The impact that true freshmen made on the college football landscape last season was undeniable. Look no further than the top of the class, where Alabama's talented duo of wide receiver Amari Cooper and running back T.J. Yeldon played pivotal roles in helping the Tide win their second consecutive national title. However, Cooper and Yeldon were by no means the only true freshmen to stand out in 2012. (For a look at this year's candidates to be impact freshmen, check out these predictions for freshman All-Americans from our recruiting experts Tom Luginbill and Craig Haubert.)
We started this project with the goal of projecting the top 10 true sophomores heading into the 2013 season based on last year's tape, but the depth of the class also warranted 10 honorable mentions. In fact, the sophomore class is so deep that talented players such as Oregon DT Arik Armstead, North Carolina WR Quinshad Davis, USC OT Max Tuerk, Stanford OT Kyle Murphy, Georgia OLB Jordan Jenkins and Louisiana Tech RB Kenneth Dixon all failed to crack our rankings and honorable mention list. (Note: These rankings reflect player skills and value as college football players -- this is not an NFL projection.)
The list produced some interesting results, with running backs, wide receivers and defensive ends dominating the ranks. Not one quarterback made it. In terms of conferences, the SEC produced the top four players (eight total), while the ACC and Pac-12 had four players each.
Here's a look at the top 10 true sophomores heading into the 2013 college football season, followed by 10 honorable mentions.
Cooper, 6-foot-1 and 202 pounds, has an excellent blend of size, speed and hand-eye coordination. He is a nightmare to handle in one-on-one battles downfield, and he's a strong, elusive runner after the catch. But it's Cooper's route running that sets him apart on tape; he shows savvy beyond his years in this department, a big reason why he already is one of the premier receivers in the country.