Ranking college football's top 25 true freshmen

AP Photo/Rick Scuteri

While the early returns from the transfer portal have captured most of the headlines, particularly from programs such as Colorado and Florida State, plenty of true freshmen have made an impact in 2023.

We have seen highly touted prospects turn into nationally recognized names and statistical leaders in a matter of weeks. Of the 21 five-star recruits in the 2022 cycle, nine make this list. Conversely, eight of the top 25 freshmen who made this list weren't in the ESPN 300 rankings as recruits.

For example, former five-star Zachariah Branch has been electric and as advertised for USC, while South Carolina's Jalon Kilgore made our top 10 as a high three-star. He leads the Gamecocks in tackles from his safety position.

Here are our top 25 freshmen through the first five weeks.

1. Zachariah Branch, WR, USC

Outside of Caleb Williams, Branch is the most explosive player on USC's roster. He has posted two receiving touchdowns and two electrifying returns (one punt, one kickoff) for the ninth-ranked Trojans and may be the best "space" player in America right now. The former No. 7 overall player out of the 2023 class is a matchup nightmare. Branch was out with an injury last week versus Colorado.