Ten 2015 Recruits Who Have the Ability to Turn a College Football Team Around

Tyler DonohueNational Recruiting AnalystAugust 15, 2014

Ten 2015 Recruits Who Have the Ability to Turn a College Football Team Around

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    QB Ricky Town is an important piece for USC's new regime.
    QB Ricky Town is an important piece for USC's new regime.Credit: 247Sports

    Players who become pillars of collegiate programs can't carry a roster approaching triple digits alone, but they are certainly capable of affecting the culture of a team. Whether prospects arrive on campus surrounded by hype or in anonymity, how they respond to the rigors of college competition ultimately determines their destiny.

    Despite being limited to four seasons of game action, a successful player can send his team surging ahead with valuable momentum after he departs. Cam Newton and Johnny Manziel are recent examples of athletes who quickly reshaped the image of their respective squads.

    We assessed members of the 2015 recruiting class who could make an immense impact at the next level and help change the fortunes of a team. Therefore, we left out prospects who are headed to programs that currently reside atop the game's hierarchy (go ahead and sit this one out if you're looking for an Alabama commit).

    Here's a look at 10 young playmakers who are prepared to make a profound difference.

DE Josh Sweat (Chesapeake, Virginia)

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    Track Record

    We start atop the recruiting rankings, where you'll find football's latest freak of nature.

    Josh Sweat stands at 6'4.5", 240 pounds and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.46 seconds at The Opening, drawing increased comparisons to No. 1 NFL draft pick Jadeveon Clowney. However, the Oscar Smith High School standout is much more than a workout warrior.

    He collected 94 tackles and 22 sacks as a junior, wreaking havoc from sideline to sideline.

     

    How He Changes Things

    Sweat is set to visit five programs during the final stretch of a frenzied recruitment. Ohio State, Oregon, Florida State, Georgia and Virginia Tech will vie for his signature by hosting him for games and festivities.

    He will instantly enhance his team's pass-rush capabilities and is a favorite to start as a true freshman regardless of where he lands. Sweat would make the most widespread impact at Virginia Tech, where the Hokies have struggled to make the leap from good to great in recent years.

    If he stays home and heads to Blacksburg, it will be a signature signing for Frank Beamer and add bite to the Hokies' defensive attack. His disruptive presence would force opponents to alter game plans and free up teammates to inflict damage, while the team challenges for an ACC title.

    "You have to be perfect against Sweat," 5-star offensive tackle and Clemson commit Mitch Hyatt said after battling with him at The Opening. "Otherwise, you're done."

QB Ricky Town (Ventura, California)

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    Track Record

    Ricky Town emerged as a coveted quarterback during his sophomore season, when he completed 70 percent of pass attempts for 2,400 yards and 23 touchdowns. He displayed excellent leadership skills, carrying St. Bonaventure High School to an 11-win campaign in 2012.

    Town continued to blossom as a junior, exhibiting excellent decision-making and precision. He started the season committed to Alabama but flipped to USC shortly after the hiring of head coach Steve Sarkisian.

     

    How He Changes Things

    USC saw its roster gutted earlier this decade due to scholarship sanctions. The Trojans' depth of elite talent eroded, and that development has been reflected appropriately in conference standings.

    Now under new leadership and finally free to stockpile a large stable of prospects, USC identified its foundation for the future with Town. The 6'4", 205-pound passer is a 5-star recruit who is capable of commanding All-American attention.

    The Trojans enjoyed an impressive run of quarterback play during strong recent seasons, and Town could be the player who returns USC to prominence in years to come. His knowledge of the game is apparent, and he possesses a physical frame that's practically college-ready.

    "I'm really excited to get to USC and do whatever I can to make something special happen there in the future," Town said.

ATH Torrance Gibson (Fort Lauderdale, Florida)

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    Track Record

    Torrance Gibson is among the most captivating athletes in this class, presenting promise at various positions. He lines up at quarterback for American Heritage High School and guided the team to a state title in 2013, throwing for 1,789 yards and 19 scores.

    His speed routinely shined in the open field, where Gibson racked up 1,063 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground. He is in the early stages of development from a mechanical standpoint, and some assert there is more potential for him at receiver, but Gibson expects to arrive on a college campus as a quarterback.

    "I'm a quarterback, no doubt about it," he said at The Opening. "That's where I'll be playing in college, and that's where teams tell me they want me."

