Malik Jefferson

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Pac-12 defensive stars headline Lott IMPACT Trophy semi-finalists

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The semifinalists for this year’s Lott IMPACT Trophy have been announced, and it is quite an impressive short list of some of college football’s finest defensive talents. Among the semifinalists for the award are Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick and Iowa linebacker Josey Jewel. The Pac-12 leads all conferences with three semi-finalists.

The Lott IMPACT Trophy honors the nation’s best player that exhibits the qualities of former NFL All-Pro Ronnie Lott; integrity, maturity, performance, academics, community, and tenacity.

In addition to three players from the Pac-12, this year’s semifinalists include two players from the Big 12, and one player each from the ACC, Big Ten, and SEC. Notre Dame is also represented by safety Drue Tranquill. A Big Ten player has won the award each of the past two seasons with Penn State defensive end Carl Nassib winning the award in 2015 and Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers receiving the award last season.

The 2017 Lott IMPACT Trophy Semi-Finalists

Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
Malik Jefferson, DE, Texas
Josey Jewell, LB, Iowa
Micah Kiser, LB, Virginia
Hercules Mata’afa, DL, Washington State
Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, LB, Oklahoma
Harrison Phillips, DL, Stanford
Cameron Smith, LB, USC
Drue Tranquill, S, Notre Dame

Alabama, Clemson each land two on FWAA Freshman All-America Team

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Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley and defensive back Marlon Humphrey and Clemson offensive lineman Mitch Hyatt and defensive tackle Christian Wilkins will be playing a rather important game in just a number of hours, but they each received one more honor for the 2015 season. Each was named to the Freshman All-America Team on Monday by the Football Writers Association of America.

UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen and Michigan defensive back Jabrill Peppers were among some of the more household names appearing on the Freshman All-America team from the FWAA on Monday. The FWAA also included first-year Houston head coach Tom Herman as its First Year Coach of the Year. Herman beat out finalists Jim Harbaugh of Michigan and Pat Narduzzi of Pittsburgh. The Freshman All-American team featured 10 redshirt freshmen this season and included 12 players for both offense and defense, with five more specifically for special teams.

2015 FWAA Freshman All-America Team

OFFENSE

  • QB Josh Rosen, UCLA
  • RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State
  • RB Myles Gaskin, Washington
  • RB Mike Warren, Iowa State
  • WR Penny Hart, Georgia State
  • WR Richie James, Middle Tennessee
  • WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama
  • OL William Clapp, LSU
  • OL Will Noble, Houston
  • OL Mitch Hyatt, Clemson
  • OL Max Scharping, Northern Illinois
  • OL Connor Williams, Texas

DEFENSE

  • DE Walter Brady, Missouri
  • DE Jaylon Ferguson, Louisiana Tech
  • DT Terry Beckner Jr., Missouri
  • DT Christian Wilkins, Clemson
  • LB T.J. Edwards, Wisconsin
  • LB Dre Greenlaw, Arkansas
  • LB Malik Jefferson, Texas
  • DB Marlon Humphrey, Alabama
  • DB Kareem Orr, Arizona State
  • DB Jabrill Peppers, Michigan
  • DB Andrew Wingard, Wyoming
  • DB Jordan Whitehead, Pittsburgh

SPECIAL TEAMS

HEAD COACH

  • Tom Herman, Houston

CFT 2015 Preseason Preview: Impact Freshmen

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Recruiting in college football is the lifeblood of a program’s success. While the majority of the Class of 2015 will see their time to lead and prove valuable on the field will come in the next few years, a select few special talents could end up playing a key role with their new programs starting this fall.

Unlike decades past, talented freshmen have a chance to become household names now. In recent years we have seen players like Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston dazzle from the start of their collegiate careers, each going on to win a Heisman Trophy as freshmen or redshirt freshmen. Last season may not have produced a young Heisman phenom, but it did have its share of young stars like LSU running back Leonard Fournette, Baylor wide receiver K.D. Cannon and Alabama defensive end Da’Shawn Hand.

So which freshmen could be names to watch this season? Here are a few.

JOSH ROSEN, QB, UCLA

Many suspect Josh Rosen will have a chance to step right into the starting job at UCLA as the Bruins look to replace Brett Hundley. And why wouldn’t he? One of the top quarterbacks in the Class of 2015, Rosen seems to be worthy of filling one of the few holes UCLA’s offense has this season. Rosen enrolled early to get a jump start on getting adjusted, and that should pay off.

