College football 2019: Which freshman will star on national stage?

Oaks Christian running back Zach Charbonnet (24) avoids the tackle of  Paraclete safety Marshall Durant-saul (2). Charbonnet will play at Michigan this fall.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

J. Brady McCollough looks at the 25 biggest storylines in college football heading into the 2019 season. Will college football see a new freshman star?


Given the youthfulness of the quarterbacks who have won the last two national championships, it is pretty humorous to still hear prominent folks around college football — such as outgoing Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany — clamoring for the good old days when freshmen had to sit.

In 2017, Alabama freshman Tua Tagovailoa came off the bench in relief of a struggling Jalen Hurts to rally the Crimson Tide to a dramatic 26-23 overtime victory over Georgia. A year later, Clemson freshman Trevor Lawrence beat out incumbent Kelly Bryant early in the season and led the Tigers to an undefeated record that was capped by a romp over Tagovailoa and the Tide.

There’s never been a better time to be a freshman quarterback, that’s for sure. If you’ve got game, a smart coach will give you the chance to show it from Day 1.


J. Brady McCollough looks at the biggest storylines in college football ahead of the 2019 season.

Aug. 1, 2019

So who’s next? With Tagovailoa, Lawrence, Georgia’s Jake Fromm and Hurts, who is now at Oklahoma, there doesn’t look to be an opportunity among the projected top four teams, but it should be noted that the nation’s top quarterback recruit, Oklahoma’s Spencer Rattler, will be waiting behind Hurts if he falters or is injured during his graduate transfer year with the Sooners.

Auburn’s Bo Nix, Wisconsin’s Graham Mertz, North Carolina’s Sam Howell and Arizona State’s Jayden Daniels are currently competing for starting jobs during their first fall camp.

The most likely freshman stars this season play running back on top-10 teams. LSU’s John Emery Jr., Alabama’s Trey Sanders and Michigan’s Zach Charbonnet, who starred at Westlake Village Oaks Christian High, should be in line immediately for carries.

Or maybe it will be a defensive player this year? Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, another graduate of Oaks Christian and one of the top-rated prospects in the 2019 class, has already stated that his goal is to compile at least 10 sacks this season for the Ducks.

With Michigan and Oregon fans expecting breakthrough seasons, count those programs among the majority that see the benefit in freshman eligibility.