Instant impact players in the 2009 class
J.T. Turner is heading to Ann Arbor
J.T. Turner is heading to Ann Arbor

Posted Feb 4, 2009


Prospects become "instant impact" players for a number of reasons. Some players are five stars whose potential and playmaking ability help them make a seamless transition from high school to college. Others are the beneficiaries of graduation and/or a change of coaching philosophy, among other things. Each of our experts picked three recruits who they believe will make a splash in 2009.

Brandon Huffman, West Regional Manager:

CB Cliff Harris, Edison (Fresno, Calif.) High School
Committed to Oregon

Harris is the premier lockdown corner in the West and may be the best pure cover corner in the country. With the loss of Jairus Byrd to the NFL Draft, Oregon could certainly use Harris early in his career, and with his ability to clamp down on receivers, despite usual size differences, it wouldn't be surprising to see Harris thrust into the limelight early. Defensive backs from Edison HS in Fresno are typically among the most polished and college ready, and you rarely see any who redshirt (Robert Golden at Arizona, Ricky Manning Jr at UCLA), so Harris should be ready to play as a true freshman for the Ducks.

TE Morrell Presley, Carson Senior (Carson, Calif.) High School
Committed to UCLA

One of the new, prototype tight ends who are becoming more prevalent in the game, Presley is a field-stretching target who catches just about anything thrown to him. At 6-4, 225, he's got good size if you line him up in the slot. He's got legit 4.5 speed, nice soft hands, good burst and a physical nature to his game. He's also a very good blocker, but UCLA didn't woo him away from USC to have him be a glorified offensive lineman. Norm Chow will find a way to get Presley the ball and UCLA may have their best target at tight end since Marcedes Lewis won the Mackey Award in 2005.

Manti Te'o
LB Manti Te'o, Punahou (Honolulu) School
Committed to Notre Dame/b>
It's been a big year for Punahou HS in Honolulu. They won their first state title in football, an alum was elected President of the United States and it was named one of the most prestigious athletic programs in the country. But no story has been bigger for Punahou than Manti Te'o, who may be the most decorated and touted recruit to ever come from the Islands. Te'o has the build of a linebacker and the speed of a safety and hits like both. He excels in coverage, is great against the run and is what a college coach draws up when he puts together the perfect linebacker. Wherever he ends up, Notre Dame, USC or UCLA, he'll see the field immediately. He almost has to, since he plans to take an LDS mission following his freshman season.

Baron Flenory, Midland Regional Manager:

RB Bryce Brown, East (Wichita, Kan.) High School
Soft commitment to Miami

The nations No. 1 rated prospect was the first person who popped into my mind when I started looking for "instant impact" players. At 6-foot-0, 210 pounds, Brown is as electric a player as you will find as he has all of the attributes you want to find in a running back; speed, quickness, vision, balance, body control, hands, and explosiveness. Brown, a soft verbal commit to Miami, has the skills to fit into any scheme and the wherewithal to pick up an offense quickly. At the U.S. Army All-American bowl, Brown appeared to be playing at a different speed than his counterparts. This showed me that the change of speed from high school to college will not be a major issue for Brown. There will be the obvious need for adjusting to the college level however, I don't think it will take Brown long to figure it out. All things considered, Brown will be a star at whichever school he decides to attend.

Alex Okafor
DE Alex Okafor, Pflugervile (Pflugerville, Texas) High School
Committed to Texas

Okafor is a relentless defensive end who is extremely explosive at the point of attack. At the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, Okafor saw his stock soar after he put together a week's worth of dominating performances against the nations elite. After witnessing Okafor's dominance at the USAAB, it become obvious that he was a special talent. However, talent does not always equal success as a true freshman. With that said, Okafor has the deck stacked in his favor. Committed to Texas, Okafor is walking into a situation of open competition as the Longhorns lose their two starting DEs in Brian Orakpo and Henry Melton. Okafor is also an early enrollee and will have spring ball to not only learn the defensive but to also compete for a spot. He will use the spring to adjust to the college game and will be ready to compete in next years home opener vs. Louisiana-Monroe.

OG Ivory Wade, Dickinson (Dickinson, Texas) High School
Committed to Baylor

Wade is not a household name like Brown and Okafor and he is not going to a traditional power like Brown and Okafor. However, do not be fooled, this player's impact on his team may be far more pronounced than the other two's impact. When Baylor sat down to map out their recruiting strategy, head coach Art Brilies made it clear that he wanted to get better in the trenches and that the focus of the recruiting class would be based around that. So the Baylor staff put their efforts into landing offensive linemen that could come in and help out immediately. At the top of the board was, then-Texas A&M commit, Ivory Wade. After months of recruiting, Wade switched his commitment, and the staff feels like they have landed a special one. Wade is an offensive guard from Dickinson (TX) High School and is the highest rated three-star prospect in the country. He is massive but has good footwork and is quite agile for his size. In Baylor's offensive, linemen have to be able to move and that plays into Wade's strengths. He will be a welcome addition the line that must protect QB phenom Robert Griffin. Wade will be up to the challenge.

