If you haven’t checked out the P5 underclassmen mock draft that Daniel (@fantasybcs) and I (@putboobiein) did you should check that out here. In this article I am going to mention some “small school” guys that could make an immediate impact as true freshman. Last year Jarvion Franklin was an absolute monster for Western Michigan and will very likely make dynasty owners very happy over the next few seasons. My apologies for only mentioning incoming freshmen and not including redshirts, but after some research here are the “G5” freshmen I have my eyes on:
Brett Rypien (Boise State) – Will compete for the starting gig as a true freshmen. Rypien was highly rated nationally on recruiting services across the web. Boise State is a very good if not great football program, and receiving a commitment from Rypien further backs that. The early enrollee held offers from Arizona State, Mississippi State, Washington, and Washington State to name a few, yet decided to take his talents to Boise. This system might take awhile to pick up, but Rypien is definitely a candidate to start day one. As is the case with a lot of these non-p5 commits, I’m sure early playing time was a large part in their reasoning to choose to play where they did. After saying that, who wouldn’t want to quarterback the Broncos? Rypien has a chance to be something special.
Chason Virgil (Fresno State) – Virgil’s offer list is impressive for anyone, let alone a quarterback at Fresno State. I’m not familiar with how Virgil’s recruiting process went down, so I’m sure he was offered at positions other than QB but his offer list included the likes of: Auburn, Clemson, Oklahoma, and UCLA to name a few. Like I said, I know nothing about the extent of these offers but it tells you the type of athlete he is. Virgil was a previous Mississippi State commit. He was an early enrollee at Fresno State, and currently is in a 3-way battle for the starting QB gig with junior Zach Greenlee and redshirt freshman Kilton Anderson. Fresno State has a history of some very productive quarterbacks, if Virgil wins the job I don’t see why he can’t do the same.
Chad President (Tulsa) – President has been on my radar ever since he was committed to Baylor. Baylor received a commitment from Jarrett Stidham and President soon after committed to Tulsa. Much like Virgil, President is a very talented athlete who also had a respectable P5 offers including: Texas and Texas Tech. Rivals.com had President rated as their #9 dual threat quarterback. In his two year career, current starter Dane Evans has a 27/27 TD/INT which indicates Presidents potential for early playing is certainly there.
Ben Hicks (SMU) – Elite 11 finalist, chose SMU over Indiana and Texas Tech. New SMU head coach Chad Morris was quoted as saying, “SMU’s resurgence was going to circle back to Hicks.” I’m a pretty big fan of Morris’ coaching success as the offensive coordinator at Clemson. Hicks will compete with returning starter Matt Davis this fall. Davis is the favorite as of right now to be the starter, but his play last year was far from stellar. Hicks could be a big time contributor day one.
John Jacobs (ECU) – With the departures of Shane Carden, Justin Hardy, Breon Allen, and offensive coordinator Lincoln Reilly, ECU’s offense has a lot of question marks entering next season. I don’t expect a huge change in offensive philosophy as Dave Nichol was hired “in house”. Jacobs committed during the spring of his junior year and stuck with that commitment despite the coaching change. Jacobs wasn’t highly touted on any recruiting services but he appears to be a very nice athlete with dual threat capabilities. ECU has been and will continue to be an “Air Raid” offense, so the potential for fantasy output is certainly there if Jacobs emerges as a starter in his career.
Dion Ray (Loiusiana Lafayette) – Ray is another outstanding athlete who wanted to continue playing quarterback. He held offers from Arizona State, California, Kansas State, Ole Miss, and Mississippi State to name a few. Terrance Broadway is now gone so an opportunity awaits the true freshman. From the rumblings I’ve read across the web, it sounds like Ray will likely redshirt but looked very good in spring camp, and head coach Mark Hudspeth has yet to name a starter. Ray could definitely emerge as a capable fantasy quarterback in the future if given the opportunity.
