Role Playing: Comparing 2019 prospects to impact freshmen
With most of the class of 2019 already signed, fans from around the country are already envisioning how the influx of new talent will help their favorite teams. Today, we compare some of the impact true freshmen from the 2018 season and compare them to 2019 offensive prospects for a potential glimpse into the future.
Comparison: Trevor Lawrence
Is Mertz going to step into Wisconsin and lead the Badgers to a national championship as a true freshman? Probably not, but could he come in and unseat Jack Coan and lead the Badgers to the Big Ten title game? That’s a very realistic scenario. Wisconsin has a very talented team, led by potential Heisman Trophy contender in running back Jonathan Taylor. Mertz had an excellent week at the All-American Bowl in San Antonio and while he didn’t finish as a five-star, he could be the next true freshman quarterback to shake up college football.
Comparison: Amon-Ra St. Brown
St. Brown dominated all the camps and 7-on-7 events leading up to the Army All-American Bowl in his senior season and he did well in San Antonio as well, a consistent performer who always showed up and made big plays. As a freshman at USC, St. Brown led the team with 60 catches and he was second by only eight yards with 750 receiving yards.
Wilson has that type of potential. While he’s a little longer and leaner than St. Brown, the four-star receiver makes a ton of plays, a good amount of difficult catches and he’s done well at every event for years. He had a strong week at the All-American Bowl and he could go to Ohio State and put up big stats quickly.
Comparison: JT Daniels
Daniels graduated from high school a year early to compete for the starting job at USC and he won it after Sam Darnold left for the NFL Draft. There has been some coaching turnover with the Trojans, but Daniels is still expected to be the starter after struggling to learn the ropes in his freshman campaign.
Nix is stepping into a similar situation with Jarrett Stidham done at Auburn, although there could be some serious competition from Joey Gatewood and others on The Plains. Still, Nix has many of the same qualities as Daniels - he’s smart, he’s got a great arm, he’s a great leader, he can read defenses and he could step in early at a proud school and be the face of the program in the coming years.
Comparison: Jaylen Waddle
An electric wide receiver that can step into a playoff contender and make an immediate impact? Bridges could be that guy as he will head to Oklahoma with two other five-star wide receivers in the 2019 class. Waddle did a little bit of everything for Alabama this year, making several plays at wide receiver and also excelling in the return game. Bridges will have every opportunity to make an immediate impact for the Sooners, and will be paired with Waddle’s former teammate, quarterback Jalen Hurts.
Comparison: Rondale Moore
This comparison has been made so many times, but it really does hold, except for the fact that Robinson was much more dominant at the All-American Bowl this season than Moore was two seasons ago. Moore had a phenomenal freshman season at Purdue, where he was the team’s favorite target and finished with 114 catches for 1,258 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Robinson fits Nebraska coach Scott Frost’s offense perfectly and he could be a welcome addition from Day 1 where Frost can get the ball in his hands and let him create in space. The four-star receiver made a bunch of tough catches at the All-American Bowl and he’s simply a playmaker who has special qualities all over the field.
Comparison: Penei Sewell
Last year at this time, Sewell missed out on five-star status as some wondered whether or not he would be a guard or a tackle at the next level. He ended up stepping in at Oregon and starting from Game 1 at offensive tackle and was an immediate star.
Assuming Wright lands at Tennessee, Vols fans will be looking for similar impact from Wright, who is desperately needed by the school. Wright played some guard and some tackle at the Under Armour Game in Orlando and if he can develop quickly like Sewell, he will have a very big impact on Tennessee’s 2019 season.
Comparison: Pooka Williams
Williams made an immediate impact at Kansas, rushing for 1,125 yards while being one of the only real weapons on the Jayhawks' roster. Coming out of high school at 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds, some doubted if he could handle the load of being a feature back.
Ford, listed at 5-11, 188 pounds, had heard similar concerns but has the opportunity to step in at Penn State and be an immediate star, must like Williams was at Kansas.
Comparison: Justyn Ross
Ross might be a little more physically developed than Pickens, but Pickens probably has an inch on the Clemson receiver, who had a phenomenal freshman season with 46 catches for 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns en route to a national title. The former five-star has shown off excellent hands, the ability to go up and over cornerbacks to make catches and the skills to stretch the field at any time.
Pickens can do all those things. He snatches the ball out of the air, he has terrific hands and long arms to outreach defensive backs and when he needs to, the Auburn commit can go deep and beat corners with speed. Clemson signee Joe Ngata also fits in this category, but Pickens is a little more special.
Comparison: Pat Freiermuth
From a physical standpoint, Cupp is the best comparison to Freiermuth, who had an outstanding freshman season at Penn State with 26 catches for 368 yards and a team-high eight touchdowns. Freiermuth came out of the backfield to catch passes, it looked like he would be a blocker but then broke out down the field in open spaces and he made a lot of tough catches over linebackers and defensive backs. Cupp has a similar playing style, although he’s probably faster and more dynamic as a receiver and maybe even a more physical blocker. Whether as an in-line blocker or someone who can split out and create mismatches, the two have similar qualities.
Comparison: Cade Mays
Mays was a five-star in the 2018 class, despite several people raising concerns over his future position and how he would transition to the college game. Just a few games into the season he was pressed into duty and he ended up starting several games at both guard and tackle for the Bulldogs. Mays versatility and aggression made him a key member of Georgia’s program in his first year.
Many think Bradford will be a guard at the next level, but LSU sees him as a right tackle and already has a vision to pair him with five-star Kardell Thomas. Much like Mays, he is likely too talented to keep on the bench and should find a way to make an early impact for the Tigers.