5-Star College Football Players Stepping into Much Larger Roles in 2020
When a college football program signs a 5-star prospect, visions of a three-year starter and future NFL draft pick go dancing through the minds of fans.
In many cases, though, patience is necessary. Not every top-billed player is even a contributor as a freshman. For many reasons, it may take multiple seasons before the 5-star is a starter.
But 2020 is another chance for a breakout year, and several previous 5-stars are well-positioned for that type of season.
Perhaps the alternate title of this piece includes a focus on Ohio State's past recruits. The Buckeyes have become a force on the recruiting trail, and four 5-stars will likely be starters in 2020. We've covered that quartet, along with a handful of other players.
The list is ordered alphabetically by school.
Jamaree Salyer, OG, Georgia
Georgia is losing four starters from a terrific offensive line, and Jamaree Salyer is positioned nicely to fill one of those vacancies.
As a 2018 recruit, he ranked No. 10 overall and No. 1 among guards. However, the Dawgs will likely need Salyer to play right tackle in 2020. He started there against Murray State in September and opposite Baylor in the Sugar Bowl.
Salyer's versatility will allow Georgia to rely on a deeper group of interior linemen rather than relying on two young tackles.
Zamir White, RB, Georgia
Playing behind D'Andre Swift and Brian Herrien, the No. 9 player in the 2018 cycle rushed for 408 yards and three scores on 78 carries. White capitalized on a start in the Sugar Bowl, posting career-high marks of 18 carries and 92 yards with a touchdown.
James Cook and Kenny McIntosh will push White for snaps, but it's clear who's leading the depth chart right now.
Jaelan Phillips, DE, Miami
The No. 1 overall prospect in the 2017 class, Jaelan Phillips initially headed to UCLA and had a productive year. In seven games, he totaled 21 tackles with seven for loss and 3.5 sacks. However, ankle and wrist injuries and a concussion led to Phillips medically retiring before heading to Miami.
After sitting out 2019 due to transfer rule, Phillips has a clear opportunity to join the rotation.
Even as the Canes return Gregory Rousseau and welcome grad transfer Quincy Roche, they must replace 18.5 combined tackles for loss from Jonathan Garvin and Trevon Hill. Phillips will be critical to Miami staying among the best at producing tackles for loss.
Nicholas Petit-Frere and Harry Miller, OL, Ohio State
Ohio State could've lost its entire offensive line, but Thayer Munford, Wyatt Davis and Josh Myers all decided to return in 2020. Still, a couple of 5-stars are front-runners at the vacancies.
Ranked No. 7 in the 2018 class, Nicholas Petit-Frere served as a backup yet played regular snaps during the 2019 campaign. He's likely to replace Branden Bowen at right tackle.
Harry Miller, meanwhile, is expected to succeed Jonah Jackson at left guard. Miller was considered the No. 2 center and No. 30 overall prospect in the 2019 cycle. His future may still be there, but Myers has the position locked down for at least another year.
Garrett Wilson, WR, Ohio State
Garrett Wilson steadily earned a larger role as a true freshman, but Ohio State's rising competition didn't stop him from producing.
After totaling 14 receptions for 134 yards through eight games, Wilson grabbed 16 catches for 298 yards during Ohio State's final six contests. He topped the 100-yard mark at Michigan and tied a career high with four catches against Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl, finishing the season with five touchdowns.
Next season, the No. 20 prospect of the 2019 class will be a full-time starter opposite Chris Olave. They'll highlight a receiving corps that welcomes 5-star Julian Fleming but loses three seniors in K.J. Hill, Binjimen Victor and Austin Mack.
Zach Harrison, DE, Ohio State
The Buckeyes have enormous shoes to fill as Chase Young, the nation's leader in sacks, heads to the NFL. It sure helps to have a 5-star talent in Zach Harrison ready to take a featured role.
Ranked 12th overall in the 2019 cycle, he gathered 24 tackles with five in the backfield and 3.5 sacks during his freshman year. While he appeared in all 14 games and notched a tackle in 11, Harrison also started against Maryland and Clemson.
The Buckeyes should have at least a five-member rotation with Jonathan Cooper, Tyreke Smith, Tyler Friday and Javontae Jean-Baptiste, but Harrison will be a pivotal piece of it.
Spencer Rattler, QB, Oklahoma
Listed one spot ahead of Harrison at No. 11 in 2019, Spencer Rattler is seemingly next in the impressive line of quarterbacks at Oklahoma.
Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray won a Heisman Trophy, and Jalen Hurts finished behind LSU's Joe Burrow for the award in 2019. Rattler took a redshirt as a freshman, but he's widely considered the favorite ahead of third-year sophomore Tanner Mordecai.
In high school, Rattler threw for 11,083 yards and 116 touchdowns to 33 interceptions, adding 1,040 yards and 14 scores as a runner.
Zacch Pickens, DT, South Carolina
South Carolina had a potential first-round NFL draft pick in Javon Kinlaw manning the interior last season. And in 2020, the Gamecocks will be relying on 2019 5-star Zacch Pickens.
There are worse transition plans!
Pickens—the No. 8 player of his class—still performed well in relatively limited action behind Kinlaw and Kobe Smith, collecting 16 tackles and adding one hurry while appearing in all 12 games.
He should start alongside Keir Thomas, who has 25 career starts but missed most of 2019 because of an ankle injury and treatment.