5 Most Impactful Freshmen in College Football for 2020
Written by Jonathan Lidskin
Every year in college football, we see the emergence of true freshmen in big moments. Last year, LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. took the college football world by storm as he became the best cornerback in the country. We also saw freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis lead USC to an 8-5 record after replacing J.T. Daniels in the first game of the season. This year, fans should expect more of the same with many freshmen coming in and making an impact right away. The following will be the 5 most impactful freshmen for the 2020 season.
5. Arik Gilbert TE LSU
Gilbert’s situation is an interesting one. He likely will enter the LSU program as the number one tight end due to the departure of Thaddeus Moss to the NFL. Gilbert was ranked the number five player in the country by 247sports composite and was named Gatorade football player of the year. In his senior season at Marietta High School, Gilbert caught 101 passes for 1,760 yards to go with 14 touchdowns. LSU’s passing game coordinator Scott Linehan told 247sports that he thinks Gilbert is a player that can play tight end from multiple spots on the field. Gilbert’s versatility should also help replace Justin Jefferson who played in the slot for LSU last season.
4. Bryce Young QB Alabama
Many people may have been expecting Young to be higher on this list, but due to Covid-19, Young may not get enough time to prove that he is better than Mac Jones before the 2020 season. Young was the number 2 ranked player in the 2020 class according to 247sports composite and was the number 1 ranked quarterback. Young played at high school powerhouse Mater Dei where he threw for 348.3 yards per game with an insane 71.9% completion percentage. Young was also named USA TODAY high school sports offensive player of the year. His style of play very much resembles current Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray who are both extremely good at avoiding pressure and making plays on the run. If Young is able to start for Alabama before it’s too late, Alabama could be the most dangerous team in the SEC.
3. Jordan Burch DT/DE South Carolina
Jordan Burch’s commitment was a surprising one to say the least. Burch committed in the middle of December while South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp was very much on the hot seat. Burch will surely be an instant starter for the Gamecocks after losing first round pick Javon Kinlaw. He might not only be able to help South Carolina in the same way Kinlaw did, but he might be better than Kinlaw in just a couple years. Burch was a priority recruit of schools like Clemson and Georgia because of his ability to move around on the defensive line. He can play defensive tackle (the position Kinlaw played) or he can play at edge rusher. Burch was also named an Under Armour All-America Game Captain for the 2020 game in Orlando. Expect Burch to be one of the top pass rushers in the SEC for the next three years.
2. Justin Flowe LB Oregon
Flowe was the sixth ranked recruit in the 2020 class according to 247sports composite. His commitment to Oregon wasn’t necessarily a player the Ducks needed, but Flowe might just make Oregon the best defensive team in college football next year. The Ducks are already loaded in their secondary and have possibly the best pass rusher in the country in Kayvon Thibodeaux. By adding USA TODAY high school sports’ defensive player of the year, Oregon should be a threat in all three levels of their defense. Flowe’s ability to get off blocks from the inside linebacker position allowed him to have 123 total tackles and 10 sacks in his senior season. Flowe will get to the passer a lot as a freshman and will wreak havoc in the Pac-12 for years to come.
1. Julian Fleming WR Ohio State
While Fleming may not be an every down player for the Buckeyes in 2020, he certainly has the ability to be one of the best pass catchers in the Big Ten. Fleming was considered by many to be the best player in the country last year and his best ability without a doubt is his leaping ability. At The Opening Finals last year, Fleming had a vertical jump of 40 inches. At the NFL combine this past year, the average vertical jump was 35.84 inches. Without playing a college game, Flemming is already over 4 inches above this year’s average at his position. With measurables like the 40 inch vertical, Flemming will be a high impact player for the Buckeyes in year 1 while most of the attention from secondaries to Ohio State will go to Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson.