Top ACC Football Newcomers for 2016 : #10-6

By Dave Lackford

Top Newcomers 20-16

Top Newcomers 15-11

10. Baveon “Booga Joe” Johnson, Florida State, C, 6’3″ 332-pounds
B Johnson
Johnson was the composite #1 center in the class of 2016. He is a ferocious mauler and gets into the second level of the defense better than any center FSU has recruited in a long time. The 6’3″ 332-pound Booga Joe can’t get to FSU fast enough. Center has been a sore spot for FSU since Bryan Stork departed for the NFL after the ‘Noles 2013 National Championship season. Over the past two seasons, the position was only solidified for six games when former LT Cam Erving moved into the position during the 8th game of the 2014 season against Virginia. Since Erving was drafted in the first round of the 2015 draft, the fill-ins at center for FSU have not inspired awe. In fact, the line was cited as the major reason the Houston defense was able to shutdown Dalvin Cook, and injure starting QB Sean Maguire, in an embarrassing, turn-over plagued 38-24 Peach Bowl defeat.

On the recruiting trail, Jimbo Fisher and offensive line coach Rick Trickett didn’t waste any time finding reinforcements, singing 6 offensive lineman, 5 of whom were consensus 4 stars, and one who is the son of Hall of Fame LT Tony Boselli. The reason Johnson makes this list in lieu of the other incoming ‘Nole heavies is due to his size and mastery of the center position. Very rarely do freshman offensive lineman come on a Power Five campus and start, especially centers. The center position has the most responsibilities on the offensive line, mainly calling out the offensive blocking adjustments at the line and knowing the nuanced demands of the guy who snaps the ball. Another reason it’s rare for freshman to start at center is because they need to add weight in order to compete against defensive tackles that have had a few years in P5 weight rooms. Well Johnson has played center for Lake Gibson since 2013 so he knows his duties well, and coming in at 332-pounds, his challenge is not putting on weight but actually dropping about 17 pounds to get down around 315.

It is no easy task ahead of Johnson, but if any center in this class can do it at the level of competition FSU faces, it’s Baveon, he is afterall, the number one center in the incoming class. Here, take a look at him destroying people in the second level for Lake Gibson High School if you think I’m crazy, then make up your own mind.

9. Sam Bruce – Miami, FL, WR, 5’8″ 180
Bruce is the top slot receiver in the 2016’ recruiting class. He is a major problem in man coverage due to his acceleration, and explosive hips and footwork. His short routes are run with precision and his toughness allows him to compete over the middle with bigger players. While he is smallish (5’8” 180-pounds) in stature, his play is anything but. He’s a muscular 5’8” and he doesn’t shy away from contact.

A dazzling return man with blazing speed and elite change of direction ability, Bruce also showcases his completeness as a ball player by getting downfield and blocking for his teammates, as he has been known to pancake defensive backs that sleep on his aggressiveness. Bruce brings a confidence and toughness to Coral Gables reminiscent of the U’s glory days. Hurricane fans are extremely excited to see what type of impact the nephew of NFL Superstar WR Isaac Bruce brings to the U this season.

8. Tre Lamar – Early Enrollee, Clemson, ILB, GA, 6’4” 240-pounds
Tre L
Tre Lamar was a consensus 4 star and the #2 composite ILB in the nation, and Georgia 6A Defensive Player of the Year. He earned a 5th star for the final Rivals rankings of the season, finishing as the #3 ILB and the #16 player overall.

Lamar is built like a “first guy off the bus” type of football player. He looks like he could be in a Marine Corps recruiting video slaying dragons with a sword wearing dress blues. He’s a prototypical downhill thumper type of linebacker, but his game is very well rounded. Tre is very fluid when pursuing the ball carrier from sideline to sideline, making it hard for blockers to get a hat on him. Once he locks on target, he comes full speed and drops ball carriers with the force of a meteor. The only knock on his game coming into his Senior season of high school was could he excel in pass coverage. He answered those questions during the week of practice leading up to the Under Armour All-American game, shining against some of the most talented athletes in the country.

When he isn’t busting heads on the field, Lamar is in the classroom solving physics problems, and plans to major in Civil Engineering at Clemson. With the brawn to compete against anyone at the P5 level and the brains to learn the defensive scheme, look for Lamar to instantly be inserted in the two-deep and to push Redshirt sophomore Kendall Joseph for the starting spot this season. Some may argue that Lamar should be ranked higher than #8 on this list, and they may be correct, but the coaching staff has been signing the praises of Kendall Joseph this spring, just like they were last year around this time. As much as the staff loves Joseph, the vibe is that Lamar will be too much to keep of the field and will see considerable tick in the MLB role vacated by NFL hopeful BJ Goodson.

7. Damar Hamlin – Pitt, CB, PA, 6’1″ 179-pounds
D Hamlin
The crown jewel of the Pitt recruiting class, Hamlin is a big time physical corner that should vie for immediate playing time in the Panther’s secondary. At 6’1” 179-pounds, Hamlin has prototypical size for a corner but can also play the safety position. Hamlin possess all the attributes you want from a DB. He has elite hips, able to swing them effortlessly as his assignment cuts inside and out, and also has the closing speed necessary to make plays on the ball if his receiver gains a step on him. His physicality poses a problem in press coverage and he can also shed blocks, take precise angles of pursuit, and makes solid contact with ball carriers when he comes up in run support.

​Hamlin is one of the top incoming corners in the nation and will be hard to keep him off the field this season. He notched 83 tackles with two picks as a senior and 45 tackles, a sack, and 4 interceptions as a Junior, when teams actually dared to test him. Last season he helped lead his team, Central Catholic to the PA Class AAAA championship.

Pitt loses last year’s starting corner, Lafayette Pitts, to graduation and no other player on the staff seems to have a strangle hold on his vacated spot. Hamlin certainly has the talent to take that position and hold on to it until he declares for the NFL draft. If he can stay focused during the off season, and can come in and pick up the system this Summer, look for him to team with last year’s ACC Freshman of the Year free safety Jordan Whitehead, to give the Panthers one of the most exciting young secondaries in the ACC. ​ My money is on this being the case.

6. Josh Brown – Early Enrollee, Florida State, OLB, NC, 6’2” 220-pounds
Josh Brown
Brown was named the North Carolina 2015 Defensive Player of the Year by the Charlotte Observer after leading Mallard Creek to third straight North Carolina Class 4A State Championship in 2015. He finished his senior season with 130 tackles, 14 sacks, 21 tackles for loss, an interception and 12 quarterback hurries. He was also one of the most dominant players in the 2016 Army All-American game, recording three tackles, one for a loss, a forced fumble, and a pass break up.

Brown fits what FSU defensive coordinator likes to do with his linebackers, which is everything. He is a versatile athlete who can play with his hand in the dirt as an edge rusher or cover ends and backs as a stand up outside linebacker. Luckily for him and FSU, the ultra talented freshman from Mallard Creek steps into a major position of need as the ‘Noles lose two starting linebackers. As an early enrollee, the reviews on Josh have been very positive. It’s been said that he has been the most impressive of the freshman competing in Spring Ball, and has appeared to surpass returning Senior Ro’Derrick Hoskins for first team reps. Look for the do-it-all linebacker to rack up major playing time in 2016 and possibly start from day one.

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