This week combines a look behind to February with a look ahead to September. The question is: which member (or members) of the 2019 recruiting class will make an impact for the 2019 football season as true freshmen? What impact means can be up to interpretation and more than one can be mentioned if a few are expected to contribute.
Matt: I’m going to take the easy answer for Fresno State and say Jalen Cropper. The WR corps is so young after all the departures, and an athlete like that provides a new dimension that Grubb will hopefully exploit. They did some work last year with using receivers on jet sweeps, and Cropper seems built for that kind of play as a diversion. I’ll also toss in Peyton Dixon at RB. With Josh Hokit making the move over to LB, the backfield needs a bruising back that can hit between the tackles. That’s what Dixon did in Nevada when he was setting state records, so I’d expect him to fill that bowling-ball back role for the Bulldogs going forward.
Zach: Boise State frequently plays true freshman running backs, that makes George Holani an obvious choice. He has an opportunity to be the number two guy to Andrew Van Buren. I think Casey Kline and Lolani Langi have an excellent chance to play. Linebacker is one of the thinnest positions for the Broncos and both of these guys were huge gets. Last but not least is Hank Bachmeier, this one is a little tougher to evaluate. Bachmeier was an elite prospect with an impressive offer list. Bachmeier’s role will likely be determined by the health of Chase Cord.
Alex: The Aggies bring in a great freshman class this year. Out of that group, there are two incoming guys that I think can play a role this season.
One is an offensive lineman: Hunter Hill. The Aggies lost almost every piece to a dominant OL from last season, and it’s time for the next man up to fill the empty slots. Hill is the second-highest rated recruit this year behind ILB Christian LaValle, per 247sports. He towers over people at 6’7” inches and has good size at 275 lbs. Obviously he’s raw, but if the need is there (which it basically is) he could play immediately.
The other key freshman is ATH Jaymason WIllingham. This prospect is interesting. He comes in as an athlete but played a ton at running back in high school. He’s 6’3”, which isn’t an ideal height for a college half-back, but it is for a college wideout. Utah State needs more receiving options for QB Jordan Love after the departure of so many playmakers from last year’s passing game. The need for more pass-catchers could boost Willingham up the depth chart if he can show that he can play at a high level from the get-go.
Austin: San Jose State has a lot of defense to replace. In the secondary, look for Stan Livingstone Jr. to replace Dakari Monroe at the safety slot. He’s a fantastic athlete that played both sides of the ball in high school. His explosive speed makes him able to cover almost anybody on the field, and his ball-skills will be huge for the Spartans, a team that is desperate to create turnovers. His pure speed makes him an eligible candidate to replace Thai Cottrell in the return game as well.
Josh Oliver’s departure to the NFL leaves a hole at tight end. Enter Dominick Mazotti, SJSU’s top-rated recruit in its 2019 class. He’s a bit of a wild card. Listed as an ATH, Mazotti will transition to tight end after spending most of his high school career as a quarterback. He’s listed at 6-foot-4 and 232 pounds, which means he has the size to make the transition. In his time at the tight end position towards the tail end of his senior year, he played physical and had solid hands. His skills as a quarterback also open up part of the offense. Head coach Brent Brennan started to open up the playbook a bit and pull out trick plays with more liberty towards the end of last season, and Mazotti’s presence on the field gives Brennan another toy to tinker with.
Alex W: Defense will be an area of focus for UNLV coming into the 2019 season. The Rebels gave up 40 or more points six times last season, all of those games resulted in losses. UNLV gained several junior college transfers that will make an immediate impact. However, there are freshmen that will be critical as the Rebels seek improvement on the defensive side of the ball. One of them is Seth Robinson, he is a three-star prospect from Saguaro High School in Arizona. He is 6-foot-3, and had 75 tackles and 6 ½ sacks in his senior season. UNLV will look to utilize Robinson as a defensive linemen. Coach Tony Sanchez loves Robinson’s speed, and also praises his ability to use his hands while rushing the passer. Pressuring the passer will be critical for UNLV as they hope to limit big plays.
UNLV also brought in a pair of linebackers that will play important supporting roles for the Rebels. Jacoby Windmon is another three-star prospect who is from New Orleans. Sanchez believes Windom can continually get bigger and better, and he can be a dynamic piece for the Rebels on defense. Kyle Beaudry is a Southern Nevada prospect from Liberty High School in Henderson, Nevada. Beaudry had 59 tackles and three sacks in his senior season. He is a very physical player and a dynamic striker, and Sanchez feels Beaudry can be an immediate factor. UNLV already has a veteran presence at the linebacking core. Windmon and Beaudry will look to lean on those veterans in their first year. They will also bring in their own skills to help UNLV become a defensive force in the Mountain West.
Alex Valle: Boise State has a huge hole to fill at quarterback entering the 2019 season. Brett Rypien finished his college career winning the 2018 MWC Offensive Player of the Year and picked up by the Broncos after the NFL Draft. There will now be a battle for the starting quarterback position between sophomore Chase Chord and freshman Hank Bachmeier. Chord suffered a torn ACL last season, which gives Bachmeier a perfect opportunity to claim the starting spot. After having maybe his worst season at Murrieta Valley High as a senior, Bachmeier still threw 3,149 yards, 32 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. If Bachmeier is able to continue his dominance as he did during his whole high school career, the Broncos could have another NFL prospect leading their offense for the 2019 season.
Terrance: After last season Colorado State will be looking for some impact freshmen. The biggest will come from the defensive side of the ball. Xavier Goldsmith will be someone who will likely get some playing time at corner. He will likely play inside to start the season against slot receivers. He is a players that comes in with a lot of hype so it will be exciting to see him play. Another player that should make an instant impact is Tyreese Jackson. He’s a running back from Louisiana that could get some looks early. Coach Bobo will give every freshmen to make an instant impact and he should be able to. He rushed for nearly 2000 career yards. Seeing how the running back situation will be unsettled going into fall camp, Jackson should have a chance to get some carries.
FatDuckUW: Wyoming has some candidates to see the field. The most likely positions where depth is shallow enough that you’ll see a true freshman emerge are probably RB & DL. Still, from the spring depth chart, I think any freshman who gets playing time will be 2nd or 3rd string. The Cowboys have enough depth that I don’t currently think a true freshman comes in and wins a starting position this fall.