The 2021 college football preseason true freshman All-America team is a list of the best players for the upcoming season. It includes players from all over the country who were not yet playing college football in their first year and did not play high school football.

The top 25 college football is a list of the top 25 teams in college football. This list includes true freshman players that are predicted to have a big impact on their team in 2021.

8:00 a.m. ET

  • VanHaaren, Tom


    2021-college-football-preseason-true-freshman-All-America-teamESPN Contributor

    • ESPN contributor
    • In 2011, he joined ESPN.
    • Central Michigan University was my alma mater.
  • Tom Luginbill is a character in the film Tom Luginbill is a character in the film Tom Luginbill


    Ranking-the-top-25-college-football-recruits-regardless-of-classESPN Contributor

    •’s Senior National Recruiting Analyst
    • Served as a head coach in four professional football leagues.
    • Eastern Kentucky University and Marshall University are both where he earned his bachelor’s degree.

Every college football season, a new group of true freshmen enters their respective schools and excels in their first year.

Because the NCAA gave an additional year of eligibility to any athletes who desire it, we may see fewer true freshmen make an impact this season than in previous years. Because of this, as well as the growing popularity of the transfer site, there aren’t as many vacancies on rosters as there used to be.

That isn’t to say there won’t be chances or that no first-year players will make an impact. The recruiting class of 2021 had a number of excellent talents that were eager to contribute to their respective teams this season.

Here’s a look at those guys, as well as the preseason All-America team for true freshmen.



Tyler Buchner, Notre Dame, Tom Luginbill

While Wisconsin transfer Jack Coan has the experience and has been designated the starter, Buchner, the No. 41 recruit in his class, is just too good to overlook. It’s hardly unexpected that he’ll be seen a lot during the year.


Ty Thompson, Oregon: VanHaaren, Tom

Because there is so excellent depth across the board, this was arguably the most difficult position to judge. Thompson is likely to trail Boston College transfer Anthony Brown throughout fall camp, but things may change. Thompson just had a strong scrimmage for the Ducks, but he has stiff competition to get to the front of the line. He may not earn the starting position, but if he continues to improve and develop, he has a potential to make an impact.

Returning to the beginning


Treveyon Henderson, Ohio State, Luginbill:

The Ohio State Buckeyes have a good bunch of running backs, but Henderson stands out. The five-star prospect has a unique combination of speed and power. Look careful if he can pass protect.


Treveyon Henderson, Ohio State, VanHaaren:

On Ohio State’s spring game, Henderson seemed to have been in a college weight program for three years. With Trey Sermon gone, Ohio State needs another running back to come up and assist Master Teague III. Henderson has a chance to have a strong season and contribute significantly to the offense.


Will Shipley, Clemson, Luginbill:

Exit Travis Etienne Jr. and make your way to Shipley. Shipley, particularly as a receiver and punt returner, is light years ahead of Etienne when he first joined the program.


VanHaaren: Clemson’s Will Shipley

Clemson’s run and pass games may benefit from Shipley’s presence. He’s quick, polished, and flexible enough to contribute on the field in a variety of ways.

Receiver with a wide field


Agiye Hall, Alabama, Luginbill

It just took five plays in Alabama’s spring game for fans to recognize Hall is the next great wide receiver for the Crimson Tide. It’ll be difficult for a true freshman to replace the shoes of DeVonta Smith, the Heisman Trophy winner, but Hall’s length, speed, and ball skills will come close.


Xavier Worthy, Texas, VanHaaren:

I agree with Luginbill on Hall, but I believe Worthy should also be included. Worthy has a lot of speed to assist the Longhorns now that he’s been freed from his national sign of intent to Michigan. Worthy can play various receiving spots, according to new head coach Steve Sarkisian, which will only improve his chances of seeing the field early. He’s a potential game-changer, and Texas desperately needs someone like him this season.


Mario Williams, Mario Luginbill, Mario Williams, Mario Williams, Mario Williams, Mario Williams, Mario Williams, Mario Williams

Aside from his exceptional skill, Williams has intangible characteristics that distinguish him from the competition. He’s a smart, intuitive player and a fierce competitor who just adds to Oklahoma’s already impressive skill set.


Malik McClain, Florida State, VanHaaren:

With the acquisition of McKenzie Milton, the experience acquired by second-year quarterbacks Chubba Purdy and Tate Rodemaker, and the return of Jordan Travis, the Seminoles’ quarterback room has improved. Those quarterbacks will require playmakers, and McClain has already made an impression for Florida State. This season, he should be a major target and see the field early and frequently.

