Week three saw more true freshmen earn starts and play pivotal roles in games throughout college football. Saturday saw a true freshman quarterback earn his first start, two running backs turn in huge games and two teammates have strong showings in their SEC debut. Two of this week’s standouts were featured in On3’s Preseason True Freshman All-America Team.
With that said, let’s highlight some true freshmen who stood out on week three of college football.
QB AJ Swann – Vanderbilt
AJ Swann earned the surprise start for Vanderbilt and led the Commodores to a 38-28 road win over Northern Illinois. Swann had a very strong debut as a starter, completing 18 of 28 passes for 255 yards and four touchdowns against zero interceptions, en route to earning SEC Freshman of the Week honors. The Canton (Ga.) Cherokee helped lift Vanderbilt from a multi-touchdown deficit in the second half by way of some huge plays. Swann’s biggest play of the day came on a 4th and 4 with Vanderbilt trailing by two touchdowns midway through the 3rd quarter. The true freshman looked spun out of a would-be sack rolled to his left and hit a touchdown down the left sideline on what was a sensational small window throw delivered from off platform.
Swann clearly offers the highest passing upside for Vanderbilt at this point. He and the Commodores face a tough test this week against Alabama. A one time Maryland commit prior to signing with Vanderbilt, Swann was an On3 Consensus three-star prospect and Elite 11 Finalist.
RB Nick Singleton – Penn State
I get the feeling Nick Singleton will have a case to be included in this piece on a near weekly basis. The Penn State true freshman already has the look of a budding star after just three games as a Nittany Lion. Singleton went off yet again in Penn State’s 41-12 win at Auburn. The former On3 Consensus five-star rushed for 124 yards and two touchdowns on just 10 carries on Saturday. Singleton showed off his unique burst and big-play ability ripping off runs of 53 and 54 yards in the second half, with the latter going for a touchdown.
Singleton’s average yards per carry (11.3) is the highest in college football through three games. The 6-foot, 220-pounder and fellow true freshman running back Kaytron Allen have already provided a lift to a running game that struggled mightily in 2021. Singleton ranked as the No. 1 running back and No. 16 overall prospect in the 2022 On300.
RB Richard Reese – Baylor
Richard Reese got the start at running back for Baylor and made the most of the opportunity in the Bears’ 42-7 win over Texas State. The true freshman ran for 156 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries. Reese showed a high-end burst and pace both at the second level and in the open field. His highlight of the day came on a 52-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter. The 5-foot-9, 175-pounder was a highly prolific running back at Bellville (Texas) High, rushing for 2,261 yards and 35 touchdowns as a senior along with 6,678 yards and 85 touchdowns for his career.
OT Will Campbell – LSU
True freshmen Will Campbell and Emery Jones held down the tackle spots for LSU in Brian Kelly’s first SEC game as the Tigers’ head coach – a 31-16 win over Mississippi State. Campbell was an opening week starter at left tackle for LSU and looks to be continually improving as he turned in a strong showing against an experienced SEC defense. The Monroe (La.) Neville product gave up zero sacks or pressures on 49 pass blocking attempts according to Pro Football Focus. Jones also gave up no sacks in his first start at right tackle.
LB Harold Perkins – LSU
Harold Perkins was among the more athletic defenders in the 2022 recruiting cycle. He was a dynamic two-way star at Cypress (Texas) Cy Park as a running back and linebacker with an electronically-timed 40-yard dash in the 4.4’s. Perkins showed off his supreme athleticism for LSU on Saturday, creating considerable disruption as a blitzer and pass rusher. The former five-star prospect tallied five tackles, 1.5 sacks and five pressures. His initial quickness and closing speed stood out throughout the game, including on a drive-killing sack in the 3rd quarter. Don’t be surprised to see Perkins’ role as a pass rusher continue to increase if his showing on Saturday was any indication.
The New Orleans native ranked as the No. 9 overall prospect and No. 1 linebacker in the 2022 On3 Consensus.