In the 2018 college football season, there were several newcomers that had a major impact on the sport but few got as much attention as one of the top quarterbacks in the nation, Tua Tagovailoa. Tagovailoa joined Alabama from a junior college in California where he played football for the Air Force Falcons. He redshirted his freshman year and played in one game in 2016. The following year, he played in one game more and finished the season with a bang.
This year’s crop of college football newcomers is probably one of the most talented groups we’ve seen in recent memory. Sure, it’s early, but if this slate of newcomers can quickly develop into solid players at the collegiate level, then we could have a pretty amazing 2016.
When we last checked in with the new guys, the top five newcomers were all quarterbacks—and since those guys have the most impact on the game, that makes sense. But in the last few weeks, several of the newcomers have been new receivers, which is interesting.. Read more about top college football transfers 2021 and let us know what you think.
With the start of the new college football season coming, we’ll see fresh faces take over starting positions and new players make their mark on their respective teams.
As some high-end players moved from team to team, the transfer portal introduced a whole new aspect to the roster of new players who might influence a club’s output.
When you combine the portal with second-year players having their first chance to shine and true freshmen fighting their way into the two-deep, you may see a lot of new faces this season.
We rated the best 50 newcomers to watch this season based on their skill, how they fit a need, and how fast they can make an impact with their new club. Transfers, redshirt freshmen, opt-outs from the previous season, true freshmen, and any other player who hasn’t yet made a significant contribution to his squad were also considered.
Here are the top 50 rookies in college football this season based on those criteria.
LB is number one. Alabama 2020 season: Henry To’o To’o Tennessee
To’o To’o was one of the greatest offseason transfer acquisitions. He came out of high school as the No. 47 overall prospect and was generally considered as one of the finest linebackers in his class. He played two seasons at Tennessee, and last season he led the team with 76 total tackles and 10 tackles for loss in ten games. He’ll be joining an already strong linebacking corps and should help the Crimson Tide a lot at inside linebacker.
2. Arik Gilbert, WR/TE, Georgia, 2020 season: LSU
Gilbert has 368 receiving yards and two touchdowns in eight games for LSU last season. As a rookie, he was rated No. 6 overall and showed glimpses of that five-star rating. Gilbert chose to go to Florida after opting out after eight games, but then changed his mind and chose Georgia. Gilbert will be eligible to play this season, according to head coach Kirby Smart, and offensive coordinator Todd Monken can now terrify opponents with packages featuring Gilbert and 6-foot-7 tight end Darnell Washington.
Bryce Young, quarterback, Alabama, 2020 season: true freshman (0 starts, 22 pass attempts)
Young was the top-ranked quarterback and overall prospect in the 2020 cycle. He originally committed to USC, but switched to Alabama and is now a star for the Crimson Tide. Last season, he attempted 22 passes and never attempted more than eight passes in a game. Young passed for 333 yards, one touchdown, and no interceptions in Alabama’s spring game this year, and there is a lot of anticipation for what he can accomplish as a starter. He’s more Tua Tagovailoa than Mac Jones, and he should be able to contribute significantly to Alabama’s offense.
4. RB Kennedy Brooks (Oklahoma) has opted out of the 2020 season.
Rhamondre Stevenson, TJ Pledger, who transferred to Utah, and Seth McGowan, who was expelled from the team after being charged of armed robbery, have all left the Sooners. Last season, the three were Oklahoma’s top rushers in terms of yards. Brooks, who sat out last season, will play a key role in Oklahoma’s attack. Brooks finished the season as the team’s second-leading rusher (1,042 yards, six touchdowns) behind quarterback Jalen Hurts. In 2018, he rushed for 1,056 yards and 12 touchdowns, so having a steady back with consecutive 1,000-yard seasons would help a lot.
RB No. 5 Oklahoma’s 2020 season will be held in Tennessee, according to Eric Gray.
It’s critical to have a one-two punch at running back, and Oklahoma’s combo of Brooks and Gray is one of the best in the country. Gray rushed for 1,311 yards on 258 attempts in two seasons at Tennessee. For the Vols, he averaged 5.1 yards per run and scored eight touchdowns. Given that he’ll split time with Gray, he won’t have to shoulder the majority of the burden or feel pressured to be the primary star, and he’ll still have plenty of chances to make plays in an explosive offense.
