is a true freshman
2005 First Team
Pat White, West Virginia – Other quarterbacks had better numbers,
but no freshman meant more to his team’s success than White did to Sugar
Bowl-bound West Virginia. Channeling a young Michael Vick, he lit a
spark under the moribund Mountaineer offense, breaking down opposing
defenses with his feet and stamping himself as the heir apparent to
Rasheed Marshall. In just over half a season, White ran for 875 yards
and accounted for 14 touchdowns.
Offensive Freshman of the Year
*RB Tyrell Sutton, Northwestern – Not long after leaving high
school, Sutton developed into a workhorse back and an ideal complement
to Brett Basanez and the Northwestern passing attack. He runs low and
hard and is very difficult to get a clean lick on. Sutton accounted for
1,719 yards and 18 touchdowns, both tops among this year’s freshman
*RB Darren McFadden, Arkansas – In less than one year at the
college level, McFadden already has the look of a future star. He’s big
and fast and runs with the kind of attitude inherent to so many great
backs. In a two-game stretch against Georgia and South Carolina, he
tore off 377 yards, and finished the season with 1,113 yards and 11
scores on the ground.
Sidney Rice, South Carolina – Rice is the first of many Gamecocks
that are going to get rich because of Steve Spurrier’s offense. He
didn’t test all that well coming out of high school, but passed with
high marks this year, catching 58 passes for 952 and 12 touchdowns, and
earning All-SEC first team honors. Rice has all the gifts to be the
best wide receiver Spurrier has ever coached.
WR James Hardy, Indiana – The 6-6 Hardy blossomed beyond
expectations in his first year, catching 61 balls for 893 yards and 10
touchdowns. Oh, not only does he create match ups nightmares for every
Big Ten defensive back, but he also has soft hands and catches the ball
very well in traffic.
Chase Coffman, Missouri – The son of former NFL great Paul Coffman
looks like a chip off the old block. A backup to Martin Rucker, Coffman
still surpassed all freshmen tight ends with 39 catches for 404 yards
and three catches, saving his best game for Kansas State, dad’s alma
OT Max Unger, Oregon – Had he not injured his hamstring, Unger
would have been a key contributor as a true freshman. As a redshirt, he
protected the blindside of Duck quarterbacks and displayed the toughness
and leverage that led to All-Pac 10 honorable mention recognition.
OG Cole Popovich, Fresno State – In 2004, Popovich was the first
true freshman offensive lineman in the Pat Hill era to start, but was
lost for the season in game two, and forced to burn a redshirt. The
year off did nothing to stunt his development. Popovich enjoyed a
terrific season as one of the Bulldogs most reliable run-blockers.
C Eric Wood, Louisville – On a veteran Cardinal line that allowed
just 21 sacks all year, Wood manned the pivot like an old pro. His
development began in the summer, allowing Jason Spitz to remain at
guard, and continued throughout the fall.
OG Jeremy Perry, Oregon State –
Perry harbors a nasty streak that’s becoming legendary around Corvallis,
a real asset for any lineman. His run and pass blocking skills are so
advanced that league coaches voted him Pac-10 Co-Freshman of the Year
and Beaver coaches foresee an Outland Trophy in the future.
OT Sean Sester, Purdue – Sester improved each week of the
2005 season, culminating in a spot on the All-Big Ten honorable mention
section. Boiler coaches adore his work ethic and athleticism, and
believe he’ll be an anchor once he adds a little more mass to his 6-8
*DE Steve Davis, Minnesota – Davis came to the Gophers as an
outside linebacker, but is growing into a terrific edge pass rusher with
an explosive first step. He led Minnesota with nine tackles for loss
and six sacks, earning All-Big Ten honorable mention honors for his
DT Mitch King, Iowa – King helped fill an enormous void for a
Hawkeye D-line that broke in four new starters this fall. Despite being
built more like a linebacker at 250 pounds, he was named honorable
mention All-Big Ten, a testament to his work ethic and relentless motor.
DT Rashaad Jackson, Clemson – Jackson’s emergence was a big boost
for a Tiger line that was sorely lacking depth early in the season.
He’s got a very solid base, which enabled him to collect 34 tackles, six
in the opposition’s backfield.
DE Brian Orakpo, Texas – Orakpo showed enough in a reserve role
to be named Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year by league coaches. He
lacks prototypical size, yet is a sensational all-around athlete with
the strength of a tackle and speed of a linebacker.
