A number of true freshmen made massive impacts in the penultimate week of college football’s regular season. Two running backs from the Big 12 carried the load in victories. A quarterback in the ACC had the best game of his young college career. One of Miami’s several talented freshmen scored two touchdowns. A receiver who has emerged as the top playmaker on his offense caught two scores and threw another.
Let’s highlight the true freshman standouts from week twelve of college football.
RB Jahiem White, West Virginia – True Freshman of the Week
Jahiem White absolutely went off in West Virginia’s 42-21 win over Cincinnati. The 5-foot-7, 192-pounder ran for 204 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries and caught one pass for a 75-yard touchdown.
White got things going in the first quarter, leaking out of the backfield on a vertical route and taking a pass from quarterback Garrett Greene the distance from 75 yards out. He then settled in behind West Virginia’s veteran offensive line and proved to be a challenge to tackle all evening. White consistently ran through arm tackles and uses his low center of gravity to drag defenders for extra yardage. Of his 204 rushing yards, 108 came after contact, according to Pro Football Focus.
White ranked as a three-star prospect in the On3 Industry Ranking. He was highly productive at the York (Pa.) William Penn, rushing for over 4,000 yards and 48 touchdowns in his final two years of high school football.
QB Anthony Colandrea, Virginia
In a battle of true freshman quarterbacks, Anthony Colandrea came away with the win over Duke’s Grayson Loftis, leading the Cavaliers to an upset victory. Colandrea has been a bit of a roller coaster all year long, but turned in the best game of his young career on Saturday. The 5-foot-11, 180-pounder completed 21 of 30 passes for 278 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. He also got it done on the ground, rushing for 66 yards. Colandrea was able to deliver some nice passes over the middle of the field while still pushing the ball vertically as he has all season. He also showed playmaking ability with the ball in his hands, with burst and shake to make defenders miss in space. Colandrea’s confidence is clearly growing as Virginia gets ready for the Commonwealth Cup against Virginia Tech.
A one-time Middle Tennessee commit, Colandrea ranked as a three-star prospect in the On3 Industry Ranking.
RB Mark Fletcher, Miami
Mark Fletcher turned in the best game of his freshman season in Miami’s close loss to No. 10 Louisville. The freshman from South Florida rushed for 126 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries and caught a pass for 25 yards. Fletcher got Miami on the board in the first quarter, breaking multiple arm tackles on a run from 21 yards out. His best sequence came in the third quarter. Fletcher ripped off a 54-yard run down to the one-yard line before punching it in on the next play. Simply, 6-foot-2, 225-pounder does not look like a freshman. The combination of size, physicality and athleticism stand out.
Fletcher was a rankings riser as a recruit after turning in a big senior season and strong showing in the All-American Bowl. He ranked as the No. 151 overall prospect in the 2023 On3 Industry rankings.
RB CJ Baxter Jr., Texas
With star running back Jonathon Brooks out for the season, Texas turned to CJ Baxter Jr. and the true freshman delivered. Baxter carried the load for the Longhorns in the 26-16 win at Iowa State. The Orlando (Fla.) Edgewater product carried the ball 20 times for 117 yards and caught five passes for 13 yards. Though Baxter didn’t have a ton of long runs, he was able to keep the chains moving against a physical defense. He showed patience and vision in setting up his blocks and picking his way through the line to the second level. The tough running was needed as Texas got everything Iowa Sate could muster in the final meeting between both programs for the foreseeable future.
Baxter ranked as the No. 1 running back and No. 28 overall prospect in the 2023 On300.
WR Kevin Concepcion, NC State
Kevin Concepcion continues to make a huge impact for NC State. The two-time On3 True Freshman of the Week, continued his breakout season on Saturday, accounting for three touchdowns in NC State’s 35-28 win over Virginia Tech. Concepcion did it all for the Wolfpack. He caught seven passes for 63 yards and two touchdowns, rushed for 44 yards on nine carries and threw a 17-yard touchdown pass that would ultimately be the game-winner.
Concepcion got NC State on the board in the first quarter, motioning out and coming down with a short pass for a touchdown. He followed that with a critical touchdown right before halftime, caching a pass over the middle and juking a defender for a 28-yard score. The passing touchdown came midway through the third quarter. Concepcion took a speed sweep and pulled up to find a wide open Trent Pennix in the end zone.
Concepcion, who was a member of On3’s Midseason True Freshman All-American Team was a three-star prospect according to the On3 Industry Ranking. He was previously On3’s True Freshman of the Week back in week four and week nine.