Most 2017 signees will spend next year preparing for bigger roles as redshirts or depth-providers on some talented Pac-12 rosters. But a select few will become immediate contributors and names that readers should start paying attention to now.
Which of the incoming Pac-12 freshmen will make major contributions for their teams in 2017? The Pac-12 blog picks the recruit most likely to make the biggest impact for each team.
Player: Jon Van Diest
Why he will make an instant impact: Colorado loses nine starters from its league-leading 2016 defense, which gave up only 18.4 points per conference game -- the best figure in the Pac-12. The entire starting defensive line, leading tackler Kenneth Olugbode, and leading pass-rusher Jimmie Gilbert are all among the departures.
The Buffs need help in the front seven, and they need it quickly. That's where Van Diest comes in. At 6-foot-1, 234 pounds, he has the size to immediately contribute as a linebacker. Van Diest is listed in some places as a defensive end, but the pass-rushing speed he exhibits on film shows a skill set that can potentially be a good replacement for Gilbert's at that edge rushing position.
Throughout his film, Van Diest blows by opposing tackles and even returns a fumble the length of the field, outrunning running backs and receivers along the way. The athleticism is there, and so is an arsenal of pass-rushing moves that Colorado's staff will look to refine once he's on campus.
Van Diest was one of the earliest commits in the Buffs' 2017 class, and he helped bring other recruits on board. Colorado certainly appreciates this leadership, as a new wave of it will be needed with so many veterans leaving the defense.
Van Diest is recovering from a shoulder injury, but expect him to be ready for camp, where he should be one of the pillars of the Buffs' youth movement on the defensive side of the ball.