Tight end


Elijah Arroyo, Miami, Luginbill

Will Mallory will be Arroyo’s opponent, but the freshman may be physically superior. He’s grown to 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds, and he’s better prepared for the rigors of battle, particularly in the trenches.


Ja’Tavion Sanders, Texas, VanHaaren:

Sanders was classified as an athlete when he graduated from high school because he could play tight end, wide receiver, or defensive end. Texas’ coaches have indicated he’ll start on offense, but they haven’t ruled out allowing him to play defense as well. He’s 6-4 and 256 pounds, with 19 touchdowns on offense and four sacks and an interception on defense in high school.

Line of attack


JC Latham, Alabama Luginbill

Evan Neal was a five-star offensive lineman coming out of IMG Academy, and he quickly made his way into Alabama’s starting lineup. Latham has a comparable stature (6-6, 325 pounds) with exceptional mobility, so he should have a similar result.

JC Latham, Alabama, VanHaaren:


Blake Fisher, Notre Dame, Luginbill:

Fisher, an in-state signee, has the necessary stature as well as exceptional strength. Fisher was an early enrollee in the spring and has made an impression on coaches, emerging as a leading contender to fill a hole at left tackle.

Blake Fisher, Notre Dame, VanHaaren:


Rocco Spindler, Notre Dame, Luginbill:

Spindler, like Fisher, was an early enrollee, so he had some experience going into fall camp. He also offers outstanding physical attributes and a tough, competitive attitude as the top-rated offensive guard in the ESPN 300.

Rocco Spindler, Notre Dame, VanHaaren:

2 Related


Jared Wilson, Georgia, Luginbill:

Wilson has shown he has the physical skills to compete in the SEC trenches early on, with a large frame, excellent feet, and remarkable strength.


Bryce Foster, Texas A&M, VanHaaren:

Foster is unlikely to start for the Aggies, but his strength and size (6-5, 330 pounds) should enable him move up to the interior two-deep. He holds the shot put record, and the Aggies lost a lot of output from last season. It may not happen right now, but Foster should have an effect if he continues to improve.


Oklahoma’s Savion Byrd, Luginbill

Byrd, who is 6-5 and weighs 265 pounds, has a large body but is a quick runner who plays with a lot of nastiness. He’s a big guy with a lot of potential who may not have to wait long to show the Sooners what he’s capable of.

Savion Byrd, Oklahoma, VanHaaren:

Line of defense


Shemar Turner, Texas A&M, Luginbill:

Turner, who is big, powerful, and explosive, can play defensive end or defensive tackle depending on the system. With DT McKinnley Jackson’s suspension due to a drug charge, the highly regarded Turner may get increased playing time.


Maason Smith, LSU, VanHaaren:

Smith will be a perfect fit in the center of the Tigers’ defensive line. He was the No. 57 recruit out of high school, at 6-6 and 292 pounds. Smith has already received accolades from some of the LSU offensive linemen he has faced in practice, and he is fast catching on.


Leonard Taylor, Miami, Luginbill:

Taylor’s goal is to memorize the playbook so he can start playing right away. With his 6-3, 305-pound frame and a disruptive first burst, he showed dominance throughout fall camp.


Korey Foreman, USC, VanHaaren:

I agree with Luginbill on Taylor, but Foreman has a chance at USC and should be included on this list as well. He was the third-best recruit in the class, and the Trojans are short on defensive line depth. He’s already improved since coming on school, and with fall camp ahead of him, he’ll only get better.


Tywone Malone, Ole Miss, Luginbill:

Malone is anticipated to strengthen Ole Miss’ offensive line in order to help the Rebels narrow the gap on the rest of the SEC West. He’s gifted, but he’s also inexperienced, and he’ll likely have a bigger effect as the season progresses.


J.T. Tuimoloau, Ohio State, VanHaaren:

Tuimoloau, a late addition to Ohio State’s 2021 class, committed in July and has since arrived on campus. He was given a five-star rating, and in his short time in Columbus, he has already made an impression and lived up to it. Tuimoloau is a versatile lineman who, depending on the circumstances, may play inside or slide over.


Jack Sawyer, Ohio State, Luginbill:

Sawyer put on a display in Ohio State’s spring game and seems to be in line for a lot of playing time as the season develops. Despite the fact that the defensive end group seems to be extremely deep, the former No. 1 overall prospect is much too good as a pass rusher to be kept on the bench.

Jack Sawyer, Ohio State, VanHaaren:



Clemson’s Jeremiah Trotter Jr. is the Luginbill.

