Ranking College Football’s Best Baseball Players In 2023


Image credit: Duce Robinson (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

College football begins its season in earnest this weekend, bringing with it all the usual pageantry and excitement of fall Saturdays.

For college baseball fans, there are several two-sport athletes to follow on the gridiron this fall. This list looks quite a bit different than it did a year ago, however, after a few high-profile two-sport athletes this summer dropped football to focus on baseball. That group includes Clemson’s Will Taylor, Virginia’s Jay Woolfolk and Iowa’s Brody Brecht, all rising juniors. That trio held the top three spots on last year’s list and would have topped the list again this year—though in a different order. Brecht enters the fall projected as a first-round pick, Taylor looks like a top-two round pick and Woolfolk spent the summer with USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team.

But just because those three stars won’t be on the gridiron this fall doesn’t mean there aren’t some two-sport standouts to watch. Here are the top 20 baseball players in college football to watch this fall. Not everyone on this list plays baseball in college but most do, and all undeniably have the talent to be college baseball stars.

1. Grant Gray, UCLA

Gray initially went under the radar in baseball circles because of his football prowess, but that’s changed over the last year. He got a lot of attention from scouts in the spring and ranked No. 70 in the draft class. He was rated as a four-star wide receiver as well and his commitment to playing both sports ultimately led to him going undrafted. He’s not listed on UCLA’s week one depth chart, but he has the talent to make an impact for the Bruins this fall. On the diamond, he’s a plus runner, has solid feel at the plate and offers big offensive upside.

2. Sam Horn, Missouri

Horn last year arrived at Missouri to much fanfare as both a baseball and football prospect. He ranked No. 106 in the 2022 draft class as a righthander and was rated as a four-star quarterback. He saw limited action in either sport as a freshman, however, appearing in one football game and throwing 4.1 innings for the Tigers. In the fall, he was behind a veteran starter on the depth chart but was set to play a much larger role on the diamond. He made two early season appearances and ran his fastball up to 97 mph on Opening Weekend in his debut against TCU but a forearm strain he suffered the next weekend ultimately proved to be the end of his season. Horn has high-end upside on the mound thanks to his big arm and promising offspeed offerings. He’s this fall again fighting for time on the football field and goes into the season in competition to be the starting quarterback.

3. Duce Robinson, Southern California

Robinson last spring got a lot of buzz as he made it clear he wanted to play college football and professional baseball. He committed to USC and was ranked No. 156 in the 2023 draft class. He went unpicked, however, and now is set to play both wide receiver and outfield for the Trojans. He caught three passes for 44 yards in USC’s opener last week against San Jose State. On the diamond, his premium athleticism and big raw righthanded power make him an exciting prospect.

4. John Rhys Plumlee, UCF

Plumlee started his college career at Mississippi, where he put his premium speed to use as a quarterback and outfielder. He’s continued that play at UCF after transferring two years ago. He in 2023 started all but one game on the diamond for the Knights and hit .286/.384/.505 with 10 home runs and 18 stolen bases, all while missing just one football practice. His plus speed and athleticism play well in baseball, and he impacts the game in a variety of ways. This fall, he’ll again lead the UCF offense as starting quarterback as the team moves into the Big 12. While others on this list are better pro prospects in either baseball or football, Plumlee is the most accomplished active college baseball/football player.

5. JonJon Vaughns, UCLA

Vaughns has premium athleticism and has put that on display at UCLA as a linebacker and outfielder. He’s played in all 32 of the Bruins’ football games over the last three years and twice last season led the team in tackles. On the diamond, he started 34 games this spring and hit .236/.386/.466 with 10 home runs. He enters the fall as a starting linebacker for the Bruins and could again play a big role for the baseball team this spring.

6. Jack Lausch, Northwestern

Lausch was a two-sport star in high school and was initially committed to Notre Dame to play both baseball and football. He only had a walk-on football offer, however, so when Northwestern offered him a scholarship as a quarterback, he changed his commitment. He has plenty of upside on the diamond as an outfielder and ranked No. 212 in the 2022 draft class. He has a compact swing, a good approach at the plate and power potential in his 6-foot-2 frame. Lausch last fall appeared in one game for the Wildcats but this year is expected to play a larger role.

7. Robby Ashford, Auburn

Ashford in high school became just the third player to be invited to the Under Armour All-America Game for both baseball and football, following Kyler Murray and A.J. Brown. His athleticism gives him significant upside in both sports, and he ranked No. 231 in the 2020 draft, but he didn’t see much action in either sport at Oregon before transferring to Auburn and he hasn’t been a part of the Tigers’ baseball program. Ashford last year played his way into the starting quarterback job but again enters this fall as the backup, though reportedly he will still have a significant role in the offense.

8. Blake Shapen, Baylor

Shapen was one of the top two-sport athletes in the 2020 class and ranked No. 371 in the draft class. After redshirting as a freshman, Shapen in 2021 broke out late in the season after Baylor’s starting quarterback was injured. He led the Bears to a win in the Big 12 championship game and then earned honorable mention all-conference honors in 2022. Shapen’s athleticism plays well at shortstop, and he was an Under Armor All-American in baseball during high school, but he hasn’t gotten a chance to show those skills in college. He again is slated to be the Bears’ starting quarterback this fall.

