Bold Predictions for Top College Football Freshmen in 2019
As the 2019 college football season gets closer, the excitement surrounding top freshmen only continues to grow.
Practice updates and camp reports lead to changes on projected depth charts, and the collection of young players headed for significant snaps becomes clearer. Here, we're looking at the biggest names from that coveted category.
For example, Georgia boasts a handful of 5-stars who should play in 2019. However, none of them are expected to be featured.
Every player highlighted below owned a 5-star billing, according to 247Sports' composite rankings. Redshirt freshmen were not included.
Wanya Morris, LT, Tennessee
Prediction: Starts every game in 2019
Immediately earning a place on the offensive line can be difficult, but Wanya Morris is off to a terrific start.
An early enrollee, the 5-star lineman wasted no time and made a positive impression during spring practice. On the surface, the idea that he'll start 13 games might not seem particularly bold.
However, the Vols have plenty of options along the O-line. If Morris goes through a rough stretch, they could turn to fellow 5-star Darnell Wright and returning starter Trey Smith as the starting tackles.
Consider this a vote of confidence that Morris will be a steady factor and consistent first-stringer for UT.
Owen Pappoe, LB, Auburn
Prediction: Records 60 tackles
The nation's highest-rated outside linebacker, Owen Pappoe appears to understand exactly what it takes to secure a significant role.
"He's one of those guys who is really smart and really serious about his work, serious about his craft," Auburn linebackers coach Travis Williams said, per Josh Vitale of the Montgomery Advertiser. "He's as athletic as we thought. He can be as good as he wants to be. He will play this year, for sure. He's going to play a lot."
Not only does Pappoe have the ability, he fills a need.
Auburn lost a trio of key linebackers in Deshaun Davis, Darrell Williams and Montavious Atkinson, who combined for 231 tackles last year. Pappoe will help replace a good chunk of that production.
Daxton Hill, S, Michigan
Prediction: Records 50 tackles and creates five turnovers
Since he arrived in the summer, Daxton Hill hasn't quite locked up a starting job in Ann Arbor this season. But the widely held perception is that's a matter of when, not if.
"Hill should be a Day 1 contributor in some capacity," Nick Baumgardner of the Detroit Free Press wrote. "He looks more like a nickel corner to me than a safety, though it's easy to understand the desire to let him cover grass as a deep safety."
Michigan needs to replace free safety Tyree Kinnel, and Hill is a chief contender along with Brad Hawkins and J'Marick Woods. Even if either Hawkins or Woods wins that battle, Hill would immediately become the favorite to start as the nickelback.
He's going to play. And with his elite combination of speed and intelligence, he's going to produce.
Trey Sanders, RB, Alabama
Prediction: Collects 700 total yards
The Crimson Tide have a likely starter in Najee Harris and a powerful short-yardage option in Brian Robinson Jr., but Sanders is suited to contribute as a pass-catching back. Damien Harris and Josh Jacobs combined for 451 yards on 42 receptions, while the returning Harris mustered seven yards on four grabs.
Sanders needs to earn the spot, but it's clearly available.
Throw in a projected large role in garbage time—Alabama should regularly provide mop-up chances for reserves—and Sanders should have a superb freshman year.
Jadon Haselwood and Theo Wease, WR, Oklahoma
Prediction: Score 10 combined touchdowns
Bridges is also worth monitoring, but Haselwood and Wease were 5-star prospects. They'll be under the brightest spotlight.
Heading into the fall, both players are likely No. 2 on the depth chart. Given Oklahoma's struggles on defense, however, high-scoring games figure to be regular occurrences yet again.
Since the Sooners will need to utilize a deep rotation at receiver, Haselwood and Wease should have plenty of chances to score.
Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
Prediction: Leads LSU in interceptions
Thanks to his blend of size, speed and anticipation, Derek Stingley Jr. is a sensational talent. But LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda pointed out another intriguing trait.
"His confidence level is very strong in his self, but it's understated," Aranda said, per Sean Fazende of Fox 8. "He doesn't wear it out on his sleeve. He has that ability to have that confidence tucked in somewhere. So what a great combination of a guy that's humble but knows that he can attack everybody and steal your money.
Stingley's quiet confidence might wreck the SEC.
Early tests against Texas' Collin Johnson and Devin Duvernay should prepare Stingley to handle all SEC competition. And outside of Alabama's loaded receiving corps and perhaps Vanderbilt's Kalija Lipscomb, the freshman should be expected to contain everyone he faces.
Kayvon Thibodeaux, DE, Oregon
Prediction: Registers eight sacks
On the defensive line, being a starter is sometimes nothing but semantics. Look at Iowa, where A.J. Epenesa has zero career starts yet collected a team-high 10.5 sacks last season.
Whether he's a first-stringer or a rotational player, Kayvon Thibodeaux has the opportunity to make a similar impact for Oregon.
The Ducks' leading returning pass-rusher is Gus Cumberlander, who ranked second on the defense with four sacks in 2018. Drayton Carlberg and Austin Faoliu combined for 4.5, too. While experienced, this isn't exactly a star-packed group of defensive ends.
Thibodeaux's explosiveness and promising array of pass-rushing moves suggest he'll be a high-impact player right away.