After a long offseason, the 2023 college football campaign is a mere weeks away, which means plenty of final forecasts are flying in. Accolades from CBS Sports include the and 247Sports' True Freshman All-America Team, the latter of which acts as a backdrop for the freshmen to watch this season.
There isn't exactly a science when it comes to predicting which true freshmen will immediately shine and who will need more time to acclimate to the college game. That said, circumstances vary for newcomers on a school-by-school basis, with some owning a much clearer path to quick success than others.
Among those who made the True Freshman All-America Team last offseason were Michigan defensive back Will Johnson, Texas offensive lineman Kelvin Banks Jr., Clemson quarterback Cade Klubnik and former Jackson State defensive back Travis Hunter, who since transferred to Colorado. When it comes to the 2023 team, who might be primed to make noise early? Here are names of interest from that list.
Caleb Downs, DB, Alabama
The amount of talent lost from Alabama's secondary last season -- Brian Branch, DeMarcco Hellams and Jordan Battle were among key departures -- puts Downs in a prime position to become an impact freshman for the Crimson Tide. Ranked by 247Sports as the nation's top safety for the 2023 cycle, he has turned heads -- coach Nick Saban's included -- since arriving on campus in January.
Though he committed to Alabama as a defensive back, Downs' versatility shouldn't be ignored. Before joining the Tide, he starred on both sides of the football at Mill Creek High School in Hoschton, Georgia. As a senior in 2022, he not only recorded 83 tackles and five interceptions, but also rushed for 334 yards and passed for 370 yards on offense.
Downs also comes from a family with a history of success on the gridiron. His father, Gary, played in the NFL, and his brother Josh, is a rookie wide receiver for the Indianapolis Colts following an All-ACC career at North Carolina. Look for Downs to add to that legacy if he lives up to the billing.
There's a great chance (no pun intended) for Greathouse to instantly deliver at a position where Notre Dame lacked a go-to-guy in 2022. Star tight end Michael Mayer, last year's team leader with 809 yards, is gone and no returning wideout had more than 361 yards (Jayden Thomas) last season.
Enter Greathouse, who comes to Notre Dame after putting together one of the most prolific careers in Texas high school football history by a wide receiver. He won three consecutive state championships from 2019-21 at Westlake High School in Austin while hauling in passes from Clemson quarterback Cade Klubnik. Greathouse finished his Westlake career with 4,035 yards receiving -- the 15th most in state history -- and 53 touchdowns.
With Wake Forest transfer quarterback Sam Hartman the presumptive starter for the Irish in 2023, look for Greathouse to become one of his key targets. Fans already saw a preview of what might be on deck when Greathouse totaled a game-high 118 yards during Notre Dame's spring game.
Zachariah Branch, WR, USC
USC quarterback and reigning Heisman winner Caleb Williams lost his top target from 2022 when wide receiver Jordan Addison turned pro, but Williams still has a wealth of pass-catchers to work with this season. Among the newcomers are Branch, who signed with the Trojans as the nation's top wide receiver for the 2023 cycle.
Branch enters a crowded room at his position, but he's hard to miss with his blazing speed. A former track and field star on top of football at Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, Branch earned a comparison to NFL speedster Tyreek Hill from 247Sports recruiting analyst Blair Angulo. That speed already paid dividends at Bishop Gorman, where Branch had 1,847 yards receiving and 25 touchdowns over the past two seasons alone as the program won back-to-back state championships.
If Lincoln Riley deems Branch ready to see the field on a regular basis this fall, he could be doing damage in a hurry. That goes for special teams, too, wherein fall camp.
Peter Woods, DL, Clemson
Clemson's defense didn't lack talent in 2022, but the Tigers finished outside the top 25 nationally in total defense (28th) for the first time since 2012. As that unit looks to get back on track, Woods -- one of the three top-10 defensive linemen from the 2023 cycle to sign with Clemson -- could provide help sooner than later.
After winning a state championship in all four years at Thompson High School in Alabaster, Alabama, Woods is already proving to be a quick learner at the collegiate level. Woods was among the standouts during the Tigers' spring game in April, unofficially recording seven tackles and a sack.
At minimum, Woods should be a nice piece of depth for a Clemson defensive line that has veterans like Tyler Davis, Xavier Thomas and Ruke Orhorhoro. But if he keeps building on the foundation he's set to this point, watch for Woods to play a substantial role in the Tigers' quest for their first College Football Playoff berth in three years.
Pup Howard, LB, South Carolina
Ranked by 247Sports as the nation's No. 9 linebacker for the 2023 cycle, Howard checks in at a position of need for South Carolina. The Gamecocks saw three of their most productive linebackers from 2022 -- Jordan Burch, Sherrod Greene and Brad Johnson -- all move on from the program after combining for 184 tackles last season.
Though he's yet to play a snap collegiately, Howard has been with South Carolina for a tad longer than the Gamecocks' other early enrollees from the 2023 cycle. Howard arrived in time for bowl game practices last December after graduating early from Andrew Jackson High School in Jacksonville, Florida, where he tallied a whopping 188 total tackles as a senior.
The door is wide open for Howard, at 6-foot-4 and 241 pounds, to quickly make his presence felt at South Carolina. Coach Shane Beamer's staff has already made it clear that expected to play meaningful downs for the Gamecocks in 2023, and if he fares well early, big things could be in store.
Dante Moore, QB, UCLA
At minimum, Moore looks poised to be UCLA's future at quarterback after the Bruins flipped the former five-star prospect from Oregon last December ahead of the early signing period. It also shouldn't be a surprise if Moore's time to shine comes as soon as this season, whether it's out of the gate or down the stretch.
Ranked by 247Sports as the nation's No. 4 overall prospect in the 2023 cycle, Moore is no stranger to winning -- and making his mark early. While at Martin Luther King Jr. High School in Detroit, Moore won the varsity starting job as a true freshman and never relinquished that role. He ended his four years with a 40-11 mark as a starter and pair of Michigan state titles.
Moore is Ethan Garbers -- to replace multi-year stater Dorian Thompson-Robinson. Regardless of whom coach Chip Kelly rolls with against Coastal Carolina on Sept. 2, watch for Moore to be part of the equation in some capacity this season.for UCLA amid an ongoing competition -- primarily with