*LB Michael Brown, Duke – Brown supplanted the injured Codey Lowe
early in the year, and cemented his spot at middle linebacker through
the 2008 season. He’s a bit undersized, but has great instincts and
pursues very well, as evidenced by his team-leading 92 tackles, 10
tackles for loss and three forced fumbles.
LB Rashad Bobino, Texas – It takes a special freshman to make
immediate contributions on a defense that’s as deep and established as
the Longhorns. Bobino is just such an athlete. He started all year for
Texas, flashing great sideline-to-sideline speed and a knack for
delivering quite a pop. Of his 53 tackles, seven were for negative
*LB Freddie Fairchild, Arkansas – A force at the strongside,
Fairchild is a big part of the youth movement that’s sweeping through
Fayetteville. He’s already showing a keen nose for the ball, collecting
57 tackles and six for loss, despite not beginning the year as the
CB Alphonso Smith, Wake Forest – Smith made his mark in the
spring and summer, and just kept getting once the season began. He
makes crisp breaks on passes, and was seemingly everywhere this fall,
racking up the tackles and tackles for loss like a safety, yet picking
off three passes and breaking up nine.
*S Courtney Greene, Rutgers – Greene didn’t get too involved with
pass defense, but was absolutely ferocious whenever opposing offenses
ran the ball. He sheds blockers very well for a young player and led
the Scarlet Knight defense—and all freshmen—with 104 tackles.
Defensive Freshman of the Year
*S Kenny Phillips, Miami – Phillips assimilated very quickly into
the veteran ‘Cane defense, grabbing a starting job after Anthony Reddick
tore his ACL and immediately sending notice that he’s the next big thing
in Miami safeties. He plays on the edge and with attitude, but also
backed it up by finishing third in tackles on a Miami defense that’s
jammed with future pros. Phillips will be a Thorpe Award candidate
*CB Joe Burnett, UCF – UCF’s shocking turnaround from an 0-11
season was fueled by underclassmen, and few were more significant than
Burnett, the team leader in interceptions and the conference leader in
punt returns. He is a superb all-around athlete, and his selection to
the All-C-USA first team portends an extremely bright future in Orlando.
Chris Miller, Ball State – Miller is the reason Ball State finished
third in the MAC in net punting. He averaged nearly 44 yards a boot,
best among freshmen, and pinned opponents inside their own 20 on 20
occasions last fall.
K Sam Swank, Wake Forest – Along with punter Ryan Plackemeier,
Swank gave the Deacons the best special teams unit this side of Boulder,
Colo. Swank proved to be more than just a huge leg, nailing 19-of-24
field goals, including both attempts from outside 50.
*KR Felix Jones, Arkansas – Jones is an explosive talent, even if
he was somewhat lost in the long shadow of fellow freshman RB Darren
McFadden. He averaged more than six yards on his 99 carries and led the
country with a gaudy 32-yard kickoff return average.
*PR Joe Burnett, UCF – Burnett pulled a rare double play, picking
up First Team Freshman All-America honors as both a cornerback and a
punt returner. On special teams, he was No. 6 nationally in punt return
average, going the distance in each of the last two UCF games.
QB Drew Weatherford, Florida State – It
was a trying season of ups and downs for Weatherford, who threw 17
interceptions and was pressured relentlessly, yet matured exponentially
since September and has already won his first ACC title. Particularly
late in the season, his development was stunted by an O-line that was
struggling in pass protection.
*RB Steve Slaton, West Virginia – In a season filled with
surprises, Slaton’s emergence as an All-Big East stud ranked near the
top of the list. Someone was going to pile up yards in this offense,
but everyone figured it would have been junior Jason Colson or fellow
freshman Jason Gwaltney. Instead, it was Slaton who carried the load,
running for 14 touchdowns and more than 100 yards in six of the final
*RB Jamaal Charles, Texas – Even on the crowded Longhorn offense,
Texas’ gamebreaking back was able to account for 1,000 yards and 13
touchdowns from scrimmage. He’s a homerun hitter, who averaged almost
eight yards a carry and might have been a first-teamer if not for some
injury woes in the middle of the year.
