The COVID-19 pandemic didn't affect college football games too much in 2022. But it is still altering players' eligibility from 2020, and will for at least the next few seasons.
Prior to the 2020 season, the NCAA announced that players wouldn't use a year of eligibility if they played during that season. So, a junior in 2020 would still be classified as a junior in 2021.
That means a number of players will be returning in 2023 for a "super senior" year of sorts.
There were plenty of talented seniors in 2022, and a number of them opted to return for another season in 2023. Let's run through college football's top "super seniors" who could make the biggest impact next season.
Kansas State WR Phillip Brooks
Kansas State surprised a lot of people when it upset TCU and won the Big 12 championship last season. K-State will look to repeat as Big 12 champions in 2023, and getting the likes of receiver Phillip Brooks back should help the Wildcats do just that.
Malik Knowles, the Wildcats' leading receiver from this past season, has declared for the 2023 NFL draft. That means Brooks should be returning quarterback Will Howard's new go-to receiver.
Brooks finished second in receiving behind Knowles last season, accounting for 587 yards receiving with four touchdowns, averaging 13 yards per catch. K-State's third-leading receiver, Kade Warner—the son of Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner—doesn't have eligibility left, so Brooks will be expected to carry the Wildcats' receiving corps in 2023.
Brooks also led Kansas State in punt returns last season. He returned 14 punts for 168 yards, including a 76-yard punt return for a touchdown against Missouri.
In 2020, Brooks averaged 23.73 yards per punt return, and he returned two for touchdowns. Against Kansas that year, he averaged 47.25 yards per punt return, which was the highest of any player in the nation with at least four attempts since 1996, per D. Scott Fritchen of the school's website.
We'll see how Brooks responds to a bigger role in the passing game in 2023.
Ohio State LB Tommy Eichenberg
After making it to the College Football Playoff and nearly knocking off Georgia in the Peach Bowl semifinal, Ohio State seems to be headed for a rebuilding year in 2023. Quarterback C.J. Stroud (a Heisman finalist), receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba, offensive lineman Paris Johnson and safety Ronnie Hickman are among those headed to the NFL draft.
The good news for Ohio State is that linebacker Tommy Eichenberg is returning. He should provide some valuable experience for a young group of Buckeyes.
Eichenberg finished last season with a team-high 120 total tackles, 2.5 sacks, three passes defended and an interception returned for a touchdown against Iowa. He was tied for second in the Big Ten in total tackles and was named a second-team All-American.
Eichenberg had a breakout game against Utah in the Rose Bowl at the end of the 2021 season. Starting in place of injured teammate Cody Simon, he notched a career-high 17 tackles, which helped Ohio State overcome an early 14-point deficit to win 48-45.