With the college football season in full swing, we thought it would be a fun idea to take a look at some of the best true freshman players in the nation.
College football is a game that has seen many changes over the years. The college football player rankings are updated after every college football game.
Yearbooks for the class of 2021 have been distributed, with many of them containing a section on class superlatives.
We figured we’d join in the fun, but with the college football recruiting class of 2021.
We thought it would be appropriate to honor a few guys for their particular abilities on the gridiron as they transition from prospects to entering freshman.
From the quickest player to the finest hands, we named these superlatives based on our assessments from camps and video.
Which of the prospects is the most promising?
Christian Leary (ATH) The Alabama Crimson Tide are ranked 77th in the ESPN 300 for 2021.
The 2021 class is chock-full of high-flying talents, but Leary is the quickest. While a few other prospects have run faster times on the track and in the 40, Leary has put up impressive statistics as a senior, including a 4.54 40-yard sprint and a blistering 10.5-second 100-meter dash.
While his testing and track numbers are impressive, it is the fact that his speed transfers to the football field that really sets him apart. He possesses “play speed,” which means he can travel faster than the speed of sound. Leary does not lose a step when the pads are put on. With his ability to separate vertically as a route runner and after the catch, he’s a constant big-play danger on the gridiron.
As the class of 2021 prepares to begin their freshman college football season, we take a look back and award class superlatives. The forthcoming ‘1st Edition of the #ESPN300 Superlatives’ will feature Best Hands, Most Tenacious OL, and the Fastest Man image. twitter.com/W63mg8MVl2
July 12, 2021 — Craig Haubert (@CraigHaubert)
How he fits in at Alabama: A guy with Leary’s mobility and ball abilities could fit into any program right away. Alabama could utilize Leary’s game-changing speed and explosiveness in the same way that Jaylen Waddle did for the Crimson Tide. Leary, like Waddle, poses a danger as a receiving target and a return weapon.
Which offensive lineman is the most powerful?
Landon Tengwall, OT The Nittany Lions of Penn State are ranked 90th in the ESPN 300 for 2021.
Tengwall, who is 6-foot-6 and 305 pounds, is a top-10 tackle. With his large body, he definitely passes the sight test, and he has long been one of the strongest in his class. Tengwall’s ability to integrate his exceptional size and strength into his play helped him stand out to college recruiters even as a freshman.
He is functionally strong, which means he can use his strength to block and control defenders rather than simply manhandle them. Tengwall, a prospect who counts lifting as a pastime, has outstanding strength-training statistics, including a 400-pound bench press and a 500-pound squat.
How he fits at Penn State: The four-star recruit comes into college with the size and natural strength to compete right away in the Big Ten trenches. He’s quick and technically sound at the same time. Tengwall will have an opportunity to rapidly push his way into the two-deep and grow into a multi-year starter thanks to those qualities and the fact that he was an early enrollee.
Landon Tengwall, a rising freshman offensive tackle at Penn State, can bench press 400 pounds and squat over 500 pounds. ThreeStep
Which of the defenders is the most physically active?
Maryland Terrapins LB Branden Jennings 2021 ESPN 300 ranking: 69
Off the field, Jennings is courteous and kind. His high school coach has jokingly likened to his hard-hitting linebacker as Michael Myers, the expressionless, mask-wearing villain from the “Halloween” movies.
But it isn’t simply Jennings’ game face. Jennings is a punishing presence when it’s time to play. He’s a good size (6-3, 224 pounds) with a strong lower body. His aggressive attitude and physical attributes make him a hard-hitting tackler and a disruptive downhill presence. Just ahead of Clemson’s Jeremiah Trotter Jr. and Notre Dame’s Prince Kollie, Jennings is named the most physically gifted player in the class.
How he fits at Maryland: With a great spring, Jennings has already generated favorable buzz during his brief time in College Park. He’s physically prepared to make an impact, and he comes from a great football family, since his father was a member of Florida State’s national championship squad. As a freshman, Jennings seems to be fighting his way into some playing time and has the potential to grow into a defensive pillar for the Terps in the coming seasons.
