Bryce Young, Arik Gilbert among 20 impact freshman to watch in the 2020 college football season


Typically, spring practice is a time when the top freshmen in the country drop some hints. Early enrollees start to win starting jobs and splash plays pop off the screen in spring games. Maybe there’s even some thinning out of a position room or a transfer indicates a need for young contributions. These aren’t typical times, though. With spring practice effectively over, we’ll jump right into some predictions on 20 freshmen poised to make a big impact in 2020 despite not having those additional practices and workouts.

(listed alphabetically)

Jordan Addison, WR, Pitt — In three spring practices, Addison was already turning heads before things got shutdown. Pitt has a need for playmakers and Addison is fast, dynamic and explosive. Don’t expect him to be the only impact freshman for Pat Narduzzi, either.

Bryan Bresee and Myles Murphy, DL, Clemson — I’ll throw these two together because it’s hard to pinpoint which one will be more impactful, but collectively they will make a big difference. Both flashed significantly in Clemson’s limited spring practices, Bresee on the inside and Murphy as an edge rusher. They make Clemson’s already stout defense better right away.

Gervon Dexter, DL, Florida — For a guy who has only been playing football for a couple of years, asking him to make an impact on the line of scrimmage as a true freshman in the SEC may seem like a tall task, but that’s just how talented Dexter is. He’s 6-foot-6.5, 280+ pounds and he’s just too talented not to cause some havoc in Gainesville.

Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Georgia Tech — Does Gibbs trot out with the starting unit in the first game of the season? Maybe not, but there’s no doubt he’ll be in the rotation. He’s also versatile enough to get some touches out of the slot where he’d be catching passes from potential freshman QB starters in Jeff Sims or Tucker Gleason.

Arik Gilbert, TE, LSU — Gilbert is the highest ranked tight end in 247Sports history. He’s 6-5, 255 pounds, had more than 1,700 yards receiving as a senior and steps into an offense that he’s a perfect fit for. As crazy as it may sound, he could be an upgrade from Thad Moss even as a freshman.

Jaylon Jones, DB, Texas A&M — The Aggies return a lot on defense, but Jones is just that good. He’s also that versatile. Whether they want to find a spot for him at safety, cornerback or nickel, Jones will find a way onto the field right away.

Luke Kandra, OL, Louisville — There was a nice turnaround for Louisville in Year 1 of the Scott Satterfield era, but Year 2 is when the real heavy lifting begins. There’s talk that Kandra can be ready to start on the offensive line immediately.

KeAndre Lambert, WR, Penn State — Penn State isn’t a program that typically rushes true freshmen onto the field, but it needs some playmakers to step up at wide receiver, particularly with the departure of KJ Hamler to the NFL Draft. Lambert is the guy.

Marshawn Lloyd, RB, South Carolina — As South Carolina looks for an explosive element to its offense under new coordinator Mike Bobo, look for Lloyd to be the focal point. He’s just a different breed of athlete and already made some waves in the spring.

Myles Murao, OL, Washington — When you’re surveying the top offensive linemen in the 2020 class, there’s a lot that have higher ceilings than Murao but few have a higher floor. He could have a similar instant impact to departing four-year starter Nick Harris.

Clark Phillips III, CB, Utah — Nobody in college football lost more off of its 2019 team than Utah. One of the hardest hit spots was a talented Utes’ secondary. Fortunately in Phillips, Utah flipped a Top100 CB from Ohio State and he’s capable of starting from Day 1.

Andrew Raym, OL, Oklahoma — If you’re making waves in the Oklahoma offensive line room as a freshman, that’s meaningful. Whether Raym wins a starting job or not, he’s looking like one of the next great Sooner OL.

Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas — Where was this guy last year? The Texas running back room is healthier than last year and there are good players ready to log carries, but Robinson will still show up as the most talented of the bunch and he’s too much of a sure thing not to steal a healthy chunk of the action.

Noah Sewell, LB, Oregon — The younger brother of Oregon OL standout Penei Sewell, Noah is a very unique prospect at linebacker and he’s extremely ready from a physical standpoint. He has been banged up in the spring but assuming he gets healthy, he should play. His classmate and fellow five-star Justin Flowe is one to watch here as well.

Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State — Take your pick from Ohio State’s loaded 2020 wide receiver haul and you’ve got a good chance at landing on a freshman playmaker, but for my money, I’ll roll with Smith-Njigba making the earliest impact. He’s the most polished of the bunch that and he’s one of the most productive receivers in Texas high school football history.

DeaMonte Trayanum, RB, Arizona State — Get ready for freshman skill players to be making plays all over the Arizona State offense. Trayanum is going to get the biggest workload of the bunch though. He’s a big, physical workhorse type that should start immediately.

Zykeivous Walker, DL, Auburn — Auburn’s defensive line was the story of its 2019 season and the headliners of that group are gone. Walker has the makeup to come in and contribute immediately. He will be really good really soon.

Jalin Hyatt, WR,  Tennessee — Tennessee needs an impact out of its receiver class and considering it was a loaded crop, there are several options. I’ll take Hyatt because he has something that the Vols have been missing badly at WR: speed.

Bryce Young, QB, Alabama — There’s a chance that Young never starts a game this year because Mac Jones is a fully capable starter in his own right. But if Young does take over at quarterback at any point, he’s the kind of talent that could win a national title as a true freshman. 





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