In this new weekly series, I will highlight some of the top players to watch ahead of the 2023 College Football season, which is set to begin on August 26. We will go from the SEC to the MAC and everywhere in between. Part two features Miami offensive tackle Francis Mauigoa, UTEP defensive end Praise Amaewhule, Miami (Ohio) linebacker Matthew Salopek, UCLA running back Carson Steele, Coastal Carolina quarterback Grayson McCall, Michigan wide receiver Peyton O'Leary and South Carolina athlete Nyckoles Harbor.
Miami offensive tackle Francis Mauigoa
As far as true freshmen go, Mauigoa has a good chance at making the most impact out of any true freshmen in the country this season. He's already a great size at 6-foot-6 and 315 pounds. Mauigoa will have to undergo a learning curve as he is young, but he will see the field in 2023 under second-year head coach Mario Cristobal.
Photo via 247Sports
Mauigoa is a building block for the future of Miami football under Cristobal, a former Miami offensive lineman himself. Look for him to be a part of an improving team and program in years to come.
UTEP defensive end Praise Amaewhule
Amaewhule has been one of the top defensive ends for UTEP and in C-USA for the past few seasons. He was First Team All-Conference USA in 2021. Look for him to be one of the top pass rushers in the group of five this year.
Photo via UTEP Athletics
Amaewhule was a raw talent for a while after he moved from Nigeria to the United States. He only played two seasons of high school football. His technique and fundamentals continue to improve as he gains more experience.
Miami (Ohio) Matthew Salopek
Salopek had back-to-back 100 plus tackle seasons in 2021 and 2022. He also posted a combined 16 tackles for loss in those two seasons. At 6-foot-1 and 230 pounds, Salopek is a tackling machine with speed. He is great at diagnosing plays and as a quarterback spy as well.
Photo via Miami (Ohio) Athletics
UCLA running back Carson Steele
Don’t let the lettuce fool you, Steele is a ruthless runner. He rushed for 1,556 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2022. Steele led the MAC in rushing last season was ninth in the nation.
Photo via Ball State Athletics
Coastal Carolina quarterback Grayson McCall
McCall has been a mainstay at Coastal Carolina since the shortened 2020 COVID season. He takes good care of the football and his touchdown to interception ratio is excellent (78 to 8). McCall isn't afraid to run. He has 17 career rushing touchdowns as a Chanticleer.
One aspect of his game to watch this season is how he fits into new head coach and former NC State offensive coordinator Tim Beck's system. McCall was great in the option offense under former head coach Jamey Chadwell, but how will he adjust to a new offensive style?
Michigan wide receiver Peyton O'Leary
Michigan is looking for new receivers to step up after the departure of leading receiver Ronnie Bell. O'Leary will see his role increase this season after only grabbing one reception last season. He has good size at 6-foot-3. O’Leary earned a scholarship after joining the program as a walk-on.
Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
O'Leary had a solid spring for Michigan and he hopes to parlay that into a good fall camp. While he might not be among the starting receivers at Michigan, he should find his way into a supporting role in 2023.
South Carolina athlete Nyckoles Harbor
Harbor is a true freshman. He will see the field this season due to his freak athleticism. Harbor is 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, and he ran track in high school. He didn’t just run track though. He ran a 10.22 in the 100m dash and a 20.63 in the 200m dash. Just for comparison, the winner of the Olympic 100m dash in Tokyo had a time of 9.8 seconds and the winner of the 200m dash had a time of 19.62.
Photo courtesy of South Carolina Football
Harbor can play both sides of the ball as well. He played defensive end and tight end in high school. Expect head coach Shane Beamer and South Carolina to use Harbor in a variety of situations this season.