These freshmen could make instant impact

Steve Megargee
The Associated Press
Nebraska running back Maurice Washington has been turning heads in training camp. [Nati Harnik/The Associated Press]

Freshmen should play a bigger role than ever in college football this season, thanks to an NCAA rule change.

The NCAA is allowing players to participate in up to four games and still qualify for a redshirt season that would enable them to maintain four years of eligibility. That rule change should put many more freshmen on the field than in past years.

"It's a seismic change in our world," Baylor coach Matt Rhule said.

Of course, more and more freshmen have been making an impact on the game well before this rule change. With a growing number of freshmen enrolling in school early and participating in spring practice rather than preparing for their senior proms, newcomers already have been delivering big performances on college football's biggest stage.

The latest example of that came in last year's College Football Playoff championship game, when freshman Tua Tagovailoa came off the bench in the second half to rally Alabama to an overtime victory over Georgia.

"I know the freshmen are more ready now than maybe ever before," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "Back when I first got into coaching, 95 percent of your freshman class would redshirt. Now it's probably less than 50 percent."

A rundown of some true freshmen with the opportunity to make a major impact this fall.

LSU WRs Ja'Marr Chase and Terrace Marshall: Chase was LSU's leading receiver in a scrimmage Saturday and has earned praise from LSU coach Ed Orgeron. "He has big hands," Orgeron said. "He has 10-inch hands. He can catch the ball well. He's very strong, fast, runs great routes. Very mature. He just has a natural knack for catching the football." Marshall was the nation's No. 3 receiver and No. 13 overall prospect in his class according to a composite ranking of recruiting sites compiled by 247Sports.

Southern California QB JT Daniels and WR Amron St. Brown: These former high school teammates at Santa Ana (California) Mater Dei already are accustomed to connecting for touchdowns. St. Brown was the nation's No. 2 receiver and No. 11 overall prospect according to the 247Sports Composite. Daniels was ranked second among pro-style quarterbacks and 16th overall.

Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence: Lawrence is so promising that he's forged a legitimate preseason competition with incumbent starter Kelly Bryant, who helped the Tigers win an Atlantic Coast Conference title and reach the College Football Playoff last season. Lawrence was the nation's No. 1 overall prospect in his class according to the 247Sports Composite. He enrolled at Clemson early and was 11 of 16 for 122 yards with a touchdown pass and no interceptions in the Tigers' spring game.

Oklahoma DB Brendan Radley-Hiles: Oklahoma has played championship-caliber offense the last few seasons but hasn't had a defense to match. Radley-Hiles could help change that. The Sooners have high hopes for the top-50 recruit and expect him to contribute right away. Big 12 media selected him as the conference's preseason newcomer of the year.

Alabama CB Patrick Surtain Jr.: Surtain was rated by the 247Sports Composite as the nation's No. 1 cornerback and No. 6 overall prospect in his class. Surtain is the son of former Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Patrick Surtain, a three-time Pro Bowl selection.

Nebraska RB Maurice Washington: The most valuable player of the 2018 Under Armour High School All-America game has been the talk of Nebraska's camp. Coach Scott Frost has said "he's going to be a pretty special player. ... I think he's got a bright future here."

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