There was a time not all that long ago when it was rare to see a freshman college football player gain national notoriety. These days, though, we’ve seen many cases of freshmen coming in and making an instant impact.
In recent years, big-name stars such as Johnny Manziel, Marqise Lee, LaMichael James and Adrian Peterson all became household names during their freshman years.
This season, Florida State QB Jameis Winston has been the latest freshman to take the sport by storm.
Though Winston has been the most talked-about freshman of the year, there have been plenty of other young players who have put together outstanding debut campaigns.
Here’s a look at my 2013 College Football Freshman All-American Team.
QB: Jameis Winston, Florida State
In each of the last three seasons, there has been a dynamic dual-threat quarterback who captured the attention of the college football world. In 2010, it was Cam Newton at Auburn. In 2011, it was Robert Griffin III at Baylor. Then last season, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel became the sport’s new rock star.
This year, Florida State’s Jameis Winston has kept that trend going, as he’s become the biggest breakout star of the 2013 season.
After sitting for a year and watching EJ Manuel guide the Seminoles to an ACC championship in 2012, Winston has taken the offensive reigns this season and proven to be the perfect playmaker to lead Jimbo Fisher’s offensive attack.
“Famous Jameis” has completed 69 percent of his passes, averaged over 11 yards per throw and totaled 35 touchdowns. He’s emerged as the odds-on favorite to win the Heisman Trophy, and he’s led the undefeated Seminoles into position to make their first national championship game appearance since the 2001 Orange Bowl.
Obviously, the ongoing investigation into sexual battery accusations levied against Winston has dramatically altered the discourse surrounding Winston’s 2013 season. However, if you’re just judging the charismatic and captivating signal-caller by his on-field performance, there’s not another freshman player in the country that can even compare to him.
RB: Alex Collins, Arkansas
During his time as head coach at Wisconsin, Bret Bielema helped produce plenty of highly productive running backs such as Montee Ball, James White, P.J. Hill and John Clay. Now, in his first year at Arkansas, Bielema has once again groomed and developed another great young rusher: freshman Alex Collins.
Collins—who made headlines for all the wrong reasons on National Signing Day when his mother reportedly hijacked his letter of intent—has proven to be a perfect fit for the Arkansas offense. Though the former 4-star recruit from Florida has had to split carries with fellow back Jonathan Williams, he’s still been the most productive freshman back in the country.
With one game left, the 5’11”, 206-pound freshman is just two yards away from topping the 1,000-yard rushing mark. After enduring a bizarre bump in the road during his recruitment, Collins now looks like he’s destined to follow in the footsteps of recent Razorback rushers like Darren McFadden, Felix Jones and Knile Davis and become one of the most feared backs in the SEC.
RB: Shock Linwood, Baylor
The success of Baylor’s explosive high-powered offensive attack has been mainly predicated on the play of the team’s dynamic trio of QB Bryce Petty, RB Lache Seastrunk and WR Antwan Goodley. However, there’s simply no way the Bears offense would be as potent and powerful if it wasn’t for the contributions of RB Shock Linwood.
While he’s been overshadowed by his much more heralded backfield partner Seastrunk, Linwood has been just as impressive and just as consistent as his junior teammate.
The Texas native, who only received one offer from another BCS school (TCU) during his days at Linden-Kildare High School, has rushed for 841 yards on just 121 carries (6.9 yards per touch) and scored eight touchdowns. He’s currently tied for fourth in the Big 12 with 25 rushes of over 10 yards.
With Seastrunk likely headed to the NFL following the conclusion of the season, Baylor’s rushing attack will still be in great shape with Linwood set to take over as the true featured back in 2014.
WR: Tyler Boyd, Pittsburgh
Coming into the 2013 season, highly touted senior receiver Devin Street was the Pitt playmaker who everyone was buzzing about. This season, however, Street has been outshined by breakout star freshman Tyler Boyd.
Though Panther fans clearly had high hopes for the former All-American recruit from nearby Clairton, Pennsylvania, no one could have expected Boyd to be so good so quickly. In his debut season, the rangy 6’2”, 185-pound pass-catcher has emerged as the focal point of the Panthers’ passing attack, leading the team with 68 catches for 903 yards and scoring seven touchdowns.
Boyd has only just begun to tap into his true potential. When the long and lean freshman finally fills out his frame and figures out how to truly make the most of all his impressive physical gifts, he’ll be one of the most dominant receivers in all of college football.