James Morgan (Bowling Green) – Morgan will likely redshirt with Matt Johnson and James Knapke returning, but depending on how deep your league is he could be worth a stash. Bowling Green has a very explosive offense that is quarterback friendly. Morgan led the state of Wisconsin in passing as a senior in high school while throwing for 3,424 yards and 34 touchdowns. Head coach Dino Babers must be thrilled with the addition of Morgan, as he was regarded on a number of recruiting services. ESPN had him rated as a 4 star prospect. His mix of talent and his offensive system are a recipe for success in fantasy. A lot can happen, but Morgan appears to have a bright collegiate career ahead of him.
Tyriek Gray (Houston) – In Tom Herman’s first ever recruiting class at the University of Houston, he made some noise by landing Tyriek Gray. Gray’s offer list included: Baylor, Georgia, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin. Gray was rated as the 26th running back in the class of 2015. Gray is from Houston which I’m sure played a huge role in his commitment to UH, but Tom Herman’s recent successes as an offensive coordinator certainly helped as well I’m sure. Under Herman, Carlos Hyde ran for 1,521 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2013, and in 2014 Ezekiel Elliot guided Ohio State to a national championship while accounting for 1,878 yards and 18 touchdowns. I think its safe to say this system is running back friendly, and Gray is a huge talent and get for Houston. Senior Kenneth Farrow will likely be the starter after running for 1,037 yards and 14 touchdowns last year, but don’t sleep on Gray’s talent level.
Jae’lon Ogelsby (Memphis) – Ogelsby (class of 2014) was a four star recruit on a number of recruiting services and was ranked in the top 25 for the running back position on just about all of them. He signed a letter of intent to play at Clemson, but then came NCAA clearing house issues. Last year he worked on academics at a prep school and now finds himself enrolled at the University of Memphis. Last year’s leading rusher Brandon Hayes, is now graduated so an opportunity for early playing time will most definitely be available for Ogelsby. I think this offense is very underrated and I actually think pretty highly of Paxton Lynch in terms of fantasy production. If Ogelsby does see a significant chunk of playing time, I think will be productive in year one. If I were to guess, he’s the most talented back on this team.
Romello Ross (Central Michigan) – In nine games Thomas Rawls ran for over 1,100 yards and 9 touchdowns last year. Rawls has now graduated so there will be a void to fill in the Chippewa backfield in 2015. Rawls was suspended for some of last year, and freshman Devon Spalding filled in nicely, he had back to back 140+ yard/2 touchdown weeks in early November, but I anticipate Romello Ross will get a chance to compete for carries as well. Ross was one of the better players in the Detroit area and was four-time all state recipient in the state of Michigan. Ross is known for his good ball skills coming out of the backfield. Definitely a guy to keep an eye on in dynasty leagues.
Shawn Furlow (ECU) – Furlow had a number of legit ACC offers including Clemson, Duke, Louisville, and North Carolina. Now that Breon Allen has graduated the door is open for Furlow to play right away. This offense isn’t an incredibly run friendly offense, but it has been high scoring and efficient. ECU lost a lot of key contributors last year (Carden, Hardy, Allen) which benefits a guy like Furlow. I’m sure his decision to play at ECU weighed heavily on his opportunity to be an instant contributor.
James Gilbert (Ball State) – Jawhan Edwards has now graduated. Gilbert flipped during the recruiting process from Western Michigan to Ball State. It wasn’t a bad move since he would more than likely backup Jarvion Franklin for the foreseeable future. He chose to play at Ball State with the opportunity for early playing time and enrolled this spring. If Gilbert does play right away he will have big shoes to fill, Jawhan Edwards ran for 4,558 yards and 51 touchdowns in his career. Edwards was a real nice player but those stat lines also indicate this system is pretty RB friendly.
Walter Williams (Lousiana Lafayette) – Williams was an early enrollee at ULL, and so far has made quite the impression in spring camp. The Rajun Cajun’s return Elijah McGuire, but lost their other part to their two headed backfield in Alonzo Harris. Both Harris and McGuire were both “Sunbelt Freshman of the Year” winners in their rookie campaigns. Could Williams be the next? With the history of success at the RB position at ULL, Williams could certainly be worth a stash in fantasy.
