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Top Impact Freshmen in College Football for 2017

By Joe Drake

Back in the day, incoming freshmen never contributed to the football teams they signed with. They arrived on campus, put in the summer work, went through camp and redshirted their first seasons before hoping to crack the starting 11 in year 2. It’s just the way it was. And for those that did break the mold and saw the field early on, they weren’t big time contributors, that’s for sure. That’s why the Heisman trophy was almost exclusively won by seniors until recently.

Then, the youth movement began in 2007 when Tim Tebow became the first sophomore to win the award followed by Johnny “Football” Manziel who became the first redshirt freshman to win it in 2012. The youth movement isn’t likely to slow down anytime soon, so let’s take a look at the freshmen with the best chance to make an impact in college football in 2017.

Cam Akers, Running Back, Florida State

How do the Seminoles replace the best back in school history? By signing one of the best players in the country, of course! When you’re a national powerhouse, that’s just how you roll, I suppose.

Cam Akers was a 5-star running back recruit coming out of Clinton, Mississippi and was ranked in the top 3 at his position and top 10 overall in his class. You could say he was highly touted. While FSU’s Jacque Patrick is a near lock to win the starting role, Akers could very well become the lightning to Patrick’s thunder as he begins to fill Cook’s shoes. He brings size and strength at 5’11” and 212-pounds as well as blazing speed (4.44 40-yard dash) and it’s hard to keep that kind of talent off the field, even at Florida State.

Jeffrey Okudah, Defensive Back, Ohio State

Surprise, surprise, the Ohio State Buckeyes have landed one of the best defensive back recruits in the country. The Buckeyes have a habit of turning their defensive backs into 1st round picks in the NFL draft and that’s exactly why Okudah has a terrific chance of finding himself in a starting spot come September.

He’s a 5-star recruit out of Texas and one of the biggest reasons he chose to play his home games at the Horseshoe is because he knew he’d have a shot at a starting role right away. Okudah has the athleticism to play both corner and safety, which only increases his chances of seeing the field.

Donovan Peoples-Jones, Wide Receiver, Michigan

Last but not least, we’ve got one of the best athletes in the class, Donovan Peoples-Jones. He might also be the most likely to be a major contributor in 2017. Why? Frankly, because the Wolverines will need him to be.

Obviously, Peoples-Jones is a tremendous talent, but Michigan is losing their top 3 receivers from a year ago and will be in need of quality pass-catching talent right away. With an established quarterback in Wilton Speight slinging passes, Peoples-Jones will have all the opportunity he wants to elevate himself to star status as soon as he wants. Watch out for him and don’t be surprised if he competes for the top spot in receiving yards in the Big Ten in 2017.

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