Ranking the Pac-12's Top 25 true freshmen for the 2022 season
Editor’s note: Top 25 Week continues on with a look at the best true freshmen in the Pac-12 for the new year.
You will disagree with this list. I just want to get that on the record right away. It was maybe the most frustrating thing I’ve ever put together. After the first five names, it becomes a crapshoot. I could have theoretically gone 87 different ways for a “Top 25 Freshmen” list—best careers, most talented, most likely to make an immediate impact, etc.
A few of those would have looked like I just ran down the 247Sports’ player rankings. That’s not very fun. I’m going with an approach that places a good deal of emphasis on the players most likely to be impactful, both to their team and to the larger conference.
You will find two quarterbacks at the bottom of the ranking (so, the first two entries), neither of whom will play unless an unfortunate injury forces them onto the field but whose talent feels noteworthy in an exercise such as this.
Let’s get to it.
25. Justyn Martin, UCLA QB
247 Composite rank: 295
The 6-foot-4 Inglewood product wasn’t the highest-rated signee in the Bruins’ class and he probably doesn’t sniff the field in 2022. But he received some pretty glowing reviews in spring ball for the development he made between the first and 15th practices. Martin has serious upside. The ball just jumps out of his hand. He’s a former basketball player so the athletic ability is obviously there. He gets to sit and adjust to the college game with zero expectations.
24. Noah Fifita, Arizona QB
247 Composite rank: 691
The first of many Wildcats you’ll find on this list. Fifita won’t play in 2022. Well, he probably doesn’t play in 2022. Rather, he might not. Well… Reports out of Tucson suggest Jayden de Laura doesn’t exactly have a massive lead over Fifita for the starting job. Every time coach Jedd Fisch has been asked about the starter, he has said it’s de Laura without explicitly naming him the starter, but Fifita has been right there making plays since the spring. He’s a smaller quarterback—just 5-foot-10—but he is a dynamic playmaker. He’s also fearless. A 3-star recruit, Fifita showed up on campus and went to work. He will start for UA in his career. And those starters will be successful.
23. Justin Medlock, Utah LB
247 Composite rank: 464
22. Tevin White, Arizona State RB
247 Composite rank: 255
I think White can work his way into the Arizona State backfield rotation. The 6-foot-1 back was the lone 4-star signee in the Sun Devils’ 2022 class. Xazavian Valladay and Daniyel Ngata are locked in as the No. 1 and 2 backs, but White should be able to grab himself the No. 3 role. With ASU looking like a team that’ll feature the run game pretty prominently, there should be some work for White right away. You’ll see a ton of running backs on this list; it’s a position where you see young guys playing earlier than most.
21. Kyler Kasper, Oregon WR
247 Composite rank: 150
A highly-regarded recruit who enters into a very deep receiver room. I like Kasper’s game quite a bit. He’s young, having graduated early and reclassified down a class to enroll at UO for the fall. That’ll probably lead to a more subdued role in his first year, but he’s beyond talented enough to warrant inclusion on the list.
20. Andre Dollar, Washington State TE
247 Composite rank: 464
Dollar is going to play a lot, I think. Part of Washington State’s offensive transformation this offseason includes reintroducing the tight end into the plan of attack. That position isn’t one a staff can just whip up in a few months, pulling converted players from other positions and then expecting things to go off without a hitch. Dollar is one of only two true tight ends on the roster, the other a walk-on. While his primary competition for snaps is learning how to play the position, he’s got a head start. In an offense that’s going to put up some numbers in the pass game, I like Dollar to have a nice freshman year.
19. Rayshon Luke, Arizona RB
247 Composite rank: 212
Fell in love with his game at the All-American Bowl. Luke is a playmaker. Arizona has a compelling reason to get as many of those guys on the field as possible in 2022.
18. Djouvensky Schlenbaker, Washington State RB
247 Composite rank: 895
One of those situations where an unheralded prospect enrolled early at a position of need for his team and turned a strong spring period into a likely first-year role.
17. Jaydn Ott, Cal RB
247 Composite rank: 274
16. Jaylon Glover, Utah RB
247 Composite rank: 350
A spark plug kind of player, Glover just runs so hard it’s difficult to see the staff in Utah finding enough reasons to keep him off the field right away. Utah used a punishing three-back attack last season and one of those three backs has moved on to the NFL. He can seamlessly slide into that No. 3 role.
15. CJ Williams, USC WR
247 Composite rank: 73
Williams has all the credentials. A blue-chip, top-75 recruit. Prepped at Mater Dei. Stands 6-foot-2 and has a frame that should add weight well. A high-level route runner. Can line up at any receiver position. I’m just not sure if we see a ton of him in 2022. The Trojan wide receiver room is absolutely loaded, and it wouldn’t surprise me if USC opted to give him a redshirt year while still getting him some game action early.
14. Jahlil Florence, Oregon DB
247 Composite rank: 157
The San Diego native is in a room with a lot of youth and more than a few names ahead of him on the projected two-deep. I think he makes his way into a No. 2 spot on the depth chart by the time the season ends.
