2008 CFN All-Redshirt Freshman Team - Defense
Clemson LB Brandon Maye
Clemson LB Brandon Maye
Posted Aug 14, 2008

Who are college football's newest stars? Richard Cirminiello highlights the best of the best redshirt freshmen defenders.

2008 CFN Redshirt Freshman

All-America De

Compiled by Richard Cirminiello

2008 Preview | 2008 CFN Redshirt All-America Offense
- 2007 CFN Redshirt All-America Defense

For hundreds of freshmen across the country, last season was undoubtedly the most frustrating of their athletic careers. Sure, there was plenty of developing taking place, both physically and intellectually, but there were no games to be played, no competition on Saturdays, and no box scores that housed their names. For a variety of reasons, these idle warriors were redshirted in 2007 with the design that they’d return this year a little bigger, a little stronger, and a lot better prepared to start paying dividends for all those recruiting trips, phone calls and text messages during the courting process.     

DE Jake Bequette, Arkansas – Bequette was one of the surprises of the spring, shooting up from the depths of the depth chart to winning a starting job. Based on his performance, he’ll stay there once the season begins. Naturally quick for a 265-pound strongside end, he has a non-stop motor and tireless work ethic that caught the attention of Bobby Petrino’s new staff. The Hogs need to generate more pocket pressure this fall, something Bequette plans to provide.    

DT Richard Johnson, Kansas – Johnson is set to take over in the middle for James McClinton, a player he emulates in many important ways. He was in the rotation a year ago before the staff decided to give him a redshirt season to get bigger and stronger. The reigning defensive scout team player of the year, he can jump the snap to get penetration and has already shown one of the best work ethics on the roster. McClinton will be missed, but a little less because of Johnson’s development.

Tydreke Powell
, North Carolina – Powell is part of a deep and talented rotation of tackles in Chapel Hill that includes Marvin Austin, Aleric Mullins, and Cam Thomas. He’s too disruptive not to be on the field, combining quickness and physical play to make plays for negative yards. He moves exceptionally well for a 6-3, 310-pounder, validating the slew of offers he received from ACC and SEC schools.

DE Matt Conrath, Virginia – Although there’s no easy way to replace All-American Chris Long on the outside, Conrath is an excellent place to start. A rising star in Charlottesville, he’s been turning heads since arriving on campus. An imposing 6-7, 270-pounder, he has the quick first step to bolt around the edge and the upper body strength to impact the run defense like a third tackle.

LB Austin Box, Oklahoma – The favorite to start at weakside, Box is set to bridge a fantastic high school career that drew national honors. Highly instinctive with a nose for the ball, he moves and covers like a 6-2, 225-pound safety. Although he still needs a little more fine-tuning, the physical characteristics are in place for him to be a four-year starter and an all-star at some point in his Sooner career.

LB Brandon Maye, Clemson – While there are still legitimate concerns regarding the rebuilt Tiger linebacker unit, Maye quieted them with his performance in the spring. At only 6-1 and pounds, he’ll need to fill out, but makes up for a lack of size by playing with non-stop energy, tremendous range, and an air of unmistakable confidence. With so many new faces in the mix, he’s liable to be the catalyst of the linebackers in his rookie year.

LB Alex Watkins, Alabama – One of the many gems from Nick Saban’s first recruiting class, Watkins is slated to see significant playing time even if he doesn’t start. A dynamite athlete at 6-4 and 225 pounds, he has natural pass rushing skills, and could eventually project as a rush end from the weakside if he adds more weight and muscle. 

CB Phelon Jones, LSU – Jones has a great future in Baton Rouge, but may need to make an immediate impact at a position in flux for the program. While he’ll surely get burned some in his first season of action, he also has the athletic ability and smooth hips to blanket receivers and take the first steps toward becoming a lockdown corner who survives in man coverages.

S Earl Thomas, Texas – Thomas’ emergence is a must for a Longhorn defense looking for more consistency from the defensive backs. While built like a cornerback at 5-10 and 190 pounds, he’s all safety when he squares up and lowers his shoulder. One of the program’s standouts from the spring, he’s holding down the job at free safety, pending what transpires in summer drills.

Jordan Pendleton
, BYU – Very big and very fast, the 6-2, 218-pound Pendleton gives the staff options on where he’ll best be utilized in Provo. An ideal fit to patrol the secondary at strong safety, he could also be considered at outside linebacker. An instant playmaker wherever he lines up, he only needs some reps and live action to begin approaching a high ceiling.

CB Jamell Fleming, Oklahoma – The likely backup to Brian Jackson on one side of the field, Fleming has already made a positive impression in just his second season on campus. He elevates well, has good catch-up speed, and plays with sound fundamentals and technique. Questions about his ability to step up and support the run were answered over and over again in the spring.

Special Teams

PK Jay Wooten, North Carolina – Now that steady Connor Barth is gone, Wooten is being counted on to be consistent on field goals and reliable in the clutch. Leg strength won’t be an issue for one of the nation’s top kicking recruits, nor will his length on kickoffs. The Heels figure to be involved in plenty of tight games this fall, raising the stakes for their new placekicker.

P Bryan Anger, Cal – It’s not common for a punter to qualify as a spring star. Anger, however, is emerging as a rare talent at the position. A strapping 6-4, 200-pounder, he consistently belted out 60-yarders, drawing oohs and aahs for his distance and hang time. He’ll be a field position weapon for a Cal defense that’ll gladly take the assist.   

Honorable Mention – Defense

DE: Richetti Jones, Oklahoma State, Ryan Van Bergen, Michigan, Frank Alexander, Oklahoma, Kentrell Lockett, Ole Miss, and Adewale Ojomo, Miami

DT: Dennis Godfrey, Wake Forest

LB: Travis Lewis, Oklahoma, D.J. Holt, Cal, Kyle Jackson, Georgia Tech, Manny Abreu, Rutgers, Anthony Perkins, Colorado, Garrick Williams, Texas A&M, Chris Galippo, USC, and Jerry Franklin, Arkansas

S: Ben Wells, Texas and Justin Byers, NC State

CB: Dequan Bembry, Marshall and Quinton Richardson, Washington

Honorable Mention – Special Teams

PK: David Green, Stanford, Chris Hinkebein, Virginia, San San Te, Rutgers, Stephen Hoge, Kansas, and  Philip Welch, Wisconsin

P: Chris Hagerup, Indiana, Justin Kucek, Minnesota, and Brad DeBauche, Wisconsin

- 2008 CFN Redshirt All-America Offense