Midwest Freshmen: Early Returns

With the college football season just about to kick off, we take a look back at last year's top Midwest recruits and find that two of the top three have already earned starting spots and plenty of others have cracked the two-deep.

1. Jaylon Smith | Linebacker - Notre Dame
Smith, a Fort Wayne native ranked as last year's top outside linebacker in the entire country, has earned a starting spot at outside linebacker. Said Irish head coach Brian Kelly, "Jaylon has done remarkably well in such a short period of time, the picking up the defense, and certainly has the athleticism to cover space. He plays so well in space. Very smart player, plays instinctively."

2. James Quick | Wide Receiver - Louisville
Quick chose to stay at home and play for Charlie Strong and from all reports, has lived up to his billing early in his Cardinal career. He is currently listed behind senior Damian Copeland on the depth chart, but is expected to see significant playing time this season. The coaches have noted, not only his physical skills, but his ability to quickly pick up the offense.

3. Laquon Treadwell | Wide Receiver - Ole Miss
The Rebels went up to Illinois and snagged this five-star talent and Treadwell has already earned a starting spot for Thursday's opener against Vanderbilt. A big, physical target, he will start out in the slot for the Rebels.

4. Jalin Marshall | Wide Receiver - Ohio State
A elusive and outstanding high school quarterback, Marshall is making the transition to wide receiver. Buckeye offensive coordinator Tom Herman says concussions have set him back some in camp, but he is still expected to play and see the field. He is currently at H-Back listed behind senior Chris Fields and fellow freshman Dontre Wilson.

5. Ty Isaac | Running Back - USC
Isaac is part of what is a crowded Trojan backfield. However, with Silas Redd and D.J. Morgan out, Isaac is one of four backs making the trip to Hawaii for Thursday's opener. Head coach Lane Kiffin said he anticipates all four backs making the trip will play and that includes the Illinois native Isaac and fellow true freshman Justin Davis.

6. Dymonte Thomas | Safety - Michigan
After enrolling early, Thomas is expected to be the Wolverines' main nickel back and is also practicing at free safety after a recent injury to starter Courtney Avery. Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison has noted Thomas' ability on the blitz, an important role of the nickel position in the Wolverine defense.

7. Shane Morris | Quarterback - Michigan
Morris was recently named the Wolverines' number two quarterback behind starter Devin Gardner. Head coach Brady Hoke said he could see time on Saturday when his team hosts Central Michigan. "We think he's made some strides and like what he's doing," Hoke said.

8. Kyle Bosch | Offensive Tackle - Michigan
An Illinois product, Bosch is working at guard, but is not currently listed on the two-deep.

9. Ethan Pocic | Offensive Tackle - LSU
After moving to center, Pocic has been locked in a battle for the starting spot with junior Elliott Porter. While it appears Porter will start the opener against TCU, expect to see a lot of Pocic as he continues to battle for the job.

10. DeVeon Smith | Running Back - Michigan
Smith is behind several upperclassmen on the depth chart right now, but has made a little noise in fall camp with Brady Hoke saying "I thought De'Veon had a couple good runs in there," following a recent scrimmage.

Other Top 50 Prospects to Watch

- Steven Elmer
(12) is pushing for a guard spot at Notre Dame and is expected to play immediately. Wide receiver James Onwualu (50) has also cracked the depth chart for the Irish and should see the field this year.

- At Ohio State, cornerback Gareon Conley (18) has received some first team reps and is competing for time with another true freshman, Cameron Burrows (17).

- Former Warren Central (Ind.) standout Tim Kimbrough (14) is listed as the number two inside linebacker behind junior Ramik Wilson.

- Auburn defensive end Elijah Daniel (15) has been praised in camp for his pass rush ability, and while he will not start the Tigers' opener against Washington State, he is expected to see the field.

- Cornerback Jourdan Lewis (13) is expected to play for Michigan and is currently listed as the backup at one of the corner spots. Tight end Jake Butt (23) and defensive end Taco Charlton (29) have impressed in camp and are also expected to play.

- Defensive end A.J. Natter (25) has impressed in Nebraska's fall camp. At 6'5, 250-pounds with good athleticism, he's been asked to move around and try some different roles and has a chance to contribute this season.

- Two of Indiana's big in-state catches, defensive tackle Darius Latham (39) and safety Antonio Allen (48) have both reportedly had good camps and are on the two-deep.

- Defensive tackle Josh Augusta (44) was listed by Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel as his most surprising player of preseason camp. Augusta, a high school defensive end and tight end, is working at nose.

- Illinois head coach Tim Beckman said that as of now, he does not expect highly regarded quarterback Aaron Bailey (20) to redshirt. Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio says he remains undecided on four-star linebackers on Jon Reschke (21) and Shane Jones (33) and redshirts. Shelton Gibson (24) is expected to redshirt at West Virginia. Rob Wheelwright (36) has flashed ability in camp at Wisconsin and is likely to play. Godwin Igwebuike (46) is likely to redshirt at Northwestern.

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