Week eight of the college football season is in the books. There have been a fair amount of true freshmen playmakers proving to be legitimate contributors to their team’s offense. Many were highly-touted prospects and regarded to have immediate roles from day one. Others have even shocked the staff at Campus2Canton 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 eight.
Quarterback: Devin Kargman – Kent State
In his first career start, Kargman led the Golden Flashes to their fourth consecutive win over Akron, keeping the Wagon Wheel trophy in Kent, Ohio. The 6’3″ 217-pounder threw for 213 yards and two touchdowns and tied Wake Forest’s Sam Hartman for PFF’s highest week eight passing grade in the FBS (90.9) in the 33-27 victory over the Zips. Accounting for four drops by his receivers, the New Jersey product had an adjusted completion percentage of 69.2% and two Big-Time Throws. Kent State doesn’t take the field again until Midweek MACtion starts next Tuesday, so it is unclear at this point whether Colin Schlee will be from the lower body bruise that kept him out last week. Still, it was an excellent debut for Kargman and a good sign for Sean Lewis’ program going forward.
Running Back: Richard Reese – Baylor
Reese has been exceptional this season, not only relative to the Bears but in comparison with the rest of the freshmen running back class. Against Kansas, the 5’9″ 175-pounder was heavily featured, as his 31 carries were the most by a Baylor player since Terrance Ganaway in 2011. He maintained efficiency on massive volume, recording 186 yards, the most rushing yards by a Power Five back last week, and two touchdowns. The Bellville High School (TX) product forced seven missed tackles and recorded five carries of at least ten yards, tied with Texas’ Bijan Robinson and Oregon State’s Damien Martinez.
Running Back: Damien Martinez – Oregon State
As previously mentioned, the 6’0″ 216-pounder had a great day, recording the best performance of his young career. Against Colorado, Martinez ran for 178 yards (8.1 ypc) and scored three touchdowns, his first multi-touchdown game of the season. He had three carries of at least 15 yards and forced four missed tackles, marking the third straight game of forcing at least four tackles. It was also the Lewisville, Texas native’s third consecutive game with at least a 40-yard run. We won’t see Martinez until next Friday when the Beavers clash with Washington, a team that has been gashed in recent weeks by both UCLA’s Zach Charbonnet and Arizona State’s Xazavian Valladay for over 110 yards and a touchdown.
Wide Receiver: Squirrel White – Tennessee
Tennessee’s Jalin Hyatt has gotten the bulk of the praise and production boost from Cedric Tillman’s injury, and rightfully so, but how about White’s performance against Tennessee-Martin? The 5’10” 165-pounder caught all five targets, recording 122 yards and a 64-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. White was the first Tennessee freshman with at least 100 receiving yards in a game since Marquez North in 2013. Granted, he only has nine targets on the year and is the odd man out of the receiving group, sitting outside the top four. Still, if Tillman enters the draft and Hyatt declares to capitalize on the hype wave, White might fit into that dangerous slot role in Josh Heupel’s offense next season.
Wide Receiver: Stephon Johnson Jr. – Oklahoma State
Entering the season, there were several first-year Oklahoma State receivers that held more hype, but Johnson Jr. took advantage of his first high-volume action. The 6’2″ 182-pounder caught six of his ten targets (zero drops) for 90 yards in the Cowboys’ 41-34 victory over Texas on Homecoming. One thing that wasn’t too reassuring was how Coach Gundy talked about Johnson Jr. in the postgame presser. “He has a long way to go, but people are going to say a lot of nice things about him. He can put that in his pocket because that’s not going to do any good next game, but he played well today for a freshman.” That doesn’t inspire too much confidence in his belief in the DeSoto High School (TX) product’s game, but Gundy did talk about him in a better light in this week’s press conference, so there is hope for Johnson Jr. being a focal point in the offense down the line.
Wide Receiver: Evan Stewart – Texas A&M
Stewart has been a mainstay Freshmen of the Week consideration for most of his first season in College Station and continued his impressive rookie campaign last week against South Carolina. In the Aggies’ 30-24 setback to the Gamecocks, the 5’11” 170-pounder caught six of his 11 targets (zero drops) for 87 yards, with five of his six receptions going for a first down. The lack of drops as of late has been notable; the Frisco, Texas native has not dropped any of his last 26 targets dating back to week five, where he dropped three passes against Mississippi State. Stewart has been the highest-targeted freshman receiver in the country with 59 targets, a sign of optimism in an otherwise dreary season for A&M.
Tight End: Mason Taylor – LSU
The 6’5″ 245-pounder from Plantation, Florida, had a solid game in last week’s 45-20 victory over Ole Miss on Homecoming, racking up 44 yards on three receptions and scoring Taylor was impressive after the catch, translating an average depth of target of two yards into almost 15 yards per reception. Plus, the bloodlines to Dolphins’ greats Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas? I will surely be monitoring him as a potential devy target going forward.