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 Pac-12's three-time defending conference champion used a true freshman of their own last fall to earn the league crown. De'Anthony Thomas was stellar in all phases of the game and his big-play ability not only helped the Ducks to a championship, but a Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin. This season will feature another class of stellar prospects who will mold the landscape in the Pac-12 (listed alphabetically):
The Pac-12's Top Impact Freshmen for 2012
Ishmael Adams, CB, UCLA
The lockdown cover corner was arguably the top player at his position in the US Army All-American bowl and it hasn't taken long for him to fit in at UCLA. He is likely the most game-ready freshman in this class, so expect the Westlake Village, Calif., product to be in the line-up quickly.
Nelson Agholor, AP, USC
The speedster from across the country in Tampa, Fla., has big-play potential and a well-documented childhood. Expect the versatile back-receiver hybrid to be used all over the field, including special teams. He has proven to be a quick study this summer.
Arik Armstead, DL, Oregon
The 2011 cycle featured De'Anthony Thomas. This season it's the massive (6-7, 290) defensive end-offensive tackle two-sport star from Elk Grove, Calif. He will be a key reserve and pass-rush demon for Chip Kelly to begin. Don't be shocked if the nation's No. 3 prospect is a starter by year's end.
Jake Brendel, OL, UCLA
The 6-foot-4, 290-pound pivot has a chance to start as a redshirt freshman this fall. He hails from Plano, Texas, and will look to stabilize a portion of the UCLA offense that has been lacking of late.
DJ Foster, RB, Arizona State
This tiny speedster has a chance to make big plays this fall. Cameron Marshall is the starter, but has been out of practice, thus giving the uber-recruit from Scottsdale, Ariz., plenty of chances. He has been too dynamic in camp for Todd Graham to keep off the field.
Jaxon Hood, DL, Arizona State
The big fellas from Chandler, Ariz., is currently atop the depth chart along the interior of the ASU defensive line. Hood checks in at 6-foot-1 and 290 pounds and has proven to the staff he is capable of playing at a high level right out of the gate.
Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
This move had to be made. Hundley is the most talented and has the highest upside of any quarterback on the roster (he also has yet to miss a start due to injury). In all seriousness, though, the 6-foot-4, 225-pounder from Chandler, Ariz., gives new Bruins head coach Jim Mora Jr., offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone and the rest of the coaching staff a chance to succeed longterm in Westwood.
Gabe Marks, WR, Washington State
Many around the Wazzu program are already claiming Freshman All-American status for the wideout from Los Angeles. He is a tiny slot sparkplug who is already wowing coaches in camp. In Mike Leach's high-flying offense, Marks can expect big numbers.
Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
He is still in a heated battle with Bryan Bennett that may last the entire season, but there is no doubt that the Dennis Dixon-clone will play a bunch in 2012. He has burst, explosiveness and speed like Dixon, but is also a much thicker athlete at nearly 200 pounds. He won the spring battle but is neck-and-neck with Bennett.
Jordan Rigsbee, OL, Cal
The redshirt freshman offensive lineman will have the chance to lean on his big brother and fellow starter along the offensive line, Tyler. The younger Rigsbee earned a starting spot out of spring and has kept that job through camp. He is bigger than his brother at 306 pounds (Tyler is only 290).
Isaac Seumalo, OL, Oregon State
It's all in the family for the locker prep blocker. His father, Joe, is the DL coach and his brother, Andrew, starts along the Beavers' offensive line. He was essentially pencilled into the starting line-up the second he committed to Oregon State, so don't expect to see him on the bench for a team that was pathetic in the running game a year ago.
Nelson Spruce, WR, Colorado
The 6-foot-2, 195 pounder got his chance when Paul Richardson went down with a serious injury. From Westlake Village, Calif., Spruce has already earned a starting spot in the Buffs offense. If he can hold off a talented group nipping at his heels, he should have a great first season on the field.
Shaq Thompson, S, Washington
This is a once in a lifetime type of player. And he will start from the first snap of the year — even if the new defensive coaching staff has to run five defensive backs out there. He can play in the box, can blitz off the edge, can play man-up in coverage and patrol the deep middle-third. Fans should be shocked if he isn't a Freshman All-American.
Bryce Treggs, WR, Cal
Playing opposite of Keenan Allen should allow for the very talented Treggs to get plenty of looks in 2012. While Allen draws safety help and double-coverage, the Top-100 wide receiver from Bellflower, Calif., will be lined-up in isolation coverage schemes.
Storm Woods, RB, Oregon State
The Beavers running game was atrocious last fall and Mike Riley has no qualms about starting a true freshman in the backfield. Especially, if they are from Texas or Florida. Woods comes to Corvallis from Austin suburb Pflugerville, Texas. He is much bigger and more durable than Malcolm Agnew, who also figures heavily in the carries mix.
Yuri Wright, DB, Colorado
Immature tweeting aside, Wright has loads of upside and raw talent. Will he need to mature and develop off the field in order to become the great athlete scouts think he can become? Yes. But on a depth chart that has many voids, Wright figures to make an instant impact in Boulder.
Freshman Position Battles To Watch:
Andrus Peat and Kyle Murphy, OL, Stanford
Two huge recruits, literally and figuratively, will battle for starting tackle position all season.
Jaydon Mickens and Kendyl Taylor, WR, Washington
Both could start opposite of Kasen Williams as both are listed as starters in latest depth chart.
Kenny Walker, Javon Williams, Jordan Payton and Devin Lucien, WR, UCLA
Young quarterback has an elite collection of young pass catchers to choose from.
Maurice Harris, Darius Powe, Chris Harper, WR, Cal
Treggs is already a starter and these are the next three names listed on the depth chart.
Devon Blackmon and B.J. Kelley, WR, Oregon
With Tacoi Sumler leaving, there should be chances for these two to step up.
Daniel Nielson, Kala Freil and Siaosi Aiono, OL, Utah
Nielson is leading this pack as all three are vying for snaps with the No. 1 offense.
Travis Freeney and Evan Seger, LB, Washington
The latest depth chart projections have these two battling for the starting strongside backer.
Scott Starr and Anthony Sarao, LB, USC
Young LB corps has some solid depth with these two backing Dion Bailey and Hayes Pullard.
Lene Maiava and Jacob Arzouman, OL, Arizona
Veteran offensive line will be pushed by these two talented freshman. One might steal a starting spot.
Other Names To Watch:
Zach Banner, OL, USC
Todd Barr, DL, Cal
Ezekiel Bishop, S, Arizona State
Alex Carter, CB, Stanford
Tyson Coleman, LB, Oregon
Kenneth Crowley, CB, Colorado
Xavier Cooper, DL, Washington State
Noor Davis, LB, Stanford
CJ Dozier, LB, Arizona
Michael Eubanks, QB, Arizona State
Ka'imi Fairbairn, K, UCLA
Josh Garnett, OL, Stanford
Johnny Jackson, WR, Arizona
Ellis McCarthy, DL, UCLA
Carlos Mendoza, LB, Arizona State
Darryl Monroe, LB, Washington State
Cyler Miles, QB, Washington
Aaron Porter, LB, UCLA
Jarrell Oliver, RB, Utah
Gerald Thomas, WR, Colorado
Greg Townsend Jr., DE, USC
Max Tuerk, OL, USC
Josh Tupou, DT, Colorado
Soma Vainuku, FB, USC
J.T. Washington, RB, Arizona
Kodi Whitfield, WR, Stanford
Jason Whittingham, STUD, Utah
Leonard Williams, DE, USC
Shadow Williams, LB, Arizona
Travis Wilson, QB, Utah
- by Braden Gall
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