2012 Preseason All-Redshirt Freshman Defense
South Carolina DB Sheldon Royster
South Carolina DB Sheldon Royster
Posted Jul 30, 2012

What redshirt freshmen appear to be ready to step up and become major factors? Check out the CFN 2012 Preseason All-Redshirt Freshman Defense.

Preview 2012

All-Redshirt Freshman Defense

By Richard Cirminiello 

- Suggestions or something we missed? Let us know
- Follow us ... @ColFootballNews  

CFN All-Redshirt Freshman Teams 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007

- 2012 CFN All-Redshirt Freshman Offense 

DE Greg Townsend Jr., USC
From the moment starting end Devon Kennard suffered a torn pectoral muscle on July 26, Townsend became an important piece of the defensive puzzle for the Pac-12 favorites. The Trojans were already thin and young up front, which means some of the underclassmen will be forced to step up and perform like veterans in the fall. Townsend, whose dad played for the Oakland Raiders for more than a decade, has the pedigree and the pass rushing technique to be an impact player. Troy needs that to occur sooner rather than later.

DT Darian Cooper, Iowa
The Hawkeyes are rebuilding along the D-line this season. Go ahead and label Cooper one of the concrete blocks of the foundation. In a different year, one in which Iowa was stacked on the interior, the 6-2, 280-pounder might be cutting his teeth in garbage time. However, this is no ordinary year … and no ordinary lineman. Cooper is already considered the program's best option at tackle. Now, he's raw, but he also plays with the tenacity and ideal pad level needed to steadily flatten the learning curve as 2012 progresses.

DT Jordan Phillips, Oklahoma – The buzz surrounding Phillips has been almost deafening since the moment he signed as a five-star gem out of Kansas. Although he won't start on a unit that also includes Jamarkus McFarland and Casey McGee, he will be a part of the rotation, getting his feet wet for the future. He has as much long-term potential as any of the young Sooners defenders, a 6-6, 330-pounder who does a lot more than just occupy blockers. He carries his weight well, maintaining his balance and quickness as he slides down the line.

DT Shayvion Hatten, Texas A&M
At worst, Hatten will play an integral role in the rotation. At best, he's capable of winning a job at a position of concern in College Station. He was on the verge of earning a letter as a true freshman before being felled by an injury. The 6-4, 295-pounder has filled out nicely over the past year, and has the wingspan, get-off and feisty demeanor to be effective at shooting the gaps. If the Aggies are going to repeat last season's stout performance versus the run, they'll need youngsters, such as Hatten, to contribute on command.

DE Branden Jackson, Texas Tech
The Red Raiders need all kinds of help on defense, including the pass rush. The rare Pennsylvania native to wind up in Lubbock was the nation's No. 9 outside linebacker, but will be used as a speed rusher coming off the edge this fall. Jackson closes fast, and plays with a predatory mindset in backside pursuit. He's had a solid offseason, and wisely used his redshirt year to pack on 25 pounds of much-needed muscle to a frame that looked a year ago as if it was better suited for the hardwood.

LB Isaiah Bruce, West Virginia
Bruce is one of the up-and-coming Mountaineers who figures to benefit most from the new 3-4 system in Morgantown. Heading into the summer, he has an edge for one of the two inside openings, showing all indications that he's grown markedly since first arriving on campus a year ago. The tweaked defensive alignment figures to benefit someone like Bruce, a freelancing 6-1, 226-pounder with the range and instincts to make his presence felt all over the field.

LB Kris Frost, Auburn
Whatever chance Frost had of playing as a rookie was dismissed by shoulder surgery before the season began. Not only is he starting fresh in 2012, but he has a leg up for the job at strongside. One of the top-rated outside linebackers of the 2011 class, he's now north of 230 pounds, which will help support his durability once games begin. Although Frost is ready to compete in the SEC, keeping a spot atop the depth chart will require him to improve his recognition skills and overall football IQ.

