College football differs from college basketball in a variety of different ways. One of the biggest differences is that the physicality of the sport usually requires a lot more time in the weight room, and typically it takes a lot longer for freshmen to develop their bodies in order to make an impact on the field right away.
These five freshmen are ready to play and make positive impacts right away for their teams.
Asa Martin: Running Back, Auburn Tigers
The Auburn Tigers are certainly going to miss Kerryon Johnson (now a member of the Detroit Lions) and his 18 touchdowns on just under 1,400 yards rushing a season ago.
Enter true freshman Asa Martin from Austin High School in Decatur, Alabama. Rivals.com has Asa Martin ranked as the No. 3 running back in the country (behind Zamir White of Georgia and Lorenzo Lingard of Miami). 247sports has Martin ranked as the No. 10 running back. In Auburn’s Spring Game, Asa Martin ran for 64 yards on 17 carries.
Auburn, like Ohio State, is a run-first football team out of the spread. Auburn needs a tough running back to get the job done in between the tackles. Asa Martin figures to be the next in line of reliable, workhorse Auburn running backs.
J.T. Daniels: Quarterback, USC Trojans
When Mater Dei High School (Santa Ana, California) quarterback J.T. Daniels re-classified to the 2018 class, it sent shockwaves throughout the college football landscape. USC has its likely starter in J.T. Daniels, a player who comes from the same high school program as former USC standout quarterbacks Matt Barkley and Matt Leinart.
The Trojans need a quarterback to step up in place of the electrifying and newest New York Jets signal caller, Sam Darnold.
Daniels is a galvanizing leader who has all of the tools and intangibles necessary to start and succeed at USC from Day 1. What he lacks in mobility he more than makes up for with his strong arm, accuracy and command of the position.
Justin Shorter: Wide Receiver, Penn State Nittany Lions
Between the losses of running back Saquon Barkley (drafted No. 2 overall to the New York Giants) and wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton (drafted No. 113 overall to the Denver Broncos), it was critical the Penn State Nittany Lions found some playmakers to help returning quarterback Trace McSorley out on the edges.
Meet Justin Shorter, the top high school prospect from the state of New Jersey. Shorter is a tall, thick wide receiver and a player who shot up ranking boards from his junior to his senior seasons. As big as Shorter is, he’s also capable of making plays after the catch and is deceptively fast for someone who’s built a lot like Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones.
McSorley is the type of quarterback who can make things happen with his feet and extend plays when everything seems to break down around him. Having a target like Justin Shorter lurking in the defensive backfield will elevate the entire Penn State offense come Fall 2018.
Amon-Ra St. Brown: Wide Receiver, USC Trojans
The second USC freshman appears on the list, and he just so happened to have been J.T. Daniels’ teammate in high school. By this point it’s pretty clear: Mater Dei is one of the top high school programs in the country and in many ways is a direct feeder to the USC Football factory.
Amon-Ra St. Brown is arguably the most college football ready wide receiver in years and could be one of the top players in the nation at any position this coming 2018 season.
St. Brown is no stranger to big time college athletics. He has two older brothers Equanimeous and Osiris. Equanimeous is a wide receiver at Notre Dame and already has 13 total touchdowns in his two healthy seasons in South Bend. Osiris is another wide receiver who plays at Stanford and took a medical redshirt last season — he figures to play a big role in Stanford’s offense this season.
Watching Amon-Ra St. Brown’s highlight tape, you’d be hard pressed to find a high school player who runs routes as easily and as smoothly as he does. It’s the stuff of legends, and while it’s crazy to think about an 18-year-old receiver oozing of NFL potential, St. Brown could just be the guy.
Patrick Surtain: Defensive Back, Alabama Crimson Tide
The NFL is loaded with defensive backs from Nick Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide, also known as the NFL’s D-League team. From Ha Ha Clinton-Dix of the Green Bay Packers to Eddie Jackson on the Chicago Bears to Landon Collins on the New York Giants among many others, prep school DB’s know the place to go is to Tuscaloosa.
Saban knows defense, but he really knows defensive backs. Rivals.com had Surtain as the No. 1 cornerback in the country and the No. 8 player overall. ESPN.com had Surtain as the No. 1 cornerback in the country and the No. 5 player overall. 247sports.com had Surtain as the No. 1 cornerback in the country and the No. 11 player overall. You get the idea. Patrick Surtain is really good and certainly fits within the quality of DB Bama’s recruited and produced over the years.
Surtain won’t be needed right away. Junior Trevon Diggs and transfer (and former LSU 5-star recruit) Saivion Smith appear to be the likely starters at cornerback. Surtain will look to earn every rep he gets, but he could be impressive enough in practice every day to play in certain defensive packages come game day.