Georgia 2020 season: Derion Kendrick, Clemson
Kendrick was the 62nd-best recruit in the 2018 class when he committed to Clemson. Last season, he was a starter at cornerback for the Tigers, earning first-team All-ACC honors and recording 20 total tackles, 1 sack, 6 pass breakups, and 1 interception while missing three games due to disciplinary problems. He brings a wealth of experience and ability to Georgia, and he should be one of the team’s top corners. In the season’s opening game, he’ll face his old club and have a chance to assist his new team stop Clemson’s passing attack.
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Morris is one of a handful of high-profile Tennessee transfers. Morris started 12 of 13 games as a freshman in 2019 and started seven times as a sophomore in 2020. Morris is a nice acquisition for the Sooners, who are losing a couple starters from last season’s offensive line. He’ll be able to compete at left tackle alongside Erik Swenson, with the other getting the right tackle spot. The ability to add a third-year left tackle with SEC starting experience is a huge plus, and it should help Oklahoma maintain stability throughout the offensive line.
McKenzie Milton, quarterback for Florida State in 2020, is recovering from an injury at UCF.
Mike Norvell and his staff have been adding to the quarterback room in order to establish consistency at quarterback for the Seminoles. Norvell brought in Milton with the hopes of giving the younger quarterbacks a seasoned mentor and a chance to fight for the starting position. Milton is already having a significant effect on the other quarterbacks, according to Norvell. He has a winning record dating back to his days at UCF, and he has battled back from a terrible injury to return to the field. If Milton is named the starter this season, Florida State will have someone who can lead the offense in the direction that Norvell and his coaches want.
Tyrique Stevenson, 9. CB, Miami 2020: Georgia
Stevenson’s departure from Georgia for Miami was unexpected. Last season, he recorded 34 total tackles in 10 games for the Dawgs. Miami’s secondary need depth and competitiveness, and adding a starting SEC cornerback is always a plus. Stevenson fills a need for Miami and should be a starter from the outset.
Kentucky 2020 season: Nebraska 10. WR Wan’Dale Robinson
Robinson seemed like he was going to sign with Kentucky at one point during his recruiting. Nebraska, on the other hand, was able to sign him with the hopes of transforming the offense. With 461 receiving yards in eight games, he showed glimpses of his talent, but Nebraska’s offense never really got going. Robinson is now at Kentucky, and despite the fact that the Wildcats’ offense was not very impressive last season, the coaches are hopeful Robinson will show to be a dynamic playmaker who can assist improve many aspects of the offense.
S Tykee Smith (#11) West Virginia is the state of Georgia for the 2020 season.
The Georgia Bulldogs lost six defensive backs to the NFL this summer, so bringing in a top-tier safety like Smith was critical. He came over from West Virginia, where he had four interceptions, 113 total tackles, and 10.5 tackles for loss in two seasons. He’ll be a fantastic fit at the “star” position on Georgia’s defense, and the Dawgs will need Smith to make an impact against Clemson in Week 1.
RB (12.) UCLA 2020 season: Michigan Zach Charbonnet
Charbonnet signed with the Wolverines as the No. 101 recruit in the 2019 class and produced 726 yards and 11 touchdowns on 149 touches as a rookie. In his second season, he only had 19 run attempts but still managed 124 yards. He’ll join a UCLA squad in need of a feature back, and he’ll be able to fill that gap with his speed and stature of 6-foot-1, 220-pounds.
Season 2020: Tennessee 13. S Key Lawrence Oklahoma
Oklahoma’s defense has improved over the years, but it still ranks 83rd in pass yards allowed per game and 60th in yards per catch. D.J. Graham, Delarrin Turner-Yell, and Woodi Washington are all returning defensive backs for the Sooners, but Lawrence, who had eight total tackles in ten games as a rookie for Tennessee last season, could fill in when needed. Because of his flexibility, he can play safety or fill in at another position in the secondary.
