Hey, Rookie: Welcome to College Football

Marlowe Starling, Editor-in-Chief of The Panther

The NFL Draft has come and gone, and while sports fans across the country try to cope with their favorite college stars moving on to play for their most hated professional teams, dozens of slots lie vacant on college football rosters. For those who lament the off-season, do not fret: college football is right around the corner, and contrary to popular opinion, it is a year-round sport. Here are some of the nation’s top recruits ready to swoop up their high school diplomas and run it all the way to Division I.

Not surprisingly, Alabama, Stanford and (hold your breath, Miami fans) Florida State have won the race for the recruiting class of 2017. Here is a quick breakdown of the stars they have the highest hopes for:

Najee Harris, RB

Hometown: Antioch, CA

Signed: Alabama

Ranking within the top five nationwide recruits on both 247Sports and Scout’s lists, Harris has already raised eyebrows on the Alabama practice facility sidelines as a potential returner on kickoffs and bowling ball on offense. Although it is still early for Saban to place his running backs definitively on the depth chart, he and other experienced players on the team have been impressed with his hurdles – a useful talent for any running back – and resistance to tackles.

Cam Akers, RB

Hometown: Clinton, MS

Signed: Florida State

Akers has set the bar high for himself and his teammates, making the top 10 on recruiting lists on ESPN, 247Sports and Scout. With over 100 yards of offense from the Florida State spring game alone, Akers has turned heads, earned respect from the coaching staff and may even end up starting at some point during the season based on Noles247 reporter Brendan Sonnone’s predictions.

Alex Leatherwood, OT

Hometown: Pensacola, FL

Signed: Alabama

Finally, a Florida recruit – and surprisingly not a running back. Leatherwood, who played for Booker T. Washington High School, also made all three of the aforementioned sports source’s lists. According to ESPN, he has already started practicing with the second-team offensive line – meaning the direct backups on the depth chart – giving him a promising edge over others and a potential starting position on Sep. 2 against the Seminoles – but then again, there are still three and a half months ahead of us until the season opener.

Jaelan Phillips, DE

Hometown: Redlands, CA

Signed: UCLA

Surprise, surprise… Alabama and FSU did not steal all of  the recruits. This defensive end managed to make it within the top five for all three aforementioned recruiting rank lists, and is raising questions as to whether he can eventually fill the shoes of Takk McKlinley, former UCLA defensive end who the Atlanta Falcons recently drafted and one of UCLA’s top talents.

Davis Mills, QB

Hometown: Norcross, GA

Signed: Stanford

Every year it seems that college football fans hold their breath for the up-and-coming quarterbacks, a major determinant in a team’s offensive dynamic. His pro-style calmness in the pocket and mobility only add to his reputation as the leader of a two-time 13-2 team at his high school, Greater Atlanta Christian School. He previously declined offers from at least nine other major schools, including the University of Miami.

Check out ESPN’s 2017 ESPN 300 list of top recruits for more insight into the NCAA’s most promising college football recruits for the graduating class of 2017.