Every year freshmen make an immediate impact on their teams, and it all starts in spring ball. Spring games give us fans the first look at the early enrollees and what role they could play come fall. Over the next 3 weeks, I will be highlighting freshmen to watch at spring games, starting with those on April 9th.
Lots of eyes will be on the QBs in College Station, but the most intriguing player to me is Evan Stewart. The 5-star receiver has been working with the 1s in practice and is likely to start for Jimbo Fisher. With the lack of a proven receiver outside of Ainias Smith, A&M will be looking for Stewart to step up and be a reliable target, and he certainly has the talent to be that.
After DJ Uiagalelei’s disappointing season, Clemson could be looking at a QB battle in the fall. Klubnik led Westlake to 3 straight state championships in Texas’ 6a division, so he has lots of experience winning, and doing it at a high level. He has a great arm and the accuracy to go with it, while also being a track athlete that brings a running element to the position. He may not start week 1, but with a strong performance on Saturday the former 5 star and my personal top QB in the class could begin to overtake Uiagalelei.
When you watch Bailey you may not see the consistency from a technical standpoint, but you will see him make jaw-dropping plays. The former top 75 player has a sky-high ceiling as a pass rusher and has the strength to play well against the run. Bailey is almost a lock to start given Stanford’s lack of depth at the position, and he’s going to show first-round pick potential from day one.
The Wildcats’ offense has been underwhelming the past 2 seasons, averaging less than 20 points per game in both seasons. This year is going to be different with the addition of QB Jayden de Laura and WR Jacob Cowing through the portal, and freshman WR Tetairoa McMillan will be a huge part of the offensive resurgence. He’s a great red zone threat standing at 6′ 4″ with incredible body control. He’s not one-dimensional, however, as he can run routes and make moves after the catch. Expect him to have a very successful freshman season.
One of Carolina’s two 5 stars from the 2022 class, Travis Shaw will make an immediate impact. North Carolina has a lot of experience at DL, but Shaw may be too good to keep off the field. He is a massive human being, standing at 6′ 5″ and 360 pounds while still possessing great footwork and exceptional athleticism. He may be a 2 down player his freshman year until he develops more as a pass rusher, but those 2 downs are going to be fun to watch.