Demarkcus Bowman, RB Clemson Clemson Clemson Clemson Clemson Clem
Bowman, who entered the transfer portal in October after signing with the Tigers as the No. 23 overall recruit in the 2020 class, didn’t get much time on the field at Clemson. Bowman was injured in the spring and missed some time with Florida, but he should be completely fit for the season. The offense will need a solid run game now that Kyle Trask has been replaced as quarterback. With Bowman joining Dameon Pierce, Malik Davis, Nay’Quan Wright, and Lorenzo Lingard in the running back room, Florida now has a lot of choices in the backfield.
Penn State 2020 season: DE Arnold Ebiketie, 15
The Nittany Lions have been losing a lot of players on defense, especially along the edge, where Odafe Oweh and Shaka Toney were both chosen in the NFL draft. Last season, they were second and third on the squad in tackles for loss, with Toney leading the team with five sacks. Because defensive end Adisa Isaac is expected to miss the whole season due to injury, Ebiketie will play a key role in the defense. Last season at Temple, he recorded 42 total tackles, three forced fumbles, and four sacks.
16. Mike Jones Jr., LB Clemson vs. LSU in 2020
Jones made 30 total tackles, one sack, 2.5 tackles for loss, and two interceptions as a linebacker for Clemson last season. Jones should be a starter from the start for LSU’s defense, which could use some experience and the kind of skill he has at linebacker.
Siaki Ika, 17. DT, Baylor, 2020 season: LSU
Ika was a huge signee for LSU and then-defensive coordinator Dave Aranda when he was ranked No. 185 overall in the 2019 class. As a rookie, the 6-foot-4, 350-pound Ika clogged the middle at nose tackle for LSU’s national title defense. After Aranda departed for Baylor, LSU altered to a system that didn’t work for Ika. Aranda’s reunion with the Bears provides him with the opportunity to fill a need in the defensive line.
Charleston Rambo, 18, WR, Miami, 2020 season: Oklahoma
Rambo moved from Oklahoma to Miami, and his ranking in the top 20 is predicated on the premise that the 2020 season was unusual for him. In 2019, he had 743 receiving yards and five touchdowns, but in 10 games in 2020, he only had 312 receiving yards and three scores. Rambo should have every chance to put up huge numbers in Miami and reclaim his 2019 form if D’Eriq King is completely fit.
Florida State 2020 season: 19. DE Jermaine Johnson II Georgia
Johnson is a key addition to the Seminoles’ offseason roster. He plays a premium position on the edge and contributes to Florida State’s pass rush. Last season, he appeared in seven games for Georgia, recording four sacks and 11 quarterback pressures. He should make an instant impact in the ACC at 6-5, 260 pounds.
Mookie Cooper, Mookie Cooper, Mookie Cooper, Mookie Cooper, Mookie Cooper, M Missouri’s 2020 season will be hosted by Ohio State.
Cooper hasn’t played football in two years since he was ineligible for his final year of high school and did not play for Ohio State as a true freshman. Cooper scored 12 receiving touchdowns as a junior in high school and was ranked No. 113 overall in the 2020 class. He’ll be a factor for Missouri, and he’ll offer the offense something it lacked at receiver. Cooper, despite his lack of experience, has the ability to make a significant effect.
Keaontay Ingram, running back, USC 2020 season: Texas
Markese Stepp and Stephen Carr, both running backs for USC, transferred. With those departures, Ingram, a Texas transfer, will most certainly play a key role in USC’s ground game in 2021. To fill out the running back room, the coaches signed Darwin Barlow from TCU and Brandon Campbell in the 2021 class.
Alabama’s 22nd wide receiver, Jameson Williams, will play for Ohio State in the 2020 season.
Williams joined the Crimson Tide from Ohio State at an opportune moment for the team. At receiver, the team is replacing DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle, and Williams should be in the mix with John Metchie III, Slade Bolden, and a few others.
QBs C.J. Stroud and Quinn Ewers are ranked 23rd and 23rd, respectively. Ohio State’s schedule for the 2020 season is as follows: Ewers was in high school and Stroud was a freshman (0 tries).
Stroud is expected to be Ohio State’s starting quarterback, making him a significant newcomer in college football, but Ewers is as essential. When he reclassified from the 2022 class to the 2021 class and enrolled at Ohio State in August, he made headlines. If Ewers wants to see the field right away, he’ll have a steep learning curve, but bringing in a player like him a year sooner than anticipated is a critical boost for the Buckeyes.
