Ranking College Football's Best Freshmen So Far in 2018
Few developments in college football are more exciting than a freshman establishing himself as a key player.
When he breaks out, fans immediately see a multiyear star for their favorite program. Already in 2018, several freshmen are demanding a whole bunch of positive attention.
One important thing to remember is that, in this particular framing, involvement does not equal achievement. Several freshmen are starting quarterbacks, but they've either struggled or lacked consistency.
The players highlighted have served as meaningful contributors throughout the season and consistently made positive impacts. Redshirt freshmen are included.
10. JaTarvious Whitlow, RB, Auburn
Even in a quiet debut, JaTarvious "Boobie" Whitlow played an integral role in Auburn's victory. His 10-yard touchdown run proved to be the game-winning score against Washington.
The following week, he scampered for what remains a career-high 122 yards. Whitlow again eclipsed the century mark and scored during the Tigers' loss to LSU and then celebrated a pair of touchdowns when Auburn cruised past Arkansas.
Through four games, he's picked up 303 yards and four scores.
9. Sam Hartman, QB, Wake Forest
Because expected starter Kendall Hinton opened the season with a three-game suspension, Sam Hartman stepped into the lineup. He played well enough to keep the job after Hinton's return.
Hartman tossed two touchdowns in each of his first three starts, twice posting at least a 60 percent completion rate and maxing out at 378 passing yards.
Though his five interceptions are a bit glaring, Hartman has regularly kept the Wake Forest Demon Deacons competitive. He shows excellent velocity, touch and feel for pressure. As the true freshman's knowledge improves, so will his decision-making.
8. Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama
Given the way Patrick Surtain II's career has begun, he'll probably escape his father's shadow quickly.
The son of the All-Pro NFL cornerback notched two stops during Alabama's blowout of Louisville. Since then, Surtain has gradually worked into a larger role. The true freshman earned a start against Texas A&M and pulled in his first career interception.
"I really like him a lot," teammate Trevon Diggs said of Surtain, per Ken Rogers of the Dothan Eagle. "He's a great player, and I feel like he's going to have a lot of success."
Surtain has surrendered only four completions and 41 yards on 15 targets, according to CFB Film Room.
7. Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, USC
The high school connection between JT Daniels and Amon-Ra St. Brown has quickly translated to the college game.
During the season-opening win over UNLV, St. Brown pulled in seven passes for 98 yards and a touchdown. After a 39-yard effort against Stanford, the wideout collected nine receptions and 167 yards at Texas and then scored in USC's victory over Washington State in Week 4.
Among freshmen, he ranks third nationally with 20 catches and 342 yards. Considering the competition, that's a tremendous start.
6. Andre Cisco, S, Syracuse
Through four games, Andre Cisco's awareness has been on full display.
Between jumping routes and tracking down tipped passes, the true freshman has snatched four interceptions—you know, as many as the Syracuse Orange did in 2017. He grabbed two against Wagner and one apiece at Western Michigan and opposite UConn.
Throw in seven tackles and three more pass breakups, and the Orange have a front-runner for Freshman All-America honors.
5. Pooka Williams, RB, Kansas
The Kansas Jayhawks are headed to another frustrating finish, but they uncovered a gem in Pooka Williams Jr. at running back.
After not playing in the opener, he scorched Central Michigan for 125 yards and two touchdowns to help Kansas end a 46-game losing streak on the road. Williams followed up that showing with 163 yards and another score during the demolition of Rutgers.
Thanks to an 89-yard showing against Baylor, his 125.7 yards per game ranks first among all freshmen.
4. Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
Hype is dangerous. Expectations can be outlandish. Nevertheless, Trevor Lawrence is everything Clemson fans hoped for.
The No. 1 overall prospect of the 2018 class has tallied 9.8 yards per attempt in all four appearances. He tossed three scores against Furman, threw a touchdown on his first pass at Texas A&M, had a career-high 194 yards opposite Georgia Southern and led five scoring drives in six possessions at Georgia Tech.
"That Lawrence kid is a really good player," GT head coach Paul Johnson said, per Ken Sugiura of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Lawrence—who has 600 yards and nine touchdowns—will make his first career start in Week 5's home game against the Orange. And if he continues at this level of performance, there's no turning back for Clemson.
3. Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue
Rondale Moore put together quite the introduction.
During his college debut, the Purdue Boilermakers wide receiver broke the program record for single-game all-purpose yards with 313 in a loss to Northwestern. He pulled in 11 passes for 109 yards, broke off a 76-yard run for a touchdown and averaged 25 yards on five kick returns.
And he was simply getting started.
Moore has since crested the 100-yard mark as a receiver twice, scoring three more touchdowns. Add in the true freshman's regular contributions as a runner and returner, and he ranks No. 5 nationally in all-purpose yards per game at 183.
2. Caden Sterns, DB, Texas
One prize of an outstanding 2018 recruiting class, Caden Sterns has immediately starred in the Texas secondary.
"Caden Sterns—hell of a football player," head coach Tom Herman said, per Trenton Daeschner of the Dallas Morning News. "... He's got a natural knack—he's got great ball skills, so being around the football is one thing, but being able to make plays on it is another. And then he's a great tackler as well."
The safety grabbed his first career interception in Week 2 against Tulsa and then picked off TCU twice last Saturday—including one that helped the Longhorns score two pivotal touchdowns in 17 seconds and ultimately claim a 31-16 victory.
Sterns also blocked a field goal that resulted in a Texas touchdown opposite USC and has notched 15 tackles. He's been a star.
1. Alan Bowman, QB, Texas Tech
An ankle injury unfortunately sidelined McLane Carter, but Alan Bowman has taken full advantage of his opportunity.
The true freshman ended his first two appearances with at least 273 yards and a touchdown. In his second career start is when Bowman became a sensation. While throwing for five touchdowns in a win over Houston, he racked up 605 yards and set a Big 12 freshman record.
Bowman then posted 397 yards and two touchdowns in a 41-17 road upset over Oklahoma State, helping Texas Tech enter the AP Top 25.
Entering Week 5, he's the nation's leading passer at 389.3 yards per game. Bowman has 10 touchdowns to only two interceptions.
All recruiting information via 247Sports. Stats from NCAA.com, cfbstats.com or B/R research. Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.