College Football America announces its freshman Class of 2017


In each edition of the College Football America Yearbook, Publisher Kendall Webb selects a team of the nation’s top incoming freshmen designated by their signing year — e.g., the Class of 2017.

The team is the equivalent of a Freshman All-America team for the upcoming season, but we also continue to track their progress throughout their collegiate careers as the goal is to find players that can make an impact early while also competing for college football’s top awards and All-America status as their careers progress. We call it The Program.


Roster changes since the Class of 2016 was announced


We entered the summer of 2015 with 84 scholarship players, one shy of a full roster, and the first time The Program was ever fully-stocked. It didn’t last long.

The first loss came on the first day of summer camp when Auburn running back Jovon Robinson was absent for the Tigers’ first practice on Wednesday, August 3, 2016. By the end of the day, the news broke that Robinson had been dismissed by Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn, and that ended his career here with The Program as well.

The next blow came shortly after the start of the season on September 15 when USC linebacker Osa Masina was dismissed after reports emerged he was facing sexual assault charges in his home state of Utah. At that point, his career with The Program was over, too.

Hurd announced on October 31 that he had quit the Tennessee team and was seeking a transfer.

On October 31, we got the shocking news that Tennessee starting running back Jalen Hurd had quit the team and was seeking to transfer. Barely a week later on November 8, we were hit with reports that Oregon defensive lineman Canton Kaumatule was retiring from football due to injuries and taking a medical hardship scholarship.

Along the way, it also became pretty clear last fall that USC quarterback Max Browne would be a candidate for a graduate transfer after losing his starting job to young Sam Darnold. In mid-December, he made it official announcing his intention to transfer to Pittsburgh. The final blow came at the end of December when Browne’s teammate and offensive lineman Khaliel Rodgers also announced his intentions to seek a graduate transfer eventually ending up at Iowa State.

That left us with 78 players remaining by season’s end, and of course, we then had to bid farewell to nine seniors and another 10 players who chose to leave college early for the NFL Draft. That reduced our numbers to 59 scholarship players remaining, but the good news is, that means we have room for almost all of our Class of 2017 signees. With 25 incoming freshmen and two junior college transfers, we have 86 players in line for scholarships, but for now, we will wait to see if there are any other transfers, dismissals or retirements among our current players. If not, we will cut one player (we’re looking at you UCLA kicker JJ Molson) prior to the first game of the 2017 season.

That leaves only one thing left to do … it’s time to introduce you to the College Football America Yearbook Class of 2017 which we will feature in the yearbook this summer. We have selected 11 incoming offensive players and 11 incoming defensive players along with a kicker, punter and one “wild card” that we can use on any position. Finally, we add two juco transfers — one on offense and one on defense — for a total of 27 new players.


The College Football America Class of 2017


FRESHMAN OFFENSE

QB Dylan McCaffrey, Valor Christian (Littleton, CO)
Michigan Wolverines

Our new quarterback hails from the top high school program in Colorado, Valor Christian, and rejoins former teammate Eric Lee, Jr., a Class of 2015 signee with The Program. McCaffrey is the son of former Denver Broncos’ wide receiver Ed McCaffrey, and he’s the first of four Michigan Wolverines we took in this class.

RB Stephen Carr, Summit (Fontana, CA)
USC Trojans

Carr is a 5-star talent that could be the next great Trojans’ running back, joining a history that includes names like Reggie Bush, Marcus Allen, Charles White, O.J. Simpson and Frank Gifford among others.

RB Najee Harris, Antioch (CA)
Alabama Crimson Tide

Alabama’s next great running back is also a 5-star prospect. Things could get a little crazy for statisticians and opposing coaching staffs next year when he joins current Crimson Tide star Damien Harris in the backfield this fall.

Higgins

WR Tee Higgins, Oak Ridge (TN)
Clemson Tigers

Higgins played in the shadow of Knoxville, Tennessee, but he was an early commit to Clemson and never wavered. He’s a 5-star, and one of the biggest prizes of Dabo Swinney’s latest class.

