Top 10 true freshmen in college football

The top young talent in the country ranked in advance of rivalry week.

| 7 months ago
(Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

(Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Top 10 true freshmen in college football

After a week of mostly things going to form, there weren’t a lot of huge swings in the freshmen rankings. That could change in Week 13, as rivalry week promises tense matchups and potentially big swings in player grades.

Previous rank in parentheses

1. Ed Oliver, NT, Houston (1), 89.6

As expected, the nation was treated to another outstanding performance by a rising star chasing a postseason award Thursday night. Only it was Ed Oliver, not Lamar Jackson, who strengthened his case for recognition. The standout defensive tackle wrecked Louisville’s interior, topping our weekly rankings at his position. Although a better run defender than pass-rusher at this stage of his development, Oliver took advantage of Houston’s early lead, racking up two sacks, a hurry and a frankly ridiculous three batted passes. Credit the freakish freshman for putting Louisville in that position in the first place; facing a second and ten at midfield, Oliver exploded across the center’s face, knocking Brandon Radcliff down behind the line of scrimmage and the ball out of his arms. Houston converted the turnover into a field goal and a 10-point lead, ensuring they knocked off the nation’s fifth-ranked team.

2. Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson (2), 87.1

Perhaps supporting the notion that transitioning to college is easier for defensive tackle recruits, Lawrence maintained his grip on the No. 2 spot over the weekend. The Tiger collected a pair of hurries to take his season total to 36 pressures. He was uncharacteristically quiet against the run but, at tenth overall in our rankings, all the signs suggest Clemson has found another gem on their conveyor belt of talent for the defensive front.

3. Jalen Hurts, QB, Alabama (4), 77.5

Hurts may get a lot of help from the Crimson’s Tide’s overpowering roster, but our top-ranked freshman quarterback is learning quickly. He has been hot the last couple of weeks in particular, showing impressive accuracy in Alabama’s latest win against Chattanooga. As well as being perfect in the short range (10 yards or less), Hurts completed a couple of deep throws including a 50-yard touchdown. He managed 14 completions from 19 targeted passes for 135 yards and three scores, illustrating the poise that will likely be needed once the postseason rolls round.

4. Nick Bosa, ED, Ohio Sate (5), 82.3

Bosa junior is a little streaky at this stage, but his top form suggests a player capable of emulating his big brother’s achievements. He certainly maximized his production from limited snaps against Michigan State, managing a hit and two hurries from just 14 rushes. The balance to his skillset surely reminds audiences of another former Buckeye; Nick Bosa also had three stops from only nine run defending snaps.

5. Benjamin Snell, RB, Kentucky (6), 83.2

Snell cracked the 1,000-yard threshold with a performance worthy of the accolade. He averaged 10.9 yards a pop in his latest game, toting 14 times for 152 yards. In addition, 80 of those yards came after contact, with five broken tackles and two touchdowns. Taking advantage of a week off from conference play, Snell boosted his stock with an excellent display.

6. Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama (3), 80.3

Williams slips a little after his poorest game of the year. Prior to this week, he had given up multiple pressures only twice this season. Against Chattanooga, the freshman gave up a pair of sacks and two hurries, earning a pass protection grade of only 36.7. He also earned his lowest run-blocking grade of the year, a measly 43.6. A blip, but surely a temporary one.

7. Ahmmon Richards, WR, Miami (unranked), 79.5

Bursting onto the scene five weeks ago, Richards is making the most of increased playing time. His connection with quarterback Brad Kaaya has been one of the key reasons for the Hurricanes’ turnaround in fortune. Richards’ emergence has given Miami another dimension on offense, with his ability to make plays both vertically and after the catch. The past five games, he’s managed 26 catches for 500 yards and nine broken tackles.

8. Malcolm Roach, ED, Texas (8), 81.5

Roach had been plenty disruptive in previous games, but he has rarely taken over contests in the way that he did against Kansas. Earning his top pass-rushing grade of the year, Roach was a terror off the edge for the Longhorns. The next step is to develop his close — only six of his 27 pressures have been knockdowns — but Texas can be plenty content with their freshman pass-rushers productivity thus far.

9. Jaylon Jones, CB, Mississippi (7), 80.7B

Jones’ numbers this year have been remarkably impressive, and the first start of his career suggested he can be a mainstay for the Rebels over the long-haul. He’ll be tested more frequently than the two balls that came his way against Vanderbilt but, so far this year, he’s given up only seven catches for 76 yards. One to keep an eye on undoubtedly.

10. Trayveon Williams, HB, Texas A&M (10), 77.2

Williams was typically effective as a runner against Tulsa, but was slightly below average in a couple of other areas of his game. He was beaten on only a handful of pass protection reps, giving up a couple of pressures, and was corralled on the three receptions he managed. Williams is designed to go downhill, however, and in that regard he was effective, carrying 11 times for 80 yards and a touchdown.

Dropping out

Rashan Gary, ED, Michigan

Watch list

Ben Deluca, S, Charlotte;
Jawaan Taylor, OT, Florida;
N’Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State;
Shane Buechele, QB, Texas;
Brian Burns, Edge, Florida State;
Carter Coughlin, Edge, Minnesota;
Tai’yon Devers, Edge, Minnesota;
J.J. Taylor, RB, Arizona;
Demetris Robertson, WR, Cal;
Benito Jones, defensive interior, Ole Miss;
Isaac Nauta, TE, Georgia;
Jake Bentley, QB South Carolina;
Michael Pinckney, LB Miami;
Lorenzo Harrison, RB Maryland;
Parker Braun, OG, Georgia Tech


| Analyst

John joined the PFF team in 2008, providing focused analysis on the NFL draft, team-building strategies, and positional value.

  • Mike J.

    Burns played well against Syracuse. He had 2 1/2 sacks.