True freshmen are often the best players in college basketball, but that isn't the case in NCAA football. However, some true freshmen can have an impact on whether their team has a strong season. Here are four who might do so in 2015.
Josh Rosen, Quarterback, UCLA
Rosen was considered the top pocket-passing quarterback in the Class of 2015 and is the anchor of a very good class brought in by Jim Mora Jr. Rosen has a strong arm and off-the-charts football IQ, so say the recruiting profiles. The 6-foot-4, 205-pounder threw for 8,473 yards and 90 touchdowns in his career at St. John Bosco in Bellflower, Calif. Rosen shouldn't be intimidated by playing right away as he competed in several nationally-televised games in high school and of course all those combine workouts and offseason tournaments. I'm not saying Rosen will start right away, but he has a good shot as the Bruins must replace three-year starter Brett Hundley, one of the best QBs in school history. Rosen has the added advantage of having been enrolled since January. Oh, and one guy Rosen might be throwing to? Freshman receiver Cordell Broadus, the son of rapper Snoop Dogg. The Bruins also signed the nation's top tight end recruit in Chris Clark, who chose UCLA mostly because of Rosen. I think Rosen beats out former Hundley backup Jerry Neuheisel for the job. The Bruins are +3500 at 5Dimes to win the College Football Playoff.
Kyler Murray, Quarterback, Texas A&M
Let me say right off that Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin probably doesn't want to use Murray, the nation's top-ranked dual-threat QB, this season and instead redshirt him. Sumlin has a pretty solid incumbent starter in former 2014 touted recruit Kyle Allen. Remember that Allen replaced Kenny Hill around midway through last season, and Hill has decided to transfer to TCU. Allen completed 61.5 percent of his passes for 1,322 yards, 16 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Murray is the son of Kevin Murray, a former star A&M quarterback who led the Aggies to two Southwest Conference titles around three decades ago. Kyler finished 43-0 as a starting quarterback at Texas powerhouse Allen High, winning three state titles. He's also a top baseball prospect. Last summer, Murray became the first player ever to compete in the Under Armour All-American football and baseball games. If Allen gets hurt or struggles mightily, the Aggies likely will have no choice but to turn to Murray. A&M is +7500 at sportsbooks to win the national title. Think you'll be adding him to your college football pick?
Calvin Ridley, Receiver, Alabama
Arguably the best skill position player in the nation last season, outside of quarterbacks, was Alabama receiver Amari Cooper, who broke several school records and finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting. He left school early for the draft so there's a huge opening there for Tide offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin. In fact, Chris Black (15 catches) and ArDarius Stewart (12 catches) have the most catches of any returning Tide wide receivers for 2015. Ridley, who is from south Florida like Cooper, was the nation's No. 1 receiver recruit despite having to miss all but three games of his senior year in high school because he was too old to play per state rules. He turned 19 years and 9 months after the third game of the season, thus ruling him ineligible. That he's an older freshman should only help Ridley's chances of making an immediate impact -- Ridley should return kicks from Day 1 for sure. Alabama is +900 on college football odds to win the national championship.
Byron Cowart, Defensive End, Auburn
Auburn had one of the worst defenses in school history last year so Coach Gus Malzahn fired coordinator Ellis Johnson less than 24 hours after that unit was torched by Alabama in the Iron Bowl. Former Florida head coach Will Muschamp, a defensive specialist, was in high demand for a coordinator's job after the Gators fired him, and Malzahn won the sweepstakes. Muschamp takes over a defense that allowed 31 points or more in its final six SEC games of the season, the worst stretch in school history. If Muschamp was still in Gainesville, Cowart, who is from the Tampa area, probably would have gone there. But the nation's No. 1 overall recruit chose Auburn over Florida, and he should get playing time immediately (to make it more painful for Florida fans, UF still owes Muschamp $6.3 million so it was paying him to recruit against the school). Auburn was just 11th in the SEC with 21 sacks last year so Cowart's pass-rushing prowess is needed. The Tigers are +2350 to win the College Football Playoff.