Early impact college football freshmen of 2020

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Tyler Grubbs, Jack Abraham
LA Tech freshman linebacker Tyler Grubbs (#52) shined in his first college game, a 31-30 victory at Southern Miss on Sept. 19, 2020 at M.M. Roberts Stadium, Hattiesburg, Miss. (Photo by TOM MORRIS/LATechSporrtsPix.com).

College freshmen athletes were once thought to require a year of sitting and learning. They were viewed as just having outgrown puberty.

Not anymore.

The youth movement in college football is a necessity.

This season, there are plenty of these rookies making their mark already.

One local product, Louisiana Tech freshman middle linebacker Tyler Grubbs, leads the entire nation thus far with 42 tackles. The 6-foot-1, 221-pound Holy Cross alum recorded 16 stops against Southern Miss on September 19 in his debut and followed up with 12 more against Houston Baptist the following week.

During his prep days, Grubbs was a tackling machine, totaling 469 career stops with nine sacks and nine interceptions. He fielded offers from LA Tech, South Alabama, Northwestern State, Southern Miss and ULM.

UTSA’s Jamal Ligon (6-3, 245) is tied for seventh nationally with 33 tackles plus 2.5 sacks. He tallied a school-record 19 tackles in a 37-35 win against Middle Tennessee.

Oklahoma redshirt freshman quarterback Spencer Rattler (6-1, 205) has racked up 1,186 passing yards on 71.3 percent completions, 13 touchdowns and five interceptions. He follows former Sooner quarterbacks in the NFL like Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurt. Rattler had 10 scoring tosses after three contests, the most since Sam Bradford in 2008.

During his four years at Pinnacle High (Phoenix, Ariz.), Rattler accounted for 11,083 passing yards and 116 touchdowns. Matt Leinart, current analyst and the 2004 Heisman winner, tweeted while watching the young phenom that he “made some throws that made me have to rewind a few times. Kid has special talent.”

Georgia Tech freshman quarterback Jeff Sims is the seventh ranked passer in the ACC with 994 yards, five touchdowns and eight interceptions. His yardage total through the air rankis him ahead of notables D’Eriq King and Sam Howell. Sims also has 251 rushing yards with three scores.

The former four star prospect was the No. 6 dual threat quarterback in the nation last season and now the first true freshman to start behind center for the Yellow Jackets since Reggie Ball in 2003. Sims is learning on the job but undoubtedly a playmaker with a high football IQ and good arm strength.

Coastal Carolina newcomer Grayson McCall has the Chanticleers unbeaten through three games entering their Wednesday night visit to face the Ragin’ Cajuns with 728 yards passing, 66.7 percent completions, nine touchdowns and one interception. On Oct. 3rd vs. Arkansas State, he threw for 322 yards and four touchdowns in a 52-23 victory. The 6-foot-3 product of Indian Trail, North Carolina had offers from Army, Coastal Carolina and Tennessee-Chattanooga.

Grant Wells has also led Marshall to an unblemished 3-0 mark, throwing for 632 yards, 61.4 percent completions, four touchdowns and one interception. He debuted with 307 yards passing with four touchdowns against Eastern Kentucky.

LSU fans are now very familiar with Missouri freshman quarterback Connor Bazelak, the ninth rated passer in the SEC with 692 yards, four touchdowns, one interception and 71 percent completions. He has suffered only three sacks.

Tulane quarterback Michael Pratt recently too over the starting job Uptown. The 6-foot-2 Pratt has thrown for 283 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. He models his style after Drew Brees. A strong athlete, the Florida product boasts a 280 pounds on the bench press and 375 on squat. He had offers from Bowling Green, Cornell, Columbia, Harvard, Buffalo, Yale, Florida Atlantic and Kent State.

Turning to the runners of note, SMU’s Ulysses Bentley comes to town this week to visit Tulane. The 5-10, 184-pounder is the seventh rated runner in college football with 412 yards on an stealthy 8.4 yard average with seven touchdowns. He had 227 yards and three scores against North Texas on Sept. 19th and then cruised to 104 yards on just six totes against Stephen F. Austin. Affectionately called Doo, Bentley had offers from SMU, Syracuse, Houston and Texas State. He is a physical runner with good speed (11.06 in the hundred meters).

Texas State’s Calvin Hill comes into the week with 308 yards (5.6 yard/carry) and three touchdowns. The diminutive 5-7, 168-pounder former three star recruit out of Baytown, Texas totaled 2,371 yards and 29 scores as a prep junior and was named District 21-6A offensive MVP. Athletic enough to earn first team All-District as a point guard in basketball, Hill is set to lead the Bobcats on the ground for the foreseeable future.

North Texas’s Oscar Adaway (6-0, 215) has 222 yards (8.9 yards) and two touchdowns. The Little Rock, Ark. product held offers from Colorado State, Southern Miss, Arkansas Pine-Bluff, Indiana State, Eastern Illinois and Texas State.

Georgia Tech super freshman Jahmyr Gibbs (5-11, 201, 4.4) forms a dangerous duo with the aforementioned QB Sims. Highly coveted by LSU, Alabama, Florida, Ohio State, Texas, Texas A&M, Ole Miss, USC and Michigan, Gibbs is an all purpose talent who earned 2019 Mr. Georgia honors after rushing for 2,554 yards and 40 touchdowns. He possesses off-the-charts balance with the ability to cut at full speed and powerful legs to break tackles.

Gibbs currently has 232 yards rushing (5.0 yards per carry) with two scores plus eight catches for 146 yards and three more touchdowns. He had 13 carries for 61 yards and a touchdown as the Jackets knocked for favored Louisville last weekend, 46-27.

Kyren Williams (5-9, 185), Notre Dame redshirt freshman, had 19 carries for 185 yards and a pair of touchdowns last week in a 42-26 triumph over Florida State. For the season, he has 359 yards (7.5 yard/carry) and four touchdowns. The Fightin’ Irish are fourth-ranked team in the country. As a senior at St. Vianney (St. Louis, Missouri), he totaled 2,035 yards rushing and 725 yards as a receiver with 40 touchdowns in 2018 to earn Missouri Offensive Player of the Year honors.

A pair of LSU freshmen have garnered some attention. Tight end Arik Gilbert is the third leading receiver at his position in the SEC with 14 grabs for 177 yards and two touchdowns. His potential is just starting show.

Meanwhile, Elias Ricks is tied for the lead among SEC interception leaders with two picks thus far at cornerback for a defense at LSU loaded with first-year starters facing trials by fire.

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Rene Nadeau

Rene Nadeau

CCS/Fox Sports/ESPN/WFAN

Born and raised in the New Orleans area, Rene Nadeau has been involved in sports ever since his earliest memories. Rene played basketball, wrestled, ran track, and was an All-District running back in football at John F. Kennedy High School. He went on to be a member of the LSU football program, developing a passion for the game in even…

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