Examining which freshmen could have the biggest impact this fall
College football’s 2020 National Signing Day is officially in the books. As expected, top programs like Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, Georgia and LSU signed prospects who will have a chance to play right away. Every FBS program inked recruits to a National Letter of Intent on Wednesday or in the early period in December, which means coaching staffs should have a good snapshot of how their program looks for the upcoming season. And if teams didn't fill their needs on the recruiting trail, a trip to the transfer portal could be in order. With spring practice just around the corner for all 130 teams, the focus around the nation now shifts to the upcoming season and how incoming freshmen or junior college recruits fit into the depth chart.
There will be several impact performers from the 2020 class this season, and it’s impossible to narrow the names down to just 20. However, now that signing day is complete, let’s take a look at 20 names (plus a few bonus picks) to watch in 2020 and how they could impact their team in on-field action.
College Football's Top 20 Impact True Freshmen for 2020
Tank Bigsby, RB, Auburn
Auburn’s backfield depth took a hit when JaTarvious Whitlow decided to transfer on National Signing Day. While Whitlow will be missed, the Tigers have plenty of options at running back to deploy in 2020. Bigsby is one of those players, as he arrives at Auburn after ranking as the No. 39 prospect in the 247Sports Composite.
Bryan Bresee/Myles Murphy, DL, Clemson
Make no mistake: Clemson has talent in the trenches coming back for 2020. However, it will be tough for coach Dabo Swinney and coordinator Brent Venables to keep Bresee and Murphy on the sidelines. Bresee ranked as the No. 1 overall prospect in the 2020 247Sports Composite, while Murphy checked in at No. 7. Clemson has been a factory for talent in the trenches under Venables and these two freshmen should see some type of role in the defense in 2020.
Jermaine Burton/Marcus Rosemy/Arian Smith, WR, Georgia
It’s no secret Georgia needs a couple of playmakers to emerge around George Pickens this offseason. Burton, Rosemy and Smith were all rated among the top 100 recruits by the 247Sports Composite and should have a chance to push for snaps this offseason.
Gervon Dexter, DL, Florida
Dexter probably won’t have to handle a full allotment of snaps with Kyree Campbell, Tedarrell Slaton, Elijah Conliffe and Marlon Dunlap on the interior, but the five-star recruit could work his way into the rotation.
Desmond Evans, DL, North Carolina
Mack Brown’s second class back at North Carolina featured four of the top six prospects within the state borders. Evans was one of those players, as he comes to Chapel Hill after ranking No. 43 overall in the 247Sports Composite. The 6-foot-6 lineman accumulated 37 sacks in three years at Lee County.
Julian Fleming, WR, Ohio State
Even with Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson back at receiver, there’s room for another option to emerge in Ohio State’s offense for quarterback Justin Fields. Fleming – a five-star prospect and the No. 1 player overall by ESPN – should push for time after catching 77 touchdowns in his high school career.
Justin Flowe/Noah Sewell, LB, Oregon
Flowe and Sewell – two five-star prospects – were key cogs in Oregon’s recruiting class that ranked No. 1 in the Pac-12 for the second consecutive year. Both players should help fill the void left behind by standout Troy Dye at inside linebacker.
Arik Gilbert, TE, LSU
With tight end Thaddeus Moss and receiver Justin Jefferson off to the NFL, coordinator Steve Ensminger has to restock the targets around quarterback Myles Brennan. Look for Gilbert to be a major factor right away after ranking as the No. 5 prospect in the 247Sports Composite for the 2020 signing class.
Jaylon Jones, DB, Texas A&M
Texas A&M finished seventh in the SEC in pass efficiency defense last season and is slated to replace a key member of the cornerback group (Debione Renfro) this spring. Jones should play a huge role this offseason, as he’s the top recruit in Jimbo Fisher’s 2020 class and picked off four passes as a high school senior. Jones was listed as a safety by some recruiting services but is currently slated to play cornerback.
