easy to do, but San Jose State will have to find a way. One of the options could be to skip down the depth chart and give 3-star prospect Ian Fieber a try.

    Fieber, from Mission Viejo, California, only had the one Division I scholarship offer despite being considered the 37th-best pro-style quarterback in the country.

SMU Mustangs

92 of 128

    Courtland Sutton, S

    Height, weight: 6'2.5", 190 pounds

    SMU's defense gets overshadowed in most games because its passing game and overall offensive pop draw most of the attention. But the Mustangs weren't too bad on defense last year, but to be good again they'll need to replace some starters in the secondary.

    That gives 3-star prospect Courtland Sutton an opportunity to impress right away. He had offers from BYU and Colorado, among others, but decided to remain in Texas, where he starred in high school as both a tight end and safety.

South Alabama Jaguars

93 of 128

    Kaleb Blanchard, RB

    Height, weight: 5'11", 195 pounds

    South Alabama's big improvement from 2-11 in 2012 to 6-6 last season was the result of increased experience on the roster, but the Jaguars will need to develop depth in order to keep getting better.

    Kaleb Blanchard will be a part of that depth this year. After redshirting in 2013, the 3-star prospect who originally committed to Arkansas will get his shot to help South Alabama try and earn its first-ever bowl bid.

South Carolina Gamecocks

94 of 128

    Bryson Allen-Williams, LB

    Height, weight: 6'1", 222 pounds

    South Carolina's defense lost two major pieces up front in the form of Jadeveon Clowney and Kelcy Quarles, but some replacements are around to help fill those gaps. Additional help is coming from the recruiting class, but not just on the line, as top recruit Bryson Allen-Williams will assist from further back in the defense.

    The 4-star prospect from Georgia was rated the No. 8 outside linebacker in the country last year. Alabama, Georgia and UCLA were also interested in his services.

South Florida Bulls

95 of 128

    D'Ernest Johnson, RB

    Height, weight: 5'10", 180 pounds

    South Florida's recruiting was surprisingly good for a 2-10 team that didn't look good enough to win two games most of last year. The Bulls landed nine of Florida's top 100 players, including several who could play right away. Topping that list is D'Ernest Johnson.

    Johnson, a 3-star prospect from Immokalee, originally was a North Carolina commit but eventually flipped to South Florida over offers from Georgia, Louisville and Minnesota.

Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles

96 of 128

    Ito Smith, RB

    Height, weight: 5'10", 187 pounds

    Southern Mississippi nearly outscored its entire season in the final game last year, scoring 62 points after notching just 68 in the previous five contests. Offense, to say the least, was lacking.

    That gives 3-star prospect Ito Smith a chance to challenge for playing time early. The Mobile product had offers from Duke, Georgia Tech and Tulane, among others, and was rated No. 28 in Alabama last year.

Stanford Cardinal

97 of 128

    Solomon Thomas, DE

    Height, weight: 6'2.5", 258 pounds

    A signing-day pickup who was getting courted by Arkansas, UCLA and others, Solomon Thomas is the latest in what's become a long list of talented defensive linemen to come through Stanford. The 5-star talent from Texas was considered the No. 25 overall player in the class of 2014.

    Stanford saw its entire defensive line graduate from last year's Rose Bowl team, so look for Thomas to get a chance to contribute from the opening game.

Syracuse Orange

98 of 128

    K.J. Williams, ATH

    Height, weight: 6'2", 190 pounds

    K.J. Williams was a standout wide receiver and defensive back in high school in Pennsylvania last year. Syracuse could use that ability at either position this season as it continues to progress toward the upper tier of the ACC.

    Williams, a 4-star recruit, picked the Orange over offers from Arizona, Michigan and West Virginia.

TCU Horned Frogs

99 of 128

    Varshaun Nixon, APB

    Height, weight: 5'9", 185 pounds

    TCU's offense was uneven and erratic last season, and it could be more of the same this year if the new coaches on that side of the ball can't find the right players to get the job done. Varshaun Nixon should be high on their list of candidates.

    Nixon, a 4-star recruit from Austin, Texas, originally committed to Texas A&M but flipped from that pledge for the Horned Frogs in early February. He had 2,100 yards of total offense as a high school senior and accounted for 32 scores, including return touchdowns.

Temple Owls

100 of 128

    Anthony Davis, CB

    Height, weight: 5'11", 180 pounds

    No part of Temple's team in 2014 will look more different than the secondary, where the Owls could be starting an entirely new unit from a year ago. Most of last season's starters are back, but that unit was picked apart, and new players will get a chance to take those starting spots.

    Anthony Davis was Temple's top high school recruit from this offseason, a 3-star prospect whose offers included Arizona, Boston College, Michigan State and Virginia.