*WR Earl Bennett, Vanderbilt – Bennett established a new SEC
record for freshman with 79 for 876 yards and nine touchdowns. Three
times in the final month of the season, he caught at least 10 passes in
a game, which wisely motivated AP voters to include him on the All-SEC
*WR Davone Bess, Hawaii – Hawaii’s WAC Freshman of the Year can
leap out of the stadium and was a nightmare for defensive backs to
contain this season. He quickly developed a rapport with new hurler
Colt Brennan, pulling a freshman-best 89 balls for 1,124 yards and 14
TE Shawn Nelson, Southern Miss – After top receiver Antwon
Courington was lost for the year with a knee injury, Nelson took over as
Dustin Almond’s preferred target, catching a pass in every game this
season. He finished the year with 29 grabs for 419 yards and three
OT Ryan Clady, Boise State – Clady is a Bronco behemoth, who
formed quite a bookend this fall with All-WAC linemate Daryn Colledge.
Following the bowl game, Colledge is off to the NFL, meaning Clady
instantly becomes the pillar of the Boise O-line for the next three
OG Dallas Reynolds, BYU – Reynolds is a 345-pound drive blocker,
who’s following in the large footsteps of brother Lance, a preseason
Rimington Trophy candidate. He started every game for one of the
nation’s top offenses, and with his LDS mission in the rear view mirror,
won’t have any breaks in his athletic development.
*C Jonathan Luigs, Arkansas – Luigs was lightly recruited, but
wound up being one of this year’s biggest surprises for the Hogs. He
spent most of the season at guard before filling in for injured center
Kyle Roper, and is expected to take over at the position full-time in
OG Antoine Caldwell, Alabama – The 2005 season was a transition
period for the young ‘Bama O-line, but the growing pains will pay
dividends for years to come because of players such as Caldwell. He
displays terrific athleticism and footwork, and in a pinch, can also
shift inside and play center.
OT Yemi Babalola, Texas A&M – A starter for all 11 Aggie games,
Babalola was named honorable mention All-Big 12 by the media. He’s an
extremely physical lineman, who beat out veteran Jami Hightower in
August and is quickly earning a reputation as A&M’s most consistent
deliverer of pancake blocks.
Barry Turner, Nebraska – As a situational pass rusher for the
Blackshirts, Turner blocked a pair of kicks and notched a school
freshmen-record six sacks in his first season out of high school. He is
blessed with the kind of speed and athleticism that portend plenty more
sacks over the next three seasons.
*DT McKinner Dixon, Texas Tech – Dixon is the type of lineman
that typically winds up in Austin or College Station, and Tech fans are
absolutely geeked he’ll be in Lubbock the next three years. A former
end, who’s grown into a tackle, Dixon picked up six tackles for loss and
some valuable reps en route to becoming a future star in the Big 12.
DT Nick Vacardipane, Western Michigan – Vacardipane was one of
the unsung Bronco heroes in the resurgence that took place in Kalamazoo
this past year. He used a nice blend of size and speed to collect 50
tackles, eight tackles for loss and five sacks in his first season.
*DE Matt Shaughnessy, Wisconsin – Badger coaches absolutely love Shaughnessy, and why not? He’s very
big and very quick, and was maturing into Wisconsin’s best pass rusher
before tearing his ACL in November. Shaughnessy was named All-Big Ten
honorable mention and Wisconsin’s rookie of the year for 2005.
*LB Greg Trent, Washington State
– Trent did a pretty believable Will Derting impression after the
perennial All-Pac 10 linebacker was lost to injury. Manning the middle
like a veteran, he was in on 69 tackles, second best on the Wazzu
LB Jason Phillips, TCU – A backup fullback just nine months
ago, Phillips parlayed 63 tackles and 7½ tackles for loss into becoming
just the fourth freshman in Mountain West history to be named to the
league’s all-conference team.
LB Bryant Haines, Ball State – At 6-5, Haines is destined for
defensive end once he adds some much-needed girth. For now, he’s a
pretty disruptive linebacker, who paced the Ball State defense with 83
tackles and added seven tackles behind the line.
*CB Louis Delmas, Western Michigan – Playing one of the most
demanding positions for a first-year player, Delmas immediately excelled
in the Bronco secondary. Flashing good quickness and instincts, he had
82 tackles and three picks, which helped solidify a spot on the All-MAC
S Patrick Chung, Oregon – The Ducks’ big-hitting rover finished
the regular season with a pair of interceptions and 79 tackles, good for
second on the team. He brought a much-needed attitude to the Oregon
secondary and was named honorable mention All-Pac 10 last month.