9. Carson Beck, Georgia

Beck early in his high school career committed to Florida to play baseball before his football recruitment picked up. He ended up at Georgia just to play quarterback and is now taking over as the starter for the two-time reigning national champion. On the diamond, he had high-end potential. With a big, physical build and righthanded power potential, he could have been a prototypical corner outfielder.

10. Joey Velazquez, Michigan

Initially committed to Ohio State to play baseball, Velazquez ended up on the other side of the rivalry when Michigan offered him an opportunity to play football as well. He’s played a limited role as a linebacker but has gotten more action as an outfielder. His athleticism plays well on the diamond, and he has a strong lefthanded swing. Last spring, he hit .245/.337/.401 with seven doubles and four home runs in 48 games (38 starts).

11. DJ Uiagalelei, Oregon State

Uiagalelei has long been focused on football (he was the top quarterback recruit in the 2020 class), but he also previously showed significant upside on the diamond as a righthander. So much upside, in fact, that the Dodgers this summer drafted him in the 20th round despite not playing baseball in college. In high school, he ran his fastball into the low 90s and with his big frame (6-foot-4, 250 pounds), it’s easy to see the upside. But Uiagalelei passed on signing with the Dodgers and is set to be Oregon State’s starting quarterback after transferring to Corvallis following three years at Clemson.

12. Tywone Malone, Ohio State

Malone has a unique profile as a defensive end and first baseman. He is listed at 6-foot-4, 303 pounds and was the top-rated football recruit in New Jersey in the 2021 class. He in June transferred to Ohio State after two years at Ole Miss. He saw action in 13 games last fall for the Rebels but saw more limited time on the diamond in Oxford, going 5-for-19 over the last two years. He has prodigious power on the diamond but he this month told reporters in Columbus that he is giving up baseball to focus on football.

13. Stone Blanton, South Carolina

Blanton was initially committed to Mississippi State to play baseball before settling on South Carolina with the intention to play both sports. After playing in 12 games last fall for the Gamecocks, however, he chose to focus on football and this fall, as a sophomore, opens the season as the starting middle linebacker. On the diamond, his big, physical frame, athleticism and raw power made him a prototypical corner outfielder.

14. Conner Weigman, Texas A&M

Weigman was a high-level two-sport player coming out of high school and had interest in playing both quarterback and infield. But his ability on the gridiron has kept him away from baseball since he arrived in College Station. He last fall took over as the Aggies starting quarterback midway through his freshman year and he’ll lead them again this fall. On the diamond, his arm strength played well and he had a strong righthanded swing.

15. Levi Gazarek, Bowling Green State

Gazarek has been a big contributor for the Falcons both in baseball and football. He last fall started 11 games as a tight end for BG. On the diamond, he’s an imposing righthander at a listed 6-foot-4, 250 pounds. He missed the spring due to injury, but in 2022 made 16 appearances (five starts) and went 2-3, 7.90 in 42.1 innings.

16. Devin Neal, Kansas

Neal was a highly rated running back and outfielder as a high schooler in Kansas and wanted to play both sports in college, leading him to KU. In his first two seasons with the Jayhawks, he’s rushed for 1,797 yards and 17 touchdowns and this year was named preseason all-Big 12. He played in seven games on the diamond as a freshman before deciding to focus only on football. As a baseball player, his athleticism and bat speed stood out.

17. Cam’Ron McCoy, Eastern Michigan

McCoy has a powerful arm that plays well on the mound and also has earned him a chance to play quarterback for the Eagles. He last fall did not appear in a game in his first season with the team. He’s appeared in 10 games on the diamond over the last two years, including two starts, but wildness limited his role in the spring. His fastball gets into the low 90s, but he’ll need to improve his control to get more out of it.

18. Nate McCollum, North Carolina

McCollum was a high-level two-sport player coming out of high school and had a chance to play both outfield and wide receiver at Georgia Tech. But he wound up focused on football and last year started nine games as a redshirt sophomore for the Yellow Jackets. Following a coaching change, he transferred to UNC and enters this season in the mix to start at wide receiver. On the diamond, his plus speed and quick hands stood out.

19. Sawyer Robertson, Baylor

Robertson, the son of former Expos prospect Stan Robertson, drew interest as both an outfielder and quarterback when he was coming out of the Texas prep ranks. He committed to Mississippi State with the intention of playing both sports but did not play baseball before transferring after last fall to Baylor. The redshirt sophomore is listed as Shapen’s backup to open the season for the Bears.

20. Jimmy Rolder, Michigan

Rolder was initially committed to Illinois to play third base before his football prospects exploded during his senior year of high school and suddenly multiple Big Ten schools were offering him as a linebacker. He ended up at Michigan, where he last year appeared in 13 games, made 14 tackles and was named the team’s co-special teams freshman of the year. On the diamond, he had a powerful righthanded swing, but he’s now focused on football.

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