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NCAA Football Top Recruits: If You Want to Play Early, Read This

Every recruit wants to play early when they get to their team. For 2023's top-100 recruits 24/7 Sport's Garrett Callahan has done a really great job of giving recruits a view of what teams ACTUALLY give their top recruits REAL playing time. Consider subscribing to read that article linked here.

The data Garrett shows is for each player, and you need to go to HIS article for that data.


I am going to use that data and show how the data stacks up for each school with 2023 top-100 recruits.

Top Recruits

If you are a top NCAA football recruit, this might be considered a snapshot of how the teams did in 2023 of playing players early. I think these numbers could fluctuate significantly year to year but there are some consistent schools here.


Here are the teams with the most top 100 players and their snaps. Obviously the more top-100 prospects one has the more playing time that group can get.


The teams with 2 or fewer prospects or less than 500 snaps probably don't really factor into the discussion of schools that gave significant playing time to several top prospects in 2023.


So, which schools did the best?


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Here is the same snap count data sorted by snaps and an added column of snaps per player for the top teams.


Top Snaps

It may be more interesting to consider the distribution of this playing time. While it may sound amazing to be the full-time starter from week one and have 500+ snaps up to the 800 snap maximum here, that is probably not best for that true freshman player nor the team. If a team is playing a true freshman THAT much, it is likely because they HAVE TO. Yes, there are exceptions for the very best players, but I would submit the best place for a great true freshman to be from a snap count standpoint in their first season is in the 300-500 snap range. This gives them a chance to share the pressure of playing time and see others (likely older players) model the correct positioning/ techniques.


I took the player data and allocated it by these groupings.

Snap Distribution

How many true freshman players were in the optimal range for development

Alabama- (ZERO)

Miami- (ZERO)

Texas- (THREE)

Georgia- (ZERO)

Oklahoma- (ONE)

Texas A&M- (ZERO)

LSU- (ZERO)

Clemson- (ONE)

USC- (ZERO)


One might argue that those in the far right column were the few SUPER talented prospects that deserved that playing time. I have my doubts.


I asked Patrick Creighton (@PCreighton1) - Host of Houston's ESPN 97.5's Late Hit weeknights show for his thoughts on this subject. His message to me was so good, I asked to quote him here.


I think if a college program is playing a true freshman as a day one starter, either they have a pressing need, or the kid is next generation talent.


Usually, it’s the former on a rebuilding team or a team that’s beset by injuries to a specific position and their depth is wrecked.


On a good team, a true freshman won’t play much at all. There's a huge acclimation to college life, new expectations as part of a high-end college team and new dedications to that player's routines.


There’s a much more complicated playbook, you are surrounded by all of high schools best players, there’s no “scrubs” per se.


There’s a new level of teamwork and responsibility that usually takes at least a year to fully learn and integrate.


Players should be looking for where there’s starting opportunity as a sophomore.


Starting as a freshman when you aren’t ready can have damaging consequences to your mind and your body. Guys get hurt when they don’t execute properly. Leaves them vulnerable. They fail consistently when they don’t trust the guys around them and when the guys don’t trust them.


Freshman should be looking to learn year one IMO.


Maybe play specials. Maybe be a backup. Very few freshmen are next level talents that should start day one. There’s some. You make exceptions for them But they really should be the exception.


I largely agree with Patrick here. I would add the best path for a great freshman wanting to play in year one is to get some exposure early and play more and more as the season progresses. That is where my 300-500 snaps being optimal comes from.


Therefore, IF you are a NCAA Football top 100 recruit and you want to play early AND be optimally developed, there is one place to go- The University of Texas. Did you expect me to give you a different answer?

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