As the 2023 college football season approaches, it’s time to look back at the 2022 season and evaluate the top true freshmen performances. This can serve as a good indicator of which teams are best positioned for the future. Here’s a countdown of the 10 best teams based solely on their true freshmen’s performance in the 2022 season according to PFF. (Source)
#10 Arizona Wildcats
The Wildcats featured several standout true freshmen, including wide receiver Tetairoa McMillan, who led all true freshmen in the country with 702 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. Right guard Jonah Savaiinaea ranked second among all true freshmen guards with a 76.0 pass-blocking grade, while Jacob Manu started as a linebacker for Arizona.
#9 Texas Longhorns
Kelvin Banks Jr. excelled as the blindside protector in his first year in Austin. Banks’ impressive pass protection ranked sixth among Power Five tackles, and his 98.4 pass-block efficiency score was second among Big 12 tackles. Cole Hutson started as right guard, making the Longhorns’ offensive line one of the most promising in college football.
#8 Kentucky Wildcats
Kentucky’s true freshmen wide receivers, Barion Brown and Dane Key, led the team in receiving yards. However, the standout performer was interior defensive lineman Deone Walker, whose 80.9 pass-rushing grade ranked third among SEC interior defensive linemen in 2022.
#7 Clemson Tigers
Right tackle Blake Miller started as a true freshman and excelled in the run game, with a 76.8 run-blocking grade ranking second among ACC tackles. Antonio Williams led Clemson in receiving yards, while Toriano Pride Jr. was a starting outside cornerback.
#6 Ole Miss Rebels
Quinshon Judkins was the best true freshman in college football, ranking among the top 10 in attempts, rushing yards, yards after contact, and forced missed tackles. Davison Igbinosun started as an outside corner, but has since transferred to Ohio State.
#5 Texas A&M Aggies
With a record-breaking nine five-star recruits, the Aggies had an impressive freshmen class in 2022. Key contributors included Evan Stewart, Conner Weigman, Donovan Green, Kam Dewberry, and Shemar Stewart.
#4 Georgia Bulldogs
National champions Georgia relied on top-10 recruits Malaki Starks and Mykel Williams to bolster their defense. Starks is the third-best returning safety, while Williams is the fifth-best returning edge defender. Punter Brett Thorson also made the All-Freshman team.
#3 Michigan Wolverines
Cornerback Will Johnson’s 91.1 grade in man coverage led all Power Five corners, earning him the distinction of the third-best returning cornerback. Mason Graham was the highest-graded true freshman interior defensive lineman, and Colston Loveland contributed as a backup tight end.
#2 Penn State Nittany Lions
Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen led the running game, while Abdul Carter stood out on defense with six sacks and three forced fumbles. Singleton ranks as the seventh-best returning running back, while Carter is the eighth-best returning linebacker.
#1 LSU Tigers
Topping the list, LSU found budding superstars in Harold Perkins and Will Campbell. Perkins led all Power Five linebackers with a 91.0 pass-rushing grade and is the second-best returning linebacker. Campbell ranked third in the country in pass-blocking, making him the sixth-best returning offensive tackle. Other true freshmen starters included Emery Jones and Mason Taylor.
This countdown showcases the teams with the brightest futures thanks to their 2022 true freshmen. As the 2023 season unfolds, these young talents will continue to develop and make an even more significant impact on their teams.