Clemson’s defense has a lot of depth at linebacker, but Trotter has performed better than expected throughout fall camp. Clemson is known for rotating a large number of players, especially early in the season, and the son of a four-time NFL Pro Bowler could get plenty of action.

Which genuine freshmen team emerges victorious?

Tom Luginbill Tom VanHaaren
Tyler Buchner, quarterback Ty Thompson, quarterback
Treveyon Henderson, RB Treveyon Henderson, RB
Will Shipley, RB Will Shipley, RB
Agiye Hall, WR Xavier Worthy (WR)
Mario Williams (WR) Malik McClain (WR)
Elijah Arroyo, TE Sanders, Ja’Tavion
JC Latham, OL JC Latham, OL
Blake Fisher, offensive lineman Blake Fisher, offensive lineman
Rocco Spindler, OL Rocco Spindler, OL
Jared Wilson, offensive lineman Bryce Foster, offensive lineman
Savion Byrd, OL Savion Byrd, OL
Shemar Turner, DL Maason Smith, DL
Leonard Taylor, DL Korey Foreman, DL
Tywone Malone, DL J.T. Tuimoloau, DL
Jack Sawyer, DL Jack Sawyer, DL
Jeremiah Trotter, Jr., LB Clayton Smith, LB
Raesjon Davis, LB Demeioun Robinson, LB
James Williams, LB James Williams, LB
DB Marshall, Jason DB Marshall, Jason
McKinstry, DB Kool-Aid McKinstry, DB Kool-Aid
Andrew Mukuba, DB Denzel Burke (DB)
Jakailin Johnson, DB Jakailin Johnson, DB


Clayton Smith, Oklahoma, VanHaaren:

Under coach Alex Grinch, the Sooners’ defense has improved, with the staff acquiring stronger defensive prospects in recent classes. When Smith committed, he was the ninth-ranked outside linebacker in the 2021 class. The Sooners are hoping he can have an immediate effect, comparable to Ronnie Perkins’ first season. Smith is a versatile player who can help the defense in a variety of ways.


Raesjon Davis, USC, Luginbill:

Davis must be a force for USC’s linebacking corps. Given his height (6-foot-210) and range, he won’t be a starter right away, but he’ll adapt and become a factor during the season. Davis’ football instincts should also assist him in acclimating.


Demeioun Robinson, Maryland, VanHaaren:

This season, Robinson will play outside linebacker/edge rusher for the Terps. Last season, he and Branden Jennings were part of an outstanding linebacker recruiting class for Maryland. Robinson has the potential to make an impact off the edge for a Maryland defense that is in desperate need of skill and competition.


James Williams, Miami Luginbill

Williams’ flexibility and range should result in early sub packages. He’s 6-5 and 215 pounds, with good ball skills and the ability to sprint. He is a tweener safety/linebacker with a versatile skill set.

James Williams, Miami, VanHaaren:

Back on defense


Jason Marshall Jr., Luginbill, Florida

As a youthful leader in a rebuilt secondary, Marshall is expected to reclaim the DBU nickname. The No. 44 overall prospect in the 2021 class is expected to start opposite Kaiir Elam at cornerback.

Jason Marshall Jr., Florida, VanHaaren:


Luginbill: Alabama’s Kool-Aid McKinstry

Unless he suffers an injury, McKinstry will be Alabama’s next top secondary player. He’s large, quick, and muscular at 6-1, 180 pounds; he’s not your average freshman.

VanHaaren: Alabama’s Kool-Aid McKinstry


Andrew Mukuba, Clemson, Luginbill

Before injuring his arm, Mukuba stood out as a midyear enrollee in spring practice. In a crowded Clemson secondary, he’s back to full health and ascending the depth chart with his versatility and instincts.


Denzel Burke, Ohio State, VanHaaren:

Burke was one of four ESPN 300 defensive backs in the 2021 Ohio State recruiting class. He’s a 6-foot cornerback from Arizona who wowed the coaching staff during fall camp. There are some more experienced players ahead of him, but if he continues to improve, it will be difficult to keep him off the pitch.


Jakailin Johnson, Ohio State, Luginbill:

Johnson, a 6-foot-170-pound defensive back, was rated fourth in his class as a cornerback. Jordan Hancock, a fellow rookie cornerback, needs to be included as well. Last year’s secondary was abysmal, and expected starters Sevyn Banks and Cameron Brown did not participate in the spring game.


Jakailin Johnson, Ohio State, VanHaaren:

With Johnson, Hancock, Burke, and Jantzen Dunn, the Buckeyes may have a couple defensive backs on this list. Because all of the younger players are competing at Ohio State thus far, any of them might make this list.

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