LB Darryl Monroe, Washington State
The Cougars were devastated by injuries and dismissals to their linebackers, creating an immediate opportunity for the likes of Monroe. The 6-1, 213-pounder, with the early lead in the middle, was on his way toward earning a letter in his first year out of high school when he suffered a season-ending Achilles injury. The product of Orlando, Fla. has notable range, flying all over the field to make plays. He could be used on the blitz, and will almost certainly be counted on to drop back seamlessly to support Wazzu's pass defenders.

LB Anthony Sarao, USC
Sarao won't start on the top-heavy Trojans linebacker corps, but he has already moved into the rotation with a strong offseason of practice. Last year's Defensive Service Team Player of the Year will back up Dion Bailey at weakside, bringing keen instincts and a great attitude to the second team. He'll serve two roles in his debut on the field, flying down the field on special teams, and occasionally providing breathers for the defensive starters.

CB Marcus Caffey, Kentucky
Yeah, he'll undergo a baptism by fire as a first-time starting cornerback in the SEC, but the Wildcats couldn't be much happier with Caffey's switch from running back to cornerback. Beyond just being a terrific athlete, with smooth hips, he rarely looks out of place on the field. Caffey has an advanced feel his role on the field to go along with the vision to spot things that others miss. He'll need a short memory in 2012, but should lay the foundation of a bright future in Lexington.

S Sam Smiley, North Carolina
Just a year removed from high school, Smiley is already on the verge of landing a starting gig at free safety in Chapel Hill. The versatile all-around athlete decided to be a Tar Heel after also considering playing quarterback at Middle Tennessee or slot receiver at Purdue. A 5-10, 175-pound ball-hawking cornerback by trade, he'll need to improve his overall strength in order to evolve into a more effective run defender.

S Sheldon Royster, South Carolina
Royster will spend this season spelling D.J Swearinger at free safety before succeeding him in 2013. The four-star recruit figures to cut his teeth on special team and occasionally as a reserve off the bench, allowing him to become more accustomed to the speed of the game. Royster is a tough and rugged defender, the kind of blue-collar, yet exciting athlete who'll always play to the whistle. The upcoming season ought to set the table for a very productive career in Columbia.

S Ezekiel Bishop, Arizona State
Bishop was on the field for the opener with UC Davis, so a redshirt season was not being considered, but he tore his ACL on the kickoff team, and never returned. When he gets back on the field this summer, he'll be reuniting with a secondary that's without last year's starting safeties, Eddie Elder and Clint Floyd. While Bishop is a little undersized, he can deliver the payload, and will cover a lot of ground. If the knee is fine, he'll be in the hunt for a starting nod.

CB Lafayette Pitts, Pittsburgh
The month of August shapes up as a possible launching point for Pitts, who'll be competing for playing time—and possibly a job— at cornerback. Like all young pass defenders, he'll need to work on his coverage skills and discipline, but he possesses explosive athletic characteristics that just scream budding playmaker. Pitts will get humbled every so often, but he's too dynamic not to leave a positive imprint on the 2012 campaign.

Special Teams

PK Taylor Bertolet, Texas A&M
When Bertolet was plucked out of Reading, Penn., it was with this moment in mind. Rated among the best placekickers of his class, he gets good whip on his kicks, and possesses the requisite pop to be effective on field goals and kickoffs. He'll have some enormous shoes to fill, those of Lou Groza Award winner Randy Bullock, but will bring the right amount of maturity and fundamentals to his first season of action.

P Will Monday, Duke
The Blue Devils must locate a successor for last season's placekicker, Will Snyderwine, and punter, Alex King. Since neither is irreplaceable, the coaching staff is embracing the chance to turn the page on special teams. A new chapter will almost certainly contain the name of Monday, a powerful 6-4, 200-pounder bucking for both jobs. One of the nation's premier special teams recruits of 2011 has tremendous leg strength and hang time as a punter.

- 2012 CFN All-Redshirt Freshman Offense