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.