Making the jump from high school to college can be difficult. While some prospects are able to transition from the moment they step on campus, others need more time. Getting time to adjust and get their feet grounded can make a huge difference, and we have seen a few of those players make that leap this season.
Here is a look at a few players from the 2016 class who have shown a great deal of improvement from their first year on campus to this past season.
Fisher was a three-star out of Texas and took a redshirt his first year. He started to make noise with his play in practice that first season but didn't see any game action. He burst onto the scene this season for Northwestern, accumulating 113 total tackles, 30 of which came in two games against Michigan State and Nebraska. He came in at No. 34 for total tackles among all FBS defenders, and Fisher is the only freshman -- redshirt or true -- ranked in the top 50 in total tackles. His leap was tremendous, and it seems as though he is still on the way up.
Tate was a four-star, dual-threat prospect out of California with a good-sized offer list who chose Arizona as his landing spot. He is an interesting player because he was so explosive for Arizona but didn't open the season as the starter his second year. It took Brandon Dawkins' injury to give Tate the time to show what he can do, and he put on a show the rest of the way. He earned four straight Pac-12 Player of the Week awards, ran for 327 yards against Colorado, threw for 14 touchdowns and ran for 12 more. Tate ranked fourth in quarterback rushing yards behind Army's Ahmad Bradshaw, 2016 Heisman winner Lamar Jackson and Navy's Zach Abey. He did all of that while attempting only nine passes and running the ball 10 times through the first four games.
Williams was an ESPN 300 prospect, ranked No. 268 overall, but he was the No. 20 cornerback in the class. He redshirted his first season at LSU and thought he had a chance to make an impact his second season, but he wasn't entirely sure how much time he would see. He ended up playing in 13 games for the Tigers, accumulating six interceptions and 11 pass breakups on the year. Those six interceptions were good for fourth among all FBS defenders, and he did it in his first season on the field. With fellow corners Donte Jackson and Kevin Tolliver off to the NFL, it's safe to say Williams should see his role continue to increase into next season.
Milton was a two-star prospect out of Hawaii, who decommitted from Hawaii in favor of Scott Frost at UCF. Milton played in 10 games his true freshman season and threw for 1,983 yards with 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions. This past season, Milton broke the program record for passing yards in a season, throwing for 4,037 yards, 37 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He tied Daunte Culpepper and Ryan Schneider for the most 300-yard passing games in a season at UCF with seven, and he also ran for 497 yards and seven touchdowns. Milton was named the American Athletic Conference offensive player of the year and was a Walter Camp award semifinalist. His season was remarkable, as was his improvement from Year 1.
Fant was a three-star prospect out of Omaha, Nebraska, who spurned his home-state team and chose Iowa. He played his true freshman season and had nine catches for 70 yards with one touchdown. His impact was minimal that first season, but fast-forward to 2017, and Fant saw his role increase. He led all tight ends in touchdowns with 11, as well as yards per catch with 16.5 yards. Fant earned third-team All-Big Ten honors and showed that he is a threat in the offense for the Hawkeyes.
Bush was the No. 181-ranked prospect out of high school, but some questioned his size and if it would translate to the college game. At 5-foot-11, he wasn't considered big enough, especially in the Big Ten, to make an impact. In his first season, Bush saw action on special teams and played in seven games at linebacker. He tallied 12 total tackles as a freshman but showed flashes of his ability. This past season, Bush earned a starting role and accumulated 102 total tackles and 5.5 sacks. He was Michigan's leading tackler during the regular season, named a third-team AP All-American and a first-team All-Big Ten selection by the coaches. Bush has shown that his size is not a limitation and that he has grasped the aggressive nature of defensive coordinator Don Brown's defense.
Fitzpatrick was well-coached in high school, a four-star prospect out of Michigan, but he redshirted his first season. His second year, he played in 12 games and notched 45 receptions for 699 yards and nine touchdowns. Despite having more experience in front of him, Fitzpatrick led all Louisville receivers in touchdowns and was second in reception yards on the season. With quarterback Lamar Jackson off to the NFL, having a more experienced Fitzpatrick will help whomever takes over at quarterback for the Cardinals.
Harris might be one of the better players no one knows about. A three-star out of Louisiana, Harris played in nine games his first season at Arkansas. He had 37 total tackles to go with one sack and was named to the coaches' SEC All-freshman team. This past season, Harris took a giant step forward and had 115 total tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks on the season. He was tied for 20th in total tackles per game with 9.6 and earned second-team All-SEC by the AP. His team didn't fare well, going 4-8, which likely had to do with the lack of attention on Harris. If he continues to ascend, he could become a bigger name nationally.