Impact True Freshmen: 100 first-year players who will influence the 2024 college football season (2024)

Impact True Freshmen: 100 first-year players who will influence the 2024 college football season (1)

Back in the day — orfive years ago — true freshmen dominated offseason conversations in college football. They were the new, potential agents of change on every roster. They represented hope.

That role now belongs to transfers. They're the players who dominate the offseason conversations and often fill the depth chart needs that true freshmen did just half a decade ago.

But that doesn't mean true freshmen won't make an impact. Think about last season, whether it was the College Football Playoff or the 2023 True Freshman All-American Team: Where would Alabama have been without Caleb Downs? Does Texas win the Big 12 without Anthony Hill? In some cases, like at Georgia Tech (wideout Eric Singleton) or Purdue (safety Dillon Thieneman), a true freshman emerged as arguably the best player on the team.

Almost every roster has at least one true freshman who will make a contribution in Year 1. Many rosters will rely on multiple. The best true freshmen will always play. That's the group 247Sports hopes to identify annually with its "100 True Freshmen to Watch" list. Consulting with sources across the country and 247Sports' deep stable of team site experts, these are 100 true freshmen expected to have an impact on the 2024 season, sorted by school, alphabetically.


Zabien Brown, CB

Top247 Rank: No. 22 overall, No. 3 CB

Alabama lost its top two cornerbacks to the NFL Draft and returned only one player from that room last year, so there was a lot of opportunity for young players this spring to step in and compete. Brown did just that and ended up starting Alabama's spring game opposite USC transfer Domani Jackson. Brown's starting status isn't assured heading into fall camp after the Tide added former Wake Forest cornerback DaShawn Jones in the portal. But Brown, a dominant player at California power Mater Dei, showed this spring he'll play a lot in 2024.

Jaylen Mbakwe, CB

Top247 Rank: No. 12 overall, No. 2 CB

The same logic that applied with Brownapplies with Mbakwe: Alabama needs its young cornerbacks to play. Mbakwe earned a lot of reps this spring, spending a fair amount of time with the 1s. He's in position to challenge for a starting job come fall camp. Mbakwe has an insane athletic profile — he posted a 10.46-second 100 meter time as a high school junior —and couples that with a sound skillset and the ability to play multiple positions in the secondary.

Zavier Mincey, CB

Top247 Rank: No. 31 overall, No. 4 CB

Nick Saban left a gift for new head coachKalen DeBoer in his final recruiting class: A trio of five-star cornerbacks. The last (but not least) of that group is Mincey, a long 6-foot-3, 180-pounder who has the ideal frame to play outside corner with the flexibility to line up at safety. Like Brown and Mbakwe, Mincey saw plenty of reps this spring. Like his fellow true freshman cornerbacks, Mincey will have every chance to compete for game-day snaps this fall.

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Ryan Williams, WR

Top247 Rank: No. 8 overall, No. 3 WR

It's hard for non-early enrollees to make a list like this. They don't usually have the time necessary to adjust to the college level before the season begins. It's also hard for players who reclassify to make an impact. Frankly, 17-year-olds just usually aren't ready for the next level, physically. But I'm willing to make an exception for Williams, who is talented enough to force his way into Alabama's wide receiver rotation next year. This is a player who accounted for 4,600 all-purpose yards and 65 touchdowns over his final two seasons at Saraland (Ala.) HIgh School. He's a playmaker.


Rodney Bimage, CB

Top247 Rank: 88 rating, No. 56 CB

There's a totally blank slate at cornerback for Arizona State as its trio of starters from last year have all either graduated or transferred from the program. Nobody in the room has much experience, including transfers Laterrance Welch and Javan Robinson. That created an opportunity for Bimage this spring, and he took advantage of it. Bimage spent time working with both the first and second team and seems well positioned to play a key role. Don't be shocked to see his fellow true freshman cornerback, Chris Johnson, also factor into ASU's cornerback depth chart.


Braylen Russell, RB

Top247 Rank: 90 rating, No. 26 RB

Russell is a tankish 6-foot-1, 252 pounds. The college-ready size is obvious. Russell will have to continue to pick up the Razorback offense and there are some talented players in front of him, but Russell is exactly the type of player who can help early. New offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino lauded Russell's size, physicality and pass-catching skills during spring ball.

Impact True Freshmen: 100 first-year players who will influence the 2024 college football season (2)


Cam Coleman, WR

Top247 Rank: No. 5 overall, No. 2 WR

Those around Auburn have not been shy heaping praise on Coleman (pictured above). Says one contact: "He's impressed every practice, it's unbelievable" and head coach Hugh Freeze said Coleman "changes us" on offense following a spring game that saw him catch four passes for 92 yards and a touchdown. Auburn has not had a draftable wideout on its roster since 2020; it desperately has needed a boost at wide receiver, going on several seasons. Coleman is like a 20-volt battery for the passing game.

Amaris Williams, DL

Top247 Rank: No. 30 overall, No. 5 EDGE

Despite being just 6-foot-2, Williams is a long, twitchy edge rusher who arrived at Auburn ready to make an impression. He did just that in the spring. One person inside the program told us Williams looks incredible – "already like an NFL player." The Tigers are in need of some young d-linemen to step up. There's an expectation Williams will be called on early and often.

