Instant Impact: On offense, Aundre Dean has a chance to come in and seriously compete for a ton of carries. He is a no-brainer, since the running back spot lacks depth, and talented depth at that. Dean has played at the highest level in Texas, so he's used to bigtime competition. He's the best pure running back UCLA has brought in since DeShaun Foster in 1998, and Dean could have a Foster-like impact as a freshman. Kevin Craft, if he can participate in spring practice, may also be the name to put here, since he'll have a very good chance at winning the starting quarterback job. And Nelson Rosario may also see some playing time early in his career.
Defensively, Rahim Moore is the most likely secondary prospect to play, because of the dearth of safeties, and because of his versatility. It's been a long time since UCLA brought in a defensive back of this caliber (maybe since Lovell Houston- though that didn't pan out). Moore can hit, tackle, cover, pick off passes and lock-down. And don't be surprised if Aaron Hester also finds himself in the rotation early on. DeWayne Walker will get his best players on the field, regardless of age. The Bruins need bodies up front and don't be surprised to see Damien Holmes on the field early and often. Todd Howard will love him, and Holmes could end up inside down the line, like Brigham Harwell did, and not miss a beat.
Early Surprises: Offensively, Derrick Coleman has been looked at as a fullback, but expect him to get a slew of carries, a la Manuel White. Coleman runs like a tailback, but is strong and physical. A great kid to boot, Coleman will do all the little things that will get him some playing time early. If Michael Pitre isn't granted a sixth-year, that can only help Coleman.
Defensively, Patrick Larimore hasn't gotten nearly the attention he deserves, but he's a battler and a tough kid. He played in the playoffs with a full hand cast and had surgery on it, yet still averaged 10 tackles a game during that. Physically, he's the most ready between him and Donovan Carter and he comes from a strong prep program, so he could be ready to play as a freshman. UCLA's lack of linebackers may almost make it necessary.
Underrated: Cory Harkey has a good blend of size, athleticism and strength, and he could also have played on the defensive line. He will likely redshirt as a freshman, especially if Ryan Moya comes back at 100%, but Harkey and Nate Chandler will complement each other well down the line. And it's hard for a four-star receiver who was an all-state pick like Antwon Moutra to be underrated, but he is. Moutra has a long future in this game, though it may be at safety. Not a flashy guy at all, all Moutra does is make plays. He was one of the leading receivers in California and also was a stellar defensive back for the Centaurs. They unwisely ignored him in the playoffs, and it cost them.
Future Captains: Not just because he's a quarterback, but because he's showed the leadership and toughness that players respond to, Nick Crissman has taken the leadership role with this class. Several recruits said that it was Crissman who was most responsible for "pestering" them to keep them on board when Karl Dorrell was fired. During the season, Crissman again had little protection on the line, and he just kept getting up after each hit, never pointing fingers and just playing. Anthony Dye would also be in this conversation, it was he and his family who hosted those pivotal BBQs this summer that allowed the class to build the relationships with each other that may have been the glue to this class. And Damien Holmes is another one. He's a stud and will bring some enthusiasm and a solid work ethic to the program.
The overshadowed teammate: Playing with Milton Knox meant that the defense for Birmingham didn't get nearly the attention they deserved. While Knox truly deserved the state player of the year, and he was the key to the Patriots' title winning season, the Birmingham defense was just as stellar all season long. And Donovan Carter was at the center of that, the middle linebacker on the defense that also starred the Jackson twins. At the Notre Dame-Birmingham game, Carter quietly, but importantly, racked up a team leading 13 tackles and was around the ball. He's not a flashy guy who will talk a lot, but when he gets a chance to shine, look out. And Jerry Johnson was overshadowed by the exploits of Curtis McNeal at Venice, but he's an excellent receiver and could play early. Finally, Johnathan Franklin would be the focal point of any team anywhere else, but with Rahim Moore getting all the clippings, Franklin didn't get the attention he should have. One coach in Southern California told us that after playing Darrell Scott and Johnathan Franklin, they'd take Franklin.
Big Game Player: Few players were at their best in the big games like E.J. Woods. In fact, maybe only Knox was more of a star in the big games, but because Birmingham had so many blowouts, he didn't have a chance to have the fourth quarter heroics. Woods did, in fact, one time at the expense of Knox. In the opener, Woods picked up a Knox fumble, when Birmingham was going for the tie, and took it the distance for the score. That loss was the only blemish for the Patriots, but also helped rally the Celts. In the CIF playoffs, Woods was money, especially against Mater Dei, with his runs and picks and then against Servite, when he scored the winning touchdown in overtime.
Be Patient: Kevin Prince won't enroll with the rest of the class of 2008, he'll come in the winter of 2009 or maybe later, if he takes his mission. But there is a reason that Norm Chow and Rick Neuheisel put the press on him in the week leading up to Signing Day: He can play. Chow, in fact, was the key to Prince's recruitment, making it clear that he wanted Prince. The former UCLA bellboy had been dreaming of playing in the Rose Bowl for the Bruins since he was a kid, and had to wait. He'll probably be able to handle it for one more year.