Top true freshmen by position
Steve Palazzolo breaks down a list of potential college football stars that had breakout freshman campaigns.
Top true freshmen by position
It’s time for the youngsters to get some recognition as we unveil the PFF College Freshman All-American Team.
We’ve limited the team to just true freshmen, so these are all players who just stepped onto campus within the last year. The list is filled with players who pushed right into starting roles; others emerged in the second half, and even a few have established themselves as current and future superstars.
Here’s a look at the 2015 PFF College Freshman All-American Team:
Jake Browning, Washington, +16.5
While Josh Rosen got off to the better start, Browning had a strong finish and posted positive grades in five of his last six games. His accuracy percentage of 74.6 percent ranked second among the nation’s true freshmen.
Runner up: Josh Rosen, UCLA
First Team: Myles Gaskin, Washington, +24.4
Similar to the quarterback competition, Gaskin battled Penn State’s Saquon Barkley all season before finishing with a flurry. He ranked second among the true freshmen in missed tackles forced (51) and third in elusive rating (95.9), all while averaging 3.65 yards after contact per rush.
Second Team: Saquon Barkley, Penn State, +12.1
First Team: Chandler Cox, Auburn
Cox took home All-SEC honors, as well as a +6.4 blocking grade, ranking ninth among the “dinosaurs” that are the nation’s fullbacks.
First Team: Calvin Ridley, Alabama, +8.4 receiving, and Britain Covey, Utah, +8.5 receiving
Ridley became Alabama’s go-to guy as the season wore on, leading the freshmen with a +9.7 receiving grade against Power-5 competition. Covey had fewer opportunities, but made the most of them, with 15 forced missed tackles on only 41 receptions.
Second Team: Deon Cain, Clemson, and KaVontae Turpin, TCU
First Team: Christian Kirk, Texas A&M, +11.0 receiving
A Second-Team All-SEC selection, Kirk ranked 12th in the nation with 808 yards from the slot, while his 569 yards after the catch ranked 13th among all receivers.
Second Team: Penny Hart, Georgia State
First Team: Connor Williams, Texas, +6.1; Kolton Miller, UCLA, +8.1; Mitch Hyatt, Clemson, -2.2
With so few positively-graded freshman offensive linemen, we’re going with a three-man team at tackle. Williams has been a staple on our top freshman lists all season, as he leads the group with a +3.2 pass blocking grade. Miller stepped in nicely for UCLA in Week 7, tying Williams for the top run blocking grade at +6.1. Hyatt has played the most snaps among freshmen offensive tackles, with 898, and allowed just 16 pressures on 463 attempts while grading at +2.1 in the run game.
First Team: Jordan Dowrey, Marshall +2.9, and Keaton Sutherland, Texas A&M, -5.8
Options are limited among interior offensive linemen, but Dowrey posted a +4.1 run block grade as Marshall’s right guard. Sutherland seemed overwhelmed at times in the SEC, but surrendered only 13 pressures on 305 pass blocking attempts.
First Team: Josh Sweat, Florida State +13.3 and Arden Key, LSU +10.6
Sweat posted the best grade against the run (+13.4) among freshmen edge defenders, while Key was the top pass rusher with three sacks, nine hits, and 26 hurries on 309 attempts, good for a +11.2 pass rush grade.
Second Team: Chase Robison, Arizona State and CeCe Jefferson, Florida
Interior defensive line
First Team: Terry Beckner Jr., Missouri +14.9 and Trenton Thompson, Georgia +13.7
Both First-Teamers finished the season with injuries, but they made their mark before going down. Beckner was a part of Missouri’s strong defensive line rotation all season, ranking second among freshmen against the run (+14.7) and third as a pass rusher (+2.5). Thompson flashed his top-recruit status as a disruptive presence against the run at +11.9.
Second Team: Daylon Mack, Texas A&M and Daron Payne, Alabama
First Team: Montel Wilson, TCU, +2.5 and Cameron Smith, USC, -1.0
Wilson was one of few freshman linebackers to grade positively in coverage at +2.4, while adding three sacks, three hits, and four hurries as a pass rusher. The nation got to know Smith due to his three-interception game against Utah, though he was actually better against the run, leading all freshman inside linebackers with a run-stop percentage of 11.9 percent.
Second Team: Andre Smith, UNC, and Kaden Ellis, Idaho
First Team: Kevin Toliver II, LSU, +7.0, and Darrien Molton, Washington State, +8.0
Toliver II started the season in style with a breakout game against Mississippi State, and finished with the second-best coverage grade among freshman corners at +5.4. Molton was right with Toliver at +4.4 in coverage, and played 84 percent of Washington State’s defensive snaps.
Second Team: Carlton Davis, Auburn, and Ronnie Hoggins, USF
First Team: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama +8.0
Stepping right into Alabama’s “star” position, Fitzpatrick lead all freshman corners with a +6.4 coverage grade while allowing only 0.61 yards per coverage snap, good for third among freshman slot defenders.
Second Team: Ocie Rose, Florida Atlantic
First Team: Derwin James, Florida State, +25.3, and Jordan Whitehead, Pittsburgh, +10.0
The ACC mops up at the safety position, led by James, who is already a star. He’s rare talent that can line up as a deep safety, as he did on 368 snaps, but he can also drop down and rush the passer as a true edge rusher (not just as a blitzer). He led true freshman safeties in coverage (+5.8), against the run (+7.7), and he posted a ridiculous +12.2 pass rush grade as he notched five sacks, two hits, and 16 hurries on only 52 rushes.
Second Team: Adonis Alexander, Virginia Tech and Dameon Baber, Nevada
First Team: Greg Huegel, Clemson
Huegel made 22-of-25 field goals for the nation’s top team.
First Team: Austin Seibert, Oklahoma
Only 18.4 percent of Seibert’s punts were returned, and he dropped 21-of-49 inside the 20.
First Team: Antonio Callaway, Florida
The All-SEC returner graded at +11.0 on punt returns to top the entire nation, highlighted by his TD return in the SEC Championship.