D2 Football season is just 30 days away, and we are starting to get into the preview and prediction portion of the offseason that so many fans anticipate to see how their favorite program might fare.
One part of a team's success comes from the infusion of new talent, and that means first-year players who are making the jump from high school fields to the bright lights of NCAA competition.
To kick off our preview portion of the schedule for 2017, we begin with the best incoming freshmen classes across D2. While some of these programs may not end up near the top, the years ahead look bright with the talent coming on board.
Key Recruit: Nick So'oto, DT
0-11, 3-8, 2-9… those are the records over the last three seasons for the Riverhawks of NSU in a very tough MIAA conference. Well, let me be the first to tell you that four wins are not out of the realm of possibility this season, and should be an expectation based on a good recruiting class coming in.
So'oto — the nephew of the late, great Junior Seau — projects to be the player that can make the biggest impact in his first year, looking to wreak havoc along the defensive line. Other possible standouts include Brayden Klusak, a 247 Sports 2-star recruit at wide receiver, a position that returns the top two options from last year, but will need some added depth.
The Riverhawks were predicted to finish in the bottom-third of the MIAA this season by coaches and media, but some winnable conference games are ahead and a middle-of-the-pack finish would be a great start to a potentially excellent future.
Key Recruit: Jason Rucker, DB
CWU has been steadily climbing up the national scene over the last few years, and 2017 seems to be a season where they finally place their stamp on the map of contention for a GNAC title and playoff berth. While the team is already stacked at many spots, the freshmen class of 2017 will provide valuable depth in a lot of spots.
The prime recruit is Rucker, a 2-star defensive back based on Scout recruiting. A top-30 prospect from Oregon, Rucker will play corner for the Wildcats after featuring as a safety during his prep days. Besides Rucker, CWU also inked 11 of the top-100 prospects from the state of Washington, and two FCS transfer quarterbacks from Eastern Washington and Austin Peay.
The GNAC isn't known as a power conference in D2, but in the coming seasons they very well might be as Central Washington turns into a force along the West coast.
Key Recruit: Laperion Perry, WR
Of the 21 players West Georgia signed on National Signing Day, all of them were from the state of Georgia — a hotbed for recruiting at every level of NCAA play. But more importantly, UWG addressed the trenches with a majority of their signings, strengthening an area that needed to be addressed by new head coach David Dean.
Oddly enough though, the biggest recruit is wide receiver Laperion Perry — a 3-star athlete who originally signed with Purdue. UWG suffered through severe droughts on offense in 2016, and adding an athlete the caliber of Perry could provide a much-needed spark.
A disappointing season in 2016 after consecutive deep playoff runs leaves the Wolves in a curious situation, but with a new head coach and dynamic recruiting class coming in to energize the team once more, UWG should not be counted out long in a very tough Gulf South Conference.