College football programs lose important pieces of their rosters following every season, so finding the best available recruits to contribute as soon as possible is one of a head coach’s most important duties.
Starting against opponents four and sometimes five years older can be a daunting task, but every year, a select few players exceed expectations and help their teams win.
Here are five true freshmen who could do just that while taking on significant roles in 2017.
Jaelan Phillips – DL, UCLA
Phillips’ versatility could see him earn playing time at two different positions for. Recruited as an outside linebacker, Phillips is also listed on the Bruins’ website as a defensive lineman, so in the immediate future, he’ll likely get extended reps at rushing the pass. Jim Mora made a point of saying at Pac 12 Media Days that Phillips for starting time right out of the gate, so the short term looks bright for the No. 3 player in the 2017 class.
Donovan Peoples-Jones – WR, Michigan
only has one returning wide receiver who registered more than 100 receiving yards last year, and that will be music to the ears of Peoples-Jones. So long as the Wolverines have a man under center that can get Peoples-Jones the ball somewhat consistently, the Detroit native has a chance to become one of the best breakout receivers in the nation.
N’Kosi Perry – QB, Miami
is one of many teams being forced to replace a star quarterback from a year ago, and Perry has shown he’s ready to compete for the No. 1 job. Head coach Mark Richt has been impressed by Perry in the early stages of fall camp and praised his fundamentals. Miami is currently a favorite to win the ACC Coastal Division, and Perry could play an important role in fulfilling that prediction – and even accomplishing more – if he can take the next step by the early stages of the season.
Cam Akers – RB, Florida State
needs a replacement for , and the explosive Akers fits the bill as a standout recruit with the ability to step in and produce. Jimbo Fisher announced Tuesday that is currently the Seminoles’ starting running back, but if fans recall the 2014 season, they’ll realize that Cook was in nearly the exact same position. Akers’ predecessor began his college career backing up , and it was only a matter of weeks before he grabbed the starting reins for good.
Tua Tagovailoa – QB, Alabama
When assessing‘s current dynamic at the quarterback position, keep in mind that Nick Saban doesn’t make weightless claims. Yes, is the expected starter right now, but Saban made it clear that Tagovailoa won’t take a redshirt this season. That means Saban predicts the freshman will get enough playing time in 2017 to make the decision worth it.
Copyright © 2017 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.