Tennessee Volunteers

101 of 128

    Josh Malone, WR

    Height, weight: 6'2.25", 191 pounds

    Tennessee's recruiting class includes a bumper crop of exciting talent, far more than you'd expect from a team that went 5-7 a year ago. And while several of the players are expected to contribute right away for the Volunteers, one has already raised the bar for anticipation in Knoxville.

    Josh Malone, a 4-star prospect from Gallatin, Tennessee, was among the Volunteers' several early enrollees in 2014. Rated as the No. 5 wideout in the country, he has already given Vols fans something to get excited about thanks to his massive 181-yard, three-touchdown performance in the annual spring game.

Texas Longhorns

102 of 128

    Jerrod Heard, QB

    Height, weight: 6'2.5", 190 pounds

    Charlie Strong's first recruiting class at Texas won't go down as the greatest in school history, but it wasn't a bad one either. The Longhorns addressed areas of need, and in terms of players who could make an instant impact, Jerrod Heard could be the best bet.

    A 4-star dual-threat prospect from Denton, Texas, Heard will challenge David Ash and Tyrone Swoopes for the starting quarterback spot when he arrives this summer.

Texas A&M Aggies

103 of 128

    Kyle Allen, QB

    Height, weight: 6'3", 200 pounds

    Not only is Kyle Allen the No. 1-rated quarterback from this past recruiting year, he's also the highest-rated player that Kevin Sumlin has ever signed as a coach. Add in the fact he's in the running to replace a just-departed Heisman winner, and he's surrounded by high expectations. 

    But they're deserving. He threw for 8,201 yards and 86 touchdowns in three seasons in high school in Scottsdale, Arizona. As an early enrollee he put himself in position to be Texas A&M's starter when it opens play Aug. 28 at South Carolina.

    Allen was aided by Matt Joeckel's transfer and the suspension of Kenny Hill, but even without those circumstances, his skills and hype gave him a great chance to start right away for the Aggies.

Texas State Bobcats

104 of 128

    Cedric Gambrell, DE

    Height, weight: 6'5.5", 215 pounds

    Texas State loses its entire starting defensive line from a team that went 6-6 in its second year of FBS play. In order for the Bobcats to improve, they will need instant contributions from recruits, including Cedric Gambrell, a 2-star prospect who picked TSU over SMU and Utah.

Texas Tech Red Raiders

105 of 128

    Patrick Mahomes, QB

    Height, weight: 6'3", 180 pounds 

    Texas Tech has had a commitment from Patrick Mahomes to join its 2014 recruiting class since April 2013, and back then his importance to the program this fall couldn't have possibly been understood. But now, the 3-star prospect could actually see time as a true freshman due to the Red Raiders' depth issues at quarterback.

    Mahomes, considered the No. 21 pro-style quarterback in his class, picked Tech over offers from Oklahoma State and Rice.

Toledo Rockets

106 of 128

    Jon Vea' Johnson, WR

    Height, weight: 6'0", 170 pounds 

    Toledo has to replace its quarterback, leading rusher and No. 1 receiver. And while the Rockets have holdovers ready to step into those spots, receiving depth is always helpful in the high-scoring Mid-American Conference.

    Jon Vea' Johnson, a 3-star recruit who was rated the 13th-best player in Indiana in the 2014 class, had 71 catches for more than 1,400 yards and 23 touchdowns as a high school senior.

Troy Trojans

107 of 128

    Sam Lebbie, LB

    Height, weight: 6'2", 240 pounds

    Originally signed to West Virginia in 2012, Sam Lebbie spent a year in prep school in Atlanta before signing with Troy in 2013. He sat out last year with an injury suffered in training camp, but this fall, he is expected to contend for an open spot in the linebacker corps.

    Though it was two years ago, Lebbie was once a 4-star prospect who was rated the No. 16 inside linebacker in the country out of Baltimore.

Tulane Green Wave

108 of 128

    RaeJuan Marbley, LB

    Height, weight: 6'0", 215 pounds 

    A solid defense from 2013 needs to fit in some replacements in the back half of the unit. As a result, RaeJuan Marbley figures to get a shot to play immediately in the linebacking corps.

    Choosing the Green Wave over SMU, the Louisiana-bred 3-star prospect will be one of a handful of younger players getting a shot to contribute in the team's first year as a member of the American Athletic Conference.

Tulsa Golden Hurricane

109 of 128

    Jabe Burgess, QB

    Height, weight: 6'2", 200 pounds

    The bad news was that Tulsa's offense wasn't very good last year. The good news is most of those players have moved on, so the Golden Hurricane can start all over, which may allow 3-star prospect Jabe Burgess to play early.