WR Donovan Peoples-Jones, Cass Tech (Detroit, MI)
Michigan Wolverines

Michigan’s signing of both McCaffrey and Peoples-Jones could be foreshadowing one of college football’s great pass-catch tandems in the years to come. McCaffrey, however, will likely redshirt early while Peoples-Jones is more likely to see the field right away as a freshman so it will depend on how quickly McCaffrey can break into the starting lineup.

TE Alexander Marshall, Bridgton (ME) Academy
Florida State Seminoles

Marshall is The Program’s first prospect out of the state of Maine, but he was a big enough talent to attract attention from Jimbo Fisher and the Florida State Seminoles. That’s good enough for us.

OL Calvin Ashley, St. John’s College HS (Washington, DC)
Auburn Tigers

Ashley is a big (6-6, 310) offensive tackle and one of two recruits in our Class of 2017 that hails from Washington, D.C.’s, St. John’s College High School.

Davis

OL Wyatt Davis, St. John Bosco (Bellflower, CA)
Ohio State Buckeyes

Davis is an offensive guard who prepped at California powerhouse St. John Bosco. He could be ready for playing time as a true freshman this fall in Columbus.

OL Alex Leatherwood, Washington (Pensacola, FL)
Alabama Crimson Tide

Leatherwood arrives just in time with Cam Robinson leaving for the NFL. Like Robinson, he could be capable of stepping in as a freshman, but either way, his future should be bright in Tuscaloosa.

OL Cesar Ruiz, IMG Academy (Bradenton, FL)
Michigan Wolverines

Ruiz is a center, and he’s yet another piece of Michigan’s future puzzle. It’s not hard to envision Ruiz snapping the ball to McCaffrey who could be lofting touchdown passes to Peoples-Jones.

OL Isaiah Wilson, Poly Prep (Brooklyn, NY)
Georgia Bulldogs

Wilson is a 6-7, 350-pound giant, and the rare 5-star prospect that prepped in New York City. He could be counted on early to protect quarterback Jacob Eason, the prize of Georgia’s Class of 2016 who spent much of his true freshman season last fall running for his life.

FRESHMAN DEFENSE

Kaindoh

DL Joshua Kaindoh, IMG Academy (Bradenton, FL)
Florida State Seminoles

Kaindoh is the next big defensive line star in Tallahassee, and the second of three IMG Academy stars that are members of our 2017 class. That makes four in all including Class of 2016 member Saivion Smith.

DL LaBryan Ray, James Clemens (Madison, AL)
Alabama Crimson Tide

Ray kept his college plans under wraps until National Signing Day, but being the state of Alabama’s biggest prize this year, it isn’t too big of a surprise that he ultimately chose the University of Alabama.

DL Cam Spence, St. John’s College HS (Washington, DC)
Maryland Terrapins

Spence is one of Maryland’s biggest signees this year, and he’s our second Class of 2017 member from St. John’s College High School.

DL Marvin Wilson, Episcopal (Bellaire, TX)
Florida State Seminoles

Did we say Kaindoh was the next big defensive line star at Florida State? Well, that’s only if Marvin Wilson doesn’t beat him to it. The duo are both ranked in the Top 10 giving the Seminoles two of the nation’s top future defensive linemen in one class.

Browning

LB Baron Browning, Kennedale (TX)
Ohio State Buckeyes

Browning is the top-ranked linebacker in the Class of 2017, but his talent was too big even for any of the programs in the state of Texas. So, instead, he’ll head to Columbus, Ohio, as the next great linebacker for Urban Meyer’s Ohio State Buckeyes.

LB Dylan Moses, IMG Academy (Bradenton, FL)
Alabama Crimson Tide

Another Tide freshman? Hey, it’s worked out pretty good for us in the past, and it’s almost impossible to not end up with a handful of Tide players each year if your team is built around the nation’s best. Consider that there were 32 consensus 5-star prospects this year, and six of those players signed with the Tide.