ACC defensive coordinators, beware.
WR: Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss
DE Robert Nkemdiche—the No. 1 overall ranked prospect of the 2013 recruiting class— may have been the Ole Miss incoming freshman who received the most publicity this offseason. However, it’s actually been WR Laquon Treadwell who has been the Rebel freshman who has made the biggest impact in 2013.
Admittedly, Treadwell garnered his fair share of respect as well during the recruiting process. The former blue-chip 5-star recruit from Illinois was considered to be one of the top overall prospects in the 2013 class. It certainly hasn’t taken Treadwell long to prove that he deserved his high school hype.
This year, the 6’3”, 215-pound freshman has led the Rebels with 58 catches for 500 yards and scored five touchdowns. His dazzling 25-yard touchdown catch against Troy, in which he basically embarrassed the entire Trojans defense, goes to show what he’s really capable of.
His emergence is a key reason why the team’s other talented wide out Donte Moncrief will likely bolt for the NFL after the season ends. Moncrief surely recognizes just how talented Treadwell really is, and he likely won’t want him stealing some of his thunder again in 2014.
TE: Maxx Williams, Minnesota
Minnesota’s offense certainly hasn’t tried to beat opponents through the air this season. The Golden Gophers currently rank 120th nationally with just 212 total pass attempts.
Since his team has been so reluctant to throw the ball this year, Maxx Williams hasn’t had nearly the same amount of opportunities to make plays in the passing game as many other tight ends in college football have. Nevertheless, Williams has still been able to maximize the limited chances that he has had.
The 6’4”, 254-pound freshman has been a solid and reliable target for QB Philip Nelson. Though he’s only totaled 19 catches, Williams has averaged 17.3 yards per reception, and he’s hauled in four touchdowns.
The son of former Gophers center Brian Williams has a bright future ahead of him, and he has a chance to carve out a memorable legacy at Minnesota just like his father did.
OL: Jack Conklin, Michigan State
Michigan State’s offensive line features three veteran senior starters: guards Blake Treadwell and Dan France and right tackle Fou Fonoti. However, you can easily make the argument that freshman newcomer, left tackle Jack Conklin, has been just as impressive in 2013 as his more experienced lineman counterparts.
After an encouraging performance during the offseason, Conklin gained the trust of the Spartans’s coaching staff, which handed him the all-important starting left tackle spot, coming out of camp. So far, the “quiet kid from Plainwell” has rewarded his coaches’ trust, as he’s quickly developed into one of the top young blockers in the country.
The 6’6”, 326-pound redshirt freshman has been the anchor of a Spartans offensive line, which is currently tied for 10th in the nation with just 10 total sacks allowed.
Though Michigan State will miss the presence of Treadwell, France and Fonoti in the trenches next season, it looks like Conklin is fully ready to be the team’s offensive line leader and linchpin for the future.
OL: Alex Kozan, Auburn
There were a lot of reasons why Auburn managed to go just 3-9 in 2012. One of the key factors for the team’s struggles, though, was that the Tigers simply couldn’t establish a consistent rushing attack. Last year, they averaged just four yards per carry.
This season, however, is a totally different story. Heading into this week’s huge Iron Bowl matchup with Alabama, Auburn currently ranks first in the SEC in rushing offense. The Tigers are averaging a whopping 6.4 yards per carry and they’ve already totaled 37 rushing touchdowns.
OG Alex Kozan is one player in particular who has played a crucial role in helping to get Auburn’s rushing attack on track. After spending his redshirt season improving his athleticism and overall strength, the former 4-star recruit from Colorado has flourished in his first year as a starter.
Kozan may not possess the same caliber of rare physical gifts and natural ability that LT Greg Robinson has to offer, and he may not have the type of experience as fellow linemen Chad Slade and Reese Dismkues. Still, the 6’4”, 297-pound freshman has proven to be an invaluable member of one of the most improved offenses in all of college football.
OL: Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame
One of the key reasons why Notre Dame was able to make a surprising run to the BCS championship game last season was that the Irish were able to give QB Everett Golson solid pass-protection, allowing just 18 sacks in 13 games. This year, the offensive line has kept QB Tommy Rees just as safe, as the unit has allowed just seven total sacks, which is currently the second lowest total in the country.
One player who has helped keep Rees properly protected is OT Ronnie Stanely.
