Ranking college football’s top true freshmen

A Penn State RB and Texas A&M WR lead our list of the top eight true freshmen in the country.

| 2 years ago
(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Ranking college football’s top true freshmen

Stepping into FBS competition as a freshman is no easy task, but there are a few surprise contributors every year. While most fans expect the instant-impact 5-star recruits to step right into competition, that’s not always the case. In fact, many freshmen take about a half year to get acquainted with the college game and often step in around midseason before starting to live up to the hype.

But we’ve already some freshmen start fast right out of the gate. Here are the top eight true freshmen in the country so far:

1. Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

Even with only eight carries against San Diego State last week, Barkley deserves being No. 1 on this list. He has now rushed for 373 yards on 42 carries (8.9 yards per carry) and three touchdowns. His elusive rating of 312.7 is off the charts, as he’s forced 18 missed tackles on his 42 carries while adding five more on his one reception that went for a 22-yard touchdown.

2. Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M

Kirk has emerged as a big-time playmaker for the Aggies, notching over 100 receiving yards each of the last two weeks. His 442 receiving yards ranks 11th in the FBS, and 283 of them have come after the catch (11.8 YAC per reception). He’s also added in a punt return for a touchdown on his way to a +5.6 overall grade that leads all freshmen receivers.

3. Kevin Toliver II, CB, LSU

Toliver made an instant impact against Mississippi State in Week 2 (earning an excellent +3.4 grade) and he’s had no problem stepping into an important role in LSU’s secondary. While freshmen corners can have their ups and downs, Toliver looks primed to be the next great one at LSU.

4. Josh Sweat, DE, Florida State

(Note: FSU is coming off of a bye week, so we’re repeating last week’s analysis.)

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.

5. Connor Williams, OT, Texas

Williams returns to the list after another strong outing against Oklahoma State (+3.0 game grade). He remains the only Texas offensive lineman with a positive grade, despite giving up four of his six total pressures last Saturday. Williams has also shown well in the run game with a +2.1 grade, and he’s become one of the few bright spots on the Texas offense.

6. Terry Beckner, DT, Missouri

New to the list, Beckner has had a good start to the season, playing about 25-30 snaps per game for the Tigers. His +6.6 run grade has made him an important part of the defensive line rotation, while also flashing talent as a pass rusher.

7. Daylon Mack, DT, Texas A&M

Mack continues to show well in the run game at +7.2, best among FBS freshmen defensive tackles. He could stand to do a bit more as a pass-rusher, but helped bring stability to a much-improved defensive front for the Aggies.

8. Holton Hill, S, Texas

A huge game against Oklahoma State vaults Hill onto the list, as he picked off a pass and defended one more. He played a season-high 60 snaps on his way to a +3.7 grade that has seen him play well both against the run (+2.0) and in coverage (+2.5).

| Senior Analyst

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

  • NPF

    Josh Rosen?



      • NPF

        ROFL at Ricky Towns. Good call.


          Who’s talking about Ricky Town? He wasn’t good enough to start at USC so he left.

      • NPF

        ROFL at Ricky Towns. Good call.

  • l3randon

    Malik Jefferson?