As college football enthusiasts eagerly tuned in to Week 0’s action, they were treated to a spectacular display of talent. A few players shone particularly bright, earning their “helmet stickers” from us for their contributions on the gridiron this weekend. USC’s Caleb Williams and Zachariah Branch, along with Notre Dame quarterback Sam Hartman and left tackle Joe Alt, emerged as the standout winners in a thrilling start to the college football season.
USC QB Caleb Williams
Caleb Williams is the early Heisman favorite and he showed why on Saturday night against San Jose State. He is a magician on the football field. Everything he does looks effortless and easily shows why he draws comparisons to Patrick Mahomes. Caleb Williams went 18-25, with 278 yards and four touchdowns, according to Sports Reference. He earns his first and most likely, not last helmet sticker of the 2023 season.
USC WR Zachariah Branch
Joining Williams in the spotlight was USC’s Zachariah Branch, who seized the opportunity to make a resounding impact in his debut. Displaying remarkable agility and vision, Branch had 232 all-purpose yards and 2 touchdowns in his debut. His explosive bursts and ability to find gaps in the defense gave USC a dynamic playmaker that proved pivotal in their victory. He reminds me of Florida’s Percy Harvin with his game-breaking ability and his potential to score whenever he touches the ball. Branch is a true freshman, so he isn’t eligible for the 2024 NFL draft, but he will be on our watchlist over the next few years. Branch proved that he’s a force to be reckoned with in USC’s offensive arsenal.
Notre Dame QB Sam Hartman
Sam Hartman lit up the field in his first game at the helm for Notre Dame. Tallying an impressive 83% completion rate, Hartman threw for 251 passing yards, delivered four touchdown passes, and had a passer rating of an astounding 151.7. He led the Fighting Irish to five touchdown drives and an easy win over Navy.
It wasn’t solely his single-game brilliance that defined the significance of Hartman’s Notre Dame debut. With his remarkable performance, he surpassed Derek Carr for career passing touchdowns and now holds the 14th spot in the all-time college football rankings. Hartman is eligible for the 2024 NFL draft and he made quite an early impression, thus, earning his first helmet sticker.
Notre Dame LT Joe Alt
Joe Alt picked up right where he left off last season with a dominant outing versus Navy. Alt didn’t allow a single pressure, according to Pro Football Focus, and he was a road grader in the run game. Although he didn’t face an elite talent, Alt still showed why he is one of the best tackles in college football.
As Week 0 closes, these exceptional athletes emerged as the winners of the spotlight, earning their “helmet stickers” for their outstanding contributions. These individuals stand out as stars to watch throughout the remainder of the 2023 college football season.