     

    How He Changes Things

    Ohio State and Auburn are firmly in the mix for his services, but no team needs his skill set and charisma more than Tennessee. The team is attempting to establish a new identity in Knoxville under the leadership of Butch Jones and pieced together an impressive 2014 class.

    This has also been a strong cycle for the Volunteers, though adding Gibson would be a major boost. Tennessee didn't sign a quarterback in February and has significant holes to fill at the position.

    If Gibson can put it all together and tap into his potential as a passer, a slew of young weapons are already in place to lend support. Tennessee appears to be on the rise, and he could provide a face for the transformation.

LB Malik Jefferson (Mesquite, Texas)

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    Track Record

    Malik Jefferson made strides as a pass-rusher last fall at Poteet High School, pumping his sack total from seven to 12. The outside linebacker's physical development is on track, and he should be able to generate even more chaos in the pocket this season.

    The instinctive defender anchors a strong defensive unit that made a deep playoff run in 2013. He provides a game-changing presence off the edge, accumulating 188 tackles during the past two seasons, 37 of which occurred behind the line of scrimmage.

     

    How He Changes Things

    Jefferson is a rare well-rounded defender who can contribute at an elite level in a variety of facets. He sets the tone against the run with punishing hits, harasses the quarterback and does an excellent job of drifting back into pass coverage when called upon.

    His athleticism was on display at the Opening, where Jefferson clocked a 4.39 in the 40-yard dash and performed well in seven-on-seven action.

    Texas and Texas A&M appear to be the main competitors for his services, though Alabama shouldn't be completely counted out. Both in-state schools could greatly benefit from a defender of Jefferson's caliber.

    The Aggies are attempting to elevate defensive efforts in order to better complement an explosive offensive attack. Charlie Strong has just started a lengthy process of reshaping the Longhorns defense.

    Jefferson could serve as a catalyst for those efforts at either school.

WR Preston Williams (Hampton, Georgia)

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    Track Record

    Preston Williams put a tremendous junior season together, proving he possesses natural receiving skills to match elite athleticism and measurements. His breakout effort featured 59 receptions, averaging nearly 24 yards per catch.

    He finished the fall with 1,388 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns. Williams flashed field-stretching speed that's rarely seen from a 6'4" prospect.

     

    How He Changes Things

    Defensive coordinators must account for Williams, regardless of where he lines up on the field. It's a major gamble to cover him one-on-one, so he challenges safeties to lend support.

    This clears space for other receivers to exploit seams. Williams is committed to Tennessee, which features several young, talented pass targets who could get the job done alongside him.

    If the Volunteers hope to make a leap in the SEC, it's imperative for them to rev up their aerial assault. Williams brings immediate-impact potential and will bail out quarterbacks by hauling in difficult catches.

    "My goal is to be the best player in the country, not just at receiver," Williams said. "People saw what I can do last season, and now I'm trying to take the next step."

OL Martez Ivey (Apopka, Florida)

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    Track Record

    Fundamental evolution was apparent while watching Martez Ivey's junior season game film. He began the year as an athlete who relied on raw strength to bury opponents, and that works fine at the high school level.

    During the latter stages of 2013, the 6'6", 270-pound offensive tackle flashed more consistency in his technical approach. This development offers evidence that Ivey is a willing student of the game and has no intentions of settling for mediocrity.

     

    How He Changes Things

    Ivey, who anchors the line for Florida powerhouse Apopka High School, has the makings of a multiyear All-American left tackle. He looked better than ever at The Opening, where improved footwork and anticipation made him look natural while dominating at the point of contact.

    "These are the best of the best as far as defensive linemen coming at you," he said after drills. "You want to show what you can do in that situation."

    Ivey showed he belongs in the conversation as America's top overall prospect. Florida and Auburn are the front-runners for his commitment.

    The Gators have struggled to win the battle up front in recent years, resulting in an anemic offense. Ivey has the potential to stabilize his side of the line for three or four seasons, giving the Florida passing attack time to find its rhythm.

QB Ross Bowers (Bothell, Washington)

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    Track Record

    Ross Bowers averaged more than 150 passing yards per contest last season, leading Bothell High School to the state quarterfinals. The team produced 37 points per game under his direction.

    He assumed starting duties as a sophomore. Bowers threw 12 touchdowns during his first varsity campaign before displaying tighter mechanics in 2013.

    His efforts at an Elite 11 regional camp in Oakland earned him a spot in the finals at The Opening, where he matched up well with more highly touted quarterback prospects. For those who were relatively unfamiliar with Bowers, he exceeded expectations in Oregon.