S Michael Hamlin, Clemson – Hamlin cracked the starting lineup
midway through the season, and made the promotion look like a stroke of
genius. He contributed 53 tackles in six starts at CAT safety, and at
6-3 and 200 pounds, can pack a wallop like a linebacker.
*CB Mike Mickens, Cincinnati – Head coach Mark Dantonio was in
dire of need of a lock down corner this season, and it didn’t take long
before Mickens accepted the role. He was active in run support, but
more important, broke up 15 passes in 10 games, which was second best in
*P Justin Brantly, Texas A&M – Brantly wants to follow in the
footsteps of former Aggie All-America Shane Lechler. He’s off to a
smashing start after averaging more than 43 yards a kick just a year out
of prep school and smashing his idol’s school mark for freshmen set a
*K Jordan Congdon, Nebraska – Congdon picked up where he left off
his All-America high school career, connecting on 81% of his field goal
attempts and setting a Husker record with 18 three-pointers in a single
season. Just 19, he’s got the unflappable demeanor that usually doesn’t
develop until a kicker reaches the NFL.
KR Cedric Peerman, Virginia – Before spraining his knee in early
November, Peerman was leading ACC rookies in all-purpose yards and
appeared headed for an all-conference season. Despite the setback, he
finished the regular year second in the ACC in kickoff return average.
*PR Brandon Tate, North Carolina – Tate was one busy Tar Heel
this fall, fielding 50 returns and finishing third in the ACC in both
punt and kickoff returns. For his efforts on special teams, he was
given honorable mention on this year’s all-conference squad.
Tim Hiller, Western Michigan – Thrust into the starting lineup
midway through the season, Hiller was a revelation and the eventual
Freshman of the Year in the MAC. In just five full games, the polished
teen threw for 1,334 and 20 touchdowns, while getting picked just three
times and helping guide the Broncos to their best season in five years.
*RB Ontario Sneed, Central Michigan – Asked to replace incumbent
Jerry Seymour just before the season began, Sneed stepped into an
impossible situation, yet authored one of the most productive years in
Chippewa history. In 11 starts, he scored 11 times and produced 1,498
yards from scrimmage, second among freshman to just Northwestern’s
*RB James Davis, Clemson – Before injuring his wrist in mid
October, Davis was a sensational blend of power and speed, and the best
thing in a Clemson back in years. His numbers were stunted by the time
off, but Davis was still honored as the ACC Rookie of the Year.
WR Deon Butler, Penn State – A former walk-on, Butler quickly
became Michael Robinson’s favorite target and ended up leading Penn
State receivers in every statistical category. After stud freshman
Derrick Williams was lost for the year at the midway point, Butler
actually elevated his game to fill the gaping void in the receiving
WR Ryan Grice-Mullen, Hawaii – With all due respect to Florida
State’s Greg Carr and Arizona’s Michael Thomas, both of whom had
breakthrough seasons, it’s just impossible to ignore the kind of numbers
Grice-Mullen posted this year. Yeah, Hawaii throws the ball a million
times, but 85 catches, 13 touchdowns and a freshmen-best 1,228 receiving
yards are incredible for any first-year player.
*TE Martellus Bennett, Texas A&M – At 6-7 and 250 pounds, Bennett
has the potential to be one of the game’s premier pass-catchers,
however, his biggest impact in 2005 was as a run blocker in the Aggie
ground game. Bennett suffered from a bad case of the drops in
September, but improved as the year progressed.
*OT Jared Gaither, Maryland – At 6-9 and way north of 300 pounds,
Gaither is bigger than any lineman—or power forward—to ever play in
College Park. His size is surpassed only by his potential, and despite
struggling at times in his rookie year, Gaither exhibited flashes of
greatness as a starter in the second half of the year.
OG B.J. Stabler, Alabama – Stabler broke into the starting lineup
in week three, and never looked back, locking down the job at right
guard for the balance of the year. Like the rest of the young Tide
front, he took his share of lumps this past fall, but should be better
for it by the time the 2006 season begins.
C David Washington, Oklahoma State – Washington won the starting
job in the spring, and wound up being an 11-game rock in the middle for
the Cowboys. Washington is particularly adept at the shotgun snap, a
necessity in Mike Gundy’s offense.
