2024 college football newcomer class rankings

Freshman receiver Ryan Wingo is one of the big reasons Texas lands atop our list of the best newcomer classes for 2024. Sara Diggins/USA Today Sports via American Statesman

If there's one commonality among annual College Football Playoff contenders, it's that recruiting serves as the foundation for a healthy program and long-term success. Alabama, Georgia and Ohio State are recent examples proving the importance of identifying and developing elite high school talent from within.

But that's not the only path anymore. Now there are other roads that lead to success on the field. Teams are racing to use all roster-building avenues to compete amid CFP expansion.

The transfer portal has changed how programs build rosters. Some schools, such as Colorado, have gone all-in looking to overhaul and infuse their roster with experienced talent via transfers. Others, such as Clemson, lean more heavily on traditional prep recruiting while using the portal sparingly.

Today, we rank the top 25 groups of newcomers -- recruits and transfers combined -- based on who could see the most impactful immediate returns for 2024.

1. Texas

Recruits: WR Ryan Wingo, DE Colin Simmons

Texas' No. 5 recruiting class includes impact freshmen on both sides of the ball. Wingo is receiving coaching reviews similar to those of five-star WR Jeremiah Smith of Ohio State. Wingo's size, speed and natural pass-catching skills are already elite. Simmons may have a harder time getting meaningful reps given the talent around him, but he's being compared to Anthony Hill Jr. as a pass-rusher because of his speed, bend and power. Both are mature and explosive true freshman playmakers.

Transfers: WR Isaiah Bond (Alabama), WR Matthew Golden (Houston), WR Silas Bolden (Oregon State), TE Amari Niblack (Alabama), DL Trey Moore (UTSA), DL Tiaoalii Savea (Arizona), S Andrew Mukuba (Clemson), CB Jay'Vion Cole (San Jose State), DT Bill Norton (Arizona), DL Jermayne Lole (Louisville)

Texas coach Steve Sarkisian, a one-time Alabama assistant, benefitted from the coaching change in Tuscaloosa. Texas landed receiver Bond, who led Alabama with 48 catches, and tight end Niblack, who was among the Tide's leaders in receptions and touchdowns. Bringing in Golden from in-state Houston was another coup. The four-star 2022 recruit was an immediate contributor for the Cougars and should replace lost production in both the passing and return games. Bolden is coming off his most productive season at Oregon State with 54 catches in 2023, doubling his output from the first three years. Defensively, the Longhorns stacked the trenches with run-stuffers. After adding Norton and Savea from Arizona, Lole was a recent flip from Oklahoma. Texas addressed the void at defensive tackle after losing Byron Murphy and T'Vondre Sweat to the NFL.