Now that early signing day (ESD) has officially passed, I felt that it was appropriate to take a look at some early candidates for year one breakouts next Fall.
What also spurred me to do this article was a recent tweet from C2C’s very own— Mike Vallerie. Here are the contents of that tweet:
Since Covid eligibility and the lawless transfer portal we’ve seen an average of ten true freshmen breaking out with 500+ receiving yards get narrowed down to a more elite tier of breakouts. (regular season only)
I present the UPDATED prestigious freshmen 500+ club,
Kevin Concepcion – 773
Eric Singleton – 706
Eugene Wilson III – 544
Tyler Brown – 519
Devin McCuin – 518
Tet McMillian – 702
Evan Stewart – 643
Barion Brown – 601
Matthew Golden – 567
Antonio Williams – 523
Cyrus Allen – 502
Xavier Worthy – 981
Kayshon Boutte – 735
Jaden Walley – 718
Jordan Addison – 662
Marvin Mims – 610
There’s a trend there that I want the reader to pay particular attention to, especially in the last season. The freshman breakouts at this position typically don’t come through the highest-rated recruits at the biggest powerhouse programs (Alabama, UGA, Ohio State, USC…). Rather, it’s usually from four-star guys at mid-tier programs like Houston, Pitt, GT, NC State, UF, etc.
The easy explanation is that it is extremely difficult to get on the field, let alone be featured, among all the other superstar prospects at the biggest programs. The Brock Bowers and Caleb Downs prospects of the world are extremely rare. The mere fact that they played key roles at UGA and Alabama as freshman suggest they are probably future all-pro guys.
But, it got me thinking more carefully about attempting to project some names for instant impacts in year one, and while I generally try to abide by the patterns I observe in CFF, I think the prevalence of NIL this year is helping to spread the distribution of five-stars in particular, which might buck the trend of four stars at mid-tier programs dominating the Y1 breakout chart a little bit.
It should also be noted that by the numbers, it is much more likely for a four-star WR to break out since there are many more of them than five-stars.
Mike Matthews, Tennessee (6-0.5, 180)
Matthews didn’t stand out to me as a five-star type of WR when I popped on his tape throughout the c/o 2024 recruiting cycle, so maybe he technically doesn’t even count in this group. Yeah… no— I’ll trust the professionals on this one.
Big Mike played high school football at the highest designation in Georgia throughout his prep career, breaking multiple receiving records at one of the biggest programs in the metro Atlanta area— Parkview High. It’s one thing to be a record-setter at a small, unknown program; it’s another to do it at a place where Div. I FBS football players are being printed out on an annual basis.
He would also have done this against some of the best defensive players in the state of Georgia during that time span playing in Gwinnett County (Buford, Mill Creek, Grayson, just to name a few other powerhouse programs in that area). In fact, while I can’t confirm this 100%, it is actually possible (likely) that Matthews would have faced the #1 safety in the country from three straight classes while playing high school football: Malaki Starks (c/o 2022, Jefferson), Caleb Downs (c/o 2023, Mill Creek), and KJ Bolden (c/o 2024, Buford).
While no trait in particular stands out to me about Matthews’ game, he is a smooth strider and multi sport athlete. He had Div. I offers to play basketball (received his first from Mississippi State in the ninth grade, apparently), so we know he’s got athleticism in spades.
The Tennessee WR room, as it stands, is fairly wide open going into next season. Slot receiver Squirrel White returns, and they’ve recently announced the transfer acquisition of former Tulane pass-catcher Chris Brazzell. The QB situation is expected to arrive at a conclusion with former five-star QB Nico Iamaleava suiting up as the starter, so that’s certainly exciting.
We already know that the Heupel system is a good one for WR production in CFF. While his system tends to skew heavy to the slot receiver, Matthews could still find his way onto the field in one of the boundary roles and make some noise. One thing with five-stars now is that in the wild-wild west era of the transfer portal and tampering, it sort of feels like if you don’t use them early, somebody else will. From that thought process alone, I feel like there will be a concerted effort to get Matthews involved (at least somewhat) this season.
Reading the tea leaves behind the scenes during his recruitment suggested that he might have had second thoughts on Tennessee, with UGA lurking, so the Vols would certainly be wise to not give him a reason to look elsewhere this time next year.
Cam Coleman/Perry Thompson, Auburn (6-3.5, 185 & 6-3, 205)
I’m marking down both of Auburn’s top WR signees because I feel like either/or could break out, but I doubt both will. I just don’t know which one it could be. And just to be clear, when I say breakout, I mean going over 500 yards as a freshman, not as a bonafide CFF stud.
Cam Coleman played at a big program in Phenix City, which lies on the border of Alabama and Georgia. If Buford High was deemed as cursed for the instate school— UGA, Phenix City High would be the equivalent for the Alabama Crimson Tide. A lot of high-end prospects have come through there, and almost none of them have ended up at Bama in the Saban era. These types of phenomenons are always interesting to discuss in the realm of CFB recruiting, but that’s not the topic of today’s discussion.
Coleman was a prolific player at the prep level, and his recruitment signaled heavily that it was NIL-driven. Alabama failed to gain any traction. UGA kicked the tires but then dropped their pursuit overnight (despite having his former teammate AJ Harris rostered). Coleman originally committed to Jimbo’s A&M Aggies before flipping to Auburn, with FSU also lurking.
The driving factor in Coleman’s chances of breaking out this season is the lack of receiving options ahead of him in the room. He will likely be the most talented player on Auburn’s entire roster the minute he steps on campus. I would normally try to avoid the obvious NIL kids, but Evan Stewart’s freshman season has changed my stance somewhat on this.
Looking to Coleman’s teammate, Perry Thompson, he was originally committed to Alabama. He played at a smaller program in Foley High, which is not churning out high-end FBS players on the regular. His frame is similar to Coleman’s, and if nothing else, Auburn should be tall and long on the boundary this season. I’m guessing early playing time was a key contributing factor to his flip from Alabama (among other ‘$$’ things).
With similar reasoning to Matthews, I think Hugh Freeze — a man who knows exactly how the SEC operates — will make sure to get at least one of these cats involved.
Micah Hudson, Texas Tech (5-11.5, 195)
One of the most prolific WRs in Texas High School football over the last few years, Lake Belton’s Micah Hudson would be a special fit in Zack Kittley’s offense at Texas Tech. For those unaware, the Red Raiders fought off advances from Alabama and Texas, among others, to retain the services of Hudson. Admittedly, I was surprised that they managed to get him over the finish line.
Hudson should be used to being the big fish in a little pond, as Lake Belton High is not one of the who’s who of Texas High school football programs. The campus is located near Waco, between Austin and Dallas.
Now taking his talents to West Texas, Hudson’s build suggests he could be in contention for the coveted starting slot receiver role in Kittley’s system this fall. Again, this is another high-end recruit, one whom a program like Texas Tech never really has a chance with. I’m expecting some allowances to be made within the playcalling to keep him happy. Former Red Raider and slot receiver Myles Price entered the transfer portal in December, and another WR, Jerand Bradley, also left via transfer, so there will be opportunities to step in.
Personally, I think if there’s one WR on this list who has a chance to have a Kevin Concepcion-type year in 2024, it would be Hudson.
(coming soon over at VolumePigs)
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