KAHLIL MCKENZIE, DL, TENNESSEE

Tennessee head coach Butch Jones has done a tremendous job in bringing in talent since he took over the Vols program, but the addition of Kahlil McKenzie may be his best recruiting victory yet. McKenzie brings good size to the middle of Tennessee’s defensive line and should be a monster for opposing offensive linemen to block.

DERWIN JAMES, DB, FLORIDA STATE

Florida State has plenty of holes to fill, except in the defensive secondary. There should be a spot for Derwin James somewhere in the mix though. James proved to be a playmaker in the spring game after enrolling early. Look for James to be worked into the defensive game plan in certain situations this fall.

MARTEZ IVEY, OL, FLORIDA

New Florida head coach Jim McElwain had a relatively short time to recruit for the Gators, so locking in offensive lineman Martez Ivey was significant. The premium offensive lineman should have an impact in the trenches in a spot that has been weak for Florida in recent years. He won’t be making big plays happen but adding stability up front is always good.

MALIK JEFFERSON, LB, TEXAS

If there is one thing Charlie Strong knows what to do with Texas, it is improve the defense. The Longhorns welcome new linebacker Malik Jefferson to the fold this fall, and Jefferson should quickly become the centerpiece of Strong’s improving Longhorns defense. It will not take long for him to leave an impact this fall in Austin after enrolling early to be there for spring practices.

SOLOMON THOMAS, DL, STANFORD

Stanford is in the unusual position of having to refuel the defensive line. Sitting out the 2014 season with a redshirt should pay dividends for Solomon Thomas at Stanford. Thomas should waste little time giving opposing offensive linemen trouble this season, as he has a chance to move right into a starting gig sooner rather than later if healthy.

BYRON COWART, DE, AUBURN

Auburn’s defense is expected to improve simply with the addition of Will Muschamp as defensive coordinator, but the Tigers need a body to bring some pressure up front on the defensive line. Byron Cowart could have an impact off the edge by the time the season is over. Look for Cowart to move up the depth chart quickly at Auburn and excel under the guidance of Muschamp.

Big 12 National-Signing Day Primer

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The Big 12 may have taken a step back in national prominence in recent seasons with programs like Texas and Oklahoma having a down 2014 season not helping the overall image. Sure, TCU had an argument to be in the College Football Playoff and Baylor thought it had a case too, but the Big 12 still has some work to do.

The recruiting successes in the Big 12 have been few and far between compared to some other conference recruiting powers. As of today, with just a few days to go until National Signing Day, just one five-star player has committed to a Big 12 school. There is still time to change that, but that is a recruiting stat you likely do not expect to see so close to signing day.

Current Rivals Big 12 Team Rankings (as of February 1, 2015)

1. Texas

2. Oklahoma

3. West Virginia

4. TCU

5. Baylor

6. Oklahoma State

7. Texas Tech

8. Kansas State

9. Kansas

10. Iowa State

The Top Recruit

LB Malik Jefferson (Mesquite, TX): Texas

Rivals ranks James the 28th best player overall in this year’s class, and he is currently the highest ranked player committed to an Big 12 school. Texas managed to keep Jefferson in the state and away from some other options. Given head coach Charlie Strong’s defensive mindset, Jefferson should be a centerpiece of Strong’s defense in the coming years.

Recruiting Battle To Watch

A handful of Big 12 schools are in the running for Plano, Texas running back Soso Jamabo. Rivals ranks Jamabo the 22nd best player in the country and the fourth-best running back in the Class of 2015. Baylor, Oklahoma and Texas all want him, but so do Notre Dame, Oregon, Texas A&M and UCLA.

Longhorns and Sooners continue recruiting dominance

As is the case in most recruiting cycles in the Big 12, Texas and Oklahoma are pulling in the top talent. This despite the down seasons each program had in 2014 and the rise of programs like TCU and Baylor. Both the Horned Frogs and Bears continue to improve on the recruiting pitches and should be considered on the rise, but the Longhorns and Sooners remain the landmark programs of the Big 12 and that brings a certain advantage others can only hope to have one day. West Virginia has been doing well in this recruiting cycle as well. Both West Virginia and TCU are seeing some advantages in recruiting as they enter their fourth seasons in the Big 12.