2020 College Football Recruits Who Could Start as Freshmen
For many college football fans, no portion of the offseason is more exciting than projecting who will be immediate-impact players from the most recent recruiting class.
This last cycle, after all, brought a program-changing group of prospects to the roster! Well, that rarely happens. But there's always a good number of first-year players who quickly become key cogs.
Yes, many 2020 recruits will be regular contributors. The most notable is Clemson defensive tackle Bryan Bresee, the nation's No. 1 overall player, along with the other 5-star prospects.
However, our focus is on freshmen who have a great opportunity to secure a first-string position in 2020.
Arik Gilbert, TE, LSU
Perhaps only Maryland-bound receiver Rakim Jarrett enters a more favorable situation than LSU tight end Arik Gilbert.
The fifth-best prospect in the 2020 cycle, Gilbert has enrolled early and plays a position of immense need. The Tigers must replace Thaddeus Moss and, to a lesser degree, Stephen Sullivan. The only returning tight end with a single reception is Jamal Pettigrew, who has two career catches for 17 yards.
Gilbert has few obstacles keeping him from a starting job.
Fellow 5-star Kayshon Boutte, a wide receiver, also has an opportunity to climb LSU's depth chart. His primary competition in the slot will probably be Trey Palmer.
Noah Sewell or Justin Flowe, ILB, Oregon
Oregon landed a trio of 5-star prospects in its 2020 haul, including linebackers Justin Flowe and Noah Sewell. While it's unlikely both players will start, it's somewhere between plausible and probable that either Flowe or Sewell will.
The Ducks must replace Troy Dye, Bryson Young and La'Mar Winston Jr. across the position. Isaac Slade-Matautia and Mase Funa are expected to start, but Sampson Niu and Adrian Jackson have a chance to hold off the freshmen.
And, quite simply, they might not.
Flowe and Sewell are likely to at least manage rotational spots, but a starting job by the end of 2020 wouldn't be surprising.
Rakim Jarrett, WR, Maryland
Given the state of Maryland's offense (114th in passing last year), expectations for Rakim Jarrett should be tempered. That doesn't detract from the belief the incoming wideout will get plenty of opportunities to produce.
Dontay Demus Jr. is the team's leading receiver, and Jeshaun Jones will be healthy after an ACL injury prevented him from contributing in 2019. No other wideout has performed at a level worthy of considering them a definite starter.
Again, that's not entirely the pass-catchers' fault. Maryland had a dreadful offense after two explosive games to start 2019.
But it's an indication that Jarrett, on talent alone, is heading to an extremely favorable depth chart.
Clark Phillips III, CB, Utah
During December's early signing period, cornerback Clark Phillips III flipped from Ohio State to Utah. Based strictly on the possibility of immediate playing time, the decision should pay off.
Utah needs to replace corners Jaylon Johnson, Javelin Guidry, Josh Nurse and Tareke Lewis, as well as safeties Julian Blackmon and Terrell Burgess. The near-absence of returning production in the secondary offers an enviable outlook for Phillips.
Plus, he enrolled early. That doesn't guarantee anything, but ending the assimilation process before the summer can be valuable as Phillips works to climb the depth chart by the fall.
MarShawn Lloyd, RB, South Carolina
Three senior running backs departed from the South Carolina roster after the 2019 season, so opportunity abounds in Columbia.
And here comes MarShawn Lloyd.
Considered the No. 42 prospect in the country, he's turned heads in a positive way after enrolling early.
"His work ethic is exactly what you would hope for, and his strength numbers are not what you would expect from a true freshman. He has also shown really good speed and just seems to have the it factor and drive you see in the great ones," Tony Morrell of 247Sports wrote.
Lloyd needs to surpass sophomores Kevin Harris and Deshaun Fenwick to claim the starting tailback job.
Jeff Sims, QB, Georgia Tech
The first season of Georgia Tech's transition from a triple-option attack to a spread offense was bound to be a struggle. Short of attracting a grad transfer—which the Jackets tried to do—they weren't going to have an ideal quarterback on the roster last year.
Jeff Sims, who backed off a Florida State commitment late in the cycle, fits the new system.
Since the 4-star quarterback won't arrive until the summer, he's probably unlikely to start the Sept. 3 opener against Clemson. James Graham is the safer choice, given his eight starts in 2019.
But as the season progresses, Tech may determine the quarterback of the future is also the best option for the present.
Arizona State Running Back and Wide Receivers
Arizona State started quarterback Jayden Daniels as a true freshman last season, and several of his skill-position weapons in 2020 may accomplish the same. Versatile running back Eno Benjamin, leading receiver Brandon Aiyuk and 45-catch wideout Kyle Williams are all gone.
At minimum, we expect a freshman starter at running back. The odds are favorable a receiver will emerge too.
Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
Maybe. Don't expect Bryce Young. But maybe.
As the Crimson Tide enter the post-Tua Tagovailoa era, quarterback Mac Jones is the front-runner to oversee the offense in 2020. He started four games last season, averaging 293 passing yards with 13 total touchdowns and two interceptions in those appearances.
Young, though, enrolled early and is competing to climb the depth chart. He finished the cycle as the No. 2 overall prospect, a deserved reward for a high school career that included 14,334 offensive yards and 178 total touchdowns.
If this were a "most likely" list, Young wouldn't be featured. But the possibility is evident, and a freshman starter cannot be more notable than a quarterback for a national title contender.