College Football Impact True Freshmen Tight Ends: Nyckoles Harbor, Pearce Spurlin III Highlight Top 10

Nyckoles Harbor and Pearce Spurlin III highlight the top immediate-impact true freshmen tight ends from the 2023 college football recruiting class.

With the 2023 college football recruiting class almost wrapped up, we continue our countdown to the CFB season by breaking down the players who can contribute immediately on Saturdays. Who are the impact true freshman tight ends to watch out for in the 2023 college football season?

College Football Top Impact True Freshmen Tight Ends for 2023

Nyckoles Harbor, South Carolina

It might be considered a cheat to have a player that is listed as simply “athlete” as one of the top immediate-impact true freshman tight ends in the nation, but that is exactly what Nyckoles Harbor is — a cheat code. He runs an olympic-standard 100m sprint time while measuring in at 6’5″ and 225 pounds and has the ability to play on both sides of the ball for South Carolina.

MORE: Nyckoles Harbor Commits to South Carolina Gamecocks

Harbor is unnatural. However, he has a natural gift at the tight end position that is likely to see him focus solely on offense for the Gamecocks. His ability to take the top off a defense with his earth-shattering speed and explosive releases should earn early time in an offense that has former Arkansas tight end coach Dowell Loggains as offensive coordinator.

Pearce Spurlin III, Georgia

Georgia has arguably the best player in the college football playing tight end for them in Brock Bowers, and there are high expectations for Oscar Delp too. However, the Bulldogs added two of the top five tight ends in the class and are still waiting on a commitment from the number one player at the position in the CFN 2023 recruiting rankings, Duce Robinson.

That’s a lot of competition, but it feels like long-time commit Pearce Spurlin III has a leg up in the quest to be one of the impact true freshman tight ends. Spurlin is an early-enrolee with a skill set that smacks of early contribution. Tall, long, and surprisingly athletic for his 6’6″, 240-pound build, the new Georgia TE is a true receiving threat with excellent ball skills.

Riley Williams, Miami (FL)

Look back through the annals of tight end play, and the University of Miami (FL) has as much right to claim possession of the “TEU” crown as any in college football.

As one of their products — Will Mallory — heads to the NFL in the 2023 NFL Draft, another one enters the door in the form of Riley Williams, one of the top tight ends in the 2023 recruiting class with a CFN Fusion grade of 94.996.

Having played at a powerhouse of high school football in Florida as a senior, Williams already possesses good route-running prowess, which should help him find a role as a pass catcher in the Hurricanes’ offense. He can separate with short-area burst and has the size and catch radius to dominate smaller linebackers and DBs as a reliable threat in the passing game.

Andrew Rappleyea, Penn State

Challenging Miami hard as the place for tight end development, Penn State has produced some impressive talent at the position.

Combine the Nittany Lions’ historical development with an offense featuring a high volume of two-TE sets, and they’re a prime landing spot for a player to come in and establish themselves as one of the impact true freshman tight ends in 2023.

That’s why college football fans should be excited to see Andrew Rappleyea in action this fall. The new Penn State TE is a top-100 player, according to the CFN recruiting rankings, with a CFN Fusion grade of 96.502. He’s a catch point technician, with twitchy athleticism for his size, and has an advantage relative to some in the class, given that he’s already shown blocking prowess.

Shamar Easter, Arkansas

If you thought that the departure of tight end coach Loggains just prior to National Signing Day might impact Arkansas’ ability to bring in top-tier tight end recruits, think again.

The Razorbacks landed not one but two tight ends in the top-125 of the CFN recruiting rankings. 6’3″, 245-pound Luke Hasz has earned early attention, but it’s Shamar Easter that excites me.

The 6’5″, 215-pound playmaker out of Ashdown has the potential to be one of the impact true freshman tight ends in this class. His natural size advantage is weaponized by excellent length, Easter’s ball tracking, and his reliable hands. He has a record of multi-sport excellence at the high school level, and that athletic prowess translates easily to the football field.

