McKnight, Wilson, Austin starting to emerge
Whether you are an analyst or coach, there is no sure thing in recruiting. Here at ESPN.com, our knowledgeable Scouts Inc. staff uses our football and scouting backgrounds to give the best and most educated opinion on how we think prospects will fare at the college level. Everyone misses sometimes, as there are too many unknown factors to account for when trying to project how a 17-year-old may fare over the next three to five years of his life, but we feel we have a good grasp and our success rate on projecting prospects will far outweigh the ones we miss.
It can take a good two or three years to determine how accurately a program's recruiting class was ranked or to see how a player pans out. In this day and age though, more is expected from true freshmen. With that in mind, here's a look at the overall top 10 from the 2007 class and how they are faring halfway through their first college season.
ESPN 150 rank in parenthesis, stats through Oct. 24
By his own admission, after the Week 2 performance by McKnight in limited duty against Idaho, offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian knew he had to get the talented player involved more and more. With Stefon Johnson dinged up, expect to see McKnight's role increased throughout the rest of the year, especially in the passing game as a Reggie Bush-type.
Numbers: 36 carries, 219 yards (6.1/carry; 59 long) and one TD; four receptions, 12 yards (3/reception; 8 long); eight punt returns, 84 yards (45 long).
(2) Chris Galippo, ILB USC | Recruit Tracker Player Card
As talented as USC's linebacker corps is, Galippo was finding his way into the rotation and also in on special teams while getting acclimated to the college game. Unfortunately, he suffered a season-ending injury and will now hope to get a redshirt year, which could be the best thing to happen to the Trojans as far as the future is concerned.
Numbers: Four tackles in the first two games.
(3) Marc Tyler, RB USC | Recruit Tracker Player Card
The only reason Tyler hasn't made it onto the field is because the broken leg he suffered at the end of his senior season at Oaks Christian has yet to heal properly, so he is redshirting as a result. Much like Galippo, this is a real positive for USC. Not only can Tyler have a role in the running back rotation, he could also make the transition to defense if needed.
(4) Eric Berry, CB Tennessee | Recruit Tracker Player Card
We said he would start, and he has been as advertised. With the exception of quarterback, cornerback is the toughest position to make the transition to from high school to college, and Berry has done it as well as anyone could expect. Not to mention, he wasn't even a full-time cornerback in high school, instead staring as the team's quarterback at Creekside High in Fairburn, Ga.
Having seen both time at corner and safety, Berry is a star in the making and hasn't even hit his potential as an elite future prospect.
Numbers: Started all seven games at either corner or strong safety, recording 33 tackles, one for loss and a 96-yard INT for TD.
(5) Martez Wilson, DE Illinois | Recruit Tracker Player Card
Ron Zook is doing a nice job slowly acclimating him to the defense and not overloading Wilson too much.
Numbers: 17 tackles, three for loss, two sacks, one QB hurry.
(6) Noel Devine, RB West Virginia | Recruit Tracker Player Card
The mere fact that he got into school was a surprise; we thought he was one of the top three players in the country last year but dropped him for fear he wasn't going to qualify. Low and behold he did, and the entire nation has seen Devine show electrifying speed, quickness and make-you-miss skills on par with his counterpart, Steve Slaton.
Numbers: 32 carries 316 yards (9.9/carry; 76 long); four receptions, 39 yards (9.8/reception; 19 long).
(7) Terrance Toliver, WR LSU | Recruit Tracker Player Card
While Arrelious Benn has had more opportunities at Illinois because the team lacks playmakers at wideout, Toliver has had to earn it far more, as part of a cast of top-flight wideouts on arguably the nation's most talented team.
The past two weeks Toliver has really come on and is moving to the forefront as a go-to guy for Matt Flynn and Ryan Perrilloux. Expect to see him on the field more and more. Honestly, in our opinion you could flip a coin for who is better -- Toliver or Benn. We went with Toliver because of his size/speed ratio.
Numbers: Six receptions, 119 yards (19.8/reception; 38 long); two carries, 16 yards (8.0/carry; 17 long).
Clausen has shown flashes and toughness and grit getting bounced around quite a bit, but he can't do it himself. Things were easy for him in high school, but he is getting baptized by fire, it's only going to get hotter from here on out.
Numbers: 81-141 (57.4 completion pct.), 618 yards, one TD, five INTs (4.4/attempt; 36 long); 37 rushing attempts, 138 yards, one TD.
(9) Michael McNeil, S Auburn | Recruit Tracker Player Card
McNeil's role has pretty much been what we anticipated to this point, and we wouldn't be surprised to see him in a role that could utilize his mentality as a linebacker. Auburn has a talented defense that is young in the secondary, so the future looks bright for both the Tigers and McNeil.
Numbers: 26 tackles, .5 for loss, one QB hurry.
His numbers speak for themselves. Austin is a load, and with every passing week, he is becoming more of a force. Butch Davis is playing more and more freshmen from this last class, and Austin is leading the way alongside WR Greg Little on offense. Expect Austin to develop into one of the more dominant tackles in the conference next season.
Numbers: Started two games; 16 tackles, 5.5 for loss, 3.5 sacks.
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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