At schools like Florida State and Clemson, four- and five-star recruits waltz onto campus every year. This year’s superstar-in-waiting is competing with last year’s hotshot, who has spent a full year in the system and in the strength and conditioning program. It gives those with multiple years on campus the upper hand in the quest for playing time.
But the two ACC powers had a large amount of contributors leave the program after last season, leaving holes to fill. Both the Seminoles and the Tigers have freshmen ready to show that they can make an impact in 2015.
Of course, the other ACC programs have standout freshmen ready to roll as well. Here is a list of some of the top freshmen to watch in the ACC in 2015.
Derwin James, S, Florida State
How do you get to be considered one of the best safety prospects of the last decade? Standing 6-foot-3, weighing 212, running like a wide receiver, and bench-pressing 405 pounds before your 19th birthday is a good start. James could team with Jalen Ramsey to give the Seminoles two freak athletes in the secondary.
Mitch Hyatt, OT, Clemson
If Deshaun Watson is not pressured from the blind side, you’re going to hear about Hyatt. If Watson is continually getting crunched from behind, you’re going to hear about Hyatt. Either way, you’re going to hear about Hyatt.
Josh Sweat, DE, Florida State
Sweat was one of the top prospects in America coming out of Chesapeake, Va. A terrible knee injury suffered last September led everyone to believe that a redshirt year was waiting in Tallahassee. However, Sweat is practicing with the Seminoles and it is possible that he could play this year.
Nyheim Hines, WR, North Carolina State
At worst, Hines is going to give the Wolfpack a boost in the return game. If Saturday’s scrimmage is any indication, he should be able to provide a whole lot more. The 5-foot-9, 190-pounder had a long touchdown reception and could be another valuable asset for quarterback Jacoby Brissett.
Christian Wilkins, DL, Clemson
Clemson lost a lot of bodies off last year’s defensive front seven. Wilkins looks like he is going to grab a spot in the rotation. The 6-foot-5, 299-pound, five-star prospect has been very impressive this August.
Jalen Dalton, DE, North Carolina
The early enrollee did enough in spring practice to put himself in contention for a starting position this fall. The Tar Heels’ defense needs an influx of talent and talent is something Dalton has.
Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
Alexander started impressing the Louisville staff the moment he stepped on campus in January. The Charlotte, N.C., product exited spring ball on the two-deep and now he is pressing to be one of the four new starters in the Cardinals’ secondary.
Ray Ray McCloud, RB, Clemson
The Tampa product has shown some versatility by being able to catch the ball coming out of the backfield. That is a good way for McCloud get on the field as a reserve for starter Wayne Gallman.
C.J. Stalker, LB, Virginia
The Ohio native came to Charlottesville with a four-star reputation and so far he has performed. The Cavaliers have to replace all three linebackers and in the spring Stalker staked his claim to the weak-side position. He has shined again in preseason camp, so a starting spot is likely.
Jordan Whitehead, S, Pittsburgh
There is a chance that Whitehead is a starting safety by the end of the season. He has also been getting reps as a return man. The Pittsburgh staff knows that he is a special talent that has to be utilized in some way.
Mavin Saunders/Ryan Izzo, TE, Florida State
One of the two will start in place of the departed Nick O’Leary. Both will play. Saunders is the more dynamic athlete; Izzo is more fundamentally sound. Jimbo Fisher likes to use the tight end, so both will be featured at times.
Corey Martinez, C, Florida State
Martinez is above fellow redshirt freshman Alec Eberle on the depth chart. The 6-foot-4, 295-pounder has drawn high praise from the coaching staff and seems to have the position locked down.
Chris Taylor, WR, Duke
No one is going to completely fill the void left by the graduations of Jamison Crowder and Isaac Blakeney. Taylor, however, can be one of the main cogs in the Duke passing game this season. An unheralded recruit out of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the 6-foot-1, 180-pounder hopes to team with Max McCaffrey in the same way Crowder and Blakeney did for the Blue Devils.
Kendall Joseph, LB, Clemson
So far this camp, Korrin Wiggins has been injured and lost for the season and Korie Rogers has decided that he no longer wants to play football. Clemson needs Joseph to emerge as a quality linebacker.
Holland Fisher, LB, Virginia Tech
Fisher is currently No. 2 on the depth chart behind Ronny Vandyke, a player with a history of getting hurt. A heavily sought after recruit that had offers from Alabama, Ohio State and Tennessee, Fisher will get a lot of playing time this year.
Other true freshmen to watch:
Tabari Hines, WR, Wake Forest
Tommy Hatton, C, North Carolina
Tim Settle, DT, Virginia Tech
Deon Cain, WR, Clemson
Albert Huggins, DT, Clemson
Marcus Marshall, RB, Georgia Tech
Jacques Patrick, RB, Florida State
Ben Humphreys, LB, Duke
Other redshirt freshmen to watch:
Carson Lydon, LB, Virginia Tech
Richard Yeargin, DE, Clemson
Kayton Samuels, DT, Syracuse
Chris Lindstrom, OG, Boston College
Alex Bookser, OG, Pittsburgh
David Njoku, TE, Miami
Qua Searcy, RB, Georgia Tech
— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.