With the season less than a month away (August 25th) and most teams starting training camp, college football fan bases are getting their first look at some of the new arrivals on campus. Upperclassmen typically get all of the attention, as the best players in the nation make their final auditions for the professional ranks.
But don’t sleep on the freshman and other newcomers who’ll be suiting up this season.
Baker Mayfield may have owned the narrative in 2017 by leading Oklahoma to a college football playoff and becoming the first senior to win the Heisman Trophy since Troy Smith in 2006. But Alabama won the national championship while being led by first-year playmakers who spurred the scoring in the second half of last season’s title game. During crunch time, it was true freshman quarterback Tua Tagovailoa handing it off to true freshman running back Najee Harris, and throwing to fellow freshmen Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs and Devonta Smith. All of this, while injuries forced true freshman Alex Leatherwood into the role of left tackle.
It may be a long shot to see freshmen impact a championship in that way again, but there will be plenty of freshmen who’ll be major factors in the 2018 season. Let’s take a look at a few players who have a chance to steal the show in their first action on the field.
School: University of Georgia
There is no way to make a bigger impact on a team than to upgrade at quarterback and the Georgia Bulldogs only needed a slight upgrade to hold off Alabama in the second half of the National Championship Game. Fields comes in as a top recruit as one of the best passers and runners as a quarterback in high school. He will have trouble wrestling the job away from sophomore Jake Fromm, who led the team that far in a terrific freshman season.
However, Fromm won the starting job last year from another top recruit in Jacob Eason, who was forced to transfer this offseason. Head coach Kirby Smart has been an aggressive recruiter and is looking to put the best players on the field. Fields will get his chance to jump start the offense even if he doesn’t win the starting job. Georgia is projected to have one of the best defenses in the nation and big-time talent all over the offense. Fields would have a chance to shine in any role he gets.
Also watch Trevor Lawrence who is in a similar situation at Clemson; Florida coach Dan Mullen hopes Emory Jones could finally be the quarterback who provides stability for the Gators since Tim Tebow left Gainesville; Scott Frost starts his tenure at Nebraska and after discovering Mackenzie Milton at UCF, he could lean on a new freshman in Adrian Martinez to build around.