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2009 CFN Redshirt
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literally hundreds of true freshmen across the country, last season was
undoubtedly the most frustrating of their athletic careers. Sure, there
was plenty of development and maturation going on, both physically and
intellectually, but there were no games to be played, no competition on
Saturdays, and no box scores housing their names. For a variety of
reasons, these idle warriors were redshirted in 2008, with the design
that they’d return this year a little bigger, a little stronger, and
much better prepared to start paying dividends for all those recruiting
trips, phone calls and text messages during the courtship.
Redshirt freshmen are somewhat of a mystery in college football. While
hardly the same young men they were on Signing Day 18 months ago, have
they grown enough to be productive this fall? As always, it depends on
the athlete in question.
Hoover, Michigan State – A physically imposing strongside end at 6-7 and 268 pounds, Hoover is already closing in on a spot atop
the depth chart. With the strength of a tackle, which is where he might
eventually wind up, and the swim move of an outside rusher, he could
deliver for a Spartan line that needs a complement Trevor Anderson on
the other side. A former tight end, he’s a nice athlete, but must avoid
playing high and allowing his stature to be turned against him.
DT Baker Steinkuhler, Nebraska – It’s not a matter of “if”, but when Steinkuhler will be a force up
front in the Big 12. The only five-star player to ever come out of Nebraska, he’s a convert
from the offensive side of the ball, who’ll be learning as a backup and
a key member of the rotation. At 6-6 and 295 pounds, he’s physically
ready to contribute, and has the tenacity, explosiveness, and uncommon
agility to eventually become the run-stuffing successor to Ndamukong Suh
in the middle.
Kawann Short, Purdue – Although Short wasn’t among the most
heralded linemen in the Midwest, he’ll
get an early chance to make plenty of schools sorry they didn’t go after
him harder. Already slotted into the starting lineup for the
Boilermakers, he’s won’t get pushed around at 6-4 and 310 pounds. Also a
talented basketball player at East Chicago Central High in
Indiana, he’s developed excellent feet and
balance to go along with his brute strength.
DE Kapron Lewis-Moore,
Notre Dame – Lewis-Moore used his first year in
South Bend to concentrate on the books, both his
playbook and textbooks. It paid off. As camp opens, the 6-4, 265-pound Texas product is first in line to land one of
the starting end jobs. About 40 pounds bigger than when he first
arrived, he now has the girth to hold up in run defense, yet still
possesses that quick first step to get around the corner and into the
Sean Fisher, Nebraska – The Husker
linebackers, in general, have a lot to prove, which means there’ll be no
honeymoon period for Fisher. The projected starter at buck linebacker,
he showed outstanding growth and development throughout the offseason.
An unusually rangy defender at 6-6 and 230 pounds, he can cover a large
chunk of the field in a short period of time, and has the size to match
up well with tight ends in pass coverage.
Hartsfield, Maryland – It’s early, naturally, but the 6-2, 230-pound
Hartsfield has the physical tools to be the next big thing at a school
accustomed to producing pro-caliber linebackers.
An explosive defender, with a
sudden first step, he’s the prototypical Terrapin outside linebacker,
playing with outstanding intensity and athleticism. At his best going
north and south, he’ll be unleashed liberally on the blitz as the new
starter at weakside.
LB Douglas Rippy, Colorado – The Buffaloes
traveled all the way to Ohio
to ink Rippy, and they’re thrilled they did. After playing well on the
scout team and improving his strength, he emerged this spring as a
starter at one of the outside spots. At 6-1 and 230 pounds, he plays
with good pad level and has already displayed the instincts and
sure-tackling of a more seasoned player. He should get plenty of chances
to make plays and begin building a resume this fall.
Aaron Hester, UCLA – It’s
going to be a rather busy year for Hester as opposing quarterbacks look
to avoid the side of All-America candidate Alterraun Verner. Don’t
assume he won’t be up to the challenge. That he’s young and
inexperienced is a given, but he also has no shortage of confidence or
physical talent, both of which will come in handy this fall. At 6-1 and
200 pounds, he has the size to support in run defense and the speed and
instincts to endure in pass coverage. If he overcomes the initial wave
of attacks, he’ll end up getting Freshman All-America consideration.
S Drew Frey, Cincinnati – In an otherwise difficult spot,
the Cincy defensive backfield gets some good news with the return of the
6-3, 210-pound Frey from a
broken arm. Seemingly on the brink of a breakthrough in 2008, he was
lost after four games and shortly after cracking the lineup. He had last
year restored by the NCAA, meaning he’s in a rare position to be
classified as a freshman for a third straight fall. A former corner, he
has the size, quickness, and football IQ to become a real gem as soon as
he plays a full year.
Joseph Ibiloye, Oklahoma – Ibiloye is going to do an apprenticeship
this fall, but before too long he figures to be one of the intimidators
of the Sooner secondary. Trained as a linebacker and built nearly as big
at 6-4 and 205 pounds, he has the closing speed and tackling skills to
just blow up opposing players. He’ll letter this season before assuming
a more expanded role in 2010.
Garrett Nicholson, BYU – The
Cougar coaching staff is counting on Nicholson being ready to lock down
one of the starting corner jobs in his first season eligibility. He
better be, or else opposing quarterbacks will attack him relentlessly.
One of the fastest members of the program, he’s a quality all-around
athlete with the bounce in his step to play much taller than his frame.
Ryan Fowler, Vanderbilt – One
of the nation’s top placekicking prospects coming out of Eastside (S.C.)
High School, he’ll get a chance to back that up this September. He’s
shown outstanding leg strength since arriving, especially on kickoffs,
and enough accuracy to end any debates regarding the starter.
Considering how often the Commodores play tight games, his development
will have a big impact on the 2009 season.
Jeff Locke, UCLA – While it
won’t be easy replacing Aaron Perez, the Bruins can take solace in the
availability of Locke, one of the country’s premier punters of 2008. A
big, strong player, he has tremendous leg drive and the fundamentals to
win the field positional battle with his directional kicks. In an
emergency, he’s also shown the ability to deliver consistently on field
goals and extra points.
Honorable Mention – Defense
DE: Chase Clement (LSU),
Wes Horton (USC),
Kerry Murphy (Alabama), Dravannti Johnson (Texas), Shayne Hale
(Pittsburgh), and Masengo Kabongo (Maryland)
DT: Jerel Worthy (Michigan State), Cory Grissom (South Florida), Stacy
McGee (Oklahoma), Garrett Goebel (Ohio State), and Antoine Hopkins
LB: Kyle Mangan
(Texas A&M), Keanon Cooper (Minnesota), and Steve Greer (Virginia)
Daniel Zychlinski (Stanford), Quinn Sharp (Oklahoma State),
2009 CFN Redshirt