1. Aaron Green, RB, TCU Horned Frogs
The Nebraska Cornhuskers transfer Green gives the TCU backfield another threat in addition to 2012 leading rusher BJ Cantalon and returning from injury Waymon James.
Green was a four-star prospect coming out of San Antonio James Madison and Rivals.com’s No. 61 ranked overall recruit. He was the third back in the Husker backfield during 2011, and the fourth rushing option. Thus, Green is accustomed to sharing carries, though he is likely to be the focal point at TCU.
2. Nick Ramirez, LB, Kansas State Wildcats
The excellent Wildcat linebacker corps suffered serious turnover this off-season, losing All-American Arthur Brown, among others. K-State has plenty of holes to fill, which means an opportunity for four-star prospect Ramirez.
Ramirez told The Kansas City Star that the K-State coaching staff “expects big things” from him. Helping to replace stars of the nation’s No. 20 ranked rush defense certainly qualifies.
3. Clint Trickett, QB, West Virginia Mountaineers
The Florida State transfer quarterback likely solves the big mystery in Morgantown of who will replace prolific passer Geno Smith. There’s no guarantee Trickett will beat out Paul Millard or Ford Childress, both of whom garnered first team reps Trickett did not in the spring. Moreover, underwhelming performances by recent transfers Jeremiah Masoli (Ole Miss) and Danny O’Brien (Wisconsin) are more the norm than the All-America caliber performance of Russell Wilson in 2011.
Still, Trickett offers invaluable game experience his competitors lack. He played gained significant reps during the 2011 season while E.J. Manuel nursed an injury, throwing seven touchdowns and 675 yards in that time.
4. Nick Harwell, WR, Kansas Jayhawks*
An asterisk accompanies Harwell’s inclusion on this list, as the Miami (OH) wide receiver transfer’s eligibility is in doubt. Harwell was dismissed from Miami — the university, not just the football program — for some rather serious charges. His clearance gives a huge boost to a Jayhawk passing offense in desperate need of it, though.
KU had just two receivers with multiple touchdown catches in 2012. One was a tight end, the other a running back. Conversely, Harwell hauled in 23 scores over the past three seasons.
5. Tyrone Swoopes, QB, Texas Longhorns
The quarterback quandary that has perpetuated in Austin since Colt McCoy’s departure could very well continue into 2013 after freshman Swoopes’ spring play.
The four-star prospect from Whitewright (Texas) put the pressure on junior-to-be David Ash with an impressive conclusion to off-season workouts. His size (6-foot-5, 230 pounds) and dual-threat ability already draw comparisons to UT great Vince Young.
6. Keith Ford, RB, Oklahoma Sooners
The top rated prospect in Oklahoma’s impressive 2013 signing class is a potential instant difference maker. He rushed for 1868 yards and 24 touchdowns during his senior campaign at Cypress Ranch (Texas) High. Ford can provide valuable depth behind Damian Williams.
7. Marquel Combs, DT, Kansas Jayhawks
Perhaps sensing the urgency that he must win now, KU head coach Charlie Weis invested heavily in JUCO transfers this off-season. Marquel Combs is arguably the best. The four-star tackle from Pierce (Los Angeles) College provides a much needed run stopping presence on a defense that allowed 5.1 yards per carry in 2012.
8. Kevin White, WR, West Virginia Mountaineers
JUCO wide receiver transfer White impressed in the Mountaineer spring game, catching for 72 yards and a touchdown. With Dana Holgorsen’s uptempo attack replacing its top three receivers, spots are open to try replicating that missing production.
White is a much different style receiver than departed Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. Whereas Bailey and Austin were smaller, explosive targets who flourished in open space, White is big (6-foot-4, 210 pounds) and rangy.
9. Gary Moore, WR, Texas Tech Red Raiders
Tech’s pass-heavy spread requires numerous targets, and Gary Moore could be ready to integrate into the system immediately if co-offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie’s assessment to RedRaiderSports.com is any indication.
“[W]ait till you see Gary Moore…This guy is a grown man.’ He’s the best looking kid in the state [of Texas].”
10. Marcell Ateman, WR, Oklahoma State Cowboys
The OSU receiving corps is loaded with experience, but a team that passes so frequently can use all the receiving support it can muster. Ateman is a long target at 6-foot-4, one reason why his ceiling is so high.
Tom Lemming ranked Ateman his No. 15 overall wide receiver in the 2013 signing class.
11. D.J. Ward, DE/OLB, Oklahoma Sooners
Four-star prospect Ward did not play at all in the 2012 prep season because of a transfer issue, but his early enrollment into OU gave Ward the opportunity to spend the winter and spring months getting Big 12-ready. Rivals.com reports:
“[Ward] added 10 pounds of muscle to his already impressive 6-foot-4 frame and tips the scales at 255 pounds. He’ll have the remainder of the 2013 winter and early spring to work with Sooner strength coach Jerry Schmidt. In OU’s new defensive scheme — moving to a 3-4 defense after years of running a 4-3 defense — Ward thinks he might see time at outside linebacker.”
12. Rodney Coe, DE, Iowa State Cyclones
Coe helped Iowa Western College to a national championship last season, and brings that winning experience onto the Cyclone defensive line. In Coe, ISU gains a versatile pass rush and run stopping talent that ranked as a four-star prospect coming out of Edwardsville (Ill.) High.