Which quarterback has the most powerful arm?
Deacon Hill, Wisconsin Badgers quarterback, has a three-star ESPN rating for 2021.
There are a few quarterbacks in this class who might make a case for the championship, including Ohio State’s Kyle McCord, but Hill just possesses jaw-dropping velocity. He’s a good athlete for his size, but he’s a bit of a throwback with his large, traditional pocket-passer frame.
He has a cannon of an arm to match his enormous proportions, standing at 6-foot-3 and weighing about 250 pounds during the camp circuit. Hill possesses a powerful, over-the-top delivery with the arm strength to complete all of his passes and drive the ball down the field. The bottom line is that Hill is a big quarterback with a powerful arm.
How he fits in at Wisconsin: Hill and the Badgers are a perfect match. This school has found offensive success by playing a large, muscular offensive line that will control the line of scrimmage and aid the Badgers’ potent run game, and they’ll build the passing game around it. Hill has the characteristics to supplement their rushing assault with big-hit play-action passes when the chance arises.
Which of the candidates has the finest hands?
Oklahoma Sooners WR Mario Williams Jr. is ranked 17th in the ESPN 300 for 2021.
There’s a reason Williams is rated first among wide receivers. The Oklahoma signee is not the largest nor the quickest receiver in this class, but he has always stood out as a fierce competitor with outstanding route running technique and ball skills.
In the class of 2021, who has the finest hands? Mario Williams @MarioWill00, an Oklahoma #BoomerSooner WR signee, made a solid case throughout his high school career: In the approaching 1st Edition of the #ESPN300 Superlatives, the winner will be announced pic.twitter.com/PAndYKWyxH
July 12, 2021 — Craig Haubert (@CraigHaubert)
Williams, a top-20 player in the country, has shown a constant ability to grab the ball from the air, whether he’s wide open or challenged by a defensive back. A smooth movement upfield after the catch is another part of having excellent hands, and Williams excels at that as well.
How he fits at Oklahoma: Coming from Plant City, Florida, Williams’ move to Big 12 territory was unsurprising. The Sooners’ high-powered offensive assault isn’t hesitant to throw the ball around, as shown by the fact that they’ve had two guys with at least 35 receptions each of the last two seasons. With various receiver spreads, as well as Williams’ hands and route-running skills, he should be able to push his way into the mix right away. Williams has the skills necessary to become one of the Sooners’ most dependable targets and annual reception leaders.
Which of the OLs has the greatest tenacity?
Alabama Crimson Tide C James Brockermeyer 2021 ESPN 300 ranking: 99
Even within the Brockermeyer family, much alone the whole O-line class, this was a difficult decision. Finally, we chose James, and we believe the film completely justifies our choice. Tommy Brockermeyer, a five-star offensive tackle and twin brother, can also make opponents uncomfortable, but although James is ranked somewhat lower overall, he has a small advantage when it comes to tenacity.
Alabama #RollTide & #ESPN300 No. 1 Center signee James Brockermeyer is one of the most tenacious OLs in the 2021 class, and his name is usually among the first to spring to mind for tough OLs. @J Brockermeyer @BBrockermeyerFW @DemetricDWarren @TheUCReport pic.twitter.com/idK0F7zq16 @J Brockermeyer @BBrockermeyerFW @DemetricDWarren @TheUCReport pic.twitter.com/idK0F7zq16
July 12, 2021 — Craig Haubert (@CraigHaubert)
With his performance at the 2020 Future 50 event, when he regularly stood up for repetitions and fought hard against some of the finest interior defensive lineman in the 2021 class, the top-rated center made an instant impact. James’ footage supports this claim, since he has a relentless style and is a consistent finisher. The phrase “play to the whistle” comes to mind, but he appears to be playing to the echo of that whistle on a daily basis.
Alabama will need to replace center Landon Dickerson, and although the Tide have several seasoned alternatives, including Chris Owens, a healthy James may force his way into the mix. He’s an excellent technician with the potential to be a multi-year starter and anchor for the Tide’s offensive line.
Who is the greatest pass rusher among the defenders?
