Fiu, Cirminiello, Mitchell on TV - Campus Insiders | Buy College Football Tickets

2011 Preseason All-Redshirt Freshman Defense
Nebraska DB Corey Cooper
Nebraska DB Corey Cooper
Posted Aug 5, 2011

What redshirt freshmen appear to be ready to step up and become major factors? Check out the CFN 2011 Preseason All-Redshirt Freshman Defense.

Preview 2011

All-Redshirt Freshman Defense

By Richard Cirminiello

- Preview 2011 | 2011 CFN All-Redshirt Freshman Offense

- 2010 CFN All-Redshirt Freshman Team | 2009 CFN All-Redshirt Freshman Team 
- 2008 CFN All-Redshirt Freshman Team | 2007 CFN All-Redshirt Freshman Team

DL Geneo Grissom, Oklahoma
Grissom won’t start on the veteran Sooner D-line, but he has the right skill set to entice the staff to get him on the field on passing downs. A terrific all-around athlete, he hasn’t lost any burst or closing speed despite filling out to 250 pounds since coming across the border from Kansas. He’ll be groomed as a backup in Norman for one more season before making an even stronger push up the depth chart in 2012.

DL George Uko, USC
When Uko is on, he’s the prototype for a defensive tackle, splitting linemen to make plays behind the line. At a program flush with former blue-chippers, he’s already earned a spot in the rotation. In fact, he’d jumped senior DaJohn Harris on the depth chart by the time spring drills had ended. Last season’s Service Team Defensive Player of the Year stayed hot in the spring, impressing the staff with his strength and quickness off the snap. If properly motivated, he has the tools to become the Trojans’ next star defensive tackle.

DL Christian Littlehead, Oklahoma State
Littlehead’s development could not have come at a more opportune time for the Cowboys. The program is aiming to replace a pair of steady senior starters on the interior of the defensive front. The 6-3, 330-pounder has lopped off more than 40 useless pounds since matriculating a year ago, dramatically improving his conditioning and get-off. While occupying blockers and clogging running lanes are his fortes, he’ll make stops for minus yards if he remains in good shape.

DL Josh Shirley, Washington
Shirley is getting a second chance in Seattle after being dismissed by UCLA for allegedly stealing a purse. The Huskies landed one of the West Coast’s top defensive recruits of 2010, a hybrid between an end and a linebacker. Washington’s new RUSH position was designed with the 6-3, 225-pounder in mind. As the name clearly indicates, he’ll be asked to pin his ears back and rush the passer with all of the speed and intensity that made him such a popular target of Pac-10 schools.

LB Quayshawn Nealy, Georgia Tech
While Nealy wasn’t considered a can’t-miss recruit coming out of high school, modest expectations haven’t kept him from emerging. One of Tech’s stars of spring has played his way into starting contention at one of the inside spots. While just 6-1 and 220 pounds, he flew all over the field throughout March and April, making eight tackles, a sack, a fumble recovery and two pass breakups in the Yellow Jackets’ T-Day game.

LB David Wilkerson, California
Had it not been for a concussion and subsequent medical redshirt, Wilkerson would have been ineligible for this year's recognition. He’d have been a sophomore, with a letter already in the vault. In a class brimming with linebacker talent, Wilkerson consistently stood out in the eyes of the coaches last summer. The 6-3, 235-pounder is physically ready to contribute on the outside, bringing the desired bulk and instincts to the second level of the D.

LB Hayes Pullard, USC
After being hobbled with a knee injury for much of his debut, a healthy Pullard stood out during spring drills. An elite athlete at strongside, he goes from sideline to sideline about as quickly as any of the Trojan linebackers. Extremely quick for a 6-2, 225-pounder, he can deliver the payload as well as drop into coverage to defend the pass. The baby of an otherwise experienced bunch of linebackers will spend the month of August looking to secure a coveted starting job.

DB Ryan Ayers, Georgia Tech
The Yellow Jackets are buzzing about the potential of Ayers, who is already closing in on one of the cornerback jobs. A smooth and fluid overall athlete, he has the speed and soft hips to match up with many of the ACC’s better receivers. He conducted himself like a veteran throughout the offseason, one of many signs that he’s going to play an integral role on defense in the fall.

DB Titus Till, Maryland
Till is one of the reasons the new coaching staff felt comfortable moving all-league S Kenny Tate to linebacker in the spring. The 6-2, 195-pounder is off to a fast start as a Terrapin, elevating to the top of the depth chart at free safety. He’s a polished tackler in the open field, wrapping up in run support. Sharpening his coverage skills could be the ticket to a four-year career as a starter in the defensive backfield.

DB Corey Cooper, Nebraska
Although Cooper isn’t expected to start in 2011, his apprenticeship at strong safety should last just one more season. The 6-1, 210-pound thumper will be a nice fit on a Blackshirts defense that cherishes intimidating presences out of the secondary. While still somewhat rough around the edges in pass defense, his ideal trajectory has him learning as a reserve this fall, and supplanting Austin Cassidy a year from now.

DB Sam Carter, TCU
Never at a loss for outstanding defensive backs, the Horned Frogs are pointing toward Carter as their next big-play strong safety. The one-time dual-threat quarterback in high school has made a successful transition to defense this offseason. At 6-1 and 220 pounds, he has the right size, athleticism and football IQ to excel on this side of the ball. While there’s going to be a learning curve in 2011, it’ll flatten as each week of practices and game reps passes by.

Honorable Mention – Defense

DL: Todd Chandler (South Florida), Carl Davis (Iowa), Ego Ferguson (LSU), Gabe King (Cal), Zack McCray (Virginia Tech)

LB: Nick Forbes (Cal), Tevin Jackson (Texas), LaDarius Owens (Auburn)

DB: Damian Payne (Utah)

- Preview 2011 | 2011 CFN All-Redshirt Freshman Offense