College Football
2023 college football freshmen rankings: RJ Young's top 5 freshmen after Week 2
College Football

2023 college football freshmen rankings: RJ Young's top 5 freshmen after Week 2

Published Sep. 13, 2023 5:52 p.m. ET

In the words of FOX Sports' RJ Young, all college football teams like their incoming freshmen during spring practice, but it's another thing to play those freshmen you like.

Heading into Week 3 of the season, there are already several first-year players who have not only been good enough to earn playing time, but they're already well on their way to becoming household names.

Zachariah Branch dazzled for USC in its Week 0 win over San Jose State, making multiple highlight plays that wowed fans. Also in the Pac-12, Dylan Edwards has played a key role in Colorado's 2-0 start with his contributions out of the backfield. 

In a recent episode of "The Number One College Football Show," Young examined his top five freshmen players so far this season, which includes both Branch and Edwards. 


Here is how his top five shaped out through the first two weeks of the season.

5. Darius Taylor, RB, Minnesota

Stats: 34 carries, 196 rushing yards, one rushing touchdown

Young on Taylor: "Against Eastern Michigan last week, I watched him go 33 rushes for 193 yards. I don’t think you should be led to believe that Darius Taylor is RB1 because he is not. That is still Sean Tyler. But Darius [Taylor], especially in the second half, was showing out. You’re going to need Darius Taylor, as well as Sean Tyler, to carry the load for you and pick up those first downs so you can keep control of the clock and your defense can go out there and do what you want them to do."

4. Anthony Hill, LB, Texas

Stats: Seven tackles, two sacks

Young on Hill: "[Hill] had six tackles and two sacks in just 22 snaps against Alabama on Saturday. I really love Anthony Hill’s game. I love that Pete Kwiatkowski is getting him in [the game]. We are finding out how these defensive coordinators are getting their really great defensive talent into the game early and often by not putting a lot on their shoulders and by going, ‘Hey, just stand up in a 9-technique and go rush the passer on third down.’ That’s what they did with Harold Perkins [at LSU] last year, and it worked just fine. If that’s what Pete Kwiatkowski is gonna do this year with Anthony Hill, you could see a similar breakout performance.  I’m saying that Texas linebacker Anthony Hill could be what Harold Perkins was for LSU last year."

3. Zachariah Branch, WR, USC

Stats: Nine catches, 110 receiving yards, two receiving touchdowns, two carries, 14 rushing yards, three kickoff returns, 125 yards, one touchdown, seven punt returns, 150 yards, one touchdown.

Young on Branch: "He is the first player since 2013 to have a kick return, punt return and receiving TD in the same season. Really outstanding stuff through three games for him. If you follow recruiting, you understand that Brach was gonna be that dude. I asked Lincoln Riley about Zachariah Branch at media days, and he played coy, which is another way of saying, ‘Oh, I’m onto something.’ They throw him wide receiver screens, tunnel screens, and Stanford kicked to him three times before it bit them. That third time, he took it all the way back, and it looked easy for that young man."

Zachariah Branch shows off ELITE speed with a 75-yard punt return TD

2. Dante Moore, QB, UCLA

Stats: 24-of-39 passing, 433 passing yards, five passing touchdowns

Young on Moore: "He was outstanding against Coastal Carolina in the second half and was outstanding again against San Diego State. He was 17-of-27 for 290 yards and three touchdowns. He doesn’t have to do more than flick his wrist to get the ball to sail a country mile. He is barely setting his feet and barely launching off his back feet when that ball comes out of there like a rocket. It is going to be outstanding and fun to watch this dude develop."

[Do you want more great stories delivered right to you? Here's how you can create or log in to your FOX Sports account, follow your favorite leagues, teams and players and receive a personalized newsletter in your inbox daily.]

1. Dylan Edwards, RB, Colorado

Stats: 15 carries, 79 rushing yards, one rushing touchdown, eight catches, 143 receiving yards, three receiving touchdowns

Young on Edwards: "Prime trusts a true freshman tailback to carry the load against TCU and Nebraska. He’s averaging 5.3 yards per carry and 17.9 yards per catch. He’s getting them big plays and being explosive. He fumbled the football against TCU but made it for it in the same game. He is the lead back in a backfield that frankly can go four deep if that’s what they want to do. You feel so good for a guy like Dylan Edwards that you can look at a guy like Alton McCaskill IV and slowly bring him back. They don’t have to put him out there because Dylan Edwards has been so good. I don’t see Prime going out on a limb for any one of his players. All those dudes do is back him up. If he says Travis Hunter can play, guess what … he can play. If he says Dylan Edwards is gonna make a play against TCU, he made at least four."

Dylan Edwards pours it on TCU with FOUR TOUCHDOWNS


Get more from College Football Follow your favorites to get information about games, news and more