Early playing time has very little to do with ranking, stars or offer lists. It has to do with team needs, physical preparedness and a number of other factors that are difficult to predict.
Rich Rodriguez is hopeful that Pierre Cormier can provide some depth at running back in 2013.
As spring practice begins to heat up around the country and the 2013 signing classes begin to develop into college freshmen, we take a look at the best early impact candidates from around the country. Today, we spotlight the Pac-12 and each program’s top candidate to contribute very early in his career.
Arizona – Pierre Cormier, RB, San Diego (Calif.) Madison
Rated as a four-star prospect by 247Sports and the No. 11 all-purpose back in the country, Cormier is a crucial addition to Rich Rodriguez’s still-developing offense. Star running back Ka’Deem Carey has had some off-the-field issues piling up and the Wildcats don’t boast a very proven bullpen behind him. With that Cormier will need to be ready to contribute early on and his role could steadily increase as the season progresses.
Arizona State – Jaelen Strong, WR, Woodland Hills (Calif.) Pierce College
Strong is ranked the No. 5 junior college wide receiver in the country by 247Sports and a four-star prospect though he’s only a 3-star as rated by 247Composite. At a relatively weak wide receiver position for Arizona State, the Sun Devils lose their top two contributors. Strong will be counted on in a big way from day one and he’ll have three more years to continue that impact.
California – Edward Tandy, LB, Tustin (Calif.) High School
With a new coaching staff in place at California, the competition for playing time will be fierce and wide open. Tandy comes in with the physical makeup to take advantage of that opportunity. Ranked by 247Sports as the No. 52 outside linebacker in the country, Tandy holds all of his high school weight room records and is a playmaker on the field. He won’t be your average freshman.
Colorado – Jimmie Gilbert, DE, College Station (Texas) A&M Consolidated
After a dismal season in 2012, a new coaching staff in 2013 will have no problem letting a true freshman earn a spot in the rotation and Gilbert is probably the most equipped in this 2013 signing class to do just that. Gilbert is rated by 247Sports and 247Composite as a three-star prospect and at 6-4, 215-pounds in high school, he’ll easily add the weight needed to compete in the Pac-12.
Oregon – Thomas Tyner, RB, Beaverton (Oreg.) Aloha
It’s fortunate for the Ducks that maybe the most physically gifted back in the entire class of 2013 just happens to be right in the sparsely populated backyard of the Oregon program. A five-star prospect and 247Sports’ No. 3 running back in the country, Tyner has the size (6-0/210) and speed (documented 10.3 100meter time in track) to contribute anywhere but it just so happens that Oregon is down to one scholarship running back and will desperately need Tyner to be ready to roll from day one.
Oregon State – Steven Nelson, CB, Visalia (Calif.) College of the Sequoias
Nelson is 6-0, 185 pounds and he’s the No. 1 rated junior college cornerback in the country in the industry generated 247Composite rankings. You don’t sign a player of Nelson’s ilk out of the junior college ranks and not let him go to work right away. Nelson is as FBS ready as any defensive back in this class and we don’t expect Oregon State to waste any time letting him prove as much.
Stanford – Francis Owusu, WR, Thousand Oaks (Calif.) Oaks Christian
Rated by 247Sports as the No. 32 wide receiver in the country and a four-star recruit, Owusu is the prototypical outside threat that Stanford’s offense has been lacking. His 6-3 frame that will be well over 200 pounds by the time fall practice rolls around is college ready and his skill set is elite speed to stretch the field and tremendous ball skills.
UCLA – Tahaan Goodman, S, Rancho Cucamonga
Even as UCLA surges as a program, there are holes to be filled in 2013 by freshman and most likely those spots will be on the offensive line and defensive backfield. Goodman was ranked by 247Sports as one of the top 50 recruits in the nation and he has a unique body, athleticism combination that makes him probably the most college-ready among a very talented group of defensive backs arriving.
USC – Su’a Cravens, S, Murrieta (Calif.) Vista Murrieta
Anyone who watched USC last year knows that the Trojans need help in the secondary and fortunately for Lane Kiffin, he’s already got one of the best candidates in the country on campus going through spring drills. Cravens was rated by 247Sports as the No. 1 safety in the country and he’s one of the most instinctive players in the country. By September he’ll be physically ready but more importantly hell be mentally ready at a major position of need for the Trojans.
Utah – Gaius Vaenuku, DL, Euless (Texas) Trinity
The Utes will need some immediate help on the defensive interior in 2013 and that would lead most people towards four-star Lowell Lotulelei – the younger brother of future NFL draftee Star Lotulelei – as the best candidate to proved that help. But with Lotulelei deferring his enrollment for two years while he engages in a Mormon mission, the focus turns instead to Vaenuku, a huge, versatile and talented defender out of a powerhouse program in Texas.
Washington – Demorea Stringfellow, WR, Moreno Valley (Calif.) Rancho Verde
Stringfellow defines “college ready” from a physical standpoint. At every bit of 6-3, Stringfellow is a powerful, fluid, overwhelming target for defenders. Washington is piecing together some nice offensive weapons in the receiving corps led by Austin Sefarian-Jenkins and in Stringfellow, Steve Sarkisian has landed another piece that is too talented to leave on the bench. Stringfellow is rated by 247Composite as the No. 75 overall player in the country.
Washington State – Vince Mayle, WR, Rocklin (Calif.) Sierra College
It’s not that Washington State necessarily needs wide receiver help to any desperate degree, it’s just that Mayle – all 6-3, 220 pounds of him – is too talented not to make an immediate impact. Though he’s only a three-star based on the industry-generated 247Composite ratings, 247Sports thinks much more highly of the big target and has him ranked as the No. 31 JUCO prospect in the country and a four-star talent.