1. Thomas Tyner, Oregon Ducks
Oregon’s prolific offense is predicated on a multifaceted rushing attack, and the departure of Kenjon Barner opens a void for local five-star prospect Thomas Tyner to get involved immediately, and prominently. Tyner rushed for 2325 yards at Aloha High, averaging a whopping 12.7 yards per carry. He made national headlines with a 10-touchdown performance last fall.
He’s more of a prototypical feature back than heralded Duck De’Anthony Thomas, which could translate to more opportunities for Tyner in his debut campaign.
2. Su’a Cravens, USC Trojans
The NCAA limited USC’s scholarship total, but Lane Kiffin and Co. scored quality over quantity with a 4.42 average star-rated signing class. Throw a dart and you have a good chance at hitting a five-star signee, and any number of the five (!) Kiffin inked can contribute immediately — especially with the Trojans’ depth issues.
Su’a Cravens might be the most individually talented of the Trojan newcomers. He’s a big, powerful tackler reminiscent of former USC heavy-hitter Taylor Mays. Fueling Cravens in the open field is a 4.5-second 40-yard dash time, and a nose for the ball both in pass coverage and rush pursuit.
3. Damore’ea Stringfellow, Washington Huskies
Adding to an already outstanding offensive roster is the arrival of highly touted wide receiver Damore’ea Stringfellow. Stringfellow was an Under Armour All-American in 2013 and a likely immediate contributor for the Huskies in 2013. His 6-foot-3 frame and reliable hands provide a nice secondary option after Kasen Williams.
UW head coach Steve Sarkisian told The Seattle Times, “[Stringfellow] looks like an NFL wideout today.”
4. Priest Willis, UCLA Bruins
Jim Mora attracted his second top tier recruiting class to Westwood in as many efforts. Mora scored a coup securing defensive back Priest Willis from Marcus de Niza High School, right in conference rival Arizona State’s backyard. And Willis is an excellent addition to the Bruin secondary, coming off a season in which it ranked No. 85 nationally against the pass.
The top 100 prospect recorded 107 tackles in the last two seasons and intercepted four passes. He’s effective in rush pursuit, and at 6-foot-3, uniquely skilled to cover larger wide outs.
5. Kenny Bigelow, USC Trojans
Another five-star addition to the Trojan defense, interior defensive lineman Kenny Bigelow adds a powerful rushing presence on the Trojan front. Bigelow should be an outstanding complement to 2012 standout defensive end Morgan Breslin.
For a sample of Bigelow’s athleticism, consider he was an outstanding pass-catching tight end in addition to his duties as defensive tackle for Red Lion Christian Academy.
6. Anu Solomon -OR- Jesse Scroggins, Arizona Wildcats
The competition to replace quarterback Matt Scott at Arizona is likely a three-man race. B.J. Denker started one game in 2012 and took the majority of first string reps during spring ball, but former USC Trojan Jesse Scroggins wowed observers with his arm strength once he was allowed to practice; he spent much of the spring season sidelined with a walking boot.
Anu Solomon broke into the top 100 of the Rivals.com 2013 rankings after leading Las Vegas power Bishop Gorman to a state championship. Solomon racked up 2849 passing yards and 35 touchdowns, and rushed for another eight scores. His skill set is reminiscent of Scott’s, which Rich Rodriguez refined his spread offense to accentuate during the Wildcats’ 8-win 2012.
7. Francis Owusu, Stanford Cardinal
Stanford sustained considerable loss in its receiving corps from a season ago and seeks answer for second-year quarterback Kevin Hogan. Francis Owusu provides a possibility. The four-star wide receiver comes from a rich Cardinal pedigree; his brother Chris was an outstanding wideout and returner for Stanford just a few seasons ago.
Owusu is a tall target at 6-foot-3, but exhibits comparable speed to his brother, two features of his game that make Owusu a proven deep ball threat. He averaged nearly 18 yards per reception for CIF Southern Section powerhouse Oaks Christian last season.
8. Marcus Hardison, Arizona State Sun Devils
The intimidating Arizona State pass rush defense gets more so with the addition of JUCO defensive tackle Marcus Hardison. Hardison was ranked among the nation’s top JUCO prospects coming out of Dodge City College. The ASU line features arguably the best defensive tackle in the nation, Will Sutton. With opposing offensive lines having to fear Sutton’s rushing abilities, Hardison could register impressive numbers from the outset.
9. Khalfani Muhammad, Cal Golden Bears
Despite its derivation from Hal Mumme’s pass-heavy offense, new Cal head coach Sonny Dykes runs a version of that air raid that emphasizes a strong running game. Cal loses a pair of solid rushers from last season in Isi Sofele and C.J. Anderson, but four-star prospect Khalfani Muhammad provides an option to complement Brendan Bigelow. Muhammad joins the Golden Bears this summer, coming off a Southern Section track championship in the 100 and 200 meters.
Dykes is not adverse to giving a newcomer running back plenty of opportunities — first-year Louisiana Tech Bulldog Kenneth Dixon led the nation in rushing touchdowns a season ago.
10. Andre Lewis, Utah Utes
No Ute wide receiver reached 400 yards in 2012, but JUCO transfer Andre Lewis enters as an immediate candidate to reach that milestone and much more. Lewis caught 60 passes for over 1000 yards and 15 touchdowns for Diablo Valley College.
At 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, Lewis is a big, possession target to complement Utah’s returning Dres Anderson.
11. Caleb Benenoch, John Lopez and Kenny Lacy, UCLA Bruins
A trio of four-star offensive linemen punctuated UCLA’s stellar 2013 signing class. The Bruins return some significant contributors from last season’s unit, which laid the foundation for a 34.4 point per game offense. However, UCLA also surrendered the second-most sacks of any Pac-12 member last season.
The triumvirate of Caleb Benenoch, Kenny Lacy and John Lopez provides the UCLA front with much needed depth.
12. Kyle Peko, Oregon State Beavers
Turnover on the Oregon State defensive line means Cerritos College transfer Kyle Peko. Peko made 46 tackles, including 11 for loss, in 2012. He also registered three sacks and three pass break-ups for Cerritos.
With standout defensive end Scott Crichton back for Oregon State, Peko’s presence on the interior is vital to the Beavers’ defensive mission. The inside linemen must draw blockers away to give the talented Crichton room to operate.