Projecting that a player will make an impact as a true freshman is an inexact science. It has to be the right situation, and the player has to be physically ready to play against guys 3 and 4 years older than him.

It’s not like you can just go by recruiting rankings, either. Julian Fleming, the No. 2 overall recruit in the 2020 class, still hasn’t made a huge impact for Ohio State, while a teammate who was ranked lower than him at the same position, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, is already being mentioned as one of the best wide receivers in the country. You never know how skills will translate to the college level and what kind of opportunity will be available.

With that, here’s an educated guess at the 10 signees who will have the biggest impact in 2022:

10. DL Caden Curry (Ohio State)

Looking at Ohio State’s depth chart, it’s clear that there are going to be some starting spots up for grabs next season. While that doesn’t mean the top-100 recruit will take one, it does mean he should be in the mix for some playing time, especially considering Ohio State has shown a willingness to rotate in freshman linemen. The scouting report on Curry is that he can play anywhere on the line, which makes me like his chances even more. JT Tuimoloau and Jack Sawyer, both former 5-star recruits, will likely star on the edge in their true sophomore seasons, part of a good young core up front.

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9. WR Reggie Fleurima (Northwestern)

The Wildcats desperately need playmakers on offense, so they have to be hoping for some contributions right away from the 4-star recruit. He had 7 other B1G offers, so you know he can play at this level.

8. IOL Jacob Allen (Rutgers)

The No. 1 player in New Jersey stayed home, and I suspect he will be rewarded with a chance to play right away. Especially for a Rutgers offense that struggled all season, I imagine there will be plenty of spots up for grabs. There is clearly a need for offensive line help since Greg Schiano signed 7 O-linemen this class, and with Allen being the best of the bunch, he should get first crack at playing time to protect QB of the future Gavin Wimsatt, who would’ve been in this class too but early-enrolled in the fall.

7. OT Joe Brunner (Wisconsin)

The 6-6, 300-pounder steps into a program that develops offensive linemen with the best of them, and at that size, there’s a lot to work with. Both of Wisconsin’s tackles are redshirt seniors, as is one of the starting guards, so look for Brunner to have a chance at competing for playing time right away. The No. 75 overall recruit in this class was the top-rated player in Wisconsin.

6. DL Alex VanSumeren (Michigan State)

The former Michigan commit is likely to be called upon early in his career to contribute as the Spartans will lose at least 2 defensive linemen to graduation. Considering VanSumeren, a 4-star recruit, already has the size (6-3, 300 pounds) and the knowledge of what it takes to play in the Big Ten (his brother played for Michigan and is now also on Michigan State), he’s a good bet to be an impactful player sooner rather than later.

5. LB CJ Hicks (Ohio State)

The Big Ten’s top-rated recruit should have ample opportunity to earn a rotation spot right away with a defense that, quite frankly, has failed to live up to expectations the last 2 seasons. Ohio State has had plenty of 5-star recruits over the years, but Hicks is the first 5-star linebacker to sign with the Buckeyes since Baron Browning in 2017. And he reportedly took on a leadership role among this class in terms of recruiting more players ever since he committed back in May of 2020. Plus, since he’s an early enrollee, he’ll be able to make a good impression this spring and carve out a role. Worst-case scenario, he’s a special teams contributor whose responsibilities only grow with him.

4. CB Will Johnson (Michigan)

Michigan’s secondary is loaded with upperclassmen, meaning the 5-star recruit should step onto campus and immediately have an opportunity for playing time. The early enrollee is reportedly excited about the way he fits in with new defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald’s scheme, as he committed after Jim Harbaugh overhauled the staff. The in-state kid should be a contributor early in his career.

3. DE Dasan McCullough (Indiana)

With all due respect to Indiana, getting a recruit of this caliber doesn’t happen often, which leads me to believe that McCullough will be on the field early and often in his career. The Bloomington native should feel right at home, giving him an edge over your typical true freshman. The No. 58 overall recruit will likely be counted on to make an impact right away for a program coming off a winless B1G season.

2. RB Nicholas Singleton (Penn State)

The Gatorade National Player of the Year just so happens to play a position in which Penn State was severely lacking in production. The Nittany Lions struggled to run the ball all year, but Singleton should be able to give a major boost to the rushing attack in 2022. With a program that has produced elite running backs over the last few years like Saquon Barkley (who presented the award to Singleton in a private Zoom call) and Miles Sanders, Singleton should be headed for a huge career at Penn State.

1. S Xavier Nwankpa (Iowa)

Iowa fans have to be giddy to see what the No. 45 overall recruit in this class can do in a scheme that makes 2-star and 3-star recruits look like All-Conference and All-America caliber players. Defensive coordinator Phil Parker has worked his magic time and time again with this secondary, so the fact that Nwankpa comes in with a ton of talent (he also had offers from Alabama, Notre Dame, Clemson, Ohio State, Michigan and many others) and in a great situation means that he’s the best choice at the top of these rankings.