- Jared Shanker, College Football
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Freshmen are an integral part of college football rosters now as first-year players see the field much more often than they used to even a decade ago.
With so many ACC schools residing in fertile recruiting grounds and putting together strong classes, it shouldn't be a surprise that some of the conference's freshmen are already making names for themselves on their respective campuses.
Here are some of the true and redshirt freshmen, whose gains this spring have put them in a position to contribute meaningful snaps this fall.
Pittsburgh OL Alex Bookser
There was discussion last summer whether the former ESPN 300 recruit should redshirt, and ultimately the heralded local product sat out his true freshman season to prepare for a starting role in 2015. Bookser has the ability to play tackle, guard and even defensive line, but the redshirt freshman is slotted to start at right guard for the Panthers. The offensive line situation was unsettled coming into the spring, but Bookser has done enough to warrant the title of No. 1 right guard heading into the summer.
Clemson OT Mitch Hyatt
Hyatt enrolled at Clemson in January, which already increases the odds he will play as a true freshman this fall. Add in the fact Hyatt is a five-star talent, and it's pretty clear Hyatt will have a defined role early on. The 6-foot-6, 280-pound Hyatt might not crack the starting lineup, at least through the early portion of the season, but he could be the Tigers' backup at both right and left tackle. In blowouts, coach Dabo Swinney will be quick to get Hyatt and fellow true freshman lineman Jake Fruhmorgen on the field. At some point in his career, Hyatt is expected to be the line's stabilizing force and an All-ACC performer.
Florida State DB Derwin James
Similar to Hyatt, James is a five-star signee who enrolled in January. Also like Hyatt, the true freshman is just too good to keep off the field. Except in James' case, he plays a position in which there are many more snaps to be had. By the end of spring practice, James had already emerged as a contender for a starting position. It's unlikely James will unseat Nate Andrews or Tyler Hunter by the first week of the season, but that could end up happening at some point in 2015. On the second play of Florida State's spring game, James picked off starting quarterback Sean Maguire and returned the interception for a touchdown. The staff said James is picking up the defense quickly, and with his 6-foot-2 and 212-pound frame, the freshman label doesn't quite fit him.
Virginia Tech DT Vinny Mihota
The Hokies could have the conference's best defensive line group, and there isn't much room for any of their freshmen to crack a starting lineup that could have two or even three All-ACC selections by season's end. However, the redshirt freshman Mihota played so well this spring that he figures to have a rotational role at multiple positions. Named the defense's most improved player this spring, the 6-foot-5, 270-pound Mihota has shifted between end and tackle along the line as the staff finds ways to get him on the field. On early downs, Mihota can be an asset against the run at defensive end. When it's time to rush the passer, the lighter Mihota could be moved to the interior where he can use his burst against more immobile offensive linemen.
Louisville WR Traveon Samuel
The Cardinals' receiving corps is going to have a new look to it this fall, which is why Samuel graduated high school early to make a bid for playing time. Coach Bobby Petrino liked what he saw from the true freshman during the spring, and he said Samuel will definitely help the Cardinals' offense. At 5-foot-7 and 175 pounds, Samuel brings a different dynamic to Louisville. Petrino said the freshman will be utilized in ways that get him the ball in space to take advantage of his quickness and run-after-the-catch ability.
Here are some of the ACC's true freshmen, whose gains this spring have put them in a position to contribute meaningful snaps this fall.