It's common now for true freshmen -- particularly quarterbacks -- to finish up high school early and show up at their new football homes in time for spring practice. More often than not they get a head start learning the offense or defense but rarely immediately jump into starting roles.
Still, some true freshmen make an immediate impact.
There appears to be some consensus out there which Pac-12 true freshmen on hand this spring are headed for playing time in 2012: California quarterback Zach Kline and Oregon defensive end Arik Armstead.
Just Monday, Cal coach Jeff Tedford tried to tamp down expectations for Kline, but assessments Tuesday from CBS Sports and Sports Illustrated won't do anything to dampen the hype.
Here's what Bruce Feldman thinks about Kline and Armstead:
1-Zach Kline, Cal, QB: It's been a loooooooong time since Jeff Tedford's team has had a really good QB. That last guy Aaron Rodgers left Cal after the 2004 season and it's been a bunch of misfires since. A lot of those quarterbacks who have had a shot at taking over, came to Berkeley with sizable credentials, but none of the other QBs Tedford has had since arrived more polished than the 6-2, 205-pound Kline. The Danville, CA native who has worked with former Cal coach Roger Theder for years, has good footwork, a quick release and is very accurate. Kline also seems to respond very well to competition. Zach Maynard, who had an up-and-down 2011, is the guy he'd have to overtake. Maynard, Tedford pointed out, did play better late in the season, but Kline is worth watching closely.
The Bears coach, whose teams have not finished in the AP Top 25 five years running now, has tried to temper some of the hype around Kline, by saying Maynard is still the program's starting QB. "I absolutely have concern about that," Tedford told reporters Monday about the lofty expectations on his young quarterback. "There's such a thing of putting too much on a kid early. I want him to come in here and be able concentrate on what he's doing and learn the offense and do his best without all the expectations."
8-Arik Armstead, Oregon, DL: Many projected the Californian as a top offensive tackle prospect, but he signed on with the Ducks, where he's seen Nick Alliotti's D have a lot of success with its' towering D-linemen. The 6-7, 282-pound Armstead, also a terrific basketball player, has a chance to boost a defensive end rotation that needs to replace Terrell Turner.
And here's Sports Illustrated's take:
Zach Kline, QB, Cal: Cal's class suffered major losses after recruiting ace and former defensive line coach Lupoi moved to Washington in January, but the Bears held onto Kline, a highly touted pro-style passer who has been attending camps at Berkeley since he was in the eighth grade. Rivals' No. 44 overall recruit and an East Bay native, Kline is already on campus and will compete for the starting job with incumbent Zach Maynard when camp opens in March.
Arik Armstead, DE, Oregon: Armstead had quite the wild recruiting ride. The five-star defensive end -- who is actually rated higher as an offensive tackle, but will exclusively play defense in college -- committed to USC in June 2010, de-committed from the Trojans in the fall of 2011 and looked like he was headed to Cal until assistant Tosh Lupoi moved to Washington in January. That's when Ducks coach Chip Kelly moved in, impressing Armstead enough to get him to sign and enroll early at Oregon. Rivals' No. 61 player should make an impact both on the field and on the court in Eugene: The 6-foot-8, 280 pound Armstead will also play basketball for the Ducks.
It's not unreasonable to believe that either one of these guys will play in 2012, but the Pac-12 blog remains skeptical as to whether they will log any starts. And if I were betting who gets more quality playing time, it would be Armstead, though there seems to be a nagging consensus that he should seriously consider listening to people -- just about everyone -- and switch to offensive tackle.