February 3, 2006

Who will be the stars of tomorrow?

With Signing Day fresh on the minds of college football fans everywhere, the Burning Questions picks up the ball and turns its focus to the stars of tomorrow.

And why not? Every year a dozen or so freshmen come into the collegiate ranks and make a major impact, some of whom are expected to such as Darren McFadden and DeSean Jackson, and some from whom little is expected such as Steve Slaton and Pat White.

With that in mind, we checked around to see who would be the new names taking over games in '06. We asked local experts all over the Rivals.com network the same question about the teams they cover: Who is the impact freshman in this class, and who is the sleeper who might work his way onto the field come fall?

Nebraska Cornhuskers
Sean Callahan of HuskersIllustrated.com writes: "The biggest impact freshman in Nebraska's 2006 signing class is probably three-star wide receiver Menelik Holt. During his senior season Holt led his team to the state championship and was unstoppable for most of the year. He's a big-bodied wide receiver who should have a shot of seeing some time early. Four-star safety Ricky Thenarse will be the next-biggest impact freshman.

"The biggest sleeper is wide receiver Will Henry. At 6-foot-6, Henry had a breakout season at wide receiver because his team switched offenses. This allowed him to get several late offers and his senior film speaks for itself."

Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Pete Sampson of IrishIllustrated.com writes: "Offensive line recruiting was Notre Dame's biggest need in this class, but it's in the secondary where the Irish can get help the quickest. Cornerbacks Darrin Walls and Raeshon McNeil both could aid the Irish defense next season even if it's just by bolstering the nickel and dime packages.

"As far as a sleeper pick, defensive end Kallen Wade gets the nod. He's a wiry, raw pass rusher who could get on the field in third-and-long situations where he doesn't have to worry about defending the run."

Ole Miss Rebels
Dave Childers of RebelSports.net writes: "Ole Miss lost all four starting defensive linemen which paves the way for Jerrell Powe, the No. 3 ranked prospect coming out of prep school, to make an immediate impact. Powe, the top defensive tackle in the nation in 2005, offers a combination of size and speed and has the potential to develop into a force under head coach Ed Orgeron, a former defensive line coach at USC.

"One area that Ole Miss was short on last season was playmakers, and the Rebels could have a sleeper in Largo, Fla., scat back Dexter McCluster. At 5-9, 160 pounds, it's a given that he won't be pounding the ball between the tackles in the SEC. However, with speed clocked as low as 4.38, he could impact immediately on special teams where the Rebels lost longtime punt and kick returner Mike Espy."

Ohio State Buckeyes
Mike Wachsman of BuckeyeSports.com writes: "The impact freshman will be the nation's top running back, Chris Wells. He's got size, speed, power and a nose for the end zone, and he'll be in the mix immediately. Maybe not starting -- Antonio Pittman is pretty talented himself -- but on the field in some capacity.

"The sleeper could be Florida cornerback Chimdi Chekwa. He's got great speed and ball skills, and he reminds me a bit of Malcolm Jenkins, who came in with no fanfare and was starting by Big Ten season."

California Bears
A.W. Prince of BearTerritory.net writes: "It would be tough to find a player who will start and impact the Bears immediately from this class like DeSean Jackson did in 2005. Cal has a lot of depth at most positions. Beyond the four JC players who were signed to fill immediate needs, the Bears top freshman probably will be seen on special teams. That player could be Sacramento-area WR Jeremy Ross, one of the fastest players in the country who has plenty of moves."

Miami Hurricanes
Gary Ferman of CaneSport.com writes: "I would say Ryan Hill has the best shot at making an immediate impact in Miami's 2006 class. He could factor in for very early playing time at cornerback since the Hurricanes lost their top two corners from last year. The sleeper would be Graig Cooper, who I think might get early time at running back. He can run and catch the ball and seems most ready for the college game of the three backs UM is signing."


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