D.J. Matthews Jr., 24, Wide Receiver Indiana 2020 season: Florida State
Matthews, a transfer from Florida State, was welcomed with open arms by Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr. Matthews contributes to the output that was missed when Whop Philyor departed for the NFL.
Will Shipley, 25th RB, Clemson 2020 season: high school
It will be tough to replace running back Travis Etienne Jr., but Shipley has the potential to be an explosive player in the run and pass game for the Tigers. He’s a quick back who can do it all and should make an immediate impact.
Jalin Conyers, TE, Arizona State, season 2020: Oklahoma
He was a transfer from Oklahoma who did not play last season for the Sooners. He’s a huge tight end who will assist the Sun Devils’ passing game with his 6-4, 228-pound body.
J.T. Tuimoloau, 27th defensive end, Ohio State 2020 season: high school
Tuimoloau was a late addition to the Buckeyes’ class, but the five-star defensive lineman adds flexibility and skill to the defensive line. He was the fourth-ranked recruit overall in the 2021 cycle.
Check out some highlights from Ohio State pledge J.T. Tuimoloau, who is ranked No. 4 in the class of 2021.
Doug Nester, 28th offensive lineman, West Virginia, 2020 season: Virginia Tech
Nester’s transfer from Virginia Tech will benefit West Virginia. In 2019, he appeared in 11 games as a freshman and eight games in 2020.
Alabama 2020 season: Agiye Hall and JoJo Earle, wide receivers
Hall demonstrated some of his talents in Alabama’s spring game with four receptions for 72 yards. Early on, he should be in the mix to help the Crimson Tide offense through the air. Earle is a dynamic wide receiver who will fit in well with Alabama’s offense, but he’ll also have a chance to contribute on special teams by returning kicks.
30. Defensive end Korey Foreman, USC 2020 season:
Keeping the five-star defensive end in California was a major recruiting coup for the Trojans, and Foreman has the ability to make an immediate impact for the team.
Treveyon Henderson, 31. RB Ohio State’s 2020 high school season
Henderson, who is 5-10 and weighs 210 pounds, seems to have been in a collegiate strength program for three years. This season, one of the young running backs will have to step up and play a role for the Buckeyes. Henderson may very well be that person.
CB 32. Florida high school season 2020: Jason Marshall Jr.
Florida could use someone with Marshall’s skill in the secondary, since he is the country’s top cornerback prospect. Although the position is competitive, Marshall has a chance to break through and see the field early.
McKinstry, CB Kool-Aid Alabama’s high school season is set to begin in 2020.
McKinstry has been doing everything he has to do to see the field early in the secondary, according to the buzz around Alabama. Of course, there is competition, but the No. 40 prospect in the 2021 class has all of the skills to contribute early on.
Keilan Robinson, RB/WR, Texas 2020 season: Alabama
Robinson is a versatile player who came over from Alabama, where he was the offensive coordinator under Steve Sarkisian. Sarkisian will be able to use Robinson in the run and pass game, as well as in tandem with running back Bijan Robinson, now that he is the head coach at Texas.
Maason Smith, 35, Defensive Tackle Season 2020 at LSU: High school
Smith, as an early enrollee, has a strong chance of starting on the defensive line for LSU straight immediately. The coaching staff is ecstatic about his potential and the early contributions he might make.
LB 36. Oregon’s Justin Flowe is a true freshman for the 2020 season (1 game, 1 tackle)
Flowe is in his second year at Oregon and was a five-star recruit in the 2020 cycle. He didn’t get to play the whole season in 2020 due to a knee injury. This season, Flowe and linebacker Noah Sewell could be a very effective combination.
Wisconsin’s 37th offensive lineman, Jack Nelson, is a true freshman for the 2020 season (1 game)
Because the Badgers are renowned for their offensive lineman, it’s generally a good idea to pay notice when one of their own receives some attention and excitement. Nelson, a 6-foot-7 redshirt freshman, is expected to start at guard for Wisconsin this season. He pushed his way onto the field and might follow in the footsteps of some of Wisconsin’s other great lineman.