     

    How He Changes Things

    Bowers may not be a 5-star recruit or among the top-rated West Coast passers, but he has the potential to become the hidden gem of an impressive 2015 quarterback class. Cal hopes that's the case after receiving his commitment in July.

    The Golden Bears won just one game last season and are searching for positive signs, Quarterback Jared Goff is a bright spot on the squad but could be tempted to bolt for the NFL following the 2015 season.

    This would open the door for Bowers to take over behind center as a redshirt freshman or true sophomore. His underrated tag will follow him into college, where he could become a significant part of the solution in Berkeley.

LB Leo Lewis (Brookhaven, Mississippi)

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    Track Record

    The country's top-rated middle linebacker shows enough adaptability to compete for playing time on the edge or inside. Leo Lewis compiled 100 tackles, five sacks and four forced fumbles in 2013.

    He's a devastating hitter who relies on preparation and natural feel in equal parts.

    "I'm very explosive," Lewis said this spring. "My instincts are good. I know exactly where to go and when I need to be there."

     

    How He Changes Things

    This scheme-diverse defender understands the nuances of how to attack from the second level and will become an even more disruptive force as he builds upon a 6'3" frame. Lewis initially committed to Alabama but broke that verbal pact in July.

    That decision came on the same day he spent time at Mississippi State. The Bulldogs are all-in with this pursuit and could solidify a top-25 class if Lewis jumps on the bandwagon.

    He would highlight a group of prospects who have the potential to take Mississippi State to new heights later this decade. Lewis is a three-down linebacker who is likely to see the field as a true freshman.

    "I can work hard and develop enough to play any position, outside or inside," Lewis said. "I'm not worried about what kind of defense a team plays."

    Mississippi State hopes he ends up in Starkville, where he would have an opportunity to grow into one of the SEC's most prolific linebackers.

QB Jarrett Stidham (Stephenville, Texas)

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    Track Record

    Jarrett Stidham stunned with his rapid development behind center in 2013. He previously played receiver, catching 50 passes for 819 yards and 11 touchdowns as a sophomore.

    In his first year as a varsity quarterback, Stidham threw for 2,613 yards and 30 scores, demonstrating mechanics typically reserved for more seasoned passers. His athleticism is also special, as evidenced by his 821 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground.

    Stidham completed a remarkable 10-month span with an eye-opening performance at the Elite 11 finals. He nearly won the event and earned newfound 5-star status in the aftermath.

     

    How He Changes Things

    Texas Tech has featured several highly productive passers over the years, and Stidham seems to be next in line. He arrives during an exciting time in Lubbock, where head coach Kliff Kingsbury has the arrow pointing upward with a strong recruiting class.

    Stidham has the skills and poise to compete for early playing time. His demeanor suggests he can be a capable leader and the right kind of player to usher in a new wave of talent at Texas Tech.

    Still fairly new to the position, Stidham is among the most tantalizing high-ceiling prospects in this class.

    "I feel more comfortable right now than ever before," Stidham said.

    And the Red Raiders should feel great about that.

RB Damien Harris (Berea, Kentucky)

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    Track Record

    There aren't any concerns about Damien Harris' ability to handle a heavy load out of the backfield. He's a workhorse rusher with a powerful 5'11", 205-pound frame that shrugs off defenders.

    Harris carried the ball 220 times in 2013, rushing for 2,621 yards and 42 touchdowns. His entire high school career has been a string of highlight plays, including 77 touchdown runs since 2012.

    He is the top-ranked running back in this class and continues to improve upon his approach.

    "I've definitely worked hard to get where I'm at right now," Harris said at The Opening. "I try not to pay too much attention to the rankings and stuff like that, but it's nice to see that people appreciate the way I play."

     

    How He Changes Things

    Harris has an opportunity to become "the one who stayed home" if he commits to Kentucky. The consensus opinion is that he will end up at Ohio State, but don't count out the Wildcats just yet.

    Mark Stoops managed to secure top in-state talents Matt Elam (defensive tackle) and Drew Barker (Elite 11 quarterback). A pledge from Harris would signal another major step for Stoops' program.

    Kentucky also offers him an opportunity to take a significant share of handoffs in 2015, whereas he would face more competition elsewhere. The Wildcats will be battling for his signature through national signing day.

     

    All quotes acquired firsthand by B/R national recruiting columnist Tyler Donohue unless otherwise noted.

    Recruit statistics and ratings courtesy of 247Sports.

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