Ranking the Top 10 Freshmen for the 2018 College Football Season

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistMarch 27, 2018

Ranking the Top 10 Freshmen for the 2018 College Football Season

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    National signing day is but a memory. The class of 2018 is comprised of potential-filled, production-less college football players who need to start proving themselves on the field.

    And for some, it'll happen immediately.

    Here, we've ranked the prospects who have a chance to hold a regular role in 2018.

    One important note: This isn't a ranking of the most talented true freshmen. At Clemson, for example, it's unlikely any of the prized incomers will be notable contributors. We're strictly looking at the ones who will see significant action.

    While the order is subjective, the combination of recruiting ranking and projected playing time shaped the list.

10. Lorenzo Lingard, RB, Miami

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    Recruiting rundown: No. 2 RB | No. 25 OVR

    Likely 2018 role: Miami played much of 2017 without Mark Walton anyway, but his absence creates a true opportunity for Lorenzo Lingard. The 'Canes lacked a third option in the backfield last year, and the duo of Travis Homer and DeeJay Dallaswhile respectableshouldn't be expected to completely dominate the snap share.

    Long-term outlook: Although both Homer and Dallas have two-plus years of eligibility, they could be better used as a change-of-pace option behind Lingard. Plus, he's not as natural a receiver as Dallas, anyway. Lingard will likely earn the starting job within two years.

9. Marquis Spiker, WR, Washington

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    Recruiting rundown: No. 9 WR | No. 59 OVR

    Likely 2018 role: The most prolific receiver in California high school history, Marquis Spiker should be an important contributor right away. Washington lost key target Dante Pettis, and the offense needs another option behind Chico McClatcher and Aaron Fuller.

    Long-term outlook: Spiker has the talent and opportunity to highlight UW's receiving corps for multiple years. And with Jake Browning returning in 2018 and Georgia transfer Jacob Eason eligible in 2019, Spiker shouldn't be limited by quarterback play, either.

8. Justin Fields, QB, Georgia

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    Recruiting rundown: No. 1 DUAL QB | No. 2 OVR

    Likely 2018 role: Will he start? Probably not. But even if Justin Fields is the second-stringer, it's possible Georgia tries to use his mobility every week. Kirby Smart and Co. can build a special package around Fields and force opponents to spend valuable practice time preparing for the freshman.

    Long-term outlook: Though logic suggests Fromm will retain the starting job through 2019, I certainly don't anticipate Fields will spend the next two seasons on the sideline. At worst, he should be the No. 1 guy in Athens as a junior.

7. Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, USC

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    Recruiting rundown: No. 2 WR | No. 11 OVR

    Likely 2018 role: USC will lean on Tyler Vaughns and Michael Pittman Jr., but the No. 3 receiver spot is wide open for Amon-Ra St. Brown. Since the Trojans have a bunch of young unproven talent at the position, he should be no worse than a key backup.

    Long-term outlook: St. Brown, who may contribute on special teams, could become one of the best wideouts in the Pac-12. That's a lofty target, but the immediate playing time will help St. Brown adjust to the college game. And once JT Daniels is USC's quarterback, the dynamic Mater Dei pair will be reunited on the field.

6. Caden Sterns, S, Texas

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    Recruiting rundown: No. 1 S | No. 19 OVR

    Likely 2018 role: Texas returns Brandon Jones and P.J. Locke III, but the Big 12 demands greater depth in the secondary. Caden Sterns can contribute at either cornerback or safety, as evidenced by his 100 tackles and four interceptions as a senior in high school.

    Long-term outlook: Tom Herman and his staff brought in a stellar group of defensive backs during the 2018 cycle, and Sterns should be the best of the bunch. Locke will exhaust his eligibility after the upcoming season, so Sterns has a clear route to a starting job by 2019.

5. Terrace Marshall, WR, LSU

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    Recruiting rundown: No. 3 WR | No. 13 OVR

    Likely 2018 role: Jonathan Giles sat out 2017 after transferring from Texas Tech, but he'll quickly settle into the featured spot. Elsewhere, it's a wide-open race on the depth chart. Terrace Marshall, who enrolled early, is a safe bet to contribute every weekpossibly as a full-time starter.

    Long-term outlook: Depending on whether Giles pursues the NFL after 2018 or once his eligibility expires in 2019, Marshall could shift into the No. 1 role soon. Granted, the Tigers also brought in JaMarr Chase during the 2018 class. Either way, Marshall should be a leading presence on the LSU offense within two years.

4. Eyabi Anoma, DE, Alabama

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    Recruiting rundown: No. 1 WDE | No. 4 OVR

    Likely 2018 role: Alabama can shuffle between Anfernee Jennings, Christian Miller and Terrell Lewis, so the remaining volume of snaps won't be high. Good luck keeping Eyabi Anoma off the field, though. He has the burst to be an early-season, garbage-time nightmare before working his way into a regular role down the stretch.

    Long-term outlook: Jennings and Lewis are both juniors, so the depth chart certainly is crowded. But the Tide always find snaps for their most talented players, and Anoma has All-American potential.

3. Justin Shorter, WR, Penn State

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    Recruiting rundown: No. 1 WR | No. 8 OVR

    Likely 2018 role: Regardless of the starting lineup, Justin Shorter figures to play meaningful snaps throughout his freshman year. Penn State lost three of its top four receivers, so the 5-star wideout has a terrific opportunity.

    Long-term outlook: Juwan Johnson has NFL-caliber ability and DeAndre Thompkins will be a senior next season. If both players are gone in 2019, the Nittany Lions will expect Shorter to not only occupy a starting job but to propel the unit.

2. Patrick Surtain Jr., CB, Alabama

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    Recruiting rundown: No. 1 CB | No. 6 OVR

    Likely 2018 role: There simply could not be a better time for Patrick Surtain Jr. to join Alabama. Although the Crimson Tide field an elite defense each season, they must completely rebuild the secondaryyes, the whole thing. Surtain is a lock to contribute, and by no means should anyone be surprised if he's a starter.

    Long-term outlook: Between his talent and stature, Surtain has the optimal skills and build of a lockdown corner. The son of an All-Pro, the 5-star prospect already has a familiar name and will likely become the face of the Crimson Tide secondary.

1. Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State

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    Recruiting rundown: No. 2 WDE | No. 5 OVR

    Likely 2018 role: Following the departure of Jason Cabinda, Micah Parsons has the ability and opportunity to earn the starting nod at middle linebacker. That possibility might not have been as strong had the 5-star arrived in the summer, but Parsons enrolled early and is adjusting to the position this spring.

    Long-term outlook: Maybe he'll become a dominant force in the middle, and Penn State simply cannot move the talented defender. However, it's more likely Parsons will eventually shift to an edge-rushing spotwhere he excelled in high schoolonce the Nittany Lions are more comfortable with their depth at linebacker.

              

    All recruiting information via 247Sports. Stats from NCAA.comcfbstats.com or B/R research. Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.