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August 10, 2013
Dallas Jackson is the National Columnist for Rivals.com. Email him your comments or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.
After being gutted by the ACC, Big Ten and Big 12, the football-playing members of the then-Big East added a few midlevel programs and changed the league's name to the American Athletic Conference.
Teams such as Connecticut, UCF, Temple, Houston, Memphis, USF and SMU make for great alphabet soup but generally do not attract the five-star prospects coveted by the elite programs in college football. Where many teams in this range make their marks in recruiting is with reclamation projects or diamonds in the rough.
This week Rivals.com has gone conference to conference, breaking down the five most impactful true freshmen and junior college transfers.
The American Athletic Conference did not land a five-star player, but it has a fair share of four-stars who could play in any conference and a couple of former standouts who are looking to make good.
AAC: NEWCOMERS WHO COULD MAKE AN IMPACT
Recruiting ranking: High school: Five stars. No. 24 overall in Rivals100 presented by Under Armour. JuCo: Three stars. No. 46 overall in the junior college postseason top 100 2013
Buzz: Ambles is not yet on campus while he is trying to finish an online class to meet his eligibility requirements, but coaches feel confident that he will be on the field at the start of the week. The former five-star has the talent to be a productive player for the Houston offense if he gets the work done. He has a checkered past but seems to have come to terms with who he was and who he is. The time spent at remote Arizona Western Community College may have been the wake-up call he needed. Ambles averaged 18.9 yards per reception last season and could be a starter once he walks in the locker room.
Recruiting rankings: Four stars. No. 9-ranked receiver and No. 76 overall in Rivals100 presented by Under Armour
Buzz: The Louisville wide receiver group is solid, but the talented prospect did not choose to stay home over going to Ohio State to sit on the bench or redshirt, and he figures to make an immediate impact. Teamed with quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in a passing attack that is familiar to him, it will make for an easy transition to the program. Quick was named the MVP of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl last season after multiple explosive plays, including a touchdown reception, and he should see some touches over the course of the year.
Recruiting rankings: Three stars
Buzz: Warford could be interchanged with two other true freshman running backs. Tampa (Fla.) Carrollwood Day prospect Robert Davis and Bentonville (Ark.) High athlete Tearris Wallace also are competing to take the job of Jai Steib and Brandon Hayes. One of the three freshmen will get the job, and the odds-on bet is Warford. Warford hails from the same program that produced running backs Gary Green II, Aaron Green, Devin Thomas, Dominique Daniels, Troy Williams, Tony Green and Jacob Gutierrez, so there is a track record of players at the next level. Warford has a cockiness that befits a running back at Memphis and the ability to back it up.
Recruiting rankings: High school: Four stars. No. 16-ranked running back and No. 227 overall. JuCo: Three stars. No. 45 overall.
Buzz: Shead initially signed with Texas out of high school, but after time at Navarro Junior College he elected to run with the Mustangs. Shead was on campus for spring practice and looked good. He had quickness and good hands, and he understood blocking technique. That should get him on the field. He will be stepping in immediately to fill the void left by Zach Line. The word out of Texas is that Shead has rededicated himself to football and will be playing with a chip on his shoulder because his recruitment the second time was much quieter than his first. While he is more of a straight-up runner, the expectation is that he comes in and is one of the best backs in the conference.
Recruiting rankings: Four stars. No. 18-ranked defensive tackle
Buzz: Calloway was a major recruiting victory for new head coach Willie Taggart and USF. The massive interior lineman figures to be on the field immediately, whether as a starter on opening night or with the second group that will rotate in. Calloway was a two-time all-state selection and played in the Offense-Defense All-American Game. During his time in practice, he has shown good movement and the power that made him a disruptive force when he led the team to a state title in 2011.