With seven players in the top 100 high school prospects according to the CFN Fusion recruiting rankings, the class of running backs heading to college football this fall has high-level potential. Which of these young ball carriers can have an immediate impact? We break down the true freshmen running backs who could have an impact for the 2023 college football season below.
College Football Top Impact True Freshmen Running Backs for 2023
Cedric Baxter Jr., Texas
As the Texas Longhorns lose two RBs to the NFL, they land a rusher out of the Florida high school system who looks like he could be playing on Sundays himself already. At 6’1″ and 215 pounds, Cedric Baxter Jr. was a man amongst boys during his time at Edgewater High School, and he should sit atop the immediate impact of true freshmen running backs in 2023.
With Bijan Robinson and Roschon Johnson departed, Baxter should see plenty of action early in his Longhorns career. His physical approach, play strength, and contact balance allow him to break tackles for fun in much the same way his predecessors did. Baxter is also fast and decisive as a rusher, resulting in a highly productive high school career that will translate to Texas.
Rueben Owens, Texas A&M
One of the most talented players in the state of Texas stayed at home and will suit up for the Texas A&M Aggies in the 2023 season. Although Jimbo Fisher‘s team returns Amari Daniels and Le’Veon Moss from last season, Rueben Owens has the potential to establish himself as the lead back and an immediate impact true freshman RB.
A sub-11 seconds 100m star with verified 21.5 mph game speed, Owens can replace the dynamic skill set left in the wake of Devon Achane‘s draft departure. However, the former El Campo HS rusher is a bigger back than Achane and has the strength to be a tackle-breaker at the college level. Owens’ ability to cut and change direction is absolutely mesmerizing.
Justice Haynes, Alabama
Alabama has had a running back contribute 1,000+ scrimmage yards every season since 2006. Last year, they dipped into the transfer portal to keep that streak alive. With Jahmyr Gibbs off to terrorize NFL defenses, it’s a true freshman who could handle the workload this year for the Crimson Tide in the form of four-year high school dominator Justice Haynes.
One of the top immediate impact true freshmen RBs, Haynes has rushed for over 1,500 yards in each season for Buford High School. The new Alabama RB is as explosive as they come, both in a straight line and out of his cuts. He can juke defenders out of their skin, but also isn’t afraid of contact. Alluring receiving ability gives Haynes three-down potential.
Kedrick Reescano, Ole Miss
“Take your strengths and make them stronger.” Those were the words of Ole Miss HC Lane Kiffin upon adding New Caney High School’s Kedrick Reescano to the Rebels’ roster in this recruiting class. Ole Miss had the king of immediate impact true freshmen running backs in Quinshon Judkins last fall, and it would be no surprise to see Reescano have a similar impact in 2023.
The 5’11”, 190-pound back has been a dominant athlete on the Texas high school scene for the past three seasons. A standout triple and high jumper, Reescano’s final season on the football field yielded 1,849 rushed yards and 35 total touchdowns. His effortless direction changes and impressive contact balance make trying to tackle Reescano a futile endeavor.
Dylan Edwards, Colorado
Between the transfer portal and the 2023 recruiting class, the Colorado Buffaloes’ roster has been completely overhauled for the upcoming CFB campaign. Deion Sanders flipped Notre Dame commit Dylan Edwards early in his tenure in Bolder, and at the time of his December signing, the Kansas native was the highest-ranked recruit for the program since 2017.
While others have pushed him from that perch, Edwards should still be one of the top impact true freshmen running backs in the nation this fall. He has incredible track speed that actually translates to the football field, with a bewitching ability to glide through defenses. The new Buffaloes back rushed for over 1,800 yards in each of the last three campaigns for Derby High School.
Dontavius Braswell, South Carolina
The addition of former NFL offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains to the same role for the South Carolina Gamecocks should be a mouthwatering prospect for any running back. Transfer Mario Anderson Jr. already featured in our look at the top RB transfers, and Washington HS standout Dontavius Braswell has the potential to be an impactful true freshman RB.
Braswell’s state championship-winning track speed is the perfect counterfoil to the physicality that Anderson brings to the Gamecocks’ backfield. Meanwhile, his experience and success in the return game adds extra value to his impact potential as a true freshman. At 5’11”, 200 pounds, he also has enough density of frame to absorb contact at the CFB level.
Jambres Dubar, Boise State
As the highest-ranked Group of Five recruit, Jambres Dubar has the opportunity to be an immediate-impact true freshman RB when he takes to the field for the Boise State Broncos. With George Holani and Ashton Jeanty returning to the “Smurf Turf,” Andy Avalos’ team has one of the best RB rooms in all of college football for 2023.
Dubar is a genuine speed threat with a verified 10.63-second 100 meter time. He heads to Boise having tallied over 1,700 total yards as a high school senior, showcasing his ability as a receiving back in addition to his dominance as a pure runner. The new Boise back is as adept between the tackles as he is using his speed outside, running contact balance and vision.
Cameron Cook, TCU
While there was a lot of focus on what Max Duggan achieved under center for TCU last fall, the run game was as pivotal to the Horned Frogs’ success under Sonny Dykes as the passing game. Kendre Miller and Emari Demercado are NFL-bound, and while they return Emani Bailey and captured transfer Trey Sanders, there’s an opportunity for a breakout running back this fall.
For that reason, Cameron Cook shouldn’t be overlooked amongst immediate impact true freshmen RBs this fall. The 5’10”, 180-pound back out of Stony Point HS boasts excellent vision and has a patient running style. Once he decides to make a move, however, Cook is explosive hitting the hole while possessing the lateral agility to make a man miss at any level.
Trey Cornist, Tulane
You don’t simply replace a running back like Tyjae Spears. However, the fact that college football’s fairytale team of 2022 has to at least try following the star’s departure to the NFL, gives the opportunity for Trey Cornist to establish himself as one of the sport’s immediate impact players, as the Green Wave look to roll in the AAC again.
Cornist was long-considered a lock to go to Kentucky and held offers from almost all of the Power Five conferences. However, the Southwest District Offensive Player of the Year brings his physical brand of football to Tulane, where his ability to run through contact while also boasting deceptive play speed should earn him a good early workload.
Javin Simpkins, Coastal Carolina
Javin Simpkins was a major signing for the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers’ recruiting class after being committed to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets for large swathes of the process. Simpkins also held offers from Ole Miss, Texas, and Michigan State amongst a slew of Power Five interest.
Naturally, Simpkins’ arrival in the Sun Belt gives him the opportunity to be one of the top impact true freshmen running backs in the nation. He’s a whirling dervish of speed and spin moves, with the added bonus of being a legitimate pass-catching threat — making him Grayson McCall’s best friend in the Chanticleers’ offense.
Who Is the Top Impact True Freshman RB in 2023?
With his combination of size, speed, and power, it’s difficult to look past Baxter as the top impact true freshman RB in the 2023 class. Between skill set and opportunity, all the ingredients are there for the 6’1″, 215-pound running back to cook up something special in Steve Sarkisian’s offense.
However, the beauty of this 2023 RB class is that most of the players at the top of the class could make a significant impact early on in their college football careers.
While their opportunities might not be the same as some of the players listed above, Jeremiyah Love (Notre Dame), Mark Fletcher (Miami, FL), Kaleb Jackson (LSU), and Roderick Robinson II (Georgia) are all top-15 players at the position who might be expected to have some contribution during the 2023 college football campaign.