With the vast majority of the high school prospects locked into their programs now that national signing day has come and gone, it’s time to look forward to spring practice.
For plenty of programs, that is going to be the first opportunity to get a look at some of their prized recruiting returns. It’s always a big-time boost for high school prospects to enroll early and get 15 practices out of the way before fall battles go down.
From a handful of defenders to some of the elite quarterbacks, the 2022 spring practices around the college football world should have us scrambling for headline-makers.
Sure, there are plenty of redshirt freshmen we’re looking forward to seeing (looking at you, Quinn Ewers), but this is all about the true freshmen who are seeing college ball for the first time.
Whether it’s prospects who have the opportunity to be instant-impact stars or guys with limitless potential who could unseat starters and raise their teams’ level of play, we’ll have our eye on a few incoming first-year players this spring. Obviously, they have to be enrolled and ready to participate to make the list.
Let’s take a look at some names who could become dudes this spring.
Drew Allar, QB, Penn State
Penn State’s elite recruiting class has plenty of guys we want to see suit up this spring, and if you’re a Nittany Lions fan, there is no shame in hoping star running back prospect Nicholas Singleton or defensive lineman Dani Dennis-Sutton makes an impact right away.
The biggest name on campus in Happy Valley, though, is Drew Allar.
The nation’s fourth-ranked quarterback in 247Sports’ composite rankings (and first overall on 247) has everything you want in an offensive leader. He has the size (6’4½”, 232 pounds), the arm strength, the athleticism and the game intelligence.
With Sean Clifford back for a final season, everybody expects him to keep the signal-caller job, and he very well may. But head coach James Franklin has to flip the narrative at Penn State, where the past two seasons have been flops. If you have a game-changer at quarterback, it goes a long way.
Whether or not Allar can seize the job this spring won’t affect his sky-high potential, but if he is truly special and too good to keep off the field, it will change the program’s trajectory right away.
Chris Hummer of 247Sports wrote Allar has “the limitless potential” to help the Nittany Lions take the next step, and it’s true. PSU’s quarterback room is loaded with impressive options, but nobody has the sheer athletic ability and potential of Allar. If he is the real deal, Franklin’s fortunes could change.
We’re about to see if the future is now for Allar and the Lions.
Aaron Anderson, WR, Alabama
Picking one player from Alabama’s always-loaded recruiting classes is always difficult. On one hand, you never really know who is going to develop quickly, but on the other, the Crimson Tide always have such quality depth in former elite prospects you’ve forgotten about that it’s tough to project playing time.
That isn’t the case this year.
With Jameson Williams, John Metchie III and Slade Bolden off to the NFL, Alabama is going to have snaps available at wide receiver. Of course, Georgia transfer Jermaine Burton and guys like Ja’Corey Brooks and JoJo Earle are capable of handling some of that workload.
But Tide fans should be excited to see Aaron Anderson.
The speedy, electrifying receiver parted ways from instate LSU when the program decided to part ways with Ed Orgeron, and Nick Saban used his long-standing relationships in the state (and, of course, the fact he competes for national titles every year) to swoop in and steal Anderson.
The 5’9″, 185-pound prospect from New Orleans can do it all, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Tide find ways to use him out of the backfield, on special teams and especially in the slot. His 247Sports profile even compares him to former Alabama standout Jaylen Waddle.
Saban has experience getting the ball in the hands of his best playmakers, and there’s too much to like about Anderson’s skill set for him not to get involved early.
Terrance Brooks, CB, Texas
Every eye in the nation is going to be on Ohio State transfer and redshirt freshman quarterback Quinn Ewers this spring, and rightfully so: Steve Sarkisian finally has his high-upside quarterback. The Longhorns are getting elite offensive linemen Kelvin Banks and Devon Campbell this summer, too.
But the true freshman to watch this spring is a guy who could help flip the switch on the other side of the ball. Cornerback Terrance Brooks is on campus and ready to participate in drills, and that’s big news for Sark.
The 5’11”, 190-pound prospect from Little Elm, Texas, had offers from all over the country and was hotly pursued by teams such as Alabama and Ohio State. The one-time Buckeyes commit flipped to the instate Longhorns, and despite a tumultuous season, they were able to keep him.
Brooks is a top-100 prospect who is sometimes overshadowed by some of the other big-name players in Texas’ brilliant fifth-ranked recruiting class, but he shouldn’t be. He has the potential to be one of the high-end corners in this class.
On film, Brooks looks fluid in the open field, can lock down receivers in man coverage and has the awareness to be effective in zone coverage, too. There is a reason why a lot of the top teams wanted him. He has plenty of elite, moldable traits.
Brooks is a guy who can step right in and help elevate a pass defense that was ranked 62nd nationally a season ago. The Horns need him to be good right now, and everybody should pay attention to him this spring.
Raleek Brown, RB, USC
Nobody has created as much buzz around his new program as USC coach Lincoln Riley, who is already off to a brilliant recruiting start in the 2023 class and got a major boost when former Oklahoma quarterback Caleb Williams decided to follow him west.
But the Trojans need a lot of help in a lot of places, and a recruiting class that is ranked 65th nationally in this cycle doesn’t have a ton of answers.
There are, however, a couple of important ones. While defensive back Domani Jackson is the jewel of the class and could step in and start right away, the guy we’re most excited about watching this spring is Raleek Brown.
The Mater Dei product elected to stay in California, flipping from the Sooners and joining Riley with the Trojans. The 5’8″, 185-pound running back is a dynamo who can be used in a lot of different places. While Riley secured transfers Travis Dye (Oregon) and Austin Jones (Stanford) from the portal, Brown still has a place in this offense.
He can do other things besides run the ball, like catch it out of the backfield, and he may even be a weapon on special teams. Once Brown gets past defenders in the open field, he is gone.
Don’t forget about Brown just because he has some veterans now in front of him. Riley has a long history of utilizing weapons, putting guys in space and getting chunk yards.
Brown may not be an every-down back right away, but he will be an important part of this unit.