Top-5 Impact Freshmen In The American Athletic Conference
As fall is slowly inching its way closer, the influx of wide-eyed freshmen is about to commence. Of course, that's one of the things that draws fans to college football; the fact that an 18-year old kid could be the x-factor for a team on the verge of winning a national championship. So here at SQ, we've decided to put together rankings of the top-5 impact freshmen for each conference. This week, the focus is on the American Athletic Conference.
5. Kareem Ali, CB, Temple - Following in his father's footsteps, Ali joins a Temple defense that is returning 10 starters, but Ali could be knocking down the door and finding himself playing early on, as he's turned heads as a standout corner.
Ali is a pure speedster who can cover all sorts of ground on the field, one of the many reasons he was able to land a plethora of offers. Quarterbacks hate to throw in his direction as he has a knack for getting his hand on the ball. During his senior season, Ali totalled 45 tackles while nabbing 2 interceptions. Temple may also take the high school track star and use him in the kick return game.
4. Tyreik Gray, RB, Houston - Gray really surprised a majority of people when he re-committed to the University of Houston. The Houston native was thought to be out of reach for the program once coach Tony Levine was fired, but the hiring of Tom Herman must have had a great impact on the running back.
Although he's not the biggest back on the field, standing at 5'11 and weighing 187 pounds, Gray might be one of the smartest. He has great patience in waiting for his linemen to open up holes for him to burst through, a trait that only the most intelligent runners seem to possess. That ability, along with his size, has him drawing player comparisons to Frank Gore.
Gray was able to fly under the recruiting radar this year because of his smaller stature and lack of straight-line speed. That's certainly good news for Houston though, as Gray looks like he has the potential to be a star under Herman's offense.
3. Jae'lon Oglesby, WR, Memphis - A year after originally committing to play for Clemson, Oglesby will instead suit up for Memphis after completing a year of prep school. Oglesby is a rare sign for the Tigers: the team's fifth four-star signee in 13 years and first since 2010.
During his high school career, Oglesby was a dynamic running back who rushed for 2,176 yards and scored 21 touchdowns his senior year. He'll now be making the transition to wide receiver, more than likely playing the slot position, adding to the weaponry that QB Paxton Lynch will have in his arsenal. He's an explosive playmaker and tremendous athlete, one that Memphis is counting on to help lead it to a American Athletic Conference Championship.
2. Chad President, QB, Tulsa - After de-committing from Baylor, due to the signing of five-star QB Jarrett Stidham, President follows the coach who initially recruited him: Phillip Montgomery. Montgomery, now a head coach, was one of the brains behind Art Briles' brilliant offense at Baylor, and got a nice surprise when he found out President would be joining him at Tulsa.
Despite what many recruiting services say about President being listed as a wide receiver, he will be playing quarterback for Tulsa. President has the potential to be something great for the Golden Hurricane if he can harness his raw ability as a passer. At times he's shown to be inconsistent, but he's also shown flashes of brilliance that make him look worthy of his four-star rating.
His speed and size allow for him to be a true dual-threat passer. He can create plays with his legs, while making defenders miss. And, although Tulsa has an incumbent QB in Dane Evans, don't be surprised if Montgomery goes to President if Evans struggles early on.
1. Tristan Payton, WR, UCF - Payton finally found a home when he chose UCF, his third and final commitment, after backing off a verbal pledge to the University of Florida and later de-committing from USC. A four-star recruit, Payton is expected to be an impact performer right from the get-go for the Knights.
Using his speed to burn defensive backs, Payton can be a true home run threat. As an upperclassman, he caught 97 passes for 1,700 yards and 15 touchdowns, per MaxPreps. Showing off his star potential, Payton was named the MVP of the Semper Fi All-American Game in Los Angeles, where he racked up 101 receiving yards and 2 touchdown receptions.
Payton, rated as one of the top receivers in the country, has a great chance to be one of the conference's receiving leaders coming into 2015. He's a consistent performer and can be explosive when he gets into the open field. It wouldn't be surprising at all to see him as one of the top freshmen performers in the entire country by season's end.