13. Keyan Burnett, Arizona TE
247 Composite rank: 236
Burnett impressed in spring ball with his playmaking ability. At 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, he seems like a potential matchup problem UA could use down in the red zone—where the Cats were the worst in the country last year at converting trips into touchdowns. Burnett will play a ton.
12. Kamari Ramsey, UCLA DB
247 Composite rank: 169
11. Zion Branch, USC DB
247 Composite rank: 58
As the stated goal here is to factor in potential impact and not just go off recruiting rankings, Branch gets knocked down a few spots from where he would have been had he not gotten injured this summer. A knee injury in workouts will keep him on the sideline for an undisclosed amount of time. Had he been healthy heading into fall camp, he might have contended for a starting spot. Depending on how much time he misses, USC could choose to just give him a redshirt year and focus on next season. However, I think Branch is talented enough to force the issue if he works himself back into game shape sooner rather than later.
10. Ernest Cooper IV, Stanford Edge
247 Composite rank: 154th
There’s nothing standing in Cooper’s way for playing time. That is, there should be nothing. Stanford needs drastic improvement in its front seven, and Cooper is a guy who could help right away.
9. Jonah Coleman, Arizona RB
247 Composite rank: 494
A 5-foot-9, 205-pound Maurice Jones-Drew imposter, Coleman was arguably the biggest winner on Arizona’s roster in the spring. Reports from practice suggested he had a look and feel that no other Wildcat running back could match. Since the spring, Arizona has added another running back to a room that is now seven deep—Florida State transfer DJ Williams—so there’s some question as to how robust Coleman’s role will be in his first year. However, there is no question he will have an impact.
8. Jalil Tucker, Oregon DB
247 Composite rank: 145
I like Tucker to open the year as a No. 2 corner for the Ducks. He’s long, he’s athletic, and he was one of the fastest prospects in the state of California.
7. Damien Martinez, Oregon State RB
247 Composite rank: 600
After a spring showing that sent the hype train barreling off the tracks, Martinez appears poised to start at running back for Oregon State. The Beavers will use a rotation to get Deshaun Fenwick and some of their other guys on the field, but Martinez looks like a stud in the making. And he’ll get to run behind one of the best offensive lines in the league. He could be one of the most productive freshmen backs in the country at the end of the year. He’s a guy I’ve been banging the drum for all year.
6. Josh Conerly Jr., Oregon OL
247 Composite rank: 16
I struggled with where to place Conerly. The talent is undeniable. The potential is undeniable. He was one of the best prospects in the 2022 class and landing his signature was a massive, massive win for Oregon. But the offensive line is one of the hardest places to play on immediately and play well. Oregon doesn’t want to just be OK in Dan Lanning’s first year; a stocked defense and a veteran group of returning offensive linemen set the expectation for Year 1 pretty high. How does a freshman lineman factor in? That remains to be seen. Maybe Conerly only gets on the field for extended action if there’s an injury ahead of him (which has already happened, for what it’s worth).
5. Raleek Brown, USC RB
247 Composite rank: 42
USC has Travis Dye and Austin Jones and a gaggle of wideouts who can play in the slot and if the coaching staff doesn’t find a way to get Brown onto the field in spite of all that, I’ll be big mad. He is an elusive and dynamic offensive talent. He’s perfect for Riley’s offense. And he’s just downright fun.
4. David Bailey, Stanford Edge
247 Composite rank: 66
The Composite is too low on Bailey. He was 30 spots higher in the Top247—247Sports own ranking—and even that might still be too low. He’s a natural pass-rusher and athletic enough to drop into coverage. Bailey was able to go through spring ball with Stanford, which is maybe a bigger deal there than in other places. He brings exactly what this defense needs—havoc creation in the front seven.
3. Lander Barton, Utah LB
247 Composite rank: 96
Barton might be my favorite Pac-12 signee in the entire 2022 class. And he looks poised to start at linebacker for a Utah team that has eyes for the College Football Playoff. That’s a testament to his ability and his readiness for the college game. Barton is playing with confidence in fall camp and should grow throughout the season. He’s going to be an all-time kind of linebacker in this program.
2. Domani Jackson, USC DB
247 Composite rank: 5
USC is replacing both starters at corner and a thin group of replacements got deep in a hurry this fall. Domani Jackson and Joshua Jackson Jr. are both vying for playing time but were limited by injury in the spring. They’re competing in fall camp. The Trojans also added Jacobe Covington in the summer. Mekhi Blackmon, the Colorado transfer, probably has one of the starting spots on lock. Domani Jackson should end up in the two-deep to start the season, I just don’t know where. And that’s the only reason one of the best prospects in the entire country is at No. 2 and not No. 1.
1. Tetairoa McMillan, Arizona WR
247 Composite rank: 51
McMillan, a high-4-star signee from California, was wanted by everyone. He chose a 1-11 Arizona team. He’s going to play, he’s going to be featured, he’s going to produce. At 6-foot-4, McMillan is a long and natural pass-catcher with great body control. The Cats need to be much better in the red zone, and he should help. I suspect he and Jacob Cowing will form one of the best one-two punches at wideout in the country.