Walker White, QB

Top247 Rank: No. 41 overall, No. 5 QB

White shined at the All-American Bowl and carried that momentum over to The Plains, where he's impressed from pretty much the moment he's stepped on campus, so much so it feels safe to say he's the program's future at the position. The question is if he can, with more time in the system, push Payton Thorne as the season moves along. Freeze has been clear Thorne is his starter. But it's not hard to envision a scenario in which White takes over at some point in 2024. At worst, Auburn fans should get a peak at him during the gimme games on the schedule.


Jadon Porter, WR

Top247 Rank: 88 rating, No. 97 WR

Baylor's offense should see a bit of a jolt this year with Jake Spavital's version of the Air Raid coming to Waco. That, of course, requires a lot of quality receivers. Baylor went heavy on them in the transfer portal and returns several key pieces. But we've heard to watch out for Porter as a contributor.


Sire Gaines, RB

Top247 Rank: 87 rating, No. 79 ATH

Gaines' path to the field is stunted a bit by the presence of superstar back Ashton Jeanty. This is 2024, though: Multiple running backs will play. And based on the spring Gaines produced -- he finished it off with 5 carries for 47 yards in the spring game -- we'd say the speedy Gaines is in position to play quite a bit this year.


Faletau Satuala, S

Top247 Rank: No. 131 overall, No. 11 LB

The Cougars' top-ranked signee will soon join a room with little experience, which gives him a legit chance to make an immediate impact. Satuala is the type of athlete rarely found on BYU's roster and is super versatile with a long build that allows him to play in the box while also making plays in space while in the secondary.

Joe Brown, OL

Top247 Rank: 86 rating, No. 16 IOL in 2022 class

Brown will be a true freshman next year, but he's a bit older than everyone else on this list after serving a two-year mission. But Brown, who initially signed with Virginiabefore joining the BYU program, acquitted himself well this spring. O-line is a huge question mark for the Cougars and Brown is squarely in the mix to start at right guard.


Josiah Martin, WR

Top247 Rank: 87 rating, No. 122 WR

A highly productive receiver for one of the best teams in Texas (Martin was a favorite of Oklahoma QB Jackson Arnold's back in high school), Martin still flew a bit under the radar as a recruit. Don't expect that to last long upon his arrival in the ACC. He drew a ton of buzz during his first spring with the Bears and the hype is building quickly.


Bryant Wesco, WR

Top247 Rank: No. 57 overall, No. 11 WR

The knock on Wesco upon his enrollment at Clemson was his frame. At 6-foot-2, 170 pounds, Wesco definitely still needs to add weight this summer. But the dude can play. Wesco flashed on a number of springtime occasions for the Tigers, including scoring the first touchdown of their spring game. We know Clemson desperately needs exterior playmakers and Wesco is capable of providing some of that vertical pop.

TJ Moore, WR

Top247 Rank: No. 21 overall, No. 4 WR

Wesco showed up big this spring, but it might be Moore — a summer enrollee — who ends up with the larger role. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Florida native showed ready-to-play ability in January at the All-American Bowl, and there's a belief around the Tiger program that Moore was one of the steals of the cycle (he was a moderately late-rising recruit who finished as a five-star). At least one of Wesco or Moore will end up emerging as a difference-maker.

Sammy Brown, LB

Top247 Rank: No. 14 overall, No. 2 LB

Brown's path to the field is a bit more congested than his two 2024 class counterparts. While the Tigers need help at receiver, they're in good shape at linebacker with Barrett Carter and Wade Woodaz in the middle of the defense. Still, Brown is as physically ready as perhaps any freshman to step in Day 1. He's a true testing freak and had an impressive public debut in Clemson's spring game with eight tackles and a sack. He won't start this year. But expect him to be heavily in the rotation for the Tigers and flash on occasion, much in the way Woodaz did a year ago.


Simeon Coleman, LB

Top247 Rank: 86 rating, No. 107 LB

Coleman had a strong spring for the Bearcats. He spent a lot of time working with the 1s and 2s and impressed the staff with his consistency and nose for the football. Coleman isn't the biggest linebacker at 6-foot, 230 pounds but he's physical and seems to always be around the ball.


Jordan Seaton, OT

Top247 Rank: No. 13 overall, No. 1 OT

Given Colorado's offensive line struggles a year ago and the complete reset the room has undergone since, there are plenty of opportunities for young players to emerge on the o-line. Seaton was one of 13 traditional high school or JUCO signees for the Buffs in 2024. The five-star recruit worked as Colorado's starting left tackle during the spring game, and it's very likely he begins the year protecting Shedeur Sanders' blind side.


Landan Callahan, CB

Top247 Rank: 88 rating, No. 54 ATH

Duke could use a boost at cornerback with three of its top five contributors from a year ago either declaring for the draft or entering the portal. That gives Callahan, the 2023 Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas MVP, a path to the field. Callahan was on campus early and seemed to have a strong spring. He's in position to be an immediate contributor.


Lawrence Johnson, CB

Top247 Rank: 85 rating, No. 139 CB

Johnson enrolled early and looked impressive this spring, standing out amid a relatively loaded position room. There's a belief among Tom Herman's second-year staff that Johnson will make an early impact and possibly push for a starting role if he continues to develop.

Impact True Freshmen: 100 first-year players who will influence the 2024 college football season (3)


Impact True Freshmen: 100 first-year players who will influence the 2024 college football season (2024)
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