Fall camp is still months away and most of the 2015 recruits won't step on campus until the summer, but with the buzz of Signing Day still in the air let's run with it and do some projections. Today we'll be making our best guesses on which players from the 2015 class are most likely to see the field this upcoming season. Obviously a lot can happen between now and September 5th, but as of today, these are the five players that appear to have the best shot at avoiding a redshirt:
1. S Ezekiel Turner
6'1", 192 lbs, 3-star Scout.com/JC transfer from from L.A. Pierce CC
Coaches will tell you that they don't generally dip into the JC ranks for kids unless they think those players can help them right off the bat. Turner was a kid that wasn't happy with the Division 2 offers he received out of high school back home in Maryland, and opted to move to Los Angeles to play at L.A. Pierce with the hopes of boosting his recruiting stock. Mission accomplished - already gifted with a good-sized frame, he displayed terrific physicality and good closing speed and drew offers from Oklahoma, Purdue, Illinois, ASU, Indiana and others, and ultimately the Huskies won out over a strong push from the Sooners. While Budda Baker would appear to have one safety spot locked up for the next 3 years, there's an opportunity at the other spot. Kevin King is a long kid with good ball skills, but he's still very lean and doesn't have the big hitting style of play you like to see at the position; Turner has the attributes to give King a serious challenge for the starting job, and at the very least to see action in the 2-deeps. Turner has a redshirt year available to him, but I don't expect him to need it.
2. WR Isaiah Renfro
6'1", 185 lbs, 4-star Scout.com/3-star Rivals.com (5.7)
With only four returning scholarship wide receivers (assuming John Ross is primarily a CB moving forward) and a distinct lack of size for most of them there is a great opportunity available to Renfro to play right away. He immediately becomes the 2nd biggest scholarship WR on the roster after Brayden Lenius and would give the Huskies another guy capable of providing plus blocking on the edge. He's noted for his terrific hands, polished routes and plus body control. He should slot in nicely as an X (split end) receiver and will likely battle Lenius for the job and also see reps at the Z (flanker) position.
3. WR/RB Chico McClatcher
5'8", 180 lbs, 4-star Scout.com/3-star Rivals.com (5.6)
As noted above, the WR position appears to be a bit thin on scholarship players. Even if it weren't, McClatcher brings the kind of explosive play-making ability and return skills to earn a long look from the coaches, and it will be hard for them to keep him off the field next year. While he becomes the shortest scholarship player on the roster, he's done a good job of bulking up in preparation for the next level and is already a solid 180 lbs. I expect after a few years in Tim Socha's S&C program he'll be closer to 195. While he's not going to beat guys like Ross or De'Anthony Thomas in a straight-line race (though it would be close), he's lightning quick with terrific change-of-direction and is simply electric with the ball in his hands. He'll probably get looks at the Y (slot) receiver role and will almost certainly get some reps in the backfield and in motion on sweeps on handoffs. He will also compete right away as a return man and could challenge Dante Pettis for punt return duties.
4. LB/BUCK Justiss Warren
6'2", 226 lbs, 3-star Scout.com/3-star Rivals.com (5.6)
With five new LBs added to the roster with this class - and no scholarship LBs from last year if the reports are true of Drew Lewis moving to S - there will be incentive for the coaching staff to spread out the numbers a bit and let one or more of the new guys see some action in 2015. While you can make arguments for Kyler Manu, Tevis Bartlett and D.J. Beavers, I'm going with Warren as the most likely for two reasons: 1) he has enough size already to not be physically overwhelmed (and has the frame to add a lot more good weight with ease), and 2) our own unofficial local scout onewoodwacker raves about him and insists he'll be ready to play right away. He'll have an opportunity at the BUCK position, though Cory Littleton figures to have the inside track on replacing Hau'oli Kikaha.
5. DL Benning Potoa'e
6'3", 265 lbs, 4-star Scout.com/4-star Rivals.com (5.8)
Last - but definitely not least - is Potoa'e, arguably the most impressive recruit in the 2015 class. He clearly looks the part, sporting a college-ready physique and terrific strength, and he backs it up on the field as a relentless pass-rusher with the kind of hand-violence you like to see from a linemen to disengage from blocks, and with enough strength to hold up at the point of attack vs. the run. With the entire 2014 starting DL gone to graduation he's got a clear path to earning his way onto the field, and with his versatility - he projects at a SDE role with enough size and strength to slide inside at times, and has been mentioned as a candidate at BUCK by the coaching staff - he'll be very tough to keep on the sidelines.
Others considered: LB Kyler Manu, LB Tevis Bartlett, CB Austin Joyner, RB Myles Gaskin, LB D.J. Beavers
So what do you think Husky fans - which recruits do you see as likely candidates to play in 2015?