In today’s college football, we are seeing more and more young players make immediate impacts on their teams.
From running backs to linebackers to tight ends, there is no shortage of young rising stars at the collegiate level. It was no different in Baton Rouge when Harold Perkins Jr opted to sign with LSU over Florida and Texas A&M.
The SEC had plenty of talented freshmen taking the field for teams that were competing for the SEC title. After four months of college football action, I compiled a list of the 10 best true freshmen to take the field in 2022. Some names you may recognize with at least one that doesn’t get the headlines of the rest of the list.
We kick it off with a running back out of the state of Alabama.
Quinshon Judkins, Ole Miss
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Recruiting Ranking: No. 562 Overall
Judkins was ranked as the No. 46 running back per 247Sports composite rankings but that didn’t matter once he took the field. The freshman back led the SEC in rushing yards and touchdowns in his first season. Judkins finished as the No. 7 back in FBS for rushing yards and No. 10 in rushing touchdowns. Year two should be fun to watch for this running back from Pike Road, Alabama.
Harold Perkins Jr, LSU
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Recruiting Ranking: No. 8 Overall
Harold Perkins Jr was highly touted coming out of high school as the No. 8 overall player. 247Sports ranked him as the best linebacker and No. 5 overall prospect. His presence was felt immediately by the LSU defense. Perkins essentially won the Arkansas game by himself with three sacks, one pass defended, and two forced fumbles. The former five-star prospect finished the year leading LSU in tackles for loss (13) and sacks (7.5) while producing the third most tackles on the team (72). We have the makings of the next great pass rusher to hail from the Bayou.
Nicholas Singleton, Penn State
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Recruiting Ranking: No. 31 Overall
It shouldn’t be a surprise to find the No. 1 running back from the 2022 class on this list. Nicholas Singleton was a homerun hitter for the Penn State offseason this past season, it was on full display in the Rose Bowl when he ran 87 yards for a touchdown. Singleton finished with 1,061 yards and 12 touchdowns in his freshman season to put his name on my top 10 list.
For more on Penn State check out Nittany Lions Wire
Kelvin Banks Jr, Texas
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Recruiting Ranking: No. 33 Overall
We had to give some of the big uglies some love on this list. Kelvin Banks Jr was a late flip to the Texas class that finished in the top five. Banks was a mainstay at left tackle and finished with a 77.9 pass-blocking grade from Pro Football Focus, he allowed just two sacks all season. That is mighty impressive from a true freshman.
For more on Texas check out Longhorns Wire
Malaki Starks, Georgia
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Recruiting Ranking: No. 19 Overall
Starks was ranked as the No. 1 athlete of the 2022 class and was inserted into the Georgia defense at safety. He finished second in total tackles (67), second in interceptions (2), and first in passes defended (7). Not only was he contributing but Starks was doing so on the nation’s No. 5 scoring defense.
For more on Georgia check out UGA Wire
Tetairoa McMillan, Arizona
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Recruiting Ranking: No. 51 Overall
Despite having Jacob Cowing on the team, McMillan was able to make a huge impact on the Arizona offense. The former four-star prospect finished with 702 yards, 18.0 yards per reception, and 8 touchdowns. He led the team in yards per reception and touchdowns. McMillan should take another leap in 2023.
Tanner Koziol, Ball State
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Recruiting Ranking: No. 2,601 Overall
Koziol was rated as a two-star wide receiver out of high school but moved over to tight end for Ball State. He finished 2022 with 10.7 yards per reception and seven touchdowns. Only McMillan had more receiving touchdowns among freshmen this past season.
Abdul Carter, Penn State
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Recruiting Ranking: No. 287 Overall
The second Nittany Lion to make the list played on the defensive side of the ball at linebacker. The four-star prospect from Glenside, Pennsylvania, finished out the year second on the team in tackles (56 tackles), second in TFLs (10.5), first in sacks (6.5), and first in forced fumbles (2). Could Carter play like the last linebacker in Happy Valley to wear that No. 11?
Will Johnson, Michigan
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Recruiting Ranking: No. 15 Overall
Johnson lived up to his ranking in 2022. The five-star cornerback from Michigan finished the season second in interceptions (3) and top five in passes defended (3). Johnson showed off his impressive ball skills and he should be even better in 2023.
For more on Michigan check out Wolverines Wire
Dasan McCullough, Indiana
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Recruiting Ranking: No. 75 Overall
McCullough had offers to play at Ohio State, Alabama, and Georgia among others but opted to stay home with Indiana. The No. 9 edge player of the 2022 class finished out his freshman campaign with 6.5 TFLs (third on the team), and 4.0 sacks (first on the team). McCullough will join his brother on the Oklahoma Sooners in 2023.