There are more prospects from the 2022 cycle expected to make an early impact than ever before.
Plenty of reasons why are apparent. There are already 51 of the top 100 prospects in the On3 Consensus rankings are already on campus working out with the team. Widening the lens, over one-third (119) of the top 300 are at their schools already. Then there is the transfer portal creating opportunities for freshman at programs that suffered major losses. Add on top of all that, those who are graduating and leaving early for the NFL Draft.
When taking a look at the 2022 cycle, there are plenty of prospects that will make an instant impact.
Texas A&M’s No. 1 class will have instant impact
The Aggies highest ranked class in history will have a number of impact players. Tight end Jake Johnson may be at the top of the list. The No. 1 ranked tight end in the 2022 cycle is already on campus and has plenty of opportunity in front of him. Jalen Wydermyer is off to the NFL after catching 117 passes for 1,468 yards and 16 touchdowns over his career. The returning tight ends don’t possesses the skill set or catch radius of Johnson.
Five-Star Plus+ wide receiver Evan Stewart is another pick to make an instant impact. Stewart is on campus, and enters the college game with an advanced technical understanding of the position. His ability after the catch and in the return game will provide the Aggies offense with an explosive playmaker. The return of Ainias Smith for a final season could slightly diminish Stewart’s role as a freshman, but Stewart enters the college game as technically ready as any receiver could.
Five-Star Plus+ DL Walter Nolen will undoubtedly make an impact too in College Station. While the Aggies do lose DeMarvin Leal and Jayden Peevy to the NFL Draft, the Aggies have ample competition for Nolen in the program.
Penn State running backs will make an impact
The Nittany Lions have three scholarship running backs after the transfer of Noah Cain to LSU. And Penn State did not sign a running back in the 2021 class. That means five-star Nick Singleton and four-star Kaytron Allen will jump in this spring and compete right away with returning leading rusher Keyvone Lee. Singleton’s explosive ability is vastly different than Lee’s running style at 240 pounds. Singleton’s ability out of the backfield will also afford playmaking opportunities. Cain led Penn State running backs with 19 receptions last season. Cain also carried the ball 100 times last season. The combination of Singleton and Lee will provide James Franklin with a combination of explosive playmaking, and downhill between the tackles experience.
Texas’ top 5 class has impact players on both sides of the ball
The Texas Longhorns‘ fifth-ranked class will have a number of players forced into action quickly.
Early enrollee and On300 five-star Terrance Brooks will compete right away at cornerback, and is likely to cross train at nickel. Brooks enters the Texas program technically advanced, and is a film junkie. With Josh Thompson moving on to the NFL and the Longhorns not turning in high-level play at the position, Brooks will have plenty of opportunity.
If five-star Kelvin Banks was an early enrollee, On3 would predict he starts game one. With that said, Banks will play right away and push for a starting tackle spot in year one. Christian Jones started at left tackle in 2021, and right tackle in 2020. Where Jones lines up in the 2022 season will determine which tackle Banks plays opposite.
On3 Consensus four-star Justice Finkley is already turning heads in Austin. With the Longhorns continued struggles at EDGE, Finkley’s preparation, motor and ability to hold up against the run will provide impact opportunity.
Impact recruits in the 2022 cycle
Clemson’s loss of Justyn Ross to the NFL Draft opens the door for a newcomer to make an impact. Ross hauled in 46 passes for over 500 yards in 2021. Many would pick On3 Consensus 4-star Adam Randall to be the receiver in the class to make the instant impact first. And Randall does have a head start on Williams as a spring enrollee. Where Williams has an advantage is he is a different receiver that the Clemson returnees. He will instantly be the most talented route runner in the room. Williams also has position versatility with the ability to play inside or outside.
The Missouri signee will undoubtedly be an impact player. His ability to quickly turn up field after the catch is different than what is on the roster in Columbia. Burden already plays through contact, and is quick and aggressive working against press coverage. Then there is the versatility to be used inside or outside.
The early enrollee is expected to push for a starting job early on in Athens. With Travon Walker and Devonte Wyatt off to the NFL, there is ample opportunity for Williams. Williams is expected to push for the starting spot at defensive end in the three man front where Walker played last season. Williams is more talented than those ahead of him on the depth chart currently, and has already impressed with his approach. Williams suddenness is different than anyone at his position in Athens.
Winfield will walk in to the program running second team behind Hal Presley. Winfield enters college as an advanced route runner with understanding of the nuances of the position. The ability to catch the back-shoulder balls and track the football in the air will provide opportunities in Waco, Texas. Baylor losing Tyquan Thornton to the NFL Draft and R.J. Sneed to the portal opens up even more impact opportunities.
Barton is in a prime position to make an instant impact with the Utes losing Devin Lloyd and Nephi Sewell to the NFL Draft. While Barton has to add strength to his frame, his ability to play downhill and smoothly drop in coverage will get him on the field plenty.
Wake Forest signed one of the most underrated prospects in the country, and On3 believe that will be seen quickly in 2022. With Jaquarii Roberson headed to the NFL, Grimes will have plenty of opportunities to prove it from the jump. Grimes will bring tremendous feel for the position, sure hands in traffic and ball skills to the Wake Forest team. Add in Demon Deacons quarterback Sam Hartman returning, and Grimes transition to college football will be made easier.
With Cam’Ron Harris entering the NFL Draft and the position unsettled, Citizen will make a big impact. Citizen will head to Coral Gables physically ready to play, take contact and run downhill. Citizen will team with returning leading rusher Jaylan Knighton to provide a solid power and quickness combination.