2012 CFN All-Sophomore Team - Defense & ST
South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney
South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney
Posted Dec 11, 2012

Who were the best second-year defensive players in college football this season?

2012 All-Sophomore Team

Defense & Special Teams

Write-ups By Richard Cirminiello

- 2012 CFN Freshman All-America Offense 
Defensive Sophomore of the Year: DE Jadeveon Clowney

DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
If he was eligible for the 2013 NFL Draft, Clowney would be a top 5 pick. He's that dynamic just two years removed from high school. The Hendricks Award winner and All-American pick ranks second nationally with 21.5 tackles for loss and 13 sacks. An explosive, 6-6, 256-pound athlete, he uses his length, sudden burst and blinding closing speed to track down the man with the ball in a flash. The Gamecocks have Clowney for one more year before he takes his game to Sundays.

DT Louis Nix, Notre Dame
Although he doesn't get nearly as much attention as his teammates, Nix has had a huge impact—literally—on an Irish run defense that's ranked fourth in the country. Ideally built to play the nose, the 6-3, 330-pounder holds his ground, yet is surprisingly quick and light enough on his feet to disrupt the flow of a play behind the line of scrimmage. Nix has made 45 stops, 5.5 tackles for loss and two sacks, controlling the gaps in order to make life easier for those around him.

DT Travis Raciti, San Jose State
Raciti has been one of the unsung heroes of San Jose State's 10-win season, earning First Team All-WAC honors with 47 tackles, a dozen stops behind the line and 7.5 sacks. Now up to 6-5 and 286 pounds, he's packed on the weight since arriving from high school as a tight end prospect, yet hasn't lost his quickness or his athleticism. In fact, Raciti is now a much stronger player in the upper body, able to beat opposing linemen on a bull rush as well as with his improving moves off the snap.

DE Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame
What Tuitt does at 6-6 and 303 pounds is just remarkable, especially considering he's only in his second year out of Monroe (Ga.) High School. Unblockable on the edge at times during the season, he used his uncommon speed, tenacity and budding pass-rushing skills to lead the team and rank No. 7 nationally with a dozen sacks. If he can get to AJ McCarron twice in the BCS National Championship Game, he'll break Justin Tuck's single-season Irish record for sacks.

LB A.J. Johnson, Tennessee
Johnson was one of the exceptions in Knoxville this fall, a defensive player who brought it, week-in and week-out. He leads the SEC with 138 tackles, 8.5 of which were for minus yards. The 6-3, 240-pound Second Team All-SEC selection has excellent size, strength and instincts to fill lanes and defend the run from middle linebacker. He has a great nose for the ball, shedding blocks, and scraping through traffic in order to make a play. Heck, Johnson has a pretty good nose for the ball on offense as well, rushing for six touchdowns out of the Wildcat formation.

LB Jake Ryan, Michigan
Ryan was named honorable mention All-Big Ten by league coaches. The sophomore was robbed. The media placed him on their second team, which is far more emblematic of the season he's had in Ann Arbor. A combination of outstanding athletic ability and unmatched intensity on Saturdays, he became the sparkplug for a Wolverines defense that currently ranks No. 11 in the country. Playing with reckless abandon and an infectious attitude, he's compiled a team-best 84 tackles, 14.5 stops for loss, four sacks and five forced fumbles.

LB Ryan Shazier, Ohio State
After a quiet start, Shazier played so well down the stretch that it caught a lot of people off guard. Yeah, he was named All-Big Ten by the media, but still remained somewhat anonymous nationally for a player who collected 115 tackles, 17 stops for loss, five sacks and 11 pass breakups. Shazier plays the game at a different speed than the players around him, flying all over the field, yet displaying excellent discipline and fundamentals. He's the prototype for a heat-sinking playmaker on the outside, with no shot of remaining a relatively well-kept secret in 2013.

CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon
The Ducks have been a takeaway machine this season. Ekpre-Olomu has often been the oil that greases that machine. He turned the corner in the offseason, added weight and quickly gained confidence in the secondary. The proverbial ball-hawk breaks quickly on throws, shows great instincts and has the big-play knack inherent to all top-notch defensive backs. The first-time starter made his case for First Team All-Pac-12 by forcing six fumbles, picking off four passes and getting his hands on a league-best 19 throws.

S Calvin Pryor, Louisville
Pryor has been one of the breakout stars this season for the Big East champs. While SS Hakeem Smith and CB Adrian Bushell were the headliners before the season began, Pryor has gone on to quietly post 94 tackles, two picks and four forced fumbles. When Louisville needed the defense to step up in the winner-take-all finale with Rutgers, the sophomore made seven stops, broke up two passes and recovered a fumble. Although Pryor still has work to do in coverage, his tenacity and crushing hits will continue to change the tenor of games.