*OG Michael Oher, Ole Miss – One of Ed Orgeron’s prized recruits
from his first class has already paid dividends. Yeah, Oher missed his
share of assignments, but the 330-pund teen started the Rebs’ last 10
games and is on the fast track to a cult following in the grove.
*OT Alex Boone, Ohio State – The hulking teen stepped into the
lineup for injured starter Kirk Barton in October and quickly showed why
he was one of the most coveted recruits in the nation earlier in the
year. With senior Rob Sims vacating his left tackle spot, Buckeye
coaches will find a way to get Boone on the field more regularly in
Kevin Grant, Akron – From his bandit position, Grant finished the
regular season fourth on the Zips with 10½ tackles for loss and third
with 4½ sacks. He’s only 6-2 and 235 pounds, but makes up for his size
with outstanding acceleration and field awareness.
*DT Chase Moline, UCLA – Moline didn’t get many looks coming out
of high school, however, he’s turned plenty of heads ever since. He
compensates for a lack of off-the-charts size and speed with
intangibles, such as toughness and work ethic, and has been a starter on
the Bruin interior since September.
DT Jason Chapman, Wisconsin – For a 6-4, 280-pound lineman,
Chapman exhibits the quickness and athletic tendencies of a defensive
end. He stepped into the lineup after starter Justin Ostrowski suffered
a preseason knee injury, and exceeded the coaching staff’s expectations.
DE Craig Rusch, Northern Illinois – Despite missing nearly a
third of the season, Rusch helped solidify the Huskie defensive line and
led the team with six sacks. He has a non-stop motor, and if he winds
up adding some bulk, could eventually move inside for Joe Novak.
LB Clint Sintim, Virginia – Sintim has his sights set on becoming the next great linebacker to
play for Al Groh. He’s off to a fine start. Sintim started every game
at outside linebacker for the Cavs, finishing the regular season fifth
in tackles and third in sacks and tackles for loss.
*LB Corey Smith, Cincinnati – Someone was going to benefit
from the mass exodus that took place on the Cincinnati defense last year
and Smith made sure he was one of the chief beneficiaries. Before a
shoulder injury curtailed his season, he was making plays everywhere and
leading the young Bearcats in tackles with 64.
*LB Daniel Holtzclaw, Eastern Michigan – Holtzclaw performed well
enough in his rookie year to even overcome the anonymity of playing in
Ypsilanti, Mich. In 11 starts, he contributed 86 stops, 5½ tackles for
loss and led EMU with three interceptions.
CB Tony Carter, Florida State – What Carter lacks in stature, he
makes up for with quickness and developing ball skills. He got banged
up at times during this first year, but saw enough action to break up
eight passes while building a solid foundation for the next three years.
*S Reggie Smith, Oklahoma – Smith gave hints as the starter this
season why many around Norman feel he’ll develop into the next in a long
line of great Sooner strong safeties. He has all the tools to be a
force in the Oklahoma secondary real soon, and picked up some valuable
on-the-job training in 2005 as the program as a whole began to grow up
S Jason Venson, UCF – Had it not been for a knee injury, Venson
would have earned plenty of reps last year as a true freshman. Instead,
he flourished this fall as the Knights’ leading tackler and a versatile
safety, who showed a steady knack for really dishing out the punishment.
CB Keenan Lewis, Oregon State – As a whole, the Beaver secondary
took its lumps in 2005, and Lewis can’t be excluded. Opposing
quarterbacks looked his way often, however, he got off the turf every
Saturday, and finished the season with a team-best 11 passes defended.
P Britton Colquitt, Tennessee – Britton is the next in a long
line of Colquitts that have handled punting duties in Knoxville. He
averaged a modest 41 yards a punt, but got better as the season
progressed and dropped more than a third of his kicks inside the
opponents 20-yard line.
*K Kevin Kelly, Penn State – For the first time in three years,
the Lions could count on a consistent kicker when drives stalled. Kelly
missed just five field goals all year, and set the Penn State
single-season record for points by a freshman.
KR Jessie Henderson, SMU – A reserve running back with a great
burst, Henderson led C-USA in kickoff return average and took one back
for a touchdown in the September loss to Tulane.
*PR B.J. Hill, Ball State – Hill was second to just Miami’s Ryne
Robinson in MAC punt returners, averaging more than 11 yards each time
he shunned the fair catch. At just 5-7 and 170, he showed a penchant
for getting lost behind his blockers and squirting through small cracks