Six true freshmen to watch in the ACC
The college football season is right around the corner and there will be plenty of true freshmen who will make an immediate impact. Here is a look at six players in the ACC we are excited to watch this season.
Overview: With massive losses along the defensive line, including Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence and Albert Huggins on the inside, Davis has the opportunity to step in right away and earn early playing time. The Tigers are going to play the best players, and Davis has already made an early impression.
Farrell’s take: Davis has excellent athleticism and has taken to the college game quickly, so there is no doubt he will play and play early. Few schools do a better job developing defensive linemen than Clemson, and Davis could be the next star.
Recruiting: Howell had been committed to Florida State since the spring of his junior year but in the Early Signing Period he flipped from the Seminoles to North Carolina. The departure of then-OC Walt Bell to UMass and the arrival of Mack Brown in Chapel Hill helped in Howell’s decision.
Overview: There is a three-way competition for the starting quarterback job, with returnees Cade Fortin and Jace Ruder and then Howell. The season opener might not be Howell’s opening act, but the former four-star quarterback should see the field sooner rather than later.
Farrell’s take: I don’t see a redshirt year for Howell as he’s too important of a recruit for Brown to let sit and watch. The quarterback situation isn’t solidified at UNC and Howell has a live arm and a ton of talent. You know UNC didn’t steal him from Florida State by promising a redshirt year, so keep an eye on him.
Overview: There is a lot of talent on Florida State’s offense, but the offensive line needs to improve and bounce back from some injuries. Lucas brings a toughness and a personality that could be contagious to the group. Throughout his high school career, Lucas was a no-nonsense bully on the IMG offensive line and that’s something the Seminoles desperately need, especially in the interior.
Farrell’s take: I love the aggression and nasty demeanor of Lucas and that is badly needed at Florida State. It’s hard for freshmen offensive linemen to make an immediate impact, but Lucas has the size and power to handle it.
Overview: The defense gave up way too many points last season and the Demon Deacons are looking for players to make an early statement. Enter McCollum, who was impressive during the spring and could start from day one at defensive end. His explosiveness and athleticism could be a handful for a lot of ACC offensive tackles.
Farrell’s take: Wake Forest used to be known for its hesitation to play true freshmen, but McCollum is too talented to sit. He may not be physically developed yet, but he’s super quick off the edge and could cause problems early for opponents in his career. He won’t get a ton of attention, but he’s a good one.
Recruiting: Clemson emerged as Ngata’s favorite after his first visit, and then he was back in town for the summer cookout when he decided to make his pledge to the Tigers over Washington, USC, Notre Dame and others.
Overview: The amount of receiver talent at Clemson is strikingly good, led by Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross, but Ngata could compete for early playing time. Ngata had a strong spring with the Tigers and there is always room for another huge outside receiver who can stretch the field.
Farrell’s take: The only question about Ngata is whether or not there’s room for him to make an impact with so much talent on the roster. But that was a question we had about Ross last year and he was dominant. I don’t think Ngata will have the same immediate impact, but he should see the field quite a bit.
Recruiting: Shortly after National Signing Day for the previous class, Payton made his commitment to Miami and never really looked back.
Overview: There is definitely opportunity for young receivers in this Miami offense since there aren’t a lot of proven veterans, and Payton has the skill set to contribute early in his freshman season. The real question for the Hurricanes is who will start at quarterback and what will the offense look like under new coach Manny Diaz and new coordinator Dan Enos.
Farrell’s take: Miami needs playmakers at wide receiver and Payton is a very good route runner and a steady target with good hands. He won’t wow you with any one thing, but he does everything well and he’s a quarterback's best friend with his ability to adjust to the ball.