Not having a conference to call its own makes Notre Dame the leader of
the pack when discussing recruiting in the non-BCS conference category.
The Irish have more prestige and tradition than any other program they will be
associated with in this category as Rivals.com looks at newcomers who could
make a major impact this season.
Bolstered by a run to the BCS championship game last season, the Irish
finished the 2013 recruiting cycle with the No. 3 class in the country and
signed four five-star players -- one of those players, Eddie Vanderdoes,
subsequently elected to go to UCLA. Out of the three remaining, running
back Greg Bryant is expected to make the biggest contribution to Notre
Dame's 2013 squad.
The 5-foot-11, 197-pound prospect from Delray Beach (Fla.) American Heritage was
the No. 19 player in the Rivals100 presented by Under Armour and chose Notre
Dame in what seemed like an out-of-the-blue decision after being heavily linked
to Auburn, Florida State, South Carolina and
Tennessee after de-committing from Oklahoma.
Now on campus and working toward the season, Bryant has turned heads with his
powerful running, smooth route running and work ethic. The belief is that he
will be on the two-deep and could see plenty of playing time as the No. 2
He is not alone on the list of impact newcomers to non-BCS schools.
5-foot-10, 195 pounds. Loxahatchee (Fla.) Seminole Ridge Recruiting rankings: Two stars Buzz: Spearman had offers from FIU and Boston College but chose to stay closer
to home. Spearman was a productive high school football
player and was most likely overlooked by BCS programs that
typically don't hit the rural areas outside of West Palm Beach. The Golden
Panthers benefited from that oversight. With a new coaching staff in place at
FIU, every spot on the depth chart is up for grabs and Spearman has impressed so
far. Featured running back Kedrick Rhodes was
kicked off the team, which further opened the door for Spearman. He will most likely
enter the season as the team's No. 2 runner, but he can start stealing time, given the
6-foot-3, 200 pounds. Clarksburg (Md.) High Recruiting rankings: High school: Three stars and No. 55-ranked
outside linebacker. Prep: Four stars and No. 7 in the
postseason prep top 50. Buzz: Houston signed with Maryland out of high school
but had to enroll at
Fork Union (Va.) Military to get his grades and standardized test scores in
order. He cleaned up his academics and then gave his pledge to Marshall. Houston is expected to and play immediately at the
team's hybrid defensive
end/linebacker position, where his athleticism should allow him to make plenty of
plays. The Thundering Herd could have multiple newcomers making an
impact this season because junior college safety Taj Letman and cornerback
Corey Tindal are expected to see plenty of playing time as well.
6-foot-6, 240 pounds. El Campo (Texas) High Recruiting rankings: Three stars and No. 30-ranked tight end. Buzz: Rice signed just four players ranked as three-stars, and Hunt was one of
them. He played on both sides of the ball in high school but will focus on tight
end in college. Hunt joins a Rice program that has recently sent two players at
his position to the NFL, and he has an opportunity to earn plenty of early playing time.
Head coach David Bailiff said at a recent speaking engagement that he was
excited about seeing what Hunt could do.
5-foot-10, 195 pounds. Smyran (Ga.) North Cobb Recruiting rankings: High school: Unranked. JUCO: Three stars. Buzz: Best shares some traits with his cousin, former Detroit Lions running back Jahvid Best. C.J. is lightning quick off the edge and has excellent hands that make
him a threat in the passing game. With only two years of eligibility remaining, Best
arrives at Texas State looking to play right away. He may have only ended up at the
program because others -- Bryce Peters and Keith Whitely -- elected to pass on the
opportunity, but that has made San Marcos all the more interesting for Best. He was
arguably the best player in the Bobcats' signing class and, if he can improve his ball security, Best could become a standout in the Sun Belt Conference. Texas
State is also giving second chances to former Colorado State signee Mike Orakpo
-- brother of Washington Redskins player Brian Orakpo -- and former TCU defensive
tackle D.J. Yendry. All three have the ability to be all-conference players in
the Sun Belt.
6-foot-3, 208 pounds. Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian Recruiting rankings: High school: Three stars and No. 22-ranked pro-style
quarterback. JUCO: Three stars. Buzz: While Montana has not officially been named Tulane's
starting quarterback -- he is
locked in a for-show battle with Devin Powell -- he did not join the
Green Wave to be
the backup. Montana signed with Washington out of high school and was beaten out
for the starting job. He transferred to Walnut (Calif.) Mt. San Antonio
Community College and played his way to first-team all-conference honors. Last season, Tulane quarterback
Ryan Griffin had
the two largest passing performances in school history and, with all of the
receivers returning, Montana could make Griffin's stay atop the record books a
190 pounds. Ashland (Ala.) Central High Recruiting rankings: Two stars. Buzz: One of the few true freshmen to make this list, Staples was a late addition
to UAB's class and one who head coach Garrick McGee is very excited about.
The explosive receiver had a hard time deciding between the Blazers and
Western Kentucky, and he did not make his choice until 3:30 p.m. on
signing day, which forced UAB to postpone its press conference. Now part of the program, Staples is
expected to team with fellow newcomer Maudrecus Humphrey as one of the more
dangerous receiving duos in the conference. UAB is also going to feature a 25-year
old tight end in Tristan Howard, who chose the the program out of Cerritos College
in California. The trio could elevate UAB higher in Conference
USA, but it will mostly
be Staples -- a Class 4A first-team all-state selection in high school -- to be the
major player in the group.
5-foot-10, 185 pounds. Dallas (Texas) Sam Houston Recruiting rankings: High school: Unranked. Buzz: Jackson was lightly recruited out of high school and
signed with Division II Texas A&M Commerce. He played in 10 games as
a true freshman, catching 49 passes for 451 yards, and he was on track for another
good season as a sophomore before a leg injury cut his season short. Jackson
transferred to ULM and sat out last season due to NCAA rules. Now
eligible to compete for the Warhawks, Jackson is slowly but surely working his way into
ULM's stacked two-deep
at receiver. While he may not factor into the receiver rotation at the beginning
of the season, look for Jackson to get regular playing time on special
teams right away as a returner.
5-foot-11, 197 pounds. Bolingbrook (Ill.) High Recruiting rankings: Two stars. Buzz: Stover graduated early from high school and chose Wyoming over offers from Bowling Green,
North Dakota and Western Michigan. The early start to his college
career gave Stover an opportunity to showcase his abilities, and he quickly moved
up the team's depth chart. The Cowboys' leading rusher from last season, D.J. May,
sustained a season-ending injury, which should open up more time for Stover. He
will likely be running behind another impact newcomer because JUCO center Albert
Perez is penciled in to start for the Cowboys.