    Burgess, an Arkansas product who enrolled early at Tulsa, chose the Hurricane over Illinois and Louisiana Tech.

UAB Blazers

110 of 128

    Jeremiah Briscoe, QB

    Height, weight: 6'4", 198 pounds

    Knowing he can't compete with the big boys for the better prospects in its own state (UAB's top recruit from Alabama was rated No. 123), new coach Bill Clark went heavy on junior college players in his first recruiting class. But a few talented players remain unused from the 2013 class, most notably redshirt freshman quarterback Jeremiah Briscoe.

    A 3-star prospect, Briscoe also had an offer from Baylor coming out of high school. He missed last year with a shoulder injury.

UCLA Bruins

111 of 128

    Zach Whitley, LB

    Height, weight: 6'2", 223 pounds

    UCLA has one of the brightest young stars in college football playing at linebacker in the form of Myles Jack. The Bruins could contend for best linebacking corps in the nation if incoming 4-star prospect Zach Whitley pans out as expected.

    Whitley, from Houston, was rated the fifth-best inside linebacker in the nation. He chose UCLA over Alabama.

UNLV Runnin' Rebels

112 of 128

    Michael Hughes, DT

    Height, weight: 6'2", 280 pounds 

    UNLV's postseason ban due to low APR scores means the 2014 season will have to be more about development than achievement. That could lead to a lot of young players getting onto the field, led by in-state prospect Michael Hughes.

    Hughes, a 3-star prospect from Las Vegas, also had an offer from Duke, but instead, he will try to help the Runnin' Rebels improve. 

USC Trojans

113 of 128

    John Smith, ATH

    Height, weight: 6'1", 200 pounds 

    Don't let John Smith's plain-sounding name fool you: There's nothing ordinary about this 5-star athlete.

    Smith, from Long Beach, California, had interest from teams all over the country. He scored nine touchdowns on receptions and grabbed six interceptions as a defensive back in high school. Known as "Juju," Smith was the 20th-best player in the class of 2014.

Utah Utes

114 of 128

    Jackson Barton, OT

    Height, weight: 6'7", 286 pounds

    All a team wants out of a good offensive lineman is someone who doesn't get noticed much, because when people see what you're doing, it's usually because something went wrong. Jackson Barton, Utah's top recruit, won't have to be a star; he just has to help protect the quarterback.

    A 3-star product from Salt Lake City, Barton chose the local team over an offer from Oklahoma.

Utah State Aggies

115 of 128

    Marcus Mosley, TE

    Height, weight: 6'4", 200 pounds

    With Chuckie Keeton aiming to return at quarterback after a horrific knee injury last season, Utah State is looking promising for 2014. But the Aggies still need to replenish their receiving corps, with 3-star tight end Marcus Mosley looking to be a part of that.

    The Florida native had offers from Duke, Illinois and Kentucky.

UTEP Miners

116 of 128

    Joseph Kraemer, DE

    Height, weight: 6'4", 248 pounds

    UTEP's defense was abysmal last season, and that's putting it nicely. The Miners allowed 39 points per game and yielded more than 40 on seven occasions during the 2-10 effort, which screams that there's a need for improved players on that side of the ball.

    Joseph Kraemer, a 3-star prospect from Ohio, fits that description. He passed on offers from Air Force and Southern Mississippi to have a chance to be a key contributor in El Paso, Texas.

UTSA Roadrunners

117 of 128

    David Anzaldua, OT

    Height, weight: 6'6", 320 pounds 

    UTSA is likely to start five seniors on its offensive line, a group that has a combined 130 starts. Amazingly, though, none of the players was given a star rating by Rivals.com out of high school, according to SB Nation's Bill Connelly.

    That dubious distinction makes the Roadrunners' signing of 3-star offensive tackle David Anzaldua that much more impressive. He's the top-rated player in their 2014 class and looks to be a good fit for a future replacement on that unheralded line.

Vanderbilt Commodores

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    Nifae Lealao, DE

    Height, weight: 6'5", 282 pounds 

    Some of the better recruits Vanderbilt had lined up for 2014 didn't stick around after James Franklin left and Derek Mason came in. But that also meant there was room for players who might not have been originally interested in the Commodores, which was the case with top recruit Nifae Lealao.

    The 4-star prospect from California had been committed to Stanford, where Mason was defensive coordinator. But after he left for the Vandy job, he managed to get Lealao to come along as a signature piece of his first recruiting class.

Virginia Cavaliers

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    Quin Blanding, S

    Height, weight: 6'2", 200 pounds 

    Despite a 2-10 record last season, Virginia managed a miniature recruiting coup by grabbing not one, but two 5-star prospects from in the state. Both should be involved right away in helping the Cavaliers turn things around, with Quin Blanding making the biggest impact.

