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August 11, 2013

Top non-BCS conference newcomers

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Dallas Jackson is the National Columnist for Rivals.com. Email him your comments or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.

Not having a conference to call its own makes Notre Dame the leader of the pack when discussing recruiting in the non-BCS conference category.

The Irish have more prestige and tradition than any other program they will be associated with in this category as Rivals.com looks at newcomers who could make a major impact this season.

Bolstered by a run to the BCS championship game last season, the Irish finished the 2013 recruiting cycle with the No. 3 class in the country and signed four five-star players -- one of those players, Eddie Vanderdoes, subsequently elected to go to UCLA. Out of the three remaining, running back Greg Bryant is expected to make the biggest contribution to Notre Dame's 2013 squad.

The 5-foot-11, 197-pound prospect from Delray Beach (Fla.) American Heritage was the No. 19 player in the Rivals100 presented by Under Armour and chose Notre Dame in what seemed like an out-of-the-blue decision after being heavily linked to Auburn, Florida State, South Carolina and Tennessee after de-committing from Oklahoma.

Now on campus and working toward the season, Bryant has turned heads with his powerful running, smooth route running and work ethic. The belief is that he will be on the two-deep and could see plenty of playing time as the No. 2 running back.

He is not alone on the list of impact newcomers to non-BCS schools.

NON-BCS: NEWCOMERS WHO COULD MAKE AN IMPACT
Measurables: 5-foot-10, 195 pounds. Loxahatchee (Fla.) Seminole Ridge
Recruiting rankings: Two stars
Buzz: Spearman had offers from FIU and Boston College but chose to stay closer to home. Spearman was a productive high school football player and was most likely overlooked by BCS programs that typically don't hit the rural areas outside of West Palm Beach. The Golden Panthers benefited from that oversight. With a new coaching staff in place at FIU, every spot on the depth chart is up for grabs and Spearman has impressed so far. Featured running back Kedrick Rhodes was kicked off the team, which further opened the door for Spearman. He will most likely enter the season as the team's No. 2 runner, but he can start stealing time, given the opportunity.

Measurables: 6-foot-3, 200 pounds. Clarksburg (Md.) High
Recruiting rankings: High school: Three stars and No. 55-ranked outside linebacker. Prep: Four stars and No. 7 in the postseason prep top 50.
Buzz: Houston signed with Maryland out of high school but had to enroll at Fork Union (Va.) Military to get his grades and standardized test scores in order. He cleaned up his academics and then gave his pledge to Marshall. Houston is expected to and play immediately at the team's hybrid defensive end/linebacker position, where his athleticism should allow him to make plenty of plays. The Thundering Herd could have multiple newcomers making an impact this season because junior college safety Taj Letman and cornerback Corey Tindal are expected to see plenty of playing time as well.

Measurables: 6-foot-6, 240 pounds. El Campo (Texas) High
Recruiting rankings: Three stars and No. 30-ranked tight end.
Buzz: Rice signed just four players ranked as three-stars, and Hunt was one of them. He played on both sides of the ball in high school but will focus on tight end in college. Hunt joins a Rice program that has recently sent two players at his position to the NFL, andhe has an opportunity to earn plenty of early playing time. Head coach David Bailiff said at a recent speaking engagement that he was excited about seeing what Hunt could do.

Measurables: 5-foot-10, 195 pounds. Smyran (Ga.) North Cobb
Recruiting rankings: High school: Unranked. JUCO: Three stars.
Buzz: Best shares some traits with his cousin, former Detroit Lions running back Jahvid Best. C.J. is lightning quick off the edge and has excellent hands that make him a threat in the passing game. With only two years of eligibility remaining, Best arrives at Texas State looking to play right away. He may have only ended up at the program because others -- Bryce Peters and Keith Whitely -- elected to pass on the opportunity, but that has made San Marcos all the more interesting for Best. He was arguably the best player in the Bobcats' signing class and, if he can improve his ball security, Best could become a standout in the Sun Belt Conference. Texas State is also giving second chances to former Colorado State signee Mike Orakpo -- brother of Washington Redskins player Brian Orakpo -- and former TCU defensive tackle D.J. Yendry. All three have the ability to be all-conference players in the Sun Belt.

Measurables: 6-foot-3, 208 pounds. Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian
Recruiting rankings: High school: Three stars and No. 22-ranked pro-style quarterback. JUCO: Three stars.
Buzz: While Montana has not officially been named Tulane's starting quarterback -- he is locked in a for-show battle with Devin Powell -- he did not join the Green Wave to be the backup. Montana signed with Washington out of high school and was beaten out for the starting job. He transferred to Walnut (Calif.) Mt. San Antonio Community College and played his way to first-team all-conference honors. Last season, Tulane quarterback Ryan Griffin had the two largest passing performances in school history and, with all of the teams' primary receivers returning, Montana could make Griffin's stay atop the record books a short one.

Measurables:6-foot-4, 190 pounds. Ashland (Ala.) Central High
Recruiting rankings: Two stars.
Buzz: One of the few true freshmen to make this list, Staples was a late addition to UAB's class and one who head coach Garrick McGee is very excited about. The explosive receiver had a hard time deciding between the Blazers and Western Kentucky, and he did not make his choice until 3:30 p.m. on signing day, which forced UAB to postpone its press conference. Now part of the program, Staples is expected to team with fellow newcomer Maudrecus Humphrey as one of the more dangerous receiving duos in the conference. UAB is also going to feature a 25-year old tight end in Tristan Howard, who chose the the program out of Cerritos College in California. The trio could elevate UAB higher in Conference USA, but it will mostly be Staples -- a Class 4A first-team all-state selection in high school -- to be the major player in the group.

Measurables: 5-foot-10, 185 pounds. Dallas (Texas) Sam Houston
Recruiting rankings: High school: Unranked.
Buzz: Jackson was lightly recruited out of high school and signed with Division II Texas A&M Commerce. He played in 10 games as a true freshman, catching 49 passes for 451 yards, and he was on track for another good season as a sophomore before a leg injury cut his season short. Jackson transferred to ULM and sat out last season due to NCAA rules. Now eligible to compete for the Warhawks, Jackson is slowly but surely working his way into ULM's stacked two-deep at receiver. While he may not factor into the receiver rotation at the beginning of the season, look for Jackson to get regular playing time on special teams right away as a returner.

Measurables: 5-foot-11, 197 pounds. Bolingbrook (Ill.) High
Recruiting rankings: Two stars.
Buzz: Stover graduated early from high school and chose Wyoming over offers from Bowling Green, North Dakota and Western Michigan. The early start to his college career gave Stover an opportunity to showcase his abilities, and he quickly moved up the team's depth chart. The Cowboys' leading rusher from last season, D.J. May, sustained a season-ending injury, which should open up more time for Stover. He will likely be running behind another impact newcomer because JUCO center Albert Perez is penciled in to start for the Cowboys.



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