Breakout Stars in 2014

The past two Heisman Trophy winners were redshirt freshmen quarterbacks. Is there another breakout star on the horizon that was watching from the sidelines in 2013? We asked the publishers of for 10 redshirt freshmen to watch in 2014.

The past two Heisman Trophy winners were redshirt freshmen quarterbacks. Is there another breakout star on the horizon that was watching from the sidelines in 2013? We asked the publishers of for 10 redshirt freshmen to watch in 2014.

Max Browne, QB, USC

Former USC coach Lane Kiffin elected to redshirt five-star freshman quarterback Max Browne after determining his quarterback race would be between redshirt sophomores Cody Kessler and Max Wittek. Kessler won the job, but now new coach Steve Sarkisian says he'll open the competition up again this spring. Browne, the No. 1 rated quarterback in the 2013 recruiting class, will certainly be in the mix -- and according to some inside the program -- is already the frontrunner to win the starting position. Browne led his Sammamish (Wash.) Skyline high school team to three state championship appearances, winning the title his junior and senior season. There's no doubt the redshirt freshman has the leadership skills and the physical tools to be the next great USC quarterback. The biggest question mark is if he will fit into and adapt to Sarkisian's pro-style uptempo offense - Lindsey Thiry,

Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina:

Mitch Trubisky redshirted in 2013 because Bryn Renner was locked into the starting position, but UNC gave serious consideration to lifting the redshirt when Renner went down. Trubisky was a four-star recruit out of Mentor, Ohio, ranked the No. 15 high school quarterback in the nation by  His dual-threat skillset projects as the best all-around fit for Larry Fedora's offense.  This sets up a serious competition with Marquise Williams for the starting spot in 2013, as Williams spearheaded UNC's strong second half of the season after replacing the injured Renner, throwing for 15 TDs and ending the year as UNC's leading rusher (536 yards) - Ben Sherman,

Riley Ferguson, QB, Tennessee:
Riley Ferguson suffered injuries on his throwing hand before and during his senior season at Butler (N.C.) High School before taking the field late and leading his team to a state championship. Although Scout four-star Joshua Dobbs arrived with more fanfare, Ferguson was placed on a 6,000-calorie-a-day diet and fought through a leg injury his first season on Rocky Top. With none of his three counterparts taking the reins on the quarterback job at Tennessee, the gun-slinger is in a perfect spot to do so with a productive spring camp. With former Scout four-star wideouts like Josh Malone, Marquez North and LaVon Pearson as weapons to go with former four-star tight ends Daniel Helm and Ethan Wolf, the Vols' starter has silo of destructive weapons to get Tennessee football back on track - Danny Parker,

Matthew Thomas, LB, Florida State:
It feels a bit like cheating since he actually played in the first four contests of 2013 before undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery and receiving a medical redshirt, but even with the loss of defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt to Georiga, linebacker Matthew Thomas is slated for a huge year in 2014. Thomas (6'3, 215) is a perfect fit for the role played by departing senior LB/DE Christian Jones in Florida State's multiple-look defense. Thomas brings rare explosiveness and speed off the edge, and his versatility and fluidity are important assets when facing spread offenses. Look for Thomas to burst on the scene as a freshman All America candidate in 2014 - Jason Staples,

Greg Bryant, RB, Notre Dame:

The former four-star American Heritage School (Delray Beach, Fla.) prospect made a move up the depth chart early last season, appearing in the Irish season opener vs. Temple before having his season truncated by a minor knee procedure. Bryant turned heads as an impact scout team running back thereafter for head coach Brian Kelly and was among those regularly mentioned by teammates (including exiting NFL-bound nose guard Louis Nix) as a key player to watch for 2014. Expect Bryant to team with fellow Floridian four-star Tarean Folston to form a formidable 1-2-3 punch for the Irish in a backfield that also returns its leading rusher, the less-heralded Cam McDaniel (705 yards, 4.6 per rush in 2013) - Tim O'Malley,

Mike Mitchell, LB, Ohio State:

Mike Mitchell redshirted in 2013, but last year's five-star prospect and number-two middle linebacker certainly impressed this year on the scout team. Mitchell came on so well late in the year there talk of Ohio State burning his redshirt, but they decided against it. Mitchell is a physical phenom who only lacked experience at the position. He got that valuable experience with a redshirt season that was almost taken away during the Buckeyes' stretch run. With the sub par linebacking Ohio State had last year, Mitchell has a clear path to the field in 2014 and continue Ohio State's long tradition of producing All-American linebackers - Bill Greene,

Eldridge Massington, WR, UCLA:

Masington was a four-star receiver out of high school and ended up ranked as the 27th-best receiver nationally, but his ranking fell because of a torn ACL in his senior season. He came to UCLA last fall still recovering from the ACL and carrying a bit of excess weight. He was tentative in fall practice, understandably, also hindered by a knee brace. Over the last couple months of the season he had worked himself back into shape, leaned down some and had taken off the brace -- and he was showing great explosion and athleticism on the UCLA scout team to go along with that long body. UCLA's offense always seems to be missing a big-play receiver, and with Shaquelle Evans graduating there is a wide open spot in UCLA's receiver rotation. UCLA is also hoping that a talented true freshman, or two, will step in, but Massington, being in the program for the last year, could have an edge in making a big impact - Tracy Pierson,

Jermaine Kelly, CB, Washington:

There was a thought going into the 2013 season that Kelly might be used as a true freshman because of his raw talent and ability, but Washington was able to get around that by using one of their safeties (Tre Watson) as a slot cover, as well as playing another talented true frosh, John Ross, who ended the season playing both ways for the Huskies. Three of Washington's four secondary players are seniors (Sean Parker, Will Shamburger, and Greg Ducre), and another potential starter in Cleveland Wallace has already transferred to San Jose State which means Kelly stands an excellent shot of being the other starting corner opposite Marcus Peters in 2014 - Chris Fetters,

Ra'Shaad Samples, WR, Oklahoma State:

Samples came out of Texas last year as a top 30 national receiver after playing and starring for his father at Skyline High School in Dallas, Texas. He had scholarship offers from coast to coast but pledged early to Oklahoma State. He has excellent speed and good football instincts. He would have played some as a freshmen but some slight injuries held him back and he was red-shirted. This upcoming season with slot receiver Josh Stewart declaring for the NFL Draft, Samples and incoming junior college transfer and speedster Tyreek Hill out of Garden City would be the heirs to the inside slot positions in the Cowboys spread passing attack - Robert Allen,

DeAndre Woods, WR, Vanderbilt:

DeAndre Woods should be an impact player in 2014. He was headed towards starting as a true freshman but was hurt a couple weeks before the opener. Now with Jordan Matthews and Johnathon Krause gone he should be almost certain to start. Woods could possibly follow in the footsteps of another Vandy wideout who was overlooked coming out of Alabama, Earl Bennett, a three time All-SEC selection and third round draft pick of the Chicago Bears. - Don Yates,

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