After winning the right tackle job in fall camp, Stanley has stepped in and proven to be a steady starter on the edge for the Irish line. The athletic 6’5”, 318-pound redshirt freshman has displayed the type of nimble feet and agility that it takes to become a standout pass-blocker.
The former 4-star recruit from Las Vegas is still noticeably raw and still has a lot to learn from a fundamental standpoint. However, Notre Dame fans definitely have to be excited about the type of intriguing skills that Stanley has shown during his first year as a starter.
OL: Germain Ifedi, Texas A&M
When you happen to play on the same offensive line as Jake Matthews and Cedric Ogbuehi—two of the top offensive tackles in college football, and when you play for an offense that features two of the biggest star playmakers in the country—Johnny Manziel and Mike Evans, obviously, it’s easy to get overlooked. Such is the case for Texas A&M OG Germain Ifedi.
Throughout the season, Manziel, Matthews, Evans and Ogbuehi have all been busy generating plenty of first-round NFL draft buzz, while Ifedi has toiled in relative obscurity. Still, the job that the 6’5”, 311-pound redshirt freshman has done in 2013 is certainly worthy of admiration and appreciation.
The highly touted Houston native has been a key cog in the trenches for one of the most productive offensive attacks in the country. Though both Matthews and Ogbuehi will likely head to the NFL after the season ends, it probably won’t be much longer before Ifedi joins them in the pros some day.
OL: Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss
Laremy Tunsil had to deal with exceedingly high expectations this summer after arriving in Oxford as the consensus top-rated offensive tackle prospect of the 2013 recruiting class. Tunsil has managed to properly cope with the hype, though.
The fresh-faced 19-year-old former All-American recruit is the youngest starting left tackle in college football, but that hasn’t stopped him from proving himself against some of the best talent the sport has to offer.
The highly skilled 6’5”, 315-pound freshman has already won SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week honors during his first season, but that award seems like it’s only just the beginning of what’s sure to be a decorated collegiate career. Though recent No. 1-rated tackle recruits like Mike Adams and Seantrel Henderson failed to make the most of their skills at the collegiate level, Tunsil is a tremendously talented tackle who seems like he should develop into a dominant force over the next few years.
DL: A’Shawn Robinson, Alabama
During Nick Saban’s tenure at Alabama, the Tide have had some solid run-stuffing nose tackles such as Jesse Williams, Terrence Cody and Josh Chapman. After losing Williams to the NFL this offseason, Saban needed to find a new big, physical run-stopper to occupy the middle of the team’s 3-4 defense. Luckily, he was able to sign 5-star recruit A’Shawn Robinson, one of the top defensive prospects of the 2013 recruiting class.
Robinson has come in and instantly filled the void that Williams left, as he’s been the Tide’s most active defensive lineman. The 6’4”, 320-pound freshman currently leads the team with five sacks and ranks second on the team with five tackles for loss. He’s also been one of the key reasons why Alabama ranks fourth nationally in run defense.
It’s rare to see a true freshman make a big impact for a talent-stocked defense like Alabama’s, which goes to show just how special of a season Robinson is really having this year.
DL: Joey Bosa, Ohio State
After losing all four starting defensive linemen from the 2012 season, Ohio State was forced to rely on talented, but unproven youngsters to prove themselves in the trenches this season. Luckily, the Buckeyes have gotten some tremendous breakout performances from sophomore DE Noah Spence and junior DT Michael Bennett.
They’ve also gotten a solid showing from freshman DE Joey Bosa. Though Bosa has been a bit overshadowed by his fellow lineman Spence and Bennett, he’s still managed to make his presence felt in his debut season. The former 5-star recruit from Florida has totaled five sacks, 21 stops and nine tackles for loss.
While he may not necessarily be the same caliber of explosive athlete as Spence is, the 6’6”, 275-pound freshman is a big, physical and instinctive end, who has a motor that never stops. Bosa looks like he’s destined to put together a similar career in Columbus as former Buckeye DE John Simon.
DL: Carl Lawson, Auburn
DE Dee Ford has clearly been Auburn’s 2013 defensive MVP. However, the Tigers have also gotten an outstanding performance from Ford’s fellow end Carl Lawson. Though he hasn’t put up the same type of numbers that Ford has, Lawson’s stat sheet is impressive nonetheless. He’s totaled three sacks, 12 solo tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, six quarterback hurries and forced two fumbles so far this season.
