(Director of Scouting):
I think the easiest transition from high school to college is at the running back position. Running backs require the least amount of skill and the most amount of instincts. Great backs don't typically develop -- they're born and recruited.
Duke Johnson (5-9/190) of Miami, Fla., stayed home and signed with the Miami Hurricanes. He is a complete back who can go between the tackles and be a plus receiver out of the backfield. He has terrific balance, vision, patience and toughness.
Johnson is a special talent who would push for playing time no matter who was on the roster, but there is a particular need for him at Miami with an otherwise thin depth chart. I look for Duke Johnson to make a big splash as a true freshman in 2012.
I could name a number of guys out of the South, but John Theus was the top prospect for Scout in my region, and I expect him to start at Georgia as a true freshman.
He will arrive in Athens in June and he will immediately be one of the top two or three offensive linemen on the team. He could start at right tackle or left tackle very early in his career because of his size and ability and because of Georgia’s need at that position.
Theus is a very intelligent lineman, he knows the position very well, he has the body to play early, and as long as he picks up the speed of the game and learns the blocking scheme, he will be a fix on Georgia’s line immediately.
The first name that pops to mind is 2012's top-ranked national prospect Dorial Green-Beckham, who signed with Missouri. He will be hard to keep off of the field, but it may actually be fellow wide receiver Trey Metoyer who has the biggest impact on the field for Oklahoma in 2012.
Metoyer, like Green-Beckham a Scout.com five-star recruit, signed with Oklahoma out of Whitehouse High in Texas in 2011, but had to spend a prep year at Hargrave Military Academy to get his academics right. The extra discipline and work he received allowed him to come in to Norman as a mid-year enrollee and fight for a starting job vacated by Ryan Broyles. he had a lot of success in spring practices, proving why he was rated so highly coming out of high school.
With future NFL arm Landry Jones distributing the ball, Metoyer could put up major numbers as a true freshman.
Sacramento (Calif.) Grant defensive back Shaq Thompson de-committing from Cal and signing with Washington last January was one of the biggest recruiting stories of the year. Thompson was not only the top safety in the West last year, but you can make an argument that he's the top safety prospect to come out the region in the last decade.
Not only should he start from day one in the secondary for the Huskies, Thompson has the talent to compete for freshman All-American and all Pac-12 honors.
Thompson has a college body right now, superior athleticism, is a huge hitter and has the football instincts needed to step in and make an early impact. He's versatile enough to play either safety position and even has the size to move up in to the box and play some outside linebacker in certain situations to take advantage of match-ups.
Ellis McCarthy was the nation’s No. 2-ranked defensive tackle, and the crown jewel in UCLA’s recruiting class for 2012. The five-star comes in at a major position of need for the Bruins, a position that, frankly, they’ve not recruited well at historically.
The 6-4, 318-pound McCarthy, who was stellar during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl week, is a perfect fit for the Bruins’ defensive line, and with UCLA running the 3-4 this season, he can plug in at end or at tackle, for UCLA.