Signing class candidates to get on the field quickly:
RB Jordan Wilkins: This offense needs a bigger, physical guy at running back to help in short-yardage situations. Wilkins is listed at 6-1, 210, which immediately makes him roughly 40 pounds bigger than Jeff Scott and Jaylen Walton, 15 pounds heavier than I’Tavius Mathers.
There’s more than size to getting that tough yard on fourth-and-1 or banging it across the goalline. You’ve got to run behind your pads, have balance and vision, but size is an important first step.
DL Lavon Hooks: Freshman Issac Gross led the interior down linemen with 40 tackles, 10 tackles for loss. Next were Gilbert Pena and Uriah Grant, who are both gone. After those two, next was Bryon Bennett with nine tackles. Woodrow Hamilton, who appeared in only eight games because of injury problems, also had nine tackles compared to Bennett, who appeared in 13 games with six starts.
Gross wins with his quickness, but sometimes you need a bigger, more physical player, and Hooks (6-4, 290) provides that.
CB Nick Brassell: We’ve seen the athleticism that Brassell brings to the table, and the head coach has already called him an “NFL corner.” The Rebels return both starting corners, but Brassell could make things interesting at the position if he shows enough discipline in the classroom to get on the field.
WR Laquon Treadwell: The Rebels need another physical, good hands target who makes the catches in traffic opposite Donte Moncrief. Treadwell could be that guy and could make this a very deep position. Vince Sanders was playing really well at the end of the year, but it took until late in the season to really answer questions at the slot position. Collins Moore was set to start at the inside spot but got hurt early in practice. Korvic Neat got off to a fast start but also had injury problems. Ja-Mes Logan played well there. Treadwell could be the kind of talent to work himself into a big role early.
DE Robert Nkemdiche: It’s easy to put Nkemdiche on a list like this, because he was rated the No. 1 overall recruit. His quickness sets him a part, but he’s getting ready to see a different kind of speed. He readily points that out when he talks about playing against “more people like me.” There will be an acclimation period for Nkemdiche, and how quickly he adjusts will go a long way in determining his role. South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney was not an every-down player as a freshman, but he had a key role and finished with 36 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and eight sacks.
If Channing Ward develops as expected in the spring and Nkemdiche plays up to his ratings, there could be some experimentation with C.J. Johnson at linebacker.
OL Laremy Tunsil: It’s not always easy for offensive linemen to break in for early playing time, but Tunsil could be a special case, special enough for OL coach Matt Luke to tinker with two returning starters at tackle and maybe move Emmanuel McCray inside.