DE Jack Sawyer’s Ohio State Buckeyes are ranked #1 in the ESPN 300 for 2021.
In a few seasons, this might be a fascinating one to examine to see how talents like Alabama’s Dallas Turner grow in this area, but for now, Sawyer is the obvious pick. He offers a plethora of skills, including the potential to cause havoc as a pass-rusher, as the No. 1 overall player in the class.
Off the snap, the Ohio State defender has excellent flexibility and body control, allowing him to bend the edge and beat blocks to the quarterback. He also has the length to keep blocks off his body as an elusive edge rusher. Sawyer will attack and win with force when tackles are soft on their heels. He can still improve his technique and hand use since he is still young, but he has shown a desire in learning the finer aspects of being a pass rusher and should be a great one in college.
How he fits at Ohio State: The in-state defender has the physical skills to adapt quickly to the collegiate level and, in the style of Chase Young, may become the Buckeyes’ next formidable defensive lineman. He made a terrific impact on campus during the spring semester, including a great performance in their spring game. Sawyer should be a factor as a freshman, especially as a situational pass rusher.
Which of the prospects is the most exciting?
Ga’Quincy McKinstry, ATH The Alabama Crimson Tide are ranked 40th in the ESPN 300 for 2021.
McKinstry is a genuine two-sport athlete who has already spent time with the Crimson Tide’s basketball program. He is rated as one of the best athletes in the 2021 class.
Because of his outstanding speed, lateral burst (4.1 shuttle), and smooth transition, McKinstry was voted Mr. Football in Alabama. On defense, he can undercut a throw and jump over opponents for a huge offensive grab, and on offensively, he can undercut a pass and leap over defenders for a big offensive catch. On the field, he’s an explosive play waiting to happen.
How he’ll fit at Alabama: He’ll be able to contribute on both sides of the ball in college, but he’ll be a defensive back in Tuscaloosa. McKinstry has the physical attributes to be one of Alabama’s top secondary defenders in the future. With his top-tier range and closing speed, he can defend against the run and the pass.
Who has the most fluid mechanics among the quarterbacks?
Sam Huard (QB-PP) of the Washington Huskies is ranked 15th in the ESPN 300 for the year 2021.
As difficult as this category was, Huard’s presence here should come as no surprise, given his strong family history in the position. His father, Damon, and uncle, Brock, both played quarterback at Washington and in the NFL, so he grew up around the game and has firsthand experience with the intricacies of the position.
Huard has excellent football intuition and uses outstanding technique to utilize his top physical abilities, such as arm strength. He possesses refined footwork and a solid foundation as a passer. He stands tall and has a clean, compact delivery that is timed and precise.
How he fits at Washington: The Huskies’ quarterback room has become a little thinner as players have graduated, but former ESPN 300 quarterback Dylan Morris returns with experience. Huard, the nation’s No. 1 quarterback and Washington’s high school career passing record, naturally brings a lot of hype with him. He shouldn’t be counted out of the quarterback competition for the Huskies in 2021 because of his advanced skill set and physical preparedness.
Which RB has the most diverse skill set?
Clemson Tigers RB Will Shipley 2021 ESPN 300 ranking: 22
Shipley, the No. 2-ranked running back in the 2021 class, is a dangerous weapon with his ability to attack defenses in a variety of ways. He possesses outstanding speed (4.53 laser-to-laser 40) and quick feet to hit gaps, evade opponents, and finish when he gets into the wide field as a ball carrier.
Shipley can also be a danger as a pass-catcher out of the backfield, with excellent hands and jumping ability. He ran for almost 4,000 yards, over 1,500 receiving yards, and a total of 88 touchdowns in three high school seasons.
How he fits at Clemson: With Travis Etienne Jr.’s departure, Clemson has lost a major component to their offensive assault, as he was not only their leading rusher, but also one of their top receivers. Shipley, on the other hand, is an excellent prospect to replace that output and should develop into a player for the Tigers offense in the same mold as Etienne.
College football’s true freshmen are the stars of the show. They have been playing at a high level and will continue to be so for years to come. Reference: college football key dates.
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