38. OL Aki Ogunbiyi Texas A&M 2020 season: True freshman (1 game)
The second-year offensive lineman may help the Aggies strengthen their offensive line by filling a position at guard this season.
Ohio State’s 39th defensive end, Jack Sawyer, will play high school football in 2020.
Sawyer was the top recruit in the 2020 class and will enter with a lot of expectations. The Buckeyes have depth at defensive end, but an injury to Tyler on Friday, which may keep him out for the rest of the season, would likely put Sawyer and Tuimoloau in a bigger position.
Marvin Harrison Jr., 40, wide receiver, Ohio State 2020 season: high school
The Ohio State Buckeyes have a lot of skill at wide receiver, but Harrison’s talent may make it difficult to keep him off the field. He looked well in the spring game and is physically able to play right away at 6-foot-3, 205 pounds.
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The Wolverines need running back stability and a feature back to take over. Edwards was the No. 68 overall recruit and Michigan’s second-highest-ranked 2021 signee. Hassan Haskins and Blake Corum are competing at running back, but everyone is starting from fresh under new running backs coach Mike Hart.
WR Xavier Worthy (42), High school season in Texas in 2020
Worthy committed to Michigan in the 2021 class, but his national letter of intent was revoked before he ever arrived on campus. He now has a potential to get a lot of playing time in his debut season with Texas. He’s quick and can make plays everywhere on the field, which is precisely what Texas’ offense requires.
S James Williams, 43, Miami 2020 high school season
Because safety Avantae Williams was released by the Hurricanes, the defense is searching for someone to step up and assist with depth. James Williams hasn’t cracked the starting lineup yet, but at 6-foot-5 and 224 pounds, he has size and toughness that cannot be taught. He may get some playing time this season if he works his way up the depth chart.
44. OL Bryce Foster Texas A&M 2020 season: High school
True freshmen offensive lineman have a hard time getting on the field early, but Foster, a four-star prospect, may be an exception. Foster may become an anchor for the Aggies’ offensive line if he finds his bearings and becomes more comfortable with the collegiate game.
Demeioun Robinson, 45, LB, Maryland 2020 season: High school
The Terps are aiming to improve their overall skill level by adding quality and competitiveness to virtually every position on the roster. Robinson was the No. 38 overall recruit in the 2021 class and may make an immediate impact. He’s classified as a linebacker, although he can rush the passer and will serve as a versatile defensive player.
Mario Williams (Oklahoma) 46. Season 2020: High school
Given the coaches’ offensive success, it seems like a safe bet to have an Oklahoma receiver on the list. It was Marvin Mims last season, and this season it might be Williams, the No. 17 talent in the 2021 class.
DT 47. Ole Miss 2020 season: Tywone Malone, high school
Malone is a versatile defensive lineman with the height and power that most 6-foot-4, 315-pound defensive linemen lack. Malone has already made an impression on the coaching staff, piqueing interest in what he can contribute to the Rebels’ defense.
Jake Majors, 48, is a true freshman on the offensive line for Texas in 2020. (3 games, 2 starts)
Majors only appeared in three games last season, but he worked his way into the starting lineup by the conclusion of the season. He should provide some consistency to the offensive line as a redshirt freshman under a new coaching staff.
Rocco Spindler, 49, offensive lineman, Notre Dame 2020 season: high school
Spindler, the son of former NFL defensive lineman Marc Spindler, is living up to the expectations of a Midwest offensive lineman whose father played professionally. Spindler is a strong and hardworking player who has already made an impact at Notre Dame. It’s too early to say when he’ll return to the pitch, but he shouldn’t stay on the bench for long.
Troy Franklin, 50, WR, Oregon, 2020 season: high school
At Oregon, offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead is searching for playmakers, and Franklin may be one of the younger guys who makes an early impact. Franklin has practiced with the first team and is expected to see action early this season.
College football season is all about new faces, fresh talent and new beginnings. New conference teams, new coaches, new players, new fans and new traditions. But the truth is, for many, the college football season isn’t very long. And after you’ve had a taste of the first few weeks of college football, it’s tough not to be excited for the upcoming months when the games start to count.. Read more about college football transfer portal deadline and let us know what you think.
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- college football rankings
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- college football basics
- college football bracket simulator
- college football week 15 games