Freshmen look to have early impact
As top high school players choose college destinations, the possibility of immediate playing time is an increasingly significant factor. In each of the six major conferences, players without any experience will soon be key components of their football teams.
Khalif Mitchell, DE, North Carolina, Hargrave (Va.) Military Academy
A heavy hitter at 6-foot-6 and 290 pounds, Mitchell will be expected to start and create havoc in opposing backfields immediately. A January enrollee at UNC, Mitchell impressed in spring practices and continues to improve, drawing rave reviews from coaches in the early stages of two-a-days. Just ask Coach John Bunting. "I’ve seen Khalif do some things that I’ve never seen before on a football field," Bunting said. "He has the ability to change direction that I haven’t seen. I never even saw Julius Peppers do some of the things he does."
Adrian Peterson, running back, Oklahoma, Palestine, Texas
One of the most aggressively recruited players in recent years, Peterson emerged on the Norman, Okla., campus down the depth chart behind returning starter Kejuan Jones. Don’t expect that to stand for long. Early reports had Peterson making a strong charge, and his work ethic and attitude were already being praised by Bob Stoops and the Sooners’ coaching staff. While an injury to his left shoulder during a Sunday scrimmage could keep him off the field for seven to 10 days, he may not be held back longer than that. "All the players really like and respect him because of the way he’s worked," Stoops said. "I don’t think there’s anyone who has come in the summer and worked so hard in the last six years. At least from how our strength coaches talk about him. The players see that. He’s a joy to coach and he’s working well. He’s earning his time and doing well with it."
Ted Ginn, defensive back/athlete, Ohio State, Cleveland Glenville
Another touted prospect, Ginn will be counted on to immediately fill the do-everything role of former star Kevin Gamble. Ginn will be expected to return kicks alongside Santonio Holmes and may also return punts, a role in which he was able to break containment and get to the sideline in workouts on Sunday. Coach Jim Tressel also singled out Ginn as an impressive freshman early in pre-season training, as the newcomer could be part of a trio of true freshmen to see some time at receiver this season. Add that to his expected role in the defensive backfield, and Ginn is likely to be the country's most versatile young player. "He has great athletic ability," cornerback Dustin Fox said. "That's all it's about right now because all the young guys are taking time to learn the defenses. The rest will kind of fall into place. Ted's a great player and we expect him to do some special things for us this year."
Danny Ware, running back, Georgia, Hargrave (Va.) Military Academy
Oh, how things can change in the blink of an eye in college football. One day incoming freshman Danny Ware is a virtual afterthought, stuck behind incumbent starter Kregg Lumpkin on the depth chart. The next, Ware is preparing himself for a starting role in the Bulldog backfield. If Georgia hopes to overcome the stunning preseason loss of their star rusher, they’ll have to do it with the talent and drive of the 6-foot-1 back, whose 4.5-second 40-yard dash gives him ample speed to break runs in the deep SEC. Whether he’ll find the holes Lumpkin did is another question. Georgia fans will be crossing their fingers.
Dwayne Jarrett, wide receiver, USC, New Brunswick, N.J.
Across the country and seemingly half a world away, early reports said Jarrett was unhappy after arriving at USC and was considering leaving. That’s not the word out of Trojan camp now that practices have started, as the 6-foot-5, 205 pound wide-out with blazing 4.4-second 40-yard dash speed has been turning heads with his quickness and breakaway speed. He started the opening series of the summer’s first intra-squad scrimmage and broke open a big reception in the 11-on-11's third quarter. "Everything is going good, although it’s a little tough being away from home," said Jarrett. "I’m just trying to stay focused, humble and stick to what I know is best, so I can get the job done." With Matt Leinart delivering the ball, if Jarrett can keep focused, the rest of the Pac 10 may be on notice for big things to come.
Tony Jenkins, defensive tackle, Syracuse, West Springfield, Va.
After redshirting in his first year on campus, Jenkins is ready to help bolster a shaky Syracuse run defense. The 6-foot-2, 270-pounder should have plenty of room to push last season’s backups, juniors Eugene Brown and Kader Drame, who are now behind him on some depth charts. An early over-achiever as a two-star recruit out of suburban Washington, D.C., Jenkins could be a fixture on the Syracuse defensive line for years to come.