S Ed Reynolds, Stanford
Besides replacing Andrew Luck behind center, the Cardinal's biggest concern entering the season centered around its two new safeties. Reynolds, and to a lesser extent fellow sophomore Jordan Richards, allayed all of those fears as the season progressed. Both players earned All-Pac-12 honors, Reynolds on the first team. Though a free safety, he's like having a third cornerback on the field—one that can lower his shoulder and separate the ball from a receiver. The heady and instinctive ball-hawk picked off a team-high six passes, turning them into 301 return yards and three touchdowns.

CB Bradley Roby, Ohio State
As a redshirt freshman, Roby laid the ground floor of an all-star career in Columbus. This past year, he began to build upon it, getting named First Team All-Big Ten and a Thorpe Award semifinalist. He's the complete package that NFL scouts seek in a cover corner, flashing elite speed, soft hips and the ball skills of a wide receiver. Oh, and he's not bashful about playing bump-and-run or filling lanes on running plays. Opposing quarterbacks will think twice about testing Roby's side of the field in 2013 after he tied for the league lead with 19 passes defended in 2012.

Special Teams

PK Michael Hunnicutt, Oklahoma
Although the Sooners didn't give Hunnicutt a lot of three-point opportunities, he usually delivered when his number was called. He was good on 15-of-19 field goal attempts, with a long of 45 yards, earning a spot on the Groza Award list of semifinalists. Hunnicutt is off to a great start in Norman, handling the placekicking role in both seasons, and nailing 21-of-24 field goals in his freshman debut.

P Kyle Christy, Florida
The Gators D would have been stellar no matter what in 2012, but, boy, was Christy a hidden weapon for the unit all year long. The Ray Guy Award finalist ranks No. 6 nationally with a 46.1-yard average, routinely booming missile high into the air. As a team, Florida is seventh in the country in net punting at 40.6 yards. Christy's leg strength and tight fundamentals often allowed the Gators' gunners to get downfield before opposing return men could take off with the ball.

Second Team

DE Carl Bradford, Arizona State
DT Chucky Hunter, TCU
DT George Uko, USC
DE Scott Crichton, Oregon State

LB Alvin Dupree, Kentucky
LB Eric Kendricks, UCLA
LB Yawin Smallwood, Connecticut

CB Quandre Diggs, Texas
S Ibraheim Campbell, Northwestern
S Sam Carter, TCU
CB Marcus Roberson, Florida

Special Teams

PK Ty Long, UAB
P Brad Wing, LSU

Honorable Mention

DE: Henry Anderson (Stanford), Vic Beasley (Clemson), Trey Flowers (Arkansas), Kony Ealy (Missouri), Brock Hekking (Nevada), Andrew Hudson (Washington), Martin Ifedi (Memphis), C.J. Johnson (Ole Miss), Demarcus Lawrence (Boise State)

DT: James Castleman (Oklahoma State), Tyeler Davison (Fresno State), Grady Jarrett (Clemson), Timmy Jernigan (Florida State), Kelcy Quarles (South Carolina), Danny Shelton (Washington)

LB: Stephone Anthony (Clemson), Chi Chi Ariguzo (Northwestern), Dion Bailey (USC), Justin Cherocci (Central Michigan), Dyshawn Davis (Syracuse), Steve Edmond (Texas), Jake Fely (San Diego State), Nick Forbes (Cal), Bryce Hager (Baylor), Joel Hasley (TCU), Ben Heeney (Kansas), Adrian Hubbard (Alabama), Gabe Martin (Bowling Green), Derrick Matthews (Houston), Chris McCain (Cal), Terrance Plummer (UCF), Hayes Pullard (USC), John Timu (Washington)

CB: Kevin Johnson (Wake Forest), Terrance Mitchell (Oregon), Demetrious Nicholson (Virginia), Loucheiz Purifoy (Florida), Tim Scott (North Carolina)

S: Tra'Mayne Bondurant (Arizona), Jonathan Dowling (Western Kentucky), Landon Feichter (Purdue), Kyshoen Jarrett (Virginia Tech), Tevin McDonald (UCLA), Cody Prewitt (Ole Miss), Jordan Richards (Stanford), Derron Smith (Fresno State), Vinnie Sunseri (Alabama)

PK: Kyle Brindza (Notre Dame), Jeremiah Detmer (Toledo), Trevor Romaine (Oregon State)

P: Tommy Hibbard (North Carolina), Hunter Mullins (UAB), Darragh O'Neill (Colorado), Mike Sadler (Michigan State)

- 2012 CFN Freshman All-America Offense