The former 5-star recruit from Georgia has shown the type of flashes that Auburn fans were hoping to see. He’s been a key contributor for an Auburn defense that has made a noticeable improvement from last year.
With Ford set to graduate, Lawson will get the opportunity to step into the spotlight in 2014. Considering how much raw talent and potential he possesses, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t emerge as one of the top overall pass-rushers in college football next season.
DL: Chris Jones, Mississippi State
Ranked as a blue-chip 5-star recruit by both Rivals and Scout, Chris Jones arrived in Starkville this offseason as the crown jewel of Mississippi State’s 2013 recruiting class. It hasn’t taken him long to show why he deserved the high praise he received coming out of Mississippi’s Houston High School.
The 6’5”, 305-pound freshman has proven that he’s ready for life in the rugged SEC trenches, as he’s totaled two sacks, five tackles for loss, nine quarterback hurries and 14 solo tackles.
Jones is truly a unique physical specimen, combining the speed and pass-rushing ability of a defensive end with the size and power of a defensive tackle. His ceiling is unlimited, and he’s clearly got the potential to develop into one of the SEC’s next great defensive lineman.
LB: Myles Jack, UCLA
Coming into the 2013 season, UCLA boasted arguably the best linebacker corps in college football, comprised of future top-10 NFL draft pick Anthony Barr and two other future pros: Jordan Zumwalt and Eric Kendricks. It didn’t seem like there was much room for another ‘backer to fit into the equation, however, that hasn’t stopped freshman Myles Jack from making a name for himself in 2013.
Not only has Jack totaled 68 tackles, including 47 solo stops, and 10 pass breakups on defense, he’s also proven himself on the offensive side of the ball as well, rushing for 265 yards and six touchdowns.
NFL scouting legend Gil Brandt has called the versatile true freshman’s performance “unbelievable.” Jack is without a doubt one of the most athletic and physically gifted freshman players in the country. Whether he chooses to primarily focus on running back or linebacker in the years to come, his future looks very bright either way.
LB: Addison Gillam, Colorado
You won’t find another freshman linebacker in college football that has been more productive than Colorado’s Addison Gillam has been this season. In his first year as the Buffaloes’ starting middle linebacker, Gillam has emerged as the team’s key defensive leader, racking up 93 total tackles, including 67 solo stops, 9.5 tackles for loss and three sacks.
The former unheralded 2-star recruit from California, who had originally committed to coach Mike McIntyre when he was at San Jose State, decided to follow McIntyre to Boulder. That decision has proven to be the right one.
Gillam seems like he’s capable of being the savior that the struggling Colorado defense truly needs.
LB: Leonard Floyd, Georgia
The Georgia defense has clearly missed the presence of highly productive sack machine Jarvis Jones. Luckily, though, the Bulldogs have two up-and-coming young edge-rushers—sophomore Jordan Jenkins and freshman Leonard Floyd, who are both loaded with potential.
Though Floyd has yet to prove that he can be the same type of impact game-changer that Jones was, the 6’4”, 220-pound freshman has shown plenty of flashes of explosive pass-rushing ability. The former 4-star recruit from Georgia has totaled 6.5 sacks, 16 quarterback hurries and 7.5 tackles for loss this season.
Floyd may not be on Jones’ level just yet. But considering he’s bigger, more athletic and just as nasty as his predecessor, it may not take much longer for him to get there.
DB: Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida
Florida may be one of the most disappointing teams of the 2013 season. However, one Gator who certainly hasn’t been disappointing this season is CB Vernon Hargreaves III. Ranked as one of the top overall prospects of the 2013 recruiting class, everyone knew that Hargreaves had the potential to be one of college football’s true freshman sensations this year, and he’s been just that.
VH3 has managed to stand out in Florida’s crowded defensive backfield, which includes future high NFL draft picks such as Marcus Roberson, Loucheiz Purifoy and Jaylen Watkins. The 5’11”, 192-pound freshman has displayed terrific coverage ability and ball skills, as he’s picked off three passes and broken up another 10 throws.
The SEC has a reputation for producing some of the best defensive backs in college football. Hargreaves looks like he’s destined to be one of the conference’s next star corners.
DB: Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech
Kyle Fuller is the Virginia Tech cornerback that has NFL draft scouts buzzing this season. However, Fuller’s younger brother Kendall has also put together a 2013 performance that’s worthy of praise as well.
