8 best freshmen in college football

Several young players have left an impression through three weeks of play.

| 2 years ago
(AP Photo/Michael Thomas)

(AP Photo/Michael Thomas)

8 best freshmen in college football

With three weeks of college play in the books, it’s time to take a look at which freshmen are making a name for themselves on the field. Here are the eight college football freshmen we’ve seen on both sides of the ball so far:


Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

After playing only six snaps in his debut, Barkley burst onto the scene against Buffalo with 11 carries for 110 yards before going off last weekend against Rutgers. He carried the ball 21 times for 195 yards, including 144 yards after contact while forcing 10 missed tackles. While the sample size is small, he’s posted an absurd elusive rating of 318.8 (Leonard Fournette is at 130.3 for comparison), so the future looks bright for Barkley and Penn State.

Connor Williams, OT, Texas

While the Texas offensive line has struggled, Williams has stepped in and posted the only positive grade at +3.1. He’s had 94 attempts in pass protection while surrendering only two hurries for an impressive +3.8 pass blocking grade. He had some struggles in the run game against Cal, but it’s been a great start for the true freshman.

Penny Hart, WR, Georgia State

The small schools deserve some love too, and Hart stepped up big against Oregon last weekend. He has 21 receptions for 331 yards on the season, including 224 yards after the catch (10.7 per reception). He’s also tacked on three touchdowns and four forced missed tackles (all against Oregon) to emerge as one of the nation’s most productive freshmen receivers.

LJ Scott, RB, Michigan State

After bursting onto the scene against Western Michigan, Scott has cooled a bit, though he’s made the most of his 10 or so carries per game. He’s forced nine missed tackles on his 35 carries while average five yards per carry and 3.4 yards after contact per carry. Last year’s highest-rated Spartans recruit will continue to split the workload with redshirt freshman Madre London.


Josh Sweat, DE, Florida State

One of the most highly-touted prospects in the country, Sweat is living up to his reputation early on. He’s been strong against the run, grading at +5.3 with seven stops, while picking up six hurries on his 55 pass rushes. With 99 total snaps on the season, Sweat has become an integral part of Florida State’s defensive line rotation.

Daylon Mack, DT, Texas A&M

The 340-pound Mack has been stout against the run, grading at +3.5 in the early going, and he’s been a big part of Texas A&M’s defensive improvement. He’s averaged 32 snaps per game at defensive tackle, though Aggies fans may be hoping for time on offense as well.

Jerry Tillery, DT, Notre Dame

Tillery continues to see more time up front as he’s coming off a career-high 53 snaps against Georgia Tech Saturday. Like his peers on this list, he’s shown well against the run at +2.1 while contributing three stops. He’s only rushed the passer on 46 of his 104 snaps, picking up a sack and two hurries.

Kevin Toliver II, CB, LSU

Stepping right into a prominent role in the LSU secondary, Toliver has played 93 percent of the defensive snaps and performed well for the Tigers. He has two passes defensed in his two games (though one was negated by penalty) while also performing well in the running game at +1.4. His +3.4 coverage grade against Mississippi State was an impressive debut in Week 2, and Toliver looks primed to continue the tradition of excellence in the LSU secondary.


| Senior Analyst

Steve is a senior analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has been featured on ESPN Insider, NBC Sports, and 120 Sports.

  • Yeti

    Missing Eric Dungey.

  • RayRay

    You may want to go look at Christian Kirk…

    • http://www.twitter.com/4karmel @4karmel

      Yea how is kirk and Josh Rosen not on this list?

    • Regular Guy

      Not sure he he gets enough playing time to make the list. Good kick returner though.

      • RayRay

        Actually, he plays a lot. Look at his stats… And he’s more know for his amazing PUNT returns!

        • Regular Guy

          Yes, I was referring to his return skills in general. Punts…kicks…doesn’t really matter.

  • Jaguars28

    Josh Sweat is an amazing name

  • Bam Colt

    Malik Jefferson should be on this list by the end of the year.

    • Regular Guy

      If they’re counting redshirt freshmen as well, Jefferson and Heard will both be on the list.

      • HelloThere…

        Jefferson is a true freshman

        • Regular Guy

          Correct. Heard is an RS.

          • HelloThere…

            True freshman. Look it up on longhorns’ depth chart.

          • Go

            Heard is a RS frosh, don’t care what depth chart says

          • HelloThere…

            I said Jefferson is a TR FR. I never mentiond Heard.


    Josh Sweat Is Only Going To Get Better, And I Believe His Breakout Game Will Be Against Clemson When They Visit Us; He’s The Real Deal. Also; Derwin James By The End Of The Season Is Going To Definately Be On The List As Well, Go Noles!!!