The college football season kicks off on Saturday, Aug. 27, but things really begin to heat up the following weekend, when No. 5 Notre Dame, led by first-year head coach Marcus Freeman, visits Columbus to take on No. 2 Ohio State in this year’s initial blockbuster matchup.
With the recent release of the 2022-2023 preseason rankings, we’ve been given a clear clue as to what teams are believed to have an actual shot at winning the national championship. Since 2014, every title squad has been ranked no lower than sixth in the first preseason poll.
Taking a cursory glance at the top six teams in this year’s American Football Coaches Association preseason rankings, it’s a good bet that one of these powerhouses — Alabama, Ohio State, Georgia, Clemson, Notre Dame or Michigan — will hoist the championship trophy at SoFi Stadium at Hollywood Park in Inglewood, California, on Jan. 9, 2023.
And if that’s the case, a few players who honed their skills here in Baltimore have an excellent chance of winning college football’s ultimate prize.
Here’s a breakdown of the hometown kids to root for if their squads advance to the playoffs.
ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE
Chris Braswell – Coming out of St. Frances Academy, the 6-foot-3, 250-pound Braswell was among the country’s top-rated defensive ends. A role player as a sophomore last year who didn’t see the field as a freshman, he’s expected to make a significant impact on defense as a pass rusher this season.
Darrian Dalcourt – Another St. Frances alum, Dalcourt earned the job as the Crimson Tide’s starting center last year. The 6-foot-3, 305-pound lineman was named by the coaching staff as the offensive player of the week after his first start, against the University of Miami in week one, during which he helped the offense rack up 501 total yards, recording the highest grade among the team’s starters.
OHIO STATE BUCKEYES
Taron Vincent – Among the top 15 players in his high school recruiting class, Vincent started his prep career at the Gilman School before transferring to IMG, the national powerhouse in Bradenton, Florida. The 6-foot-2, 300-pound defensive tackle is a three-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree who has already received his undergraduate degree. All eight of his starts as a Buckeye came last season, punctuated by a career-high six tackles against Utah in last year’s Rose Bowl. His dad, Troy Vincent, was a college football legend at the University of Wisconsin who played 15 years in the NFL and now serves as the league’s head of football operations.
MJ Sherman – The Charm City native played his prep ball at St. John’s College High School in Washington, D.C., where he was among the nation’s top-ranked outside linebackers. Last year, he played in all of the Bulldogs’ 15 games on special teams and as a reserve linebacker. The 6-foot-2, 250-pound junior is expected to be a major contributor on the vicious Bulldog defense this year.
Jamon Dumas-Johnson – The 6-foot-1, 245-pound sophomore and St. Frances alum who was one of the featured athletes on the HBO Documentary series “The Cost of Winning” has been named to the preseason watch list for the Butkus Award, which is annually given to the country’s best linebacker.
Philip Florenzo – What? You’ve never rooted for a long snapper before? Me neither! But it’s never too late to try something new. The 6-foot-2, 240-pound sophomore excelled in both football and lacrosse at Loyola Blakefield in Towson.
NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH
Cam Hart – As a junior last year, the cornerback started 10 games and recorded 42 tackles, nine pass deflections and two interceptions, both of which came against Wisconsin in late September. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Baltimore native who played his high school ball at Our Lady of Good Counsel could make some major noise this year as a senior.
The Baltimore-to-Ann Arbor pipeline is very real, with former St. Frances head coach Biff Poggi now serving as an associate head coach on Jim Harbaugh’s staff at the University of Michigan. The Wolverines are a lock to consistently bring in talent from Charm City that once populated the St. Frances Panthers’ roster, such as the following three players:
Blake Corum – The 5-foot-8, 210-pound junior running back turned heads last year when he rushed for 953 yards and 11 touchdowns, in addition to snagging 24 pass receptions for 141 yards and another score. One of the country’s most electrifying running backs, Corum had his signature game as a sophomore against the University of Washington on Sept. 11, when he amassed 171 rushing yards on 21 carries and scored three touchdowns. His all-purpose yardage total was 231. In Ann Arbor, people are starting to whisper the H-word, as in Heisman, regarding Corum’s potential for the next two seasons.
Nikhai Hill-Green – The linebacker appeared in all of Michigan’s 14 games last year, starting six of them. The 6-foot-2, 230-pound Academic All-Big Ten honoree tallied 50 tackles, including four against the eventual national champion Georgia Bulldogs in the Orange Bowl/College Football Playoff semifinal.
Derrick Moore – The incoming 6-foot-3, 280-pound freshman, considered among the top prospects coming out of the state of Maryland last year, had 12 sacks and 24 tackles for losses as a defensive end at St. Frances during his final high school season. He won MVP honors at the Under Armour All-American game.