With roughly two weeks left in the college football regular season, we have seen a bevy of true freshmen playmakers that have proven to be legitimate contributors to their offense in year one. Many were highly-touted prospects and expected to maintain pivotal roles in their offense from day one. Others caught the staff at Campus2Canton off guard with their ability to perform at a young age when the lights were brightest.
Without further ado, here are Campus2Canton’s Freshmen of the Week for week eleven.
Quarterback: Jacurri Brown – Miami
The quarterback room down in Coral Gables has not fared particularly well this season. Brown instilled some much-needed optimism around the Miami program in their 35-14 win on the road at Bobby Dowd Stadium. Matched up against Georgia Tech’s Zach Pylon, another true freshman who played solid in his regard, Brown completed 70 percent of his passes and threw for three touchdowns, adding 96 yards on the ground.
The 6’4″ 210-pounder’s performance through the air was not necessarily flashy. His average depth of target was a tick over five yards. He only completed a handful of passes beyond ten yards. Still, facing a Yellow Jackets defense with a top-five turnover margin on the road in your first start and taking care of the ball? That’s great. What the Lowndes High School (GA) product can do with his feet, particularly only being sacked once and posting his second consecutive game with at least three carries of ten or more yards, is an exciting shift from the norm. This should instill some confidence around the Hurricanes’ locker room. Especially with the recent flip of 2023 quarterback Jaden Rashada to Florida.
Running Back: Nicholas Singleton – Penn State
In the Nittany Lions’ 30-0 blanking of Maryland at Beaver Stadium, Singleton put up his best performance since Auburn back in week three. The 6’0″ 219-pounder earned Big Ten freshman of the week honors, rushing for 122 yards on an 11.1-yard per carry clip and scoring two touchdowns, both coming on explosive runs of over 25 yards. The Shillington, Pennsylvania native forced nine missed tackles and averaged almost nine yards after first contact per attempt. I have been notably critical of Singleton but none of my denunciations has to do with his talent.
If you play in devy or C2C leagues, you have been told for over a year that Singleton would be the clear number one running back in his class from day one. Very similar to how the community viewed Bijan Robinson. Between his size, athleticism, and hype, I get the intrigue. He’s going to be one hell of a back and will certainly play on Sundays. But with how his freshman counterpart Kaytron Allen has been equally, if not more, impressive from a production standpoint and the rise in other freshman backs, I think we are dealing with a classic take-lock scenario.
Running Back: Quinshon Judkins – Ole Miss
Speaking of running backs that have seen a substantial rise, it appears every time we assume Judkins will slow down his historic year-one performance, he proves us wrong. In the Rebels’ 30-24 loss to the Crimson Tide, the Pike Road High School (AL) product ran for 135 yards and two touchdowns. It marks his fourth multi-touchdown performance in the last five games. The 5’11” 210-pounder not only broke eight tackles last week, but he broke the program’s freshman single-season records in rushing yards (1,171) and rushing touchdowns (15). Judkins stands 141 yards away from breaking Kayo Dottley’s 70-plus-year record for rushing yards by an Ole Miss running back. It might be a foregone conclusion to occur with Zach Evans leaving before halftime with a concussion.
Wide Receiver: Antonio Williams – Clemson
In an ACC Atlantic-clinching win over Louisville, the Irmo, South Carolina native caught ten passes for 85 yards and one touchdown. Williams tallied the most receptions by a Clemson player since Amari Rodgers in 2020. He also tied the program’s single-game freshman record for receptions with Sammy Watkins and Artavis Scott. Coming into the season, I severely underestimated the 5’11” 190-pounder’s ability to make an impact in year one. Between DJ Uiagalelei’s struggle and the Tigers’ stockpile of talented-yet-unproven weapons, I was not sure who was going to step up outside of Beaux Collins. Fast forward, and it appears that Williams is the receiver in the room with the most translatable next-level skillset. You could count the number of freshman receivers in the country more talented than him on a cartoon hand.
Tight End: Colston Loveland – Michigan
There weren’t many impressive performances by freshman pass-catchers this week outside of Williams. Loveland caught my eye as a guy that… well frankly, I never heard of. The 6’5″ 237-pounder from Idaho logged his third start in the last four weeks and caught both of his targets for 40 yards, over half of which came after the catch. A midseason enrollee in Ann Arbor, Loveland added roughly 60 pounds since his freshman year at Gooding (ID) to bulk up and make the move to tight end. He possesses the length and pass-catching ability to be a matchup nightmare. As his playing time has increased with each game, so has the trust in him being a staple in the Wolverines’ offense for the foreseeable future. Scribble his name down as a potential tight end to watch in devy formats.
Other Notable Performances
- Temple’s E.J. Warner has started the last eight games at quarterback for the Owls but had his most notable performance in last week’s 43-36 loss on the road at Houston. Son of former grocery store shelf-stocker Kurt Warner, the 6’0″ 190-pounder passed for three touchdowns and 486 yards, passing P.J. Walker for the most passing yards by a freshman in a single game in program history. The Phoenix, Arizona native also broke records for single-game completions (42) and attempts (59) in the loss. Don’t look now, but over the past two weeks, Warner has thrown for 830 yards and five touchdowns while completing over 73 percent of his passes. The Brophy College Prep (AZ) product welcomes Cincinnati to Lincoln Financial Field next week.
- In Tennessee’s 66-24 win over Missouri at Neyland Stadium on Senior Day, running back Dylan Sampson was the most impressive back to me. The 5’11” 190-pounder ran for 98 yards on eight carries, a 12.3 yard per carry clip, and found the endzone. He forced two missed tackles and recorded three carries of at least 15 yards, including a 42-yarder in the third quarter. It’s been a bit of a “pick your poison” situation in Knoxville, as Sampson, Jabari Small, and Jaylen Wright have all proven to be effective at various times. Yet, there is still a ton to like about the Baton Rouge, Louisiana native. During his time at Dutchtown High School, he broke Eddie Lacy’s record for career rushing yards (4,927) while also clocking in a sub-10.5 100-meter and a 4.32-second 40-yard dash. I don’t have the cojones to tout any of the Volunteer backs over the others, but Sampson is an interesting prospect.
- Carrying on the theme of “SEC running backs from the Bayou State,” Florida’s Trevor Etienne had another solid performance in the Gators’ 38-6 thrashing of the Gamecocks. The 5’9″ 217-pounder ran for 100 yards on eight carries, 88 of which came after first contact. No run was more impressive than his 85-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, the second-longest run by a Gators’ running back since Emmitt Smith in 1988. The Jennings High School (LA) product hasn’t seen a ton of volume on the year, averaging about nine carries per game but has seen more than ten carries in two of the last three weeks.