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February 1, 2012

National Signing Day: Five sleepers

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Rivals.com recruiting analyst Keith Niebuhr breaks down five freshmen in the 2012 class that earned three-star status but could produce big-time results in college.

Top sleepers
OLB Stephen Weatherly, Snellville (Ga.) Shiloh (Vanderbilt)
The more you watch Weatherly's highlights, the more you come to realize this is someone with serious potential. The 6-foot-6 Weatherly, who is long and lean, is listed as an outside linebacker, but he probably will spend a lot of his time at the line of scrimmage as a standup guy, allowing him to be utilized as a pass rusher. Off the ball, Weatherly is extremely quick, and he does a good job getting low and using his hands to get by offensive tackles. Right now, Weatherly is primarily a speed rush guy around the edge. While he is effective at that, he will need to develop more moves, gain weight (he's in the 215-pound range) and get much stronger. He might be a redshirt candidate, yet could be someone to look out for in two to three years. The key will be keeping his agility as he adds muscle.

CB Gary Simon, St. Petersburg (Fla.) Gibbs (undecided)
Simon is a talented defensive back who emerged late but is very athletic and has excellent size. He's a little raw at this stage but has the frame and tools to excel at the next level. At 6-1, 177 pounds, he could play either cornerback or safety in college. Right now, he's projected as a corner. At that position, he not only brings a good body but a physical style of play that figures to suit him well. Because of his strength, he can knock receivers off their routes at the line of scrimmage. He also is quick enough and has good enough instincts to play off the ball. Another strength is his length, something a lot of cornerbacks lack.

APB B.J. Catalon, Houston (Texas) Westside (TCU)
About the only thing Catalon really lacks is size. But thus far, that hasn't really hindered the 5-8, 190-pound running back on the football field. In 2011, he rushed for 2,000-plus yards. How'd he do it? Largely because he's fast (he's a sub-4.5 guy in the 40). Not only does Catalon, who has homerun abilities, posses excellent straight-line speed, but he can be shifty when he needs to be. He didn't have a ton of receptions in high school, but he likely will be used in the passing game quite a bit at TCU. He also could see action at slot receiver, which would showcase his skills in space. It also wouldn't be a shock to see him utilized on special teams, given his big-play capabilities.

RB Malin Jones, Naperville (Ill.) Joliet Catholic (Northwestern)
Because he shared carries with 2013 running back Ty Isaac, Jones was somewhat overshadowed and is off the radar of many it seems. But this was someone who impressed a year ago at the U.S. Army Combine, had a productive senior season and could be primed for big things in college. The 6-2, 190-pounder is a solid all-around back that does many things well. He not only is strong running between the tackles but is fast enough to hit the corner and break off a long gainer. He should fit in well at Northwestern, where his multitude of skills can be utilized in the Wildcats' wide-open offensive attack.

QB Travis Wilson, San Clemente (Calif.) (Utah)
The 6-6 Wilson is an intriguing prospect. First and foremost, he possesses a really good arm. While he doesn't have the prettiest release (he pushes the ball a bit at times), he gets it from A to B with plenty of zip. At least partly because of his size, he has excellent vision and sees the whole field well. His passes aren't just crisp; they're typically accurate. In 2011, he passed for more than 2,000 yards with 24 touchdown strikes against eight interceptions. The bonus with Wilson is that, even with his frame, he has quick feet in the pocket and can make plays running the football. Additionally, he is comfortable stepping up into the pocket or throwing on the move.

Others considered: Jela Duncan, RB, Charlotte (N.C.) Mallard Creek; Salamo Fiso, LB, Long Beach (Calif.) Poly; Travin Henry, ATH, Adel (Ga.) Cook; Akeel Lynch, RB, Athol Springs (N.Y.) St. Francis.



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