MarShawn Lloyd, RB, South Carolina
New coordinator Mike Bobo enters spring practice with a handful of question marks on offense, but the incoming class could provide an answer at running back. The team’s top three rushers – Tavien Feaster, Rico Dowdle and Mon Denson – each finished their eligibility after the 2019 season. Lloyd ranked as a four-star prospect and the No. 42 recruit in the 2020 class and has a favorable path to a starting job this fall.
Rakim Jarrett, WR, Maryland
Maryland coach Mike Locksley is regarded as an outstanding recruiter, so it was no surprise he was able to flip Jarrett from LSU in the early signing period. The Maryland native ranked as a five-star prospect by the 247Sports Composite after catching 60 passes for 950 yards and seven scores as a high school senior in 2019.
Jordan Johnson, WR/Michael Mayer, TE, Chris Tyree, RB, Notre Dame
Ian Book’s supporting cast has to be restocked following the early departure of tight end Cole Kmet and running back Tony Jones early to the NFL, while receiver Chase Claypool (66 catches) finished his eligibility. All three freshmen ranked as top 100 recruits and should see action right away for the Fighting Irish.
Daniyel Ngata/DeaMonte Trayanum, RB, Arizona State
Eno Benjamin (1,083 yards in 2019) leaves big shoes to fill in Arizona State’s backfield for 2020. However, coach Herm Edwards reeled in a top-25 recruiting class, which includes two potential impact running backs. Ngata (No. 124 overall prospect) and Trayanum (No. 284) could carry the Arizona State backfield this fall.
Clark Phillips III, CB, Utah
Utah’s secondary is rebuilding after losing nickel back Javelin Guidry, cornerbacks Josh Nurse, Tareke Lewis and Jaylon Johnson, along with safeties Terrell Burgess and Julian Blackmon. Phillips is the highest-rated prospect in the 2020 signing class for coach Kyle Whittingham and accumulated six picks over his final two years of high school ball in California.
Elias Ricks, CB, LSU
Derek Stingley is set at one cornerback spot for coach Ed Orgeron, but the other is up for grabs after Kristian Fulton finished his eligibility. Ricks – the No. 14 overall prospect by the 247Sports Composite – should push for snaps to replace Fulton right away this offseason.
Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
Robinson may not earn the starting job since Keaontay Ingram, Roschon Johnson (if he doesn’t move back to QB) and Jordan Whittington return to the backfield for 2020. But coach Tom Herman and new play-caller Mike Yurcich will give Robinson plenty of opportunities. The Arizona native ranked as the No. 1 running back and No. 15 prospect by the 247Sports Composite.
Damian Sellers/Jonathan Vaughns, LB, UCLA
The Bruins lose five key linebackers from last year’s defense, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the staff dip into the 2020 haul for help. Damian Sellers (No. 193) was the top-rated option in the class, but Jonathan Vaughns (No. 341) and Choe Bryant-Strother (No. 433) could contribute.
Jeff Sims, QB, Georgia Tech
Sims and running back Jahmyr Gibbs are two impact pickups for coach Geoff Collins’ 2020 class. Sims arrives in Atlanta after accounting for over 6,000 total yards in his high school career. Georgia Tech is still a program in transition, but Collins has the roster trending in the right direction. Considering the four quarterbacks who saw time in 2019 combined for just 14 touchdowns and 10 picks, the door is open for Sims to push for snaps.
Myles Slusher, S, Arkansas
Despite a late start, new coach Sam Pittman was able to piece together a solid class for 2020. Slusher rated as the highest prospect (No. 172) by the 247Sports Composite in the Arkansas class and fills an immediate need at safety after Kamren Curl left for the NFL.
Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
Mac Jones enters spring practice as the favorite to take the first snap in 2020, but it will be difficult for coach Nick Saban to keep Young on the sidelines. The California native ranked as the No. 2 overall prospect by the 247Sports Composite after throwing for 4,528 yards and 58 touchdowns and adding 357 yards and 10 scores on the ground as a high school senior. How fast can Young overtake Jones for the starting job?