Texas Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree broke a slew of freshman records and won the Biletnikoff Award after redshirting.
Florida is counting on Chris Rainey to help out its running game.
Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford led the nation in pass efficiency as a redshirt freshman a year after Colt McCoy did the same in the Big 12.
Jeremy Maclin scored 16 TDs – on returns, runs and receptions – for Missouri after sitting out in 2006.
And in the Pac-10, Washington quarterback Jake Locker wowed the West Coast with his play.
Will redshirt freshmen have the same impact they did in '07? Here are some top candidates to do so, listed alphabetically.
LB MANNY ABREU, RUTGERS
Along with offensive lineman Anthony Davis and tailback Mason Robinson, Manny Abreu was one of the jewels of Rutgers' 2007 signing class. His chance to make a difference was delayed by a hip injury that kept him out of all but two games. During his redshirt season, Abreu bulked up by 30 pounds, to 245, and is the presumed starter at strongside linebacker. If he lives up to his potential, Rutgers' defense once again should be one of the Big East's best.
WR MICHAEL CALVIN and RB SHANE VEREEN, CALIFORNIA
California will have newcomers at the offensive skill positions with the top five receivers and 1,500-yard rusher Justin Forsett gone. Jahvid Best likely becomes the feature back, but coach Jeff Tedford calls the Best-Shane Vereen tandem the most explosive set of backs he has had at Cal. Calvin could be the Bears' leading receiver. He has shown a knack for acrobatic catches in spring and fall practice.
WR B.J. CUNNINGHAM, MICHIGAN STATE
Devin Thomas transferred from junior college and became a second-round NFL Draft pick in one season at Michigan State. If the Spartans are going to continue their progress, they need another player to emerge at wide receiver. The leading returning receiver, Mark Dell, had only 220 receiving yards last season. B.J. Cunningham had an outstanding spring and is in line to become a major contributor in a young receiving corps.
G WILL FURLONG and OT ANTWANE GREENLEE, FLORIDA STATE
One word to sum up Florida State's offensive line would be "young." The most experienced players on the two-deep are redshirt sophomores. Will Furlong and Antwane Greenlee entered the fall as projected starters on the right side, but Greenlee has been passed by true freshman Zebrie Sanders during preseason practices. Greenlee was more highly touted out of high school, but Furlong has made bigger strides over the past year.
RB STEPHFON GREEN, PENN STATE
Stephfon Green could emerge from relative obscurity to start at tailback for Penn State. He was a two-star defensive back recruit out of the Bronx when a knee injury cut his senior season short. But Green is pushing Evan Royster for carries. At the least, he should complement Royster, who is more of a between-the-tackles back. Green is a home-run threat who has earned more carries since spring.
OTs JEREMIAH HATCH and JEFF SPIKES, KANSAS
Here's a reason Kansas could have difficulty duplicating last season's 12-1 finish: Rivals.com first-team All-American Anthony Collins and three-year starter Cesar Rodriguez will be replaced by redshirt freshmen. Coach Mark Mangino says Jeff Spikes is one of the most athletic linemen he has had in Lawrence. Jeremiah Hatch, who had been projected to be a backup at a few line spots, has emerged to beat out senior Matt Darton for the starting right tackle spot.
QB ROBERT MARVE, MIAMI
Playing quarterback at Miami once was the glamour position in college football. But after five seasons of watching Brock Berlin, Kyle Wright and Kirby Freeman, Miami fans might settle for mere adequacy out of their quarterback. Robert Marve hasn't played in a game since leading Tampa Plant to a state title and breaking Tim Tebow's state high school passing records in 2006. Marve missed all of last season while recovering from a car accident before returning to the team to compete with true freshmen Jacory Harris and Cannon Smith.
RB RYAN McCANTS, OREGON STATE
Oregon State has produced eight 1,000-yard backs in the past 10 years, largely by unearthing sleeper recruits. Ryan McCants might be the next in that line. He was a three-star fullback out of Corona, Calif., but neither USC nor UCLA offered him a scholarship. At 6 feet 1 and 240 pounds, McCants is reminiscent of former Oregon State back Steven Jackson, but he must beat out true freshman Jacquizz Rodgers and junior college transfer Jeremy Francis for playing time.
RB CHRIS RAINEY, FLORIDA
Florida's Urban Meyer hasn't had a 1,000-yard rusher in his seven-year head coaching career. That might not change this season, but the Gators hope Chris Rainey can at least give them a credible threat at the position. While it seemed everyone expected USC transfer Emmanuel Moody to take charge at running back during the spring, Rainey ran 11 times for 75 yards and a touchdown and caught a pass for a 65-yard touchdown in the spring game. While his size (5-9/185) makes it hard to believe he can be an every-down back, Rainey is one of Florida's fastest players - which is saying something.
SS EARL THOMAS and FS BEN WELLS, TEXAS
Texas' secondary has regressed each of the past two seasons, finishing '07 ranked 110th in pass defense and 71st in pass efficiency defense. Coordinator Will Muschamp was brought in from Auburn to bring more intensity. Earl Thomas, who has been impressive with his physical play, is closer to starting of the two. Ben Wells hasn't picked up the defense as quickly as his competition, but the door remains open.