We are already, somehow, four weeks in to the 2023 college football season. As the top teams have began to emerge, here are the players you should watch. (PS: If you want to sound like an expert talking ball with your friends, toss a few of these names in. It’ll work.)
No. 1 Georgia: Safety Malaki Starks
Let’s be real, there are about 10 standouts you could pick from Georgia to fit this article. Starks is a rock of this Dawg defense, and has the stats to back it up. He is third on the team in tackles (13 total) and already has four passes defended and an interception. The sophomore is ranked as a one of the top safeties in America according to PFF and was a key piece to last year’s title team.
The highest-graded safety so far this season:
Malaki Starks – 91.0 pic.twitter.com/5KEDddzvr0
— Max Chadwick (@MaxChadwickCFB) September 24, 2023
No. 2 Michigan: Wide Receiver Roman Wilson
Heading into the season, Michigan fans were confident in their quarterback, running back and offensive line. The question mark on offense was always going to be the wide receiver position. Who was going to step into the star role? Enter senior Roman Wilson. He had recorded just eight receiving touchdowns combined in his first three years, but already has six this year. He leads the team in receptions as well as yards. As Michigan’s schedule heats up, Wilson will have to continue to be a reliable target if the Wolverines want to score on Big Ten defenses.
No. 3 Texas: Defensive Tackle T’Vondre Sweat
The senior is having another strong year for the Longhorns. He plugs the middle of the line, shutting down teams’ rushing attacks while applying pressure on quarterbacks, as well. He is ranked as the No. 2 interior lineman in all of college football. Behind him, Texas’ linebacking unit is absolutely loaded. David Gbenda, Jaylan Ford and Anthony Hill Jr. have been fantastic all year.
#Texas NT T'Vondre Sweat #93 has brute power at 360 lbs, but he has some foot quickness too! Clogs up the run and gets after the QB.
Demolished the center last wk. Day 2 NFL prospect to watch tonight vs. Alabama. pic.twitter.com/4QPpt0EFYE
— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) September 9, 2023
No. 4 Ohio State: Linebacker Steele Chambers
This was a toss-up between Chambers and Tommy Eichenberg, but the former running back has slightly better stats and is one of the best names in the sport. Seriously, “Steele Chambers” was born to be a linebacker. In terms of actual football, he’s been great. Chambers has been fantastic in coverage, leads the team in tackles and has an interception, as well. He is a key cog in the No. 2 points allowed defense in college football.
No. 5 Florida State: Wide Receiver Johnny Wilson
Now, Keon Coleman has had his name in the lights far more often this season, and rightfully so. The 6-foot-7 Wilson hasn’t even caught a touchdown yet. However, if the Seminoles want to win a title, Wilson will have to be the team’s best offensive player. With his reach and leaping abilities, he’s virtually unguardable. Jordan Travis is an excellent quarterback and will have to get him the ball early and often in the ‘Noles remaining important games.
All in on Johnny Wilson @ TE in the NFL. Not sure how you guard this..
— Adam (@SmartfootbalI) September 20, 2023
No. 6 Penn State: Left Tackle Olu Fashanu
Arguably the best offensive lineman in the country and a surefire first rounder, Fashanu is a big reason quarterback Drew Allar has had so much success in the pocket this season. Fashanu turned down the chance to go the NFL after last season and is currently the best left tackle in college football. He’ll need to be continue his consistency against Ohio State and Michigan later in the year if Penn State wants to win the Big Ten.
No. 7 Washington: Quarterback Michael Penix Jr.
Let’s keep this one nice and simple. If you like football, you like watching Penix Jr. He is awesome. Flick on a Washington game and it looks like someone’s playing NCAA 14 on freshman difficulty. He leads the country in yards and touchdowns. The Huskies still have five ranked teams to play on the schedule, and if Penix Jr. keeps this up, he’ll be holding the Heisman in December.
No. 8 USC: Safety Calen Bullock
The junior has excellent ball skills, sitting on an interception and four passes defended so far following last year’s five interception campaign. The USC offense is elite, everyone knows it. The big question mark, as it has been for nearly all of Lincoln Riley’s teams, is Alex Grinch and his defense. Bullock is a fantastic coverage safety who glides through the secondary and has stepped up his tackling ability this year. He will need to be great against some of the PAC-12’s high-flying offenses.
No. 9 Oregon: Wide Receiver Troy Franklin
Franklin is Bo Nix’s No. 1 target this year, already accumulating 25 catches for 418 yards and five touchdowns. He’s quick off the line and has beat his man deep in every game so far. Franklin will need to continue to get the ball because Oregon is going to have to score and score a lot to win its remaining games. The Ducks take on the explosive offenses of Washington and Washington State in the near future. Franklin is a crucial piece of what looks to be the most complete Oregon team in years.
No. 10 Utah: Defensive End Jonah Elliss
If you thought you were not going to see a three-star recruit out of Idaho on this list, you thought wrong. Elliss had arguably the best performance of any player in the country on Saturday, racking up 3.5 sacks and 10 tackles against a ranked UCLA team. The junior leads the country in sacks and is second on his team in tackles. Utah has a formidable defense, and Elliss has been the star of the show thus far.