    Blanding, from Virginia Beach, was considered the No. 6 overall recruit in the country this past season. He picked Virginia over offers from more than a dozen schools throughout the South, East and Midwest.

Virginia Tech Hokies

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    Shai McKenzie, RB

    Height, weight: 5'11", 210 pounds 

    Virginia Tech's defense seems to remain one of the best in the nation every year, but the Hokies offense has been uneven and inconsistent of late. Shai McKenzie could help turn that around if given a chance to contribute this fall as a true freshman.

    The 4-star recruit from Pennsylvania enrolled early to get a jump on getting some reps in Tech's backfield. He picked the Hokies over Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh.

Wake Forest Demon Deacons

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    Zeek Rodney, DT

    Height, weight: 6'1", 265 pounds 

    New Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson made a name for himself at his old gig, Bowling Green, thanks to great defensive play. He did this despite having the top recruits or guys with great size, which is why his top incoming prospect fits perfectly.

    Zeek Rodney, a 3-star recruit from South Carolina, isn't nearly as big and tall as most defensive tackles. But he was well-regarded enough to get offers from other ACC schools like Boston College and Syracuse.

Washington Huskies

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    Jermaine Kelly, CB

    Height, weight: 6'1", 180 pounds 

    One of the top defensive backs in the 2013 recruiting class has had to wait for his chance to shine, and now Jermaine Kelly will be doing it for a completely different staff than he originally committed to.

    Kelly, a 4-star prospect who signed with Washington after backing out of a commitment from UCLA more than a year ago, redshirted last season but will be among several players vying to be involved in new coach Chris Petersen's secondary in Seattle.

Washington State Cougars

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    Barry Ware, WR

    Height, weight: 6'3", 190 pounds

    The Air Raid offense that Mike Leach likes to run requires his quarterback to fire the ball away quickly, which means he needs to have guys who can get open quickly. The more, the better.

    This bodes well for Barry Ware, a 3-star recruit from California who was part of a prolific passing offense in high school. He had been committed to UCLA until last November and then picked the Cougars over another pass-happy team, Fresno State.

West Virginia Mountaineers

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    Dravon Henry, ATH

    Height, weight: 5'11", 185 pounds 

    West Virginia's move into the Big 12 has caused it to have to branch out farther when looking for recruits, but that doesn't mean the Mountaineers can't still pick up top talent from the states in the general vicinity. As a result, Pennsylvania's No. 1 overall prospect signed to play in Morgantown and might bring the spark that the offense needs.

    Dravon Henry, a 4-star recruit, had 23 rushing touchdowns, three receiving TDs and also two interceptions for scores. He picked West Virginia over offers from Penn State and Pittsburgh.

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

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    D'Andre Ferby, RB

    Height, weight: 6'1", 220 pounds 

    To say Western Kentucky has a big hole to fill at running back is a huge understatement, as in the previous two years Antonio Andrews carried the ball 571 times. But there are some capable reserves waiting to take his spot, while 3-star recruit D'Andre Ferby seeks to get a look as well.

    Ferby, the No. 26 player out of Tennessee, also had offers from Memphis and Wake Forest but chose WKU after the school replaced Bobby Petrino with Jeff Brohm.

Western Michigan Broncos

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    Lonnie Johnson, S

    Height, weight: 6'3", 190 pounds 

    Western Michigan had quite a recruiting haul, especially considering the Broncos were 1-11 in 2013. According to 247Sports, WMU's 15 3-star prospects out of 27 signees was more than any other two Mid-American teams had combined.

    The highest-rated of that group is Lonnie Johnson, a former Ohio State commit who may battle for the starting strong safety spot as a true freshman.

Wisconsin Badgers

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    D.J. Gillins, QB

    Height, weight: 6'3", 185 pounds

    Though he's not likely to contend for playing time in his first season with Wisconsin, just the fact that D.J. Gillins is in Madison marks a major change in how the Badgers will operate on offense. The 4-star dual-threat quarterback is far different than most passers to play for Wisconsin over the years.

    Gillins, from Florida, had plenty of offers from teams closer to home but committed to Wisconsin last July and never publicly wavered.

Wyoming Cowboys

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    Nick Smith, QB

    Height, weight: 6'4", 203 pounds 

    Craig Bohl inherits a Wyoming program that lost its most dynamic player in quarterback Brett Smith but might have found a great future replacement in freshman Nick Smith. But that's where the similarities between the players end. 

    Nick Smith, a 3-star recruit from Florida, is a pro-style passer compared to Brett Smith's dual-threat approach. Nevertheless, he'll be given a chance to compete for the job with several other candidates.

     

    All recruiting rankings and info courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.

    Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.