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February 5, 2008

Redshirt freshmen to watch in 2008

With Signing Day looming on Wednesday, college football teams around the nation hope they have done enough to secure signatures from many future stars.

On Signing Day, the prospects and programs will have grandiose dreams of future success. Some of the incoming freshmen will play immediately, and a few of those will big impacts in their first seasons.

Other freshmen - because of injuries, lack of playing time or a redshirt year have to wait their turn before they can make significant contributions.

Here we take a look at five redshirt freshmen from each of the BCS conferences. These players signed with their respective schools last year, but will have their first opportunities to contribute in 2008.

CONFERENCES: ACC | Big East | Big Ten | Big 12 | Pac-10 | SEC

ACC Redshirt Freshmen to Watch
Blake DeChristopher, Virginia Tech, OT
The Hokies need someone to replace Duane Brown at one tackle spot. This former four-star prospect and Aaron Brown are the most likely contenders to fill the void.
Robert Marve, Miami, QB
After hurting his non-throwing shoulder in a car accident last summer, this former four-star prospect has recovered well enough to begin throwing again. The departure of Kyle Wright and the transfer of Kirby Freeman leave Marve as the Hurricanes' likely starting quarterback this fall.
Brandon Maye, Clemson, LB
This former three-star prospect should challenge senior Cortney Vincent for a starting spot at linebacker. At the very least, Maye should earn plenty of playing time as a second-team performer.
Mike Paulus, North Carolina, QB
T.J. Yates threw for 2,655 yards as a redshirt freshman last year, but he won't play at all this spring after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery. If Paulus capitalizes on the opportunity, the former four-star prospect could give North Carolina coach Butch Davis plenty to think about as the season approaches.
Bert Reed, Florida State WR
Greg Carr and Preston Parker return after leading the Seminoles in receiving last year, but Florida State still needs a deep threat to complement that duo. Reed, a former four-star prospect, could be the guy to solve that problem.
Big East Redshirt Freshmen to Watch
Jourdan Brooks, Rutgers, RB
Spring practice will be a key time for the bruising Brooks to stake a claim to the tailback role vacated by Ray Rice. Kordell Young, who opened 2007 as the backup, will miss the spring following knee surgery. Brooks, Mason Robinson and Joe Martinek will vie for playing time.
Chris Jacobson, Pittsburgh, OL
A knee injury derailed Jacobson's 2007 season, but the four-star signee could make an impact now that he is healthy. Jacobson projects as a guard - where Pittsburgh returns both starters. However, coaches might be forced to find a way to get him on the field.
Zack Kiernan, Louisville, DE
The massive redshirt freshman will try to lift a sagging defense that ranked second to last in the Big East in total defense and sacks. The 6-foot-6, 240-pound end steps into a position the Cardinals expected to be filled by Deantwan Whitehead, who suffered a career-ending spinal injury in November.
Julian Miller, West Virginia, DE
Miller could step into the defensive end spot manned by Johnny Dingle last year. Miller, a native of Columbus, Ohio, used his redshirt year to stand out on the scout team and bulk up to 235 pounds.
Quenton Washington, South Florida, CB
Washington played his high school football at North Fort Myers (Fla.), where he was overshadowed by Noel Devine. With star cornerbacks Mike Jenkins and Trae Williams off to the NFL, Washington will push for playing time in the secondary.
Big Ten Redshirt Freshmen to Watch
B.J. Cunningham, Michigan State, WR
Somebody has to replace Devin Thomas, an early enrollee into the NFL Draft, and the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Cunningham is an excellent candidate. Once a three-star recruit, Cunningham is big, athletic and looked good in practice last season.
Stephfon Green, Penn State, RB
The small but speedy Green could emerge as the perfect complement to Evan Royster. Word is the Lions want to open up the offense. Green's speed could help them do that.
D'Angelo McCray, Illinois, DT
A knee injury prevented the former four-star prospect from playing in '07. He's healthy now and the Illini lost two of last year's three-man rotation at tackle.
