Despite an influx of transfer players filling the voids on college football teams, in 2022 a large number of real freshmen have made an impact.

We have seen well-publicized prospectuses turn into nationally recognized names and statisticians in a matter of weeks. Georgia won the gold thanks to the safety of Malachi Starks, who immediately stepped in and contributed.

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Penn State is seeing a resurgence in offense thanks to a pair of freshman running backs — Nicholas Singleton and Kytron Allen — but the staff also found a gem in linebacker Abdul Carter, who is second on the team with 18 tackles.

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Not every true freshman who has made an impact has also been a five-star or top prospect in the class of 2022. We’ve seen four-star running back Cal Jaydne Ott lead the offensive line, three-star guard Gabe Jakas was an important part of the Illinois defense, and three-star AJ Swann became Vanderbilt’s starting quarterback.

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We’ve ranked the top 25 freshmen for the first five weeks of the season. Of the 19 five-star recruits in the 2022 cycle, only five make it to this list. Conversely, eight of the top 25 freshmen on this list did not make the Sportzshala 300 as recruits. Let’s dive into the list, with the first 12 by Luginbill and the last 13 by VanHaaren:

1. Malachy Starks, S.

Georgia | 2022 Sportzshala 300 ranking: 12

Starks was a former No. 12 prospect on the Sportzshala 300 and still played by that score in 2022. He plays like a veteran defenseman who lost five players in the first round of last year’s NFL Draft. He is an adult and the game is not too big for him. From time to time he demonstrates his superiority. As the second-best player in the Georgia tackle (23) and with two steals, Starks has proven he can play any position in secondary roles.