Top 10 true freshmen in college football

Clemson's Dexter Lawrence beats out Houston's Ed Oliver this week for the No. 1 spot in our ranking.

| 1 month ago
(Ethan Hyman/Raleigh News & Observer/TNS via Getty Images)

(Ethan Hyman/Raleigh News & Observer/TNS via Getty Images)

Top 10 true freshmen in college football


The battle between Clemson’s Dexter Lawrence and Houston’s Ed Oliver heats up once again this week as neither player has showed signs of slowing down. Our top 10 this week consists of four defensive linemen, two offensive linemen, three running backs, and a quarterback. As we head into November, keep an eye on a number of other true freshmen to make their move as many take about a half season to develop before making an impact down the stretch.

Here’s a look at the best true freshmen in the country heading into Week 10.

  1. Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson 87.6

Returning to the top spot this week, Lawrence is coming off one of his best games of the season against Florida State in which he picked up two sacks, a QB hit, and three hurries on 24 rushes while playing well against the run. Lawrence has gone back and forth with Houston’s Ed Oliver for top freshman status all season and he now ranks fifth in the nation among interior defensive linemen at 87.6 overall (83.9 as pass rusher, 87.1 against run).

  1. Ed Oliver, DT, Houston 87.5

Oliver didn’t do much to drop to the No. 2 spot (Lawrence was simply more dominant) as he added another five stops to bring his season total to 35, leading all interior defensive linemen. He’s second in the country in run stop percentage at 14.1 percent as has been an impressive playmaker since stepping onto campus. Oliver ranks sixth overall in the nation among interior defensive linemen and he and Lawrence are primed for a great stretch run for top freshman status.

  1. Jalen Hurts, QB, Alabama 79.4

Hurts is coming off a bye week to prepare for perhaps his biggest challenge of the season against LSU. His running ability has changed Alabama’s offense for the better, and his 437 yards on designed runs rank sixth among Power-5 quarterbacks. He has some work to do as a passer, but it’s his dual-threat ability creates a lot of easier throws within the structure of the offense.

  1. Nick Bosa, Edge, Ohio State 83.2

Ohio State has increased Bosa’s playing time in recent weeks and he’s made the most of it with 15 pressures over the last three games. He now leads all true freshmen edge defenders with 27 total pressures, good for an 82.0 pass rush grade that also leads the way. Bosa has been sound against the run as well, grading at 81.0 to rank fourth among his freshman peers.

  1. Rashan Gary, Edge, Michigan 80.4

Continuing his strong work as part of Michigan’s defensive line rotation, Gary has the top grade against the run among true freshmen edge defenders at 84.4. He’s been solid as a pass-rusher, leading the way with nine quarterback knockdowns (two sacks, seven QB hits) and he’s solidified a spot on the nation’s deepest defensive line from Day 1.

  1. Trayveon Williams, RB, Texas A&M 76.7

Adding a big-play threat to Texas A&M’s offense, Williams leads all true freshmen with 712 rushing yards against Power-5 competition at 8.3 yards/attempt. His pairing with QB Trevor Knight in the backfield has made the Aggies’ offense more viable behind an offensive line that has been hit or miss throughout the season. Williams has also forced 28 missed tackles in Power-5 competition to lead all freshmen.

  1. Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama 80.6

Coming off a bye, it’s important to highlight the work Williams has done in pass protection this season. He stepped right into the starting role at right tackle, and he’s allowed only three pressures (sack, QB hit, hurry) on 276 dropbacks, good for an 84.3 pass blocking grade that leads all true freshmen. He’s still trying to find his way in the run game, but there has been improvement in recent weeks and Williams’ overall body of work has been a big key for Alabama’s offensive success.

  1. Benjamin Snell, Jr; RB, Kentucky 82.0

New to the list this week, Snell, Jr. now has back-to-back 100-plus yard outings as he’s been an important figure in Kentucky’s three-game winning streak in the SEC. He’s forced 19 missed tackles and his eight touchdowns rank second among true freshmen and the combination Snell and RB Stanley Williams in the Kentucky backfield has sparked the midseason surge by the Wildcats.

  1. Jawaan Taylor, OT, Florida 79.7

Taylor continues his solid play, and he may be Florida’s most consistent lineman on a weekly basis. He leads all true freshmen offensive tackles with a 76.6 run-blocking grade while holding up well in pass protection with only seven surrendered pressures (two sacks, two QB hits, and three hurries) on 227 attempts.

  1. Lorenzo Harrison, RB, Maryland 77.7

A 73-yard outing now puts Harrison at 575 yards on 79 carries for the season (7.3 yards/carry) as he’s been a key part of Maryland’s backfield rotation. He’s forced 26 missed tackles on the ground while boasting an elusive rating of 167.2 which ranks second among Power-5 true freshmen. Harrison has averaged 4.9 yards after contact per rush as he rounds out a solid group of true freshman runners.

Dropping Out:

Michael Pinckney, LB, Miami

Watch list:

Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
Jake Bentley, QB, South Carolina
Shane Buechele, QB, Texas
A.J. Brown, WR, Ole Miss
Joshua Jacobs, RB, Alabama
N’Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State
Jacob Eason, QB, Georgia;
Greg Little, OT, Ole Miss;
Malcolm Roach, Edge, Texas
Brian Burns, Edge, Florida State
Carter Coughlin, Edge, Minnesota
Tai’yon Devers, Edge, Minnesota
Justice Hill, RB, Oklahoma State
Demetris Robertson, WR, Cal
Jeffrey Simmons, defensive interior, Mississippi State
Isaac Nauta, TE, Georgia
Ahmmon Richards, WR, Miami

 

 

| Senior Analyst

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

  • Byron Pink

    I feel like Chris Evans (RB UM) should be on the watch list, his numbers are better than Josh Jacobs (Not by much, but still better overall).

    • hybrid_2.0

      And how is Bosa higher than Gary?

      • Byron Pink

        Well for one, Bosa is rated higher based on PFF’s numbers (Bosa is rated 83.2 to Gary’s 80.4). He does get more snaps than Gary.