Chad Simmons, South Recruiting Analyst:

Rueben Randle
WR Rueben Randle, Bastrop (Bastrop, La.) High School
Committed to LSU

Randle is one of the premier athletes in the country. He can do everything well and he has the size, speed, and athleticism to be one of the best on the next level. Playing wide receiver will come natural to him even though he has been playing quarterback in high school. He will need to improve his route running, blocking, and just the little things, but those things will not keep him off the field in 2009. The five-star will pick up things quickly and become an impact player early in his career.

He had a great week at corner.
CB Branden Smith, Washington (Atlanta) High School
Committed to Georgia

Smith is one of the most electric athletes I covered in 2008. When he walks onto the field, his presense is felt. He brings a lot of confidence, a lot of attitude, and a lot of ability to the football field. There are a couple of things -- like weight and reps -- that he will need to add when he gets to UGA. He just wasn't tested much in high school at corner because he locked down the team's top receiver. He will need to get heavier to be better against the run and in press coverage. Smith will make an early impact in Athens on defense and special teams.

Jacobbi McDaniel
DL Jacobbi McDaniel, Madison County (Madison, Fla.) High School
Committed to FSU

McDaniel is a beast on the defensive line. Yes, he is a little undersized, but he uses that to his advantage. He has a great burst off the ball, has strong punch and really plays with great leverage. There is really nothing he doesn't do well and that will get him on the field early at Florida State. He gets off blocks well and moves down the line laterally while he can get up the field in a hurry and pressure the quarterback. It was a huge day when the 'Noles landed the top interior defensive lineman in the country and it will pay off for them quickly.

Bob Lichtenfels, North Regional Manager:

J.T. Turner
CB J.T. Turner, Washington (Massillon, Ohio) High School
Committed to Michigan

Michigan needs help in the secondary, especially at the safety position. Turner was projected by many to play safety in college, but after he demonstrated superior cover skills at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, it forced a lot of us to change our mind. Turner can play corner and it would not be a surprise to see him at either position. Expect him to play early.



QB Tate Forcier, Scripps Ranch (San Diego)
Committed to Michigan

The Wolverines are in desperate need of a quarterback to run the Rich Rodriguez offense and with a rebuilding team why not build around a young quarterback? Forcier comes from a football family and he will receive a baptism by fire in Ann Arbor. It is tough for a freshman to shine at quarterback, but the Wolverines don't have many options so expect it to be Forcier's team from day one.

Tavon Austin
RB Tavon Austin, Paul Laurence Dunbar (Baltimore) High School
Committed to West Virginia

Austin may be the most electrifying player in the country in the open field. He is a threat to score from anywhere and he can play running back or the slot position. He also has a chance to immediately contribute on special teams as a return man. With a player like Austin, you cannot let him sit, so don't expect Bill Stewart to let that happen either.



Allen Wallace, National Editor:

DL Sheldon Richardson, Gateway (St. Louis)
Committed to Missouri

Richardson's versatility and athleticism mark him as a prospect who should contribute quickly at Missouri, where he has been committed since June. Several schools have tried to change the St. Louis native’s mind, with Florida, Tennessee and USC making futile, late charges and Miami (Jan. 30 official trip) appealing to his desire to play tight end over defense. Missouri coaches want him to compete early at either spot. Richardson’s a very explosive player, equipped with long arms and great feet. His fantastic quickness should give the SuperPrep Midlands Defensive Player of the Year a tremendous advantage coming off the edge in college.

Craig Loston
DB Craig Loston, Eisenhower (Houston) High School
Committed to LSU

Loston is a phenomenal Texas safety who uses his intimidating size and aggressiveness to rule the secondary. An early pledge to Clemson who decommitted to LSU in early January, Loston figures to get an early crack at playing for Les Miles. SuperPrep’s Southwest Defensive Player of the Year showed undeniable instincts and athletic ability in the Under Armour All-America game, where he shined. He’s a straight-up head-hunter with superior vertical ability. Loston has a 36-inch vertical jump on a 6-foot-1 frame and has over a 10 foot standing broad jump as well.

Jelani Jenkins
LB Jelani Jenkins, Our Lady Good Counsel (Olney, Md.) High School
Committed to Florida
Jenkins, the No. 1 recruit in Maryland and Scout.com’s No. 1 weak outside linebacker, shows defensive back speed and burst at the line of scrimmage. He’s quick, powerful, tough, explosive and when he hits you, he’s in a bad mood. A phenomenal all-around football player, Jenkins not only had over 100 tackles as a senior, he also rushed for 644 yards and scored 22 touchdowns. SuperPrep’s MidAtlantic Defensive Player of the Year figures to make an early impact in college because he is also a superior student (reportedly carrying a 4.0 GPA) who will adjust quickly to college life.

Check out our photo gallery of the 15 instant impact players.




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