So far this season, Kendall has shown the same type of instincts, awareness and overall coverage skills that have helped propel his older brother to stardom. He’s picked off five passes, broken up another six throws and totaled 48 tackles, including 34 solo stops.
The Hokies are surely going to miss Kyle, who has gained a reputation as one of college football’s top cover corners. However, with both Kendall and Brandon Facyson both returning, the defensive backfield will be in fine shape for the future.
DB: Su’a Cravens, USC
Though USC’s offense has been a bit of a mess this season, the Trojans defense has really stepped up under first-year defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast and helped carry the team. Pendergast has gotten some tremendous play from his secondary, which is currently tied for ninth in the nation, allowing an average of just 5.9 yards per pass.
One of the emerging stars in the defensive backfield is safety Su’a Cravens. Considering he was ranked as the top safety prospect in the 2013 recruiting class, it’s no surprise that Cravens is making an immediate impact during his first season.
The highly athletic 6’1”, 215-pound freshman has totaled 46 tackles, picked off four passes, and he’s been a reliable starter at strong safety. After losing both T.J. McDonald and Nickell Robey to the NFL this offseason, the Trojans needed a young defensive back like Cravens to step up this season, and he’s answered the bell in a big way.
DB: Jacoby Glenn, UCF
QB Blake Bortles has been the breakout star of UCF’s offense this season. However, the Knight’s defense has also featured a breakout performer: CB Jacoby Glenn.
Glenn has really turned heads during the team’s first season in the American Athletic Conference. The 6’0”, 176-pound redshirt freshman currently leads the league with 17 passes defended, a total which currently ranks sixth in the nation.
Not only does Glenn possess great size for the corner position, he’s also got the athleticism and ball skills to develop into a complete corner, who is capable of shutting down any receiver he squares off with.
Kicker: Andy Phillips, Utah
Punter: Austin Rehkow, Idaho
Kick Returner: Demarcus Ayers, Houston
Punt Returner: Ryan Switzer, North Carolina
- Baker Mayfield, Texas Tech
- Christian Hackenberg, Penn State
- Jared Goff, California
- John O’Korn, Houston
- P.J. Walker, Temple
- Aaron Jones, UTEP
- Elijah McGuire, Louisiana-Lafayette
- Jordan Howard, UTEP
- Kareem Hunt, Toledo
- Thomas Tyner, Oregon
- Trey Edmunds, Virginia Tech
- Corey Davis, Western Michigan
- Jhajuan Seales, Oklahoma State
- Marquez North, Tennessee
- Nate Phillips, Arizona
- Rashard Higgins, Colorado State
- Stacy Coley, Miami
- Billy Freeman, San Jose State
- Hunter Henry, Arkansas
- Johnny Mundt, Oregon
- Jonnu Smith, FIU
- Kalvin Cline, Virginia Tech
- O.J. Howard, Alabama
- Adam Bisnowaty, Pittsburgh
- Alex Redmond, UCLA
- Cory Helms, Wake Forest
- Jon Heck, North Carolina
- Jonathan McLaughlin, Virginia Tech
- Kyle Kalis, Michigan
- Avery Moss, Nebraska
- Chris Casher, Florida State
- Darius Philon, Arkansas
- Eddie Vanderdoes, UCLA
- Emmanuel Ogbah, Oklahoma State
- Ifeadi Odenigbo, Northwestern
- Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss
- Shaq Lawson, Clemson
- Tarell Basham, Ohio
- Treyvon Hester, Toledo
- Ben Weaver, Boise State
- Christian Tago, San Jose State
- Darian Claiborne, Texas A&M
- Dominique Alexander, Oklahoma
- Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame
- Lucas Wacha, Wyoming
- Scooby Wright, Arizona
- Steven Taylor, Houston
- T.J. Simmons, Indiana
- Zack Ryan, Ball State
- A.J. Leggett, Marshall
- Brandon Facyson, Virginia Tech
- Darnell Walker Jr., Tulsa
- Dominique Green, North Carolina
- Heath Harding, Miami (Ohio)
- Jalen Ramsey, Florida State
- Ryan Janvion, Wake Forest
- Sojourn Shelton, Wisconsin
- Tony Conner, Ole Miss
- Zack Sanchez, Oklahoma