The star power of the Pac-12's freshman class is evident from a look at the guys missing from our list of the conference's impact newcomers.
We were all set to include USC running back/wide receiver Nelson Agholor on our list-- which is restricted to true freshmen and junior-college transfers-- but we wondered how he could find playing time in an offense that already features Curtis McNeal and Penn State transfer Silas Redd in the backfield plus All-America candidates Robert Woods and Marqise Lee in the receiving corps.
Stanford garnered plenty of attention for signing three Rivals100 offensive linemen in five-star prospects Andrus Peat and Kyle Murphy, plus top-50 recruit Josh Garnett. But the Cardinal also return three starters on the offensive line, so we weren't sure how much any of those three newcomers would play immediately.
Of course, it wouldn't surprise us if Agholor or one of those Stanford linemen puts together a huge season. We also wouldn't be shocked if the new coaching staffs at Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA and Washington State are tempted to play some of their own recruits immediately. However, the uncertainty amid all that upheaval prevented us from listing any newcomers from those four schools.
We instead went with the following five (actually six) players. We felt they had the necessary talent and opportunity to come in and contribute right away. Keep in mind that we only were considering true freshmen and junior-college transfers for this list, which prevented us from including Division I transfers such as Redd.
Oregon DL Arik Armstead Particulars: 6-8/297; Elk Grove (Calif.) Pleasant Grove Recruiting rating: Four stars (No. 6 strong-side defensive end and No. 61 overall prospect in 2012 class) Buzz: Here's one thing that makes Armstead unique: He’s a mammoth-sized player wearing a single-digit uniform number (No. 9). Here's a more important thing that sets him apart: Armstead possesses the athleticism and versatility to make an impact either at defensive end or defensive tackle. He enrolled early and forced a fumble in Oregon's spring game. Armstead played on both sides of the line and also starred in basketball in high school. He should make an immediate impact on Oregon's defensive line.
Colorado CBs Kenneth Crawley and Yuri Wright Particulars: Crawley: 6-1/165; Washington (D.C.) H.D. Woodson. Wright: 6-2/175; Ramsey (N.J.) Don Bosco Recruiting ratings: Crawley: Four stars (No. 22 cornerback in 2012 class). Wright: Four stars (No. 7 cornerback and No. 85 overall prospect in 2012 class). Buzz: Colorado coach Jon Embree showed he wasn't afraid to give a true freshman defensive back immediate playing time last year when he put Greg Henderson in the starting lineup. It wouldn't be a surprise at all if he turns to a true freshman again this season. Wright and Crawley were the only two four-star prospects in Colorado's 2012 recruiting class. Wright received some unwanted attention during the recruiting process when some off-color Tweets got him expelled from Don Bosco, but there's no doubt he can play. Crawley picked off 14 passes and scored on three interception returns during an exceptional high school career.
Oregon State OL Isaac Seumalo Particulars: 6-4/290; Corvallis (Ore.) Recruiting rating: Four stars (No. 3 offensive guard and No. 52 overall prospect in 2012 class) Buzz: This hometown product already might be one of the best offensive linemen on Oregon State's roster. Seumalo was a two-way player at Corvallis High who collected 94 tackles and nine sacks his senior year, but he's going to concentrate on offense at Oregon State. Seumalo has the ability to play any position on the offensive line. The Beavers are counting on him to help provide more running room for an offense that averaged just 3.3 yards per carry last season. Seumalo is the son of Oregon State defensive line coach Joe Seumalo and the younger brother of Oregon State defensive tackle and team captain Andrew Seumalo.
California WR Bryce Treggs Particulars: 5-11/175; Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco Recruiting rating: Four stars (No. 12 wide receiver and No. 81 overall prospect in 2012 class) Buzz: California has a legitimate All-America candidate in Keenan Allen, who caught 98 passes for 1,343 yards and six touchdowns last season. But the departure of Marvin Jones still leaves a big hole in the Golden Bears' receiving corps. Treggs has the playmaking ability to fill that void. Treggs caught 70 passes for 1,377 yards and 11 touchdowns his senior year in high school and also accumulated over 1,000 receiving yards in his junior season. He should contribute right away and could get plenty of opportunities as defenses focus their attention on containing Allen.
Washington S Shaq Thompson Particulars: 6-2/215; Sacramento (Calif.) Grant Recruiting rating: Five stars (No. 1 safety and No. 4 overall prospect in 2012 class) Buzz: Thompson was one of the former California verbal commitments who switched after Washington hired away former Golden Bears assistant Tosh Lupoi. Even though senior Justin Glenn and junior Sean Parker give Washington a pair of returning starters at safety, Thompson figures to earn immediate playing time and should upgrade a unit that ranked 106th nationally in total defense (453.3) and 108th in scoring defense (35.9) last season. Thompson, a multi-sport athlete, spent the summer playing baseball in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League for the Boston Red Sox organization and went 0-for-39 at the plate with 37 strikeouts. Now that he's returning to his best sport, Thompson should spend the fall delivering much better results.