April 12, 2024

Ohio State’s Jeremiah Smith and Nebraska’s Dylan Raiola are the freshmen scheduled to watch college football spring games

While the transfer portal has shaken up the college football world, there is also a new crop of early-enrolled freshmen ready to take the sport by storm. Twenty players have been left off the 2023 CBS Sports All-America first team, leaving plenty of playing time up for grabs at some of the biggest programs in America.

Spring games mark a first look at some freshmen who could contribute quickly, including a few who are really pushing for starting spots. A handful of legacies lead the way, including Nebraska’s Dylan Raiola and Texas Tech’s Micah Hudson, both of whom will be asked to make an early impact for their respective programs.

Last season, several freshmen played important roles in the College Football Playoff race. Safety Caleb Downs led Alabama’s defense before transferring to Ohio State. USC’s Zachariah Branch emerged as one of the top returners in the country. Purdue safety Dillon Thieneman is a star in the making.

Which young players look ready to play a big role this year? Here are 10 early-enrollment freshmen to watch in college football’s upcoming spring games.

Jeremiah Smith, WR, Ohio State

Spring Game: April 13 | 12:00 (FOX)

Even for a program that has grown accustomed to hyped wide receiver recruits, the anticipation surrounding Smith’s debut is striking. The Opa Locka, Florida, native finished No. 1 in the 247Sports rankings and has quickly turned heads since arriving on campus. Smith “lost his black streak” faster than any freshman since the tradition began in 2012. At 6-foot-1 and 215 pounds, he already has the physical maturity to play a contributing role alongside returners Emeka Egbuka and Carnell Tate. After an impressive offseason, the Buckeyes are either title or bust. Smith is special enough to shake Ohio State’s hopes.

Dylan Raiola, QB, Nebraska

Spring Game: April 27 | 12.00

Raiola shocked the recruiting world when he moved from Georgia to Matt Rhule’s staff at Nebraska. Raiola is a Nebraska throwback whose father’s No. 54 jersey at the school is retired. He received offers from almost every program in the country and was even the No. 1 overall recruit for a while. The Cornhuskers bring back part-time starter Heinrich Haarberg, but the path is open for Raiola to steal the starting job. Raiola compared 247Sports analyst Andrew Ivins to Matthew Stafford based on his impressive arm and imposing frame.

Jordan Seaton, OT, Colorado

Spring Game: April 27 | 3:00 PM (Pac-12 Network)

Ranked as the No. 1 offensive tackle in the Class of 2024 by 247Sports, Seaton became a surprise addition to Colorado’s class when he chose the Buffs out of numerous options. Few freshmen in the country carry the pressure and expectations of Seaton. The Buffaloes fielded perhaps the worst offensive line in the country last season, finishing near the bottom in virtually every rushing and protection category. Two starters entered the portal, leaving Colorado almost starting from scratch. Seaton will man the left tackle position, but the transition to the college game is no joke. The program needs him to hit.

Cameron Coleman, WR, Auburn

Spring Game: April 8 | 2:00 PM (SEC Network+)

Auburn’s passing offense was a joke in 2023, but Coleman immediately adds a shot of adrenaline to the unit. Ranked fifth overall in the Top247, Coleman is one of the most exciting young players in his class. With a 6-foot-4 frame and impressive length, he should provide an immediate security blanket for Auburn’s mediocre quarterback room. Combined with fellow top-40 recruit Perry Thompson, the Tigers should find some answers in the outside passing game quickly.

Kyngstonn Viliamu-Asa, LB, Notre Dame

Spring Game: April 20 | 1:00 PM (Peacock)

Notre Dame has recruited its front seven exceptionally well and Viliamu-Asa has the opportunity to quickly develop into a special playmaker. The No. 4 linebacker in the Top247 chose the Fighting Irish over Ohio State and USC and has a chance to factor into the rotation. Viliamu-Asa is the whole package, with a frame to prevent you from running to the line, but mobility to cover you in space.

KJ Bolden, S, Georgia

Spring Game: April 13 | 1:00 PM (SEC Network+)

Star safety Malaki Starks is out for Georgia this spring, but that presents opportunities for Bolden to get early reps. Bolden is a freak athlete who was a star in both running and jumping at Buford (Ga.) and his athleticism and closing speed translate to the football field. Although his frame is smaller than some of the other elite safeties, Bolden brings an air of physicality that has already turned heads in Athens. The ‘Dawgs lost a few players to the draft, freeing up space for Bolden to move into the rotation.

DJ Lagoway, QB, Florida

Spring Game: April 13 | 1:00 PM (SEC Network+)

Lagway was the crown jewel of Billy Napier’s recruiting class and ultimately stayed with the Gators despite late attempts from several contenders. Although he will back up Graham Mertz in 2024, there is no doubt that Lagway is the future of the program. Lagoway should push for the No. 2 spot on the depth chart and has a chance to build some confidence this spring.

Micah Hudson, WR, Texas Tech

Spring Game: April 20 | 2 p.m. (ESPN+)

Texas Tech has put together a strong collection of receivers over the years, but Hudson has a chance to be the best yet. The Lake Belton (Texas) prospect ranks as the top recruit in program history and is a consensus five-star prospect. What sets Hudson apart is its versatility. He can position himself anywhere on the pitch and go over the top or straight through defenders. Injuries hampered Texas Tech’s potential breakout season last year, but Hudson is the kind of athlete who will immediately take the Red Raiders to the next level.

Davon Mitchell, TE, Oklahoma

Spring Game: April 20 | 2 p.m. (ESPN+)

The Sooners have several tight ends on the roster, but Mitchell’s early return was off the charts. Originally a member of the Class of 2025, Mitchell was reclassified a year later and has already made an impact. Listed at 6-foot-1 and 245 pounds, he already has the requisite frame and strength to play in the SEC. While the photos may not come early, Mitchell is the future of the position at OU.

Elijah Rushing, EDGE,Oregon

Spring Game: April 27 | 16.00 hours

Rushing transferred from his program at Arizona State to Oregon, making the Ducks one of the most dynamic edge rushers in the recruiting class. The 6-foot-4 specimen has the length and athleticism to play hand-down or stand-up, giving him the versatility to move right up the field into Dan Lanning’s defensive scheme.

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