LB Avery Roberts, Concord (Wilmington, DE)
Nebraska Cornhuskers

The Cornhuskers snagged Roberts out of Delaware, and after viewing some tape, we like the way he looked, too. He’ll need to emerge quickly both for the ‘Huskers and The Program where we could end up losing three to four linebackers when the 2017 season comes to a close.

Gray

DB Maleik Gray, La Vergne (TN)
Tennessee Volunteers

Gray takes his spot in our 2017 class as one of two young safeties from the same county in Middle Tennessee. Gray is one of the big new building blocks in Knoxville as Butch Jones tries to reload after the departure of some of the program’s top players.

DB Elijah Molden, West Linn (OR)
Washington Huskies

We lose one Washington defensive back as Budda Baker leaves early for the NFL so why not replace him with another? Molden is one of the top prospects in this Class of 2017, and Chris Petersen will get the most out of him as the Huskies try to take another step toward a possible national championship after last season’s playoff appearance.

DB Jeffrey Okudah, South Grand Prairie (Grand Prairie, TX)
Ohio State Buckeyes

Okudah is one of three Texans from the Metroplex in the Class of 2017 that will play defense for the Ohio State Buckeyes. Okudah joins Browning as two-thirds of that trio (along with Kendall Sheffield) that will also be part of The Program.

DB JaCoby Stevens, Oakland (Murfreesboro, TN)
LSU Tigers

Stevens is that other Middle Tennessee safety from Tennessee’s Rutherford County, but unlike Gray, he chose to leave the Volunteer State for his college career. He’ll still be in the SEC, but he’ll be in an LSU Tiger uniform instead.

FRESHMAN SPECIAL TEAMS

K Anders Carlson, Classical Academy (Colorado Springs, CO)
Auburn Tigers

Carlson gives us our first set of brothers in The Program as he’s the younger sibling of Daniel Carlson, the only remaining member of our Class of 2013 and the first and only redshirt senior so far in The Program. Just like his older brother, Carlson was the No. 1 kicker in the country his senior year, and just like his brother, he’ll take a redshirt next fall as the older Carlson wraps up his career.

P Pressley Harvin III, Sumter (SC)
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Harvin III is one of the nation’s top punter prospects, and we picked him partly because he’ll have a chance to probably play right away. Either he or Jet Toner from our Class of 2016 who redshirted last fall is likely to be our punter when Jake Hartbarger’s eligibility expires, and we’ll have an opportunity to evaluate them side-by-side this fall if Harvin plays immediately.

FRESHMAN WILD CARD

WR Tarik Black, Cheshire (CT) Academy
Michigan Wolverines

After all the postseason moves were done, we only had two wide receivers left in the program — Notre Dame junior Equanimeous St. Brown and Auburn sophomore Kyle Davis. St. Brown would be eligible to leave for the draft if he has a big junior season so building receiver depth was essential this off-season. We might be over-investing in Wolverine receivers, but then again, it reflects our faith in Jim Harbaugh’s offensive system. Black is our wild card pick, and gives us three true freshmen with the hope that at least two of them will take the field this fall.

JUNIOR COLLEGE TRANSFERS

WR Marquise Brown, South Broward (Hollywood, FL)/College of the Canyons
Oklahoma Sooners

Did we mention we have a problem with receiver depth? Brown has the possibility to step right in and help us as the top available juco transfer at wide receiver. There’s one other benefit as Brown still has three years of eligibility left, and it doesn’t hurt that Baker Mayfield will be his quarterback this fall.

DE Isaiah Buggs, Ruston (LA)/Mississippi Gulf Coast
Alabama Crimson Tide

Nick Saban doesn’t have to rely on junior college transfers very often, but a number of early departures over the past couple of years have left the Crimson Tide light on depth up front. Saban has gone the juco route before to shore up up the defensive front so Buggs isn’t just window dressing. He’ll be counted on to contribute early, and considering Buggs was also being pursued by LSU, there’s the added advantage that he won’t be playing for the enemy. He’ll give us some depth in The Program as well with the potential loss of our top two defensive ends.


 

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