May 12, 2008

Even for elite, it's tough to make early impact

In the next month, high school seniors from Ozette, Wash. to Lubec, Maine will load up their parents' car and make an all-important journey.

They'll leave behind letterman jackets, cheerleader girlfriends and local celebrity, trading it in, at least temporarily, to play college football.

More so than in any other collegiate sport, the transition from high school stud to a productive collegiate athlete is extra treacherous in football.

The physical and mental demands increase dramatically, as an athlete goes from playing boys to men.

Logic would have it that only the best recruits could make an impact in their first year on campus. It's been done before.

No Trojan fan can forget the true freshman, former five star, who took a Bruin kick 96 yards for a score. Reggie Bush certainly made an impact in his true freshman season.

But, to be fair, that was Reggie Bush.

Not every five-star signee walks through the door ready to compete. Some, however, do.

Seventeen players on the Trojan roster signed as five-star prospects and have had at least one year on campus. Two more, Matt Kalil and Tyron Smith, are on their way.

Here is a look at how the 17 players already wearing cardinal and gold fared in their first season on campus.

2004

Offensive lineman Jeff Byers started four games late in the season at left guard and served as a backup at center. Byers earned second team freshman all-American honors from The Sporting News.

Offensive lineman Thomas Herring redshirted.

2005

Linebacker Rey Maualuga played in nine games. As a backup and special teams player, Maualuga recorded 36 tackles and intercepted a pass. He was named to a pair of freshman all-American teams.

Quarterback Mark Sanchez redshirted.

Wide receiver Patrick Turner caught 12 passed for 170 yards and two touchdowns.

2006

Linebacker Allen Bradford converted to fullback and tailback, starting twice at fullback. He appeared in 12 games, rushing for 42 yards on 13 attempts. He also had a receiving touchdown.

Athlete C.J. Gable started five games as a freshman at tailback, including the season opener. He appeared in all 13 games as a running back and kick returner. He ran for over 100 yards against Notre Dame. He gained 956 total yards, earning second team freshman all-American honors from Rivals.com.

Wide receiver Vidal Hazelton appeared in 11 games and caught one pass for eight yards. He also had one rushing attempt for seven yards.

Running back Stafon Johnson appeared in three games, running for 17 yards on three carries �" all against Stanford.

Athlete Taylor Mays took over for an injured Josh Pinkard at safety in the season opener and started the remaining 12 games. He recorded 62 tackles and a team-high three interceptions. He was named Rivals.com Pac-10 Freshman of the Year along with numerous other accolades.

Quarterback Mitch Mustain started eight games for Arkansas and completed 69-of-132 passes for 894 yards and 10 touchdowns. He earned Rivals.com National Freshman of the Week and SEC Freshman of the Week honors.

2007

Linebacker Chris Galippo redshirted.

Defensive end Everson Griffen appeared in all 13 games as a pass-rushing end. He recorded 21 tackles and 5.5 sacks. Griffen earned a place on Rivals.com's Freshman All-American team, and The Sporting News named him Pac-10 Defensive Freshman of the Year.

Wide receiver Ronald Johnson played in all 13 games and caught seven passes for 110 yards with a score. He also led the team with 25 kick returns, averaging 24.8 yards a return.

Running back Joe McKnight appeared in all 13 games, starting in the Trojans’ Rose Bowl win over Illinois. He led the team with 19 punt returns, averaging 8.4 yards. He also rushed for 540 yards on 94 carries and caught 23 balls for 203 yards. He scored four touchdowns. McKnight earned Rivals.com second team freshman all-American honors.

Offensive line Kristoffer O'Dowd started three games early in the season at center and appeared in seven games. Rivals.com named O'Dowd National Freshman of the Week after the Nebraska win. After the season, he was on numerous postseason teams, including the Rivals.com Freshman All-American second team.

Running back Marc Tyler redshirted.

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