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Southeast Spotlight: Commits that should make an instant impact in 2024

Mike Matthews
Mike Matthews (Nick Lucero/

As with any recruiting cycle, there are players all over the 2024 class that will make an immediate impact as freshmen. Today, national analyst John Garcia Jr. highlights a handful of prospects from the Southeast that have the ability to make an immediate impact as true freshmen.

RELATED: Mid-South commits that should make an instant impact in 2024 | Midwest


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Two elements make Matthews a no-brainer for any instant-impact list when looking ahead to 2024. For one, Tennessee's offense is truly explosive and wants to push the ball down the field as much as any in the SEC, but it also will likely lose at least the top half of its wide receiver room following the 2023 season.

Five of the six contributors thus far in 2023 will be seniors or will have departed from the Vols' roster by the time the top 10 recruit shows up in Knoxville for good, though his talent could even contend with the elder players should they retain eligibility.

Mathews is also a multisport, two-way football player and has been for most of his life. It means he has never been able to focus on one sport, much less one position, so the technical improvement we all may see with his route-running and blocking repertoire may be quite tangible in short order. Matthews is a natural playmaker who can win down the field or after the catch, making him an ideal fit in Josh Heupel's offense when he is ready to crack the rotation.



David Stone
David Stone (Adam Friedman/

Not only is Stone the type of defensive lineman who demands identification pre-snap from every offense he faces, but he has the versatility to truly impact the opposing quarterback as an edge or interior rusher depending on down and distance. It's exactly what the doctor has ordered for Oklahoma going into next season considering its top seven defensive linemen are upperclassmen, with six being seniors or grad-transfer prospects this fall.

Brent Venables and company will need to infuse the defense with talented youth up front, and Stone's skill set will fit right in, only reemphasizing how critical it was to get the Oklahoma native on the commitment list. He will also arrive in January, getting the jump on his classmates with an extra semester and spring ball under his belt before his freshman campaign begins. Stone is battle-tested against premier prospects across the country, thanks to his time at IMG Academy, with few slowing him down on a consistent basis.



Zaquan Patterson
Zaquan Patterson (Nick Lucero/

Another five-star on the list, the local pledge to Miami seems like a simple bet. He is a prep captain at one of the top high school programs in the country – Hollywood (Fla.) Chaminade-Madonna – and does so as a three-phase player who flashes well in each of them. Patterson also brings a physical presence to special teams and the secondary, where he is projected to play at the next level, at 6-foot-1 and north of 200 pounds with the type of pop at the contact point to back it up. Throw in legitimate football instincts and an IQ that will allow for him to play any safety spot and dabble in a nickel-type role, and he'll find his way onto the field.

The Hurricanes like the versatility of their safeties and have perhaps the top safety tandem in the Power Five in Kam Kinchens and James Williams. They are likely to depart for the NFL following the 2023 campaign. Patterson's path to playing time could become even more apparent depending on the lack of depth behind the duo, viewed as a major area of concern for UM in the preseason. At a minimum, the freshman-to-be can work toward becoming a special teams ace, though the other end of the spectrum and freshman accolades in the secondary wouldn't be a surprise next year.



Cam Coleman
Cam Coleman

One of the prospects in the Southeast pushing for five-star status with huge 2023 performances, Coleman has as gaudy a set of physical tools as any wide receiver in the class of 2023. He is big, fast and truly bouncy at the catch point with the requisite ball skills to make 50/50 balls look anything but against an almost-always smaller defender.

Texas A&M has recruited the wide receiver position better more recently in the Jimbo Fisher tenure, but it hasn't brought in the type of raw size and pop in one recruit like it may with Coleman.

Of course, this recruitment could be far from over, as local Auburn, Florida State and even Coach Prime at Colorado give chase, but Coleman's surprise commitment to the Aggies late in the summer should not morph into low expectations should the program retain the pledge. TAMU star Evan Stewart and breakout talent Noah Thomas are both sophomores, so Coleman may not be spotlighted by defenses in College Station until he forces his hand with head-turning plays on the outside in 2024. Even if it's with a part-time role in a suddenly deep rotation, it's tough to imagine any program keeping the Alabama native off the field next fall.



Perry Thompson
Perry Thompson (Caleb Jones/

An in-state elite player who projects as the type of player not seen on the current Auburn roster, Thompson seems like a layup in the instant impact department. He towers at 6-foot-4 or better, with more than 200 pounds already on his frame, meaning he works as a physical wideout after the catch just as much as we could see him winning down the field or against good coverage.

Thompson could become a reliable option right out of the gate, similar to how Seth Williams did a few years back. Outside of Jay Fair, the starting wide receiver group is likely to depart the Plains following 2023, so Thompson could have an accelerated path to playing time as a freshman. Not to mention Year 2 under Hugh Freeze and how it should project – something much more familiar from an explosive passing-game standpoint.

Should Auburn take that next step as an offense, collectively, it would be a surprise to not see Thompson become a key cog in that progression. He is also polished and a great blocker as a prep star, which isn't always common at the position, but it's a trait that can accelerate playing time beyond the dream WR1 frame.