Culliver, McKnight should get early playing time
Almost every top prospect says he wants to see the field right away, but which ones will seize the opportunity to impact their teams? Here are the top 10 true freshmen most likely to make an impact in college football in 2007:
1. Chris Culliver, WR, South Carolina
This quick, speedy weapon will not only be expected to contribute as a wide receiver but also may get the nod as the Gamecocks' return man. Culliver will play -- and play often -- with Sidney Rice gone and Kenny McKinley unproven as a go-to guy. Don't be surprised if he starts the opener when Steve Spurrier goes to the three- and four-wide sets.
2. Lennon Creer, RB, Tennessee
Creer is a true workhorse with excellent top-end speed. We expected him to get significant time rotating with LaMarcus Coker and Arian Foster, but now with Coker suspended and Creer having a great fall camp, expect this talented newcomer not only to play but possibly become the starter by midseason.
The Tim Tebow experiment is not over, it's just going to be a different Tim Tebow -- and his name is Cameron Newton. Newton is every bit the athlete and runner and a better passer at this point in terms of mechanics and fundamentals. He will get turns and provide another spark for this offense.
4. Joe McKnight, RB, USC
With Emmanuel Moody likely transferring and Marc Tyler likely to redshirt, McKnight's big-play ability is now sure to see significant time and bring back that Reggie Bush element to offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian's scheme. This guy is special, and expect to see him in the return game as well.
5. Eric Berry, CB, Tennessee
Starting or even playing as a corner in the SEC as a true freshman is a tall order, and Berry could be doing both very soon. The Vols are lean on the perimeter and Berry is ultratalented, but how he handles the mental side will dictate how good he can be early on.
6. Everson Griffen, DE, USC
If he learns the position and plays with a high motor on every snap, he could be a load as an edge rusher right away.
7. Arrelious Benn, WR, Illinois
He'll play not only because he is good enough, but also because he is far superior to anything Ron Zook already has in the barn. Benn is both physically and mentally ready.
Butch Davis' first prized recruit to Chapel Hill is going to get his chance to prove he is the real deal and give the Tar Heels a force to be reckoned with along the front.
9. Jimmy Clausen, QB, Notre Dame
It's not necessarily that he should play, but the Irish are going to need him in the rotation at some point. Hopefully Charlie Weis' squad can grow up quickly on offense around Clausen should Evan Sharpley and Demetrius Jones not get the job done early on.
10. Noel Devine, RB, West Virginia
Think the Mountaineers need any more team speed on offense? Surprisingly, Devine qualified, and now this tiny dynamo is going to be unleashed on the rest of the Big East, at least as a third-down back and return specialist. If he can adapt to college life and keep focused, look out.
Tom Luginbill is the national director of recruiting for Scouts Inc. Luginbill is a college football and recruiting studio analyst for ESPNU.
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