2009 CFN All-Redshirt Freshman Team - Defense
Notre Dame DE Kapron Lewis-Moore
Notre Dame DE Kapron Lewis-Moore
Posted Jul 31, 2009

Who are college football's newest stars? Richard Cirminiello highlights the best of the best redshirt freshmen defenders going into the 2009 season.

CollegeFootballNews.com Preview 2009

Redshirt Freshman All-America Defense

Compiled by Richard Cirminiello

- 2009 Preview | 2009 CFN Redshirt All-America Offense
- 2008 CFN Redshirt All-America Offense
2007 CFN Redshirt All-America Offense

For 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.

DE Tyler 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 backfield.

LB 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.

LB Demetrius 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.

CB 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.

S 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.

CB 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.

Special Teams

PK 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.

P 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 MentionDefense

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 (Virginia Tech)

LB: Kyle Mangan (Texas A&M), Keanon Cooper (Minnesota), and Steve Greer (Virginia)

S: Brandon Smith (Michigan)

CB: Jeremy Brown (Florida)

PK: Spencer Benton (Clemson), Logan Barrett (UTEP)

P: Daniel Zychlinski (Stanford), Quinn Sharp (Oklahoma State), and Tress Way (Oklahoma)

- 2009 CFN Redshirt All-America Offense