CJ Jacobsen, Utah

As Dalton Kincaid begins to receive national attention as the top tight end in the 2023 NFL Draft class, Utah Utes fans can be excited about the future at the position. It’s naturally exciting that they return Brant Kuithe for another season, but the capture of CJ Jacobsen in the 2023 class gives them one of the immediate impact true freshman tight ends too.

It’s wise not to get carried away with comparisons, but Jacobsen has a similar build to Kincaid. Meanwhile, his ability as a pass catcher has some similarities.

The new Utah TE has an impressive catch radius and boasts excellent technique with a reliable pair of hands. The Utes’ utilization of two-TE sets and Cam Rising’s penchant for targeting them should give Jacobsen early opportunities.

Zach Ortwerth, Iowa

While most of the immediate-impact true freshman tight ends from the 2023 recruiting class will lean on their pass catching ability early in their college football careers, Zach Ortwerth belongs on this list for how he could contribute early as a run blocker.

The 361st ranked overall prospect in the CFN recruiting rankings doesn’t have insane receiving statistics, but his film is littered with impressive run blocking prowess. That’s not to say he can’t contribute as a receiver, as he has reliable hands and route-running experience.

Iowa’s need to add to the tight end room has been evidenced by their offseason moves.

Erick All arrived from Michigan, and Ortwerth is joined by fellow 2023 TE recruit Grant Leeper. With All and Luke Lachey the expected starters, I’d expect Ortwerth to beat out Leeper for reps behind the two more experienced TEs.

Tripp Riordan, SMU

With a young quarterback set to start under center for SMU — Preston Stone should be in line to replace Tanner Mordecai — and the departure of Rashee Rice, it would be a surprise to see the Mustangs not lean on the tight end position a lot in 2023. After all, RJ Maryland snagged six touchdowns last fall.

New TE recruit Tripp Riordan has the opportunity to make an immediate impact as a true freshman for the Mustangs. The 6’4″, 245-pound TE had multiple Power Five opportunities after utilizing his size, length, and above-average athleticism to rack up 958 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2022.

With the physique to play with his hand in the dirt, Riordan should see early exposure.

Jackson Bowers, BYU

Don’t look now, but there’s another Bowers tight end that is set to dominate college football as one of the top impact true freshman tight ends in the 2023 recruiting class. Jackson Bowers heads to BYU after setting the record for most career catches by a TE in Mountain View High School history.

The Cougars fought off multiple big-name Power Five schools to land their man. He was impressively productive throughout his high school career due to his ability to use his size and strength to win at the catch point but also to rumble through contact after the catch.

Meanwhile, he puts his 6’5″, 225-pound frame to good use as a violent and strong blocker. One of a trio of BYU TE signees, Bowers should be a solid contributor in his freshman season.

Tyler Little, Arkansas State

Tight end is often considered the utility piece of the offense, a position where you can be expected to contribute in multiple ways and effortlessly switch between the two.

With 937 rushing yards and nine rushing TDs, 357 receiving yards and three receiving TDs, and 60 tackles, including three sacks, it’s safe to say that Tyler Little is the epitome of a “do-it-all” player coming out of high school. As a result, the former Galena High School standout should emerge as one of the top impact true freshman tight ends in the nation with Arkansas State.

The Red Wolves’ ability to get TEs open in the passing game was well evidenced by Seydou Traore last year. A basketball standout who can make plays on the ball at the highest point, Little can be a dangerous red zone threat.

Who Is the Top Impact True Freshman TE in 2023?

With the future of the nation’s number one rated tight end — Pinnacle High School’s Robinson — still up in the air, answering the question of who is the top impact true freshman TE in the 2023 class is a dangerous game. Depending on where he lands and when he arrives there, Robinson could be a high-level Day 1 contributor for a college football offense.

Removing Robinson from the equation, it’s difficult to look past Georgia’s Spurlin as a name to be aware of heading into the 2023 college football campaign. He’s already on campus and is familiar with the program as a legacy recruit. Meanwhile, his play style and opportunity in a Mike Bobo-led offense should lead to immediate returns for the highly regarded tight end.