With college football's fall practice in full swing around the nation, it's really the first time names made famous on recruiting websites are showing up in actual practice reports. When it comes to picking which freshmen will make an impact in their first season on campus, it's really all about who can pick up the playbook the fastest and who fits a need. The Big East saw names like Teddy Bridgewater and Lyle McCombs produce excellent rookie seasons last fall. Bridgewater, who claimed Big East Rookie of the Year honors in 2011, now enters his sophomore season with eyes on a BCS bowl. This season will feature another class of stellar prospects who will mold the landscape in the Big East (listed alphabetically):
The Big East's Top Impact Freshmen for 2012
Keith Brown, LB, Louisville
Landing Brown was one of the many recruiting coups for Charlie Strong and his staff. His ties to South Florida helped sign the 6-foot-1, 230-pound tackler from Miami Norland. He has a chance to step in and bolster a young defense right from the onset.
Leonte Carroo, WR, Rutgers
Growing up in the shadows of HighPoint Solutions Stadium at famed Don Bosco Prep, the 6-foot-1, 190-pounder has track speed to go with his physical frame and electric upside. There is no doubt he will be a big contributor on special teams, but his early camp reviews suggest a big role in the passing game as well.
Kristofer Curtis, OL, Syracuse
The big redshirt freshman from Fayetteville, Ga., is slotted into the starting line-up for the Cuse. He has been dealing with an injury issue that has slowed his development in camp, but should the 6-foot-3, 290-pound tackle return healthy, he should be a big part of the Orange's offensive attack.
Darius Hamilton, DL, Rutgers
The prized gem of the most heralded Knights class in school history was 6-foot-4, 260-pound defensive lineman from nearby Don Bosco Prep. He began camp as an end, but after excelling in camp already, he has been shifted down to tackle. He knows the 3-technique from his prep glory days and should be an instant impact player for what should once again be the league's top defense.
Zach Hooks, LT, Temple
The left tackle position is the second-most important on the field and Hooks is already slotted in as the starter in Philadelphia. The 6-foot-6 blocker from Aliquippa, Pa., is poised to pave the way for one of the most talented backfields in Owls history.
Quanzell Lambert, LB, Rutgers
The coaching staff has been praising the middle linebacker from Sicklerville, N.J., since the second he stepped onto the practice field. He will learn behind Butkus candidate Steve Beauharnais this fall, but the 6-foot-1, 230-pounder could be the top reserve linebacker on the league's top defense. Update: Unfortunately, Lambert tweaked his ankle this week in practice and will miss some time — which could obviously impact his ability to contribute right away.
Kyle Federico, K/P, Rutgers
The Knights have had two kickers in eight years and Federico could make it only three in 12 should the early returns be accurate. He has the kicking duties to himself this fall after Jeremy Ito and San San Te made the position one of solid production for nearly a decade.
Steve Longa, LB, Rutgers
The youngster won't turn 18 until the end of November, but in two short weeks of practice, Kyle Flood knows he can't redshirt Longa. The rising star, much like Lambert, will spend this fall learning from talented veterans. But, again, like Lambert, Longa should see plenty of snaps this fall. These two talented tacklers are the future of Rutgers football.
Lafayette Pitts, DB, Pitt
The redshirt fershman has been battling sophomore Ohio State transfer Cullen Christian for a starting spot in the Pitt secondary. Either way, win or lose, Pitts will be playing plenty of snaps for the Panthers this fall. New coach Paul Chryst stated last week that Pitts had the slight edge as the starter.
Rushel Shell, RB, Pitt
There is a very small chance Shell is redshirted, but his obvious talent and recruiting hype will make it hard for Chryst to keep the uber-prospect on the bench. He's the Keystone State's all-time leading rusher with 9,078 yards and scored a WPIAL record 110 career TDs. He also owns the national prep mark for consecutive 100-yard games with 39 — breaking the great Billy Sims' mark. Chryst will have fun using this dynamo.
Nate Smith, LB, Temple
The younger brother of former NFL tight end L.J., Smith is a bit undersized at 5-foot-10 and 220 pounds, but his tenacity, insticnts and work ethic have turned a lot of heads in Temple's camp. He is poised to be the Owls' starting middle linebacker in their return to the Big East in his first season on the field.
Chad Voytik, QB, Pitt
From Cleveland, Tenn., the talanted passer is a perfect fit for Chryst's high-powered offensive system. In fact, Voytik will draw some comparison's to former Chryst QB Russell Wilson. Above average mobility, a bit undersized, decent arm, quality poise and leadership skills. This is why starter Tino Sunseri — who was inefficient and underwhelming last fall — needs to be looking over his shoulder .
Freshman Position Battles To Watch:
Ivan Foy and Rob Trudo, RG, Syracuse
These two youngsters will vie for the starting right guard spot this fall.
Braxton Lane/Nate Cole/Jeremy Graves, WR, Cincinnati
Butch Jones has mentioned all three as potential starters — or third options.
Oliver Vigille and James Washington, OLB, Syracuse
These two should be fighting for snaps on the outside. Both will provide talented depth.
Jefferson Ashiru and Marquise Vann, LB, UConn
Neither may start, but both will contribute to an excellent LB corps.
Other Names To Watch:
Chris Bivins, CB, USF
Ashton Broyld, WR, Syracuse
Dionte Buckley, RB, Cincinnati
Bennie Coney, QB, Cincinnati
Myles Davis, FB, Syracuse
Nick Dawson, LB, Louisville
Jaston George, CB, Syracuse
Eric Lee, DE, USF
D'Vario Montgomery, WR, USF
Devontre Parnell, DB, Louisville
Daniel Perry, DE, USF
Sean Price, TE, USF
Deaysean Rippy, DB, Pitt
Ron Thompson, TE, Syracuse
Tashon Whitehurst, LB, USF
- by Braden Gall
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