There are a handful of players every college football season who morph into some of the game’s top stars. We’ve seen it at plenty of positions, though quarterback has been particularly heavy on that front in recent years. The 2018 season saw the arrival of Trevor Lawrence at Clemson, followed by Joe Burrow’s meteoric rise at LSU in 2019 as both guided their programs to national championships in those respective seasons. More recently, Stetson Bennett IV went from former walk-on to two-time national champion at Georgia as the Bulldogs took home the sport’s top prize in the past two seasons.
So who might be due for a rapid rise in 2023? Spring practice is now in the rearview, and that gives coaching staffs across the country a far better sense of what players have the potential to achieve stardom by the end of the year. Sure, there is no guarantee that success on the practice field will translate to success on Saturdays in the fall, but that’s often an indicator that something special is brewing.
It’s time to examine one offensive player and one defensive player for each Power Five conference who could be on the verge of taking their game to the next level in 2023. The below names aren’t completely unheard of — many were highly touted recruits — but they’ve yet to have that season at the Power Five level that defines them as a top playmaker.
Offense — Clemson QB Cade Klubnik: Klubnik became Clemson’s future at quarterback when he committed to the Tigers as a five-star prospect in the Class of 2022. The question was how long it would take for his time to come as QB1. As it turned out, Klubnik overtook DJ Uiagalelei as starter by the final weeks of the 2022 season as Clemson returned to its perch as the ACC champion. While it was a nice preview of what Klubnik offered, now comes his first full season as starter for coach Dabo Swinney. With the addition of Garrett Riley as offensive coordinator and QBs coach — Riley held the same role at TCU a year ago as the Horned Frogs crashed the College Football Playoff party — Klubnik has Heisman-potential upside if Riley can do with Kulbnik what he did with Max Duggan last year in Fort Worth, Texas.
Defense — Miami DL Leonard Taylor: If Miami rebounds from last year’s uninspiring start to the Mario Cristobal era, watch for Taylor to make his mark on the defensive line. At 6-foot-3 and 305 pounds, Taylor has garnered…