The college football season begins on Sept. 2 for 12 of the 13 FBS teams in the state of Texas. The lone exception in the Lone Star State is UTEP, which faced Jacksonville State in Week 0 to begin Conference USA play.
As we approach the start of another season, we’ll countdown the 50-most important players in college football. We’ll go one-by-one until Sept. 1 as we enter the top 20.
No. 3: TCU cornerback Josh Newton
A three-star product from Monroe, Louisiana, Newton began his college career close to home at ULM in 2018. He took a redshirt that year before earning a spot in the starting lineup as a redshirt freshman in 2019 after transitioning from wide receiver. He led the team in pass breakups the next year with five, recording his first career interception in a game against App State. Newton led the team again in PBUs as a junior in 2021 with eight. He also had two interceptions.
Newton jumped into the transfer portal following the 2021 campaign – his fourth at ULM. He arrived in Fort Worth ahead of the 2022 season and immediately became a starting cornerback. The 6-0, 190-pound Newton was longer than most of the TCU cornerbacks that Sonny Dykes’ staff inherited. Newton was a first-team All-Big 12 selection in 2022 after ranking second on the squad with 12 pass breakups. His three interceptions ranked third on the team.
The two most important positions on defense in modern football are edge rusher and shutdown corner. Newton allows the Horned Frogs to play 10 vs. 10 on defense as he takes away the opponents best receiving weapon. He’ll be the unquestioned top dog in the secondary heading into 2023 thanks to the departure of Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson – the 2022 Thorpe Award winner – to the NFL. The Big 12 is home to numerous high-end wide receivers, so Newton’s ability to remain a lockdown cornerback is critical to TCU’s chances to repeat the run from 2022.
Not many secondaries remain the best position unit on the team when the group loses the reigning Thorpe Award winner, but that’s exactly what TCU did because of the return of Newton as well as safeties Bud Clark and Mark Perry. The nickel position is also stacked with Millard Bradford and Josh Foster competing for the spot. TCU dipped into the transfer portal to bring Avery Helm in from Florida. The TCU defense loss less than the offense after the 2022 run, so that unit needs to carry the Horned Frogs early in the season as the new look offense works out kinks. Newton is one of the best cover corners in college football and should get traction as a Thorpe Award candidate.
Previous: No. 4, Baylor RB Richard Reese
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