The freshman year is no longer for a football player to learn his way around campus.
There is no more time for growth, no more time for learning. There is no more apprenticeship.
These days, the best players play as freshmen, or redshirt freshman. They start as sophomores, and they star as juniors. These days, a player learns how to say hello.
Given that, who are each team’s five players most likely to make a first-year impression. According to 247sports.com, FSU finished sixth in recruiting, Florida 10th and Miami 13th.
1. Cam Akers, running back: Akers could conceivably step in for the departing Dalvin Cook. He was the nation’s No. 2 prospect. As a senior, Akers rushed for 2,105 yards and 34 touchdowns. As a quarterback, he threw for 3,128 yards and 31 touchdowns. For his career, he had more than 13,000 yards and 149 touchdowns. Akers might be one of the backs by committee next year, but he should run to the head of the pack early.
2. Marvin Wilson, defensive tackle: Wilson was FSU’s final coup of the recruiting season. If you want to know how quickly a defensive tackle can help, just look at Clemson’s Dexter Lawrence, who made an impact for the national champs right off of the bus. Wilson should do the same.
3. Joshua Kaindoh, defensive end: Is Kaindoh physically able to play with veteran linemen? We’ll see. Look for him to get into a rotation with Josh Sweat and Brian Burns. By the time he’s a senior, Kaindoh should be a force.
4. D.J. Matthews, wide receiver: Matthews could be taller, but he’s quick enough to see playing time in the team’s rotation already.
5. Stanford Samuels, cornerback: Some of the best quarterbacks in college football victimized the Noles last year. Samuels is expected to help stop that. His playing time will increase as the season goes along.
1. James Robinson, wide receiver: Robinson was a surprise signee with the Gators after being arrested for marijuana. Robinson, 6-4 and 205, represents a problem for smaller defensive backs. He missed two games but still caught 46 passes for 865 yards and eight touchdowns.
2. Tedarrell Slaton, defensive tackle: Slaton was the Gators’ top ranked recruit. He should be able to get some playing time as a freshman.
3. Christopher Henderson, cornerback: With the Gators facing heavy losses in their secondary, Henderson could step in quickly.
4. Dequon Green, wide receiver: No matter who the quarterback turns out to be, he’ll need targets. Green averaged 19.6 yards per catch at Tampa Bay Tech.
5. Zach Carter, defensive end: Another product from Tampa, Carter could be a force off the edge early in his career.
1. N’Kosi Perry, quarterback: Quarterbacks usually wait a year, but Perry might be different. He’ll compete with Cade Wilson, but he’s a two-way player who could help. Coach Mark Richt hasn’t been shy about playing freshmen in the past.
2. Jeff Thomas, wide receiver: Thomas caught 50 passes for 1,101 yards and 13 touchdowns. He was elusive enough so the Hurricanes dipped into St. Louis to get him on board.
3. Navaughn Donaldson, offensive tackle: Not many offensive linemen are able to play as freshmen, but Donaldson might be different. He’s big, and he has good feet.
4. Mike Harley, wide receiver: With Thomas and Harley, the Hurricanes are adding to their speed and their depth. Harley was a star in nearby Fort Lauderdale.
5. De’Andre Wilder, linebacker: The Hurricanes featured young linebackers a year ago in their improved defense. Now, Wilder could work into the mix in a hurry.