10 college football breakout candidates for the 2023 season

Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Georgia Bulldogs defensive lineman Mykel Williams (13) rushes the passer against the Oregon Ducks in the second quarter at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

• Georgia EDGE Mykel Williams set to build on promising 2022: He had four games where he recorded a pass-rush win percentage above 20% last year.

• Maason Smith returns from an ACL tear: The LSU interior defender is a former five-star recruit who didn't get a chance to break out in 2022 due to the injury.

• Keep an eye on two Penn State stars: Cornerback Kalen King and edge defender Chop Robinson are both expected to have excellent 2023 seasons.

Estimated Reading Time: 5 mins

As we turn the page on the football calendar, we can look ahead to the not-so-distant future and see that college football will be here before we know it.

To help get you ready for the 2023 college football season, here are 10 breakout candidates to keep your eye on this year.

EDGE Mykel Williams, Georgia

Williams was the No. 4 overall recruit in the 2022 recruiting class, according to 247Sports. Despite being just a true freshman, Williams got on the field amid a talented Georgia defensive line. He recorded a 72.3 overall grade with a 66.0 pass-rush grade, but he had four games where he recorded a pass-rush win percentage above 20%. Watch for him to be one of the biggest breakout stars in the 2023 season.

Read more: Top 10 returning edge defenders in college football

DB Kamari Lassiter, Georgia

A former four-star prospect, Lassiter has been contributing to the Bulldogs' defense since his true freshman season. Now a junior, he’s coming off a 2022 season where he started 15 games. He recorded a 74.9 overall grade with an 80.9 run-defense grade and a 73.2 coverage grade. At 6-foot-1 and 180 pounds, he played more than 700 snaps as the Bulldogs' outside cornerback opposite Kelee Ringo, who departed via the 2023 NFL Draft. With a year of starting experience under his belt, he’s poised to break out in 2023.

Read more: Top 10 returning cornerbacks in college football

CB Kalen King, Penn State

Most eyeballs may have been on Joey Porter Jr. in Penn State’s secondary in 2022, but King is poised to take over in Happy Valley in 2023. He started just one game in his true freshman season in 2021, but last season he started nine games. He recorded an elite 90.7 grade in coverage with 16 forced incompletions and three interceptions. He has the preseason hype to be a future first-round prospect to watch for whenever he declares for the NFL draft.

Read more: Top 10 returning cornerbacks in college football

EDGE Chop Robinson, Penn State

Demeioun “Chop” Robinson had a standout season as a sophomore in 2022. The 6-foot-3, 255-pound pass rusher recorded an elite 92.4 grade with 53 total pressures. His pass-rush win percentage was a very impressive 23.6%. His being a breakout candidate is less about production and more about the recognition as one of the top pass rushers in the country. 

Read more: Top 10 returning edge defenders in college football

RB Trey Benson, Florida State

The 6-foot-1, 215-pound Benson transferred from Oregon after two seasons of not seeing the field much. He served as Florida State's go-to guy in their rushing attack in 2022, rushing for 990 yards — with almost 700 of those yards coming after contact. He earned a 91.3 rushing grade with 47 missed tackles forced on the season. He comes into 2023 with his eyes on that 1,000-yard mark — and much more.

WR Johnny Wilson, Florida State

Wilson, a former four-star recruit, is another transfer player who has shown a ton of promise since arriving at Florida State. The 6-foot-7, 235-pound receiver started his college career at Arizona State but, after two seasons, left to find more opportunity. Last season in Tallahassee, he averaged more than 20 yards per reception with almost 900 yards receiving and five touchdowns. The flashes of high-end receiving ability tell us his ceiling should be even higher.

Read more: Top 10 returning wide receivers in college football

WR Dorian Singer, USC

Singer was a productive player at Arizona before deciding to transfer to USC for this upcoming season. At 6-foot and 180 pounds, he recorded more than 1,100 yards in his sophomore year with the Wildcats. He earned a 77.0 receiving grade last season with 24 contested catches and 29 explosive plays of 20 yards or more. He’s a savvy player who should see an increase in production in Lincoln Riley’s offense.

Read more: Top 10 returning wide receivers in college football

DT Leonard Taylor III, Miami (FL)

At 6-foot-3 and 305 pounds, Taylor was one of Miami's best defenders last season. He earned an 87.8 overall grade to go with an 85.3 pass-rush grade. On 154 pass-rush snaps, he recorded four sacks, six quarterback hits, 25 total pressures and a 19.5% pass-rush win percentage. He’s a player we’re keeping our eyes on to have a big jump in production in 2023. 

Read more: Top 10 returning interior defensive linemen in college football

DT Maason Smith, LSU

Smith was a highly coveted player on the recruiting trail. The 6-foot-5, 315-pound interior defensive lineman was a five-star recruit and the No. 31 overall player in the 2021 recruiting class, according to 247Sports. He played in nine games his true freshman season with four starts. Last year was supposed to be his big breakout, but he suffered an ACL tear in the first game of the season that forced him to miss the entire year. If fully healthy, he is once again poised to be a big-time breakout player.

LB Harold Perkins Jr., LSU

Perkins was a five-star recruit and the No. 5 overall player in the 2022 recruiting class. He played 501 total snaps as a true freshman — the 11th most on LSU’s defense. Pass rushing is where he made his money last year, as he earned a 91.1 pass-rush grade on 154 such snaps. He was versatile in his alignment, recording 202 snaps on the defensive line as an outside linebacker, 177 in the box as an off-ball linebacker and even 115 snaps aligned in the slot. He’s one of the most athletically gifted players in the country, ready to make a major name for himself in 2023.

Read more: Top 10 returning linebackers in college football

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