Others: Juwan Washington (San Diego State), Johnathan Hawkins (Buffalo)
Kanya Bell (San Jose State) – Bell was a four star recruit on a number of recruiting services, and rated as high as the #13 WR in the country on ESPN.com. His offer list included: Arizona State, Nebraska, UCLA, & USC to name a few. Bell possesses a lot of speed and is great at eluding defenders in the open field. Last year this offense had over 3,000 yards through the air, and leading WR, Tyler Ervin had 78 receptions. Bell will likely be a solid contributor during his freshman year and has great long term upside.
Tristan Payton (Central Florida) – UCF has had some very good talent over the past couple years; based off Tristan Payton’s offer list, he will more than likely add to that collection. Payton held offers from: Auburn, Florida, Ohio State, and USC to name a few and he finds himself in a very favorable position for day one playing time. UCF’s top four receivers (Perriman, Reese, Worton, and Hall) from last year are no longer on campus. If Payton’s as good as advertised he could be the number one receiving threat as soon as he sets foot on campus.
James Proche (SMU) – Proche held offers from: Louisville, Maryland, and TCU. His offer list isn’t the only thing that makes Proche appealing; the addition of Chad Morris at SMU should bode well for the SMU offense. I know there’s a difference between being a coordinator and being a head coach but Morris was one of the best OC’s in the country over the past few seasons. His offenses at Clemson always had great offensive output, the wide receiver talent he helped developed at Clemson was about as good as it gets. Proche could be a big time playmaker, and could be very relevant in fantasy. SMU will be an exciting offense to watch develop in the near future.
Deondre Farrier (ECU) – Farrier was once committed to the University of Florida, outside of the Gators his offer list included Kentucky, Miami, Minnesota, and USC. ECU graduated NCAA record holder Justin Hardy, as well as Cam Worthy at WR so playing time should be attainable for Farrier. Another interesting name to keep in mind on this offense is juco transfer James Summers. Summers was a 4-star recruit coming out of high school but ended up going the juco route due to academic issues, and was an ultra productive DT QB in the juco ranks, he’ll convert to WR this season. The ECU offense probably won’t be as productive as it was the last couple seasons, but it should still be relevant.
Desean Holmes (San Diego State) – If you were impressed with Kanya Bell’s offer list, Desean Holmes’ was virtually identical. With offers from Arizona State, Cal, Mississippi State, Nebraska, Oklahoma, UCLA, and USC, its easy to tell Holmes could be very productive in his collegiate career. The number one pass catching threat at SDSU, Ezell Ruffin graduated last season. Holmes could be asked to step into a big role right off the bat. Last season Ruffin was hurt for a good part of the year, but in 2013 he caught 68 passes for 1,136 yards, which indicates the potential is there to flourish in this system as a WR.
Akilian Butler (Boise State) – When a Boise State commit has a Clemson offer he needs to be recognized in this. Butler is an undersized play maker much like Shane Williams Rhodes, who could develop into a very nice player. In PPR leagues, a guy like Williams-Rhodes is very useful. With the loss of Jay Ajayi, Matt Miller, and Grant Hedrick, the Broncos will have to reload on offense. I would’ve mentioned fellow incoming freshman Raymond Sheard, but shortly after I wrote this article he was arrested and scholarship was released from Boise State and if this article included RS Freshman I would’ve surely mentioned RB Cory Young, as I’ve read some good things about him. Regardless, Boise State should still continue to have a productive offense.
James Gardner (Miami-Ohio) – Gardner is a big target, he stands at 6’4, 190 lbs. The Redhawks lost WR David Frazier to graduation, last season caught 59 passes for 949 yards and 5 TDs. Miami is also lost QB Andrew Hendrix. The offense threw for 277 yards per game last season, but had trouble finding the end zone. A big lengthy receiver such as Gardner could help with those woes this season.
Justice Murphy (Wyoming) – Murphy had offers from Oregon State, Utah, and Washington State among others. The Cowboys also lost their two top WR’s from a year ago in Dominic Rufran and Jalen Claiborne. Craig Bohl’s transition to Wyoming from North Dakota State wasn’t the smoothest in the world, but the man created an absolute monster of a program at NDSU. I would expect the Cowboys to take a step forward this year as a team, and think their offense will improve as well. Murphy is in a good place to be an instant contributor.
Others: Quin Jernighan (Western Kentucky), Levante Bellamy (Western Michigan), Spencer Tears (Northern Illinois)