February 16, 2015 - Dave Miller
Instant-impact true freshmen for 2015
Follow @Miller_Dave With National Signing Day in the rearview mirror, let's take a look at the incoming true freshmen that have the best chance to make an instant impact on their respective new teams during the 2015 college football season. UCLA QB Josh Rosen: The pro-style signal-caller has a real shot at cracking the starting lineup by the end of 2015 because Brett Hundley is gone, and last year's backup Jerry Neuheisel doesn't have quite the same skill set. However, Neuheisel is the team’s most-experienced option at the position, so it would not be surprising if he started the year as the No. 1 QB. Asiantti Woulard will also be in the mix during spring ball, but Rosen will be enrolled for reps this spring and is arguably the best pro-style QB in this class. The only question is how quickly he adjusts to the next level. USC CB Iman Marshall: One year after Steve Sarkisian and his staff closed strong on National Signing Day, the Trojans did it again and ended up with one of the best classes in the entire country. There is a ton of talent in this haul, but the gem may be Marshall, who has safety-type size with prototypical cornerback skills. He's physically mature enough to step in and play right away, and this is a secondary that needs help. Pairing Marshall with safety Su’a Cravens should allow that unit to take a step forward in the fall. Texas LB Malik Jefferson: The best outside linebacker in this class is the gem of the Longhorns' haul for Charlie Strong, who is one of the best defensive coaches in the college game. While Texas had a very fine defensive unit in 2014, it should be even stronger in Strong's second season. Jefferson will step in right away with the 'Horns losing Jordan Hicks and Steve Edmond from the linebacking corps. Tennessee DT Kahlil McKenzie: Butch Jones and his staff continue to grind away on the recruiting trail, bringing in a second consecutive outstanding class. This year's haul is led by McKenzie, who will step into a defensive line that needs to mature fast if the Vols want to take a step up in class in the SEC East. Tennessee ranked No. 9 in the SEC versus the run, and McKenzie has the talent and the body to step in and help out right away. He missed his senior year of high school but had 12 sacks and 74 tackles as a junior. Michigan State RB L.J. Scott: The Spartans have to replace Jeremy Langford, who may have been the most underappreciated productive back in the country the last two seasons. Scott has the talent to step in and produce right away, but the Spartans do return Delton Williams, Gerald Holmes and Madre London, so there are options for Mark Dantonio and his staff. However, Scott is a physical back who should at least see situational carries, and it wouldn't be surprising if he eventually moves up to being the No. 1 back in East Lansing by the end of the year. Auburn DE Byron Cowart: The most-coveted player in the 2015 class followed Will Muschamp to The Plains, and the Tigers defense desperately needs all the help it can get after fielding a porous unit in 2014. Cowart will be a key cog for a unit that needs a stronger pass rush if the Tigers want to once again be major SEC and national contenders. Auburn only had 21 sacks last year, but the addition of Cowart as well as the return of Carl Lawson should allow for a stronger overall defensive unit. Washington QB Jake Browning: Huskies head coach Chris Petersen lost quarterback Troy Williams to a transfer, but the highly rated Browning has a chance to win the starting job after enrolling early and being able to compete in spring football. The California native had scholarship offers from Alabama and Michigan, among many others, and will compete with Cyler Miles and Jeff Lindquist for the starting job. Browning set national high school records in 2014 for both single-season (91) and career touchdowns (229). Michigan WR Brian Cole: New Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh will be looking for playmakers on his first team in Ann Arbor, and there's a big hole at the receiver position. Enter Cole, who has good athleticism and enrolled in January, allowing him to adjust to college life and help speed up his development. Michigan will have an old-school offense, but big plays will be needed in the passing game as well. Cole should help the cause. USC LB Osa Masina: The Salt Lake City native can play both outside or inside, as he brings pass-rushing skill off the edge and the ability to stop the run in the middle. The Trojans enjoyed their first full recruiting class in four years, and Masina is one of several top-notch players brought in to improve depth. He also should see early playing time like Iman Marshall. Other names to remember Texas Tech DT Breiden Fehoko: The Red Raiders fielded an atrocious defense last year, but the addition of new coordinator David Gibbs as well as Fehoko will help. The Hawaii native recorded 16 sacks and six forced fumbles during his senior year. Florida OL Martez Ivey: The Gators return just one starter on the offensive line (guard Trip Thurman), so there is available playing time for Ivey, who has the athleticism and talent but just needs to get stronger to be a top tackle. Oregon DL Canton Kaumatale: With the Ducks losing Arik Armstead, another impact performer is needed on that line. The Hawaiian defensive end has good athleticism to at least be a situational defender. Georgia DT Trent Thompson: Bulldogs defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt loses nose tackle Mike Thornton and defensive ends Ray Drew and Toby Johnson, so Thompson is expected to adapt to the college game quickly and help out the defensive unit in Athens. Dave Miller, the college football editor for the National Football Post, is on Twitter @Miller_Dave.