Al Netter, Northwestern, OL
The Wildcats coaches felt Netter was good enough to play last year, but didn't want to play him as a true freshman. The 6-foot-6, 280-pounder should help fill the void of losing three starters in the offensive line.
Steven Threet, Michigan, QB
With Chad Henne completing his eligibility and Ryan Mallett transferring to Arkansas, the 6-foot-5, 228-pound Threet could be a key player. The former four-star prospect will likely play a starting role for the Wolverines - unless Terrelle Pryor signs with the Wolverines and wins the job.
Big 12 Redshirt Freshmen to Watch
Austin Box, Oklahoma, LB
A quarterback in high school, the former four-star prospect figures to step into the starting lineup at outside linebacker. He's 6-foot-3, 220 pounds with 4.6 speed.
Elvis Fisher, Missouri, OT
The Tigers lose two starters in the offensive line, including tackle Tyler Luellen. The 6-foot-5, 300-pound Fisher is a good bet to fill one of those spots more likely at right tackle.
Marcus Richardson, Oklahoma State, LB
A former three-star prospect, Richardson doesn't have great size, but he does have excellent speed. The Cowboys have vacancies at linebacker and Richardson is a good bet to fill one.
Markques Simas, Colorado, WR
The Buffaloes need to improve their passing offense and the former four-star recruit, rated among the nation's top 20 receivers in the 2007 class by Rivals.com, should help them accomplish that.
Ben Wells, Texas, DB
Both starting safeties are gone from a defense that was vulnerable to the pass. Wells, a former four-star prospect with great speed and athletic ability, could step into a starting role at safety or cornerback.
Pac-10 Redshirt Freshmen to Watch
Chris Galippo, USC, LB
Galippo redshirted last year while the Trojans' talented trio of Keith Rivers, Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing excelled. After sitting out a year, Gallipo - who was ranked the No. 11 player in the class of 2007 - could help ease the departure of Rivers.
Dan Knapp, Arizona State, TE
Knapp sat out last season with elbow surgery. Now healthy, he could give Rudy Carpenter another target in the passing game - especially if he adds some bulk to his 6-foot-5, 230-pound frame.
Ryan McCants, Oregon State, RB
McCants is the favorite to take over for workhorse Yvenson Bernard, who ran for 3,862 career yards. At 6-1 and 225 pounds, McCants has the potential to follow nicely in the footsteps of Steven Jackson and Bernard.
Terrance Pritchett, Oregon, LB
Pritchett should compete for a starting job at outside linebacker, complementing the veterans on the Ducks defense. Pritchett, a four-star signee, should be joined by redshirt freshman Edward Pleasant, who moved from safety.
Apaiata Tuihalamaka, Arizona, LB
The Wildcats will be hard-pressed to replace starting outside linebackers Spencer Larsen - a Rivals.com all-conference performer, and Dane Krogstad. A Rivals250 member, Tuihalamaka was the top signee in Arizona's 2007 class.
SEC Redshirt Freshmen to Watch
Stephen Garcia, South Carolina, QB
Considering South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier's penchant for quick changes at the quarterback spot, you have to think this former four-star prospect eventually will get the chance to unseat Chris Smelley.
Phelon Jones and John Williams, LSU, CBs
The defending national champions must find two new starting cornerbacks to replace the departed Chevis Jackson and Jonathan Zenon. These two four-star prospects are certainly in the mix to fill those spots.
Caleb King, Georgia, RB
Knowshon Moreno obviously will be the Bulldogs' featured back, but Mark Richt likes to make sure at least two guys get plenty of carries. Richt's philosophy should create quite a few opportunities for King, a former four-star prospect and Georgia's only other returning scholarship running back.
Deonte Thompson, Florida, WR
The Gators need a wideout who can take the pressure off Percy Harvin and fill the big-play void created by Andre Caldwell's departure. This former four-star prospect could emerge as the best candidate.
Alex Watkins, Alabama, LB
This former four-star prospect has a decent shot of replacing the departed Keith Saunders at outside linebacker. Watkins will have to beat out junior Brandon Fanney and sophomore Charlie Kirschman and must also hold off challenges from the Tide's exceptional incoming recruiting class.



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