Martez Ivey

CFT 2015 Preseason Preview: Impact Freshmen

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Recruiting in college football is the lifeblood of a program’s success. While the majority of the Class of 2015 will see their time to lead and prove valuable on the field will come in the next few years, a select few special talents could end up playing a key role with their new programs starting this fall.

Unlike decades past, talented freshmen have a chance to become household names now. In recent years we have seen players like Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston dazzle from the start of their collegiate careers, each going on to win a Heisman Trophy as freshmen or redshirt freshmen. Last season may not have produced a young Heisman phenom, but it did have its share of young stars like LSU running back Leonard Fournette, Baylor wide receiver K.D. Cannon and Alabama defensive end Da’Shawn Hand.

So which freshmen could be names to watch this season? Here are a few.

JOSH ROSEN, QB, UCLA

Many suspect Josh Rosen will have a chance to step right into the starting job at UCLA as the Bruins look to replace Brett Hundley. And why wouldn’t he? One of the top quarterbacks in the Class of 2015, Rosen seems to be worthy of filling one of the few holes UCLA’s offense has this season. Rosen enrolled early to get a jump start on getting adjusted, and that should pay off.

KAHLIL MCKENZIE, DL, TENNESSEE

Tennessee head coach Butch Jones has done a tremendous job in bringing in talent since he took over the Vols program, but the addition of Kahlil McKenzie may be his best recruiting victory yet. McKenzie brings good size to the middle of Tennessee’s defensive line and should be a monster for opposing offensive linemen to block.

DERWIN JAMES, DB, FLORIDA STATE

Florida State has plenty of holes to fill, except in the defensive secondary. There should be a spot for Derwin James somewhere in the mix though. James proved to be a playmaker in the spring game after enrolling early. Look for James to be worked into the defensive game plan in certain situations this fall.

MARTEZ IVEY, OL, FLORIDA

New Florida head coach Jim McElwain had a relatively short time to recruit for the Gators, so locking in offensive lineman Martez Ivey was significant. The premium offensive lineman should have an impact in the trenches in a spot that has been weak for Florida in recent years. He won’t be making big plays happen but adding stability up front is always good.

MALIK JEFFERSON, LB, TEXAS

If there is one thing Charlie Strong knows what to do with Texas, it is improve the defense. The Longhorns welcome new linebacker Malik Jefferson to the fold this fall, and Jefferson should quickly become the centerpiece of Strong’s improving Longhorns defense. It will not take long for him to leave an impact this fall in Austin after enrolling early to be there for spring practices.

SOLOMON THOMAS, DL, STANFORD

Stanford is in the unusual position of having to refuel the defensive line. Sitting out the 2014 season with a redshirt should pay dividends for Solomon Thomas at Stanford. Thomas should waste little time giving opposing offensive linemen trouble this season, as he has a chance to move right into a starting gig sooner rather than later if healthy.

BYRON COWART, DE, AUBURN

Auburn’s defense is expected to improve simply with the addition of Will Muschamp as defensive coordinator, but the Tigers need a body to bring some pressure up front on the defensive line. Byron Cowart could have an impact off the edge by the time the season is over. Look for Cowart to move up the depth chart quickly at Auburn and excel under the guidance of Muschamp.

Five-star DE CeCe Jefferson gives Florida a bump with big commitment

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While on a visit to Auburn in January, Class of 2015 defensive end CeCe Jefferson said he talked it over with other Class of 2015 standouts defensive end Byron Cowart and linebacker Jeffery Holland and agreed the three would all commit to the same school. Cowart announced his commitment to Auburn but now there is some question over his status. Holland gave his commitment to Auburn as well. CeCe Jefferson did not uphold his end of the supposed deal by announcing his commitment to Florida Wednesday afternoon.

It is thew second huge pick-up for Jim McElwain and the Gators after landing offensive tackle Martez Ivey earlier in the day. For a recruiting class that was lagging behind the competition in and out of the conference, McElwain is managing to close on a high note with this recruiting cycle.

Jefferson is ranked the second-best defensive end in the nation by Rivals, and he is the eighth top recruit overall in the state of Florida. The five-star talent was a top target for a number of schools, especially those in the SEC. Alabama, Auburn and Ole Miss were all in the running heading down to National Signing Day. Jefferson took official visits to Auburn and LSU in January to wrap up his recruiting process, with LSU getting the last visit. Despite getting the last visit, LSU was cut from the final running earlier this week.

Photo credit: Rivals.com

Martez Ivey stays home: Florida locks down five-star offensive tackle

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New Florida head coach Jim McElwain may have missed out on a top talent on the defensive line earlier this morning, but he sure cashed in on the offensive line. Five-star offensive tackle Martez Ivey will stay in state and join the Florida Gators.

The Apopka, Florida recruit was ranked as the top offensive tackle and fourth top player in the nation by Rivals. At 6′ 5″ and 271 pounds, he should be a big asset in the offensive line. This was a massive recruiting win for McElwain, both literally and figuratively. Ivey had long been a target of Florida and the Gators were considered the favorite leading up to National Signing Day. But most of the recruiting work was conducted by Will Muschamp, the former Florida head coach who has since moved to Auburn as defensive coordinator.

Muschamp and Ivey reportedly had established a very solid relationship through the recruiting process, and that figured to give Auburn a puncher’s chance to lure Ivey to The Plains. Muschamp kept Auburn in the hunt down to the wire, and the way the morning has been going for Auburn you had to wonder if the momentum would carry over to Ivey’s big decision. Whether or did play a role or not is unknown, but it did not matter.

McElwain did not have a tremendous amount of time to dig very deep into recruiting in the SEC since being hired away by Florida from Colorado State, but his past experience on the SEC recruiting trail allowed for a certain comfort level that allowed McElwain to jump right into some key recruiting battles. Muschamp may have started the process in this one, but McElwain found a way to close.