Rondale Moore didn’t play college football in 2017. Rondale Moore dominated college football in 2018.
One year before Moore caught 114 passes in becoming the first-ever Big Ten true freshman to earn consensus AP All-American First-Team honors, he was playing high school football. He was the best player in the country who did not play one snap of college football in 2017.
In 2019, who will be the best FBS player who didn’t play in 2018? Some potential candidates:
QB – Washington
A former five-star recruit (and top-five national recruit) who won Georgia’s starting job as a true freshman in 2016, Jacob Eason was injured early in 2017 and never regained the job from Jake Fromm. He transferred to Washington, 30 miles from his Lake Stevens High School, and is in line to replace Jake Browning.
MORE: Best QB Matchups of 2019
QB – Northwestern
Hunter Johnson was the future of Clemson football. The heir apparent to Deshaun Watson and Kelly Bryant.
Then Trevor Lawrence signed and tore up 2018 spring ball, sending Johnson to Northwestern, where he sat out last season and should boost a passing game that hasn’t stretched defenses in years.
Derek Stingley Jr.
CB – LSU
The top-ranked corner (and third-ranked overall player) in the 2019 class, Derek Stingley stayed home in Baton Rouge and participated in their bowl practices while enrolling early. He’s not Greedy Williams (yet) but, alongside Grant Delpit and others, is a key piece in one of the nation’s best secondaries.
Jadon Haselwood, Theo Wease and Trejan Bridges
WR – Oklahoma
CeeDee Lamb is a top-three receiver in college football and the unquestioned WR1 in an Oklahoma offense that lost leading receiver Marquise Brown. However, a lot of eyeballs will also focus on the Sooners’ three true freshmen receivers: Theo Wease, Trejan Bridges Jadon Haselwood.
“Them boys are very talented. They can go. All three of them,” Lamb said in the spring. “They adapt quickly. This is a hard offense to get into, but I feel like with all the thinking they’ve done, they’ve put in some extra work to learn quicker.”
RB – Georgia
Despite the loss of Elijah Holyfield, Georgia’s backfield is loaded with high-end talent and depth. Behind D’Andre Sift are senior Brian Herrien, sophomore James Cook and two freshmen, Kenny McIntosh (true) and Zamir White (redshirt).
White was the top-ranked running back in the 2018 class but tore his ACL in spring ball and missed the entire season. He’s back and will battle Herrien and others for carries. Regardless of volume, the 6-foot, 215-pound White will make a big impact in 2019.
Terrell Lewis and Chris Allen
LB – Alabama
Both Terrell Lewis and Chris Allen were expected to be key pieces on Alabama’s 2018 defense that lost nine starters. Instead, they suffered knee injuries within weeks of each in July and August and missed the entire season. Lewis was still limited in spring practice but is expected to play.
DT – TCU
Ross Blacklock ranked third on TCU’s defense in tackles for loss as a true freshman in 2017 before missing all of 2018 with an Achilles injury. In May, he was cleared to resume football activities, and, alongside Corey Bethley, will anchor a defensive line that lost Ben Banogu and L.J. Collier.
DE – Oregon
Oregon doesn’t return a player who had more than four sacks last season. That won’t be the case for at least the next two seasons with Kayvon Thibodeaux.
The 6-foot-5, 240-pound true freshman from California could be a Week 1 starter for a unit that ranked 100th nationally in sack rate (5.2 percent) and lost Jalen Jelks and Justin Hollins.
Jermaine Johnson and Nolan Smith
LB – Georgia
Georgia landed the top-ranked high school prospect, Nolan Smith, and top-ranked JUCO prospect, Jermaine Johnson, both of whom will contribute immediately.
“I’ve seen hunger out of both of those guys,” Kirby Smart said of Smith and Johnson during spring practice. “They don’t know exactly what to do yet, but man they do it hard. There’s something to be said for that.”