A new year is upon us. That means new faces taking center stage across the nation. It's one of the beauties of college football. You've only got four seasons to make your mark, and every year there is room for a huge crop of talented breakout stars.
Below, I bring you five true freshmen and five redshirt freshmen that are poised to make a name for themselves on the national stage, as well as five sophomores that got their feet wet in 2017 but are ready to take things to a new stratosphere this fall.
Cam Akers, RB, Florida State: I ranked him as the top running back in the country in the Class of 2017, a class that produced four-stars JK Dobbins, Jonathan Taylor and AJ Dillon. Akers rushed for just over 1,000 yards last year, but he flashed on every touch. Under Willie Taggart, Akers is a legitimate Heisman Trophy contender in Year 2.
Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson: Higgins was lost in a deep receiving corps as a true freshman but steps into the go-to role as a sophomore. If he has a quarterback that can get him the ball down field (cough, Trevor Lawrence, cough), Higgins will emerge as one of the top big-play threats in the country.
Tadarian Moultry, LB, Auburn: One of the best defensive fronts in college football will reside at Auburn, and Moultry is the next superstar pass rusher within that group. The interior guys get most of the attention, but Moultry is going to provide the edge athleticism. Don't be surprised if he leads the SEC in sacks after stepping in for Jeff Holland.
Byron Murphy, CB, Washington: Murphy played in six games last year, missing the rest due to injury. Had he stayed healthy, he wouldn't be eligible for this because he would have already broken out. Even in those six games, he still had two interceptions, seven passes defended and a sack. He'll become a household name nationally in Year 2.
Kenny Pickett, QB, Pitt: Imagine being willing to name a true freshman a starting quarterback knowing that the decision likely empties your quarterback room due to upperclassmen transfers. That's what happened at Pitt, and it's a telling representation that Narduzzi has a ton of confidence in the second-year arm. If Pitt takes a step forward this year, Pickett will have become a national name.
Redshirt freshmen to watch
Jay Tufele, DT, USC: A five-star out of the Class of 2017 that sat last fall, Tufele has been dominant in preseason camp in Year 2. He's poised for a breakout campaign and is a big reason to feel confident in USC's entire defense.
Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech: He was poised to be a breakout freshman last season at wide receiver and really flashed in the 2017 spring game but missed the year due to injury. Now attrition has created a need for help at cornerback, and Farley is stepping right in and looks like a starter with huge upside.
Scott Nelson, S, Wisconsin: He's been a thorn in the side of Alex Hornibrook all preseason as a ball hawk and a playmaker on the back end. He's gone out and taken the starting job at Wisconsin and adds to a stacked defense.
Tamorrion Terry, WR, Florida State: Taggart is excited about the roster that he inherited at Florida State, and a guy like Terry is a big reason why. He sat last fall as a raw newcomer, but at 6-foot-4 with outstanding speed, he's ready for the big stage.
Austin Williams, WR, Mississippi State: New coach Joe Moorhead inherits a talented win-now roster, but the wide receiver position needs some retooling, particularly for a coach that features the position. Williams has emerged as a great option. He's deceptively athletic with size to be a really reliable target for Nick Fitzgerald.
True freshmen standouts
JT Daniels, QB, USC: He skipped his senior season of high school to enroll at USC after throwing for more than 12,000 yards in three years at national powerhouse Mater Dei. The decision paid off as Daniels was named the starter on Sunday, and I like him to have a huge year with a sneaky talented roster.
Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina: Horn appears to be the latest in a long line of Will Muschamp finds at defensive back. The son of former NFL wideout Joe Horn, Jaycee appears to have locked up a starting cornerback job on what should be a SEC East contending roster.
JaMarr Chase, WR, LSU: All we heard in the winter and spring about this 2018 LSU team was how important it would be to feature the team's most talented position: wide receiver. That was before Chase, one of two five-star signees at WR, even showed up. Despite all that talent, it looks like Chase has won a starting job and already looks like a senior physically.
Caden Sterns, S, Texas: A five-star prospect with length and ball skills that just always seems to be around the football. That ability seems to have translated to Austin because Sterns is slated to start and has already inspired two upperclassmen at his position to transfer.
Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama: The Tide are as talented at the wide receiver position as they've ever been under Nick Saban with Devonta Smith, Henry Ruggs and Jerry Jeudy returning as sophomores, but Waddle is forcing himself into the equation as that fourth receiver. He's so dynamic in space and such a burner as a slot guy that Waddle will factor into this offense immediately.