College Football 2012 Midseason Freshman All-American Team

Danny Flynn@FlynnceptionSenior Analyst IOctober 17, 2012

College Football 2012 Midseason Freshman All-American Team

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    We’ve now reached the midpoint of the college football season.

    Looking back over the first seven weeks, there was certainly no shortage of impressive individual performances, and some of the best came courtesy of young freshman players.

    So who have been the biggest breakout freshman stars so far?

    Here’s a look at college football’s midseason 2012 Freshman All-American team.

Quarterback: Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M

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    During his previous coaching tenure at Houston, Kevin Sumlin helped turn QB Case Keenum into a record-breaking star. Now, it looks like he's about to do the same thing at Texas A&M with his latest pupil Johnny Manziel. 

    This year, Manziel has taken over the starting job in College Station and helped lead the Aggies to a 5-1 start and a Top 20 national ranking. 

    The dual-threat signal-caller has completed 67 percent of his passes for 1,680 yards and has thrown 14 touchdowns to just three interceptions. He's also added 676 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground as well. 

    It will be interesting to see how the electrifying and explosive young quarterback performs in tough upcoming matchups with LSU, Mississippi State and Alabama.. 

Honorable Mention: Marcus Mariota, Oregon

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    Oregon's offense hasn't experienced any type of drop-off without last year's starting quarterback Darron Thomas, who left Eugene during the offseason to enter the NFL draft. Thomas' successor, Marcus Mariota, has taken over and played like a seasoned veteran in the Ducks' first six games.

    Mariota has completed 68 percent of his passes for 1,301 yards, added another 221 yards on the ground and accounted for 16 total touchdowns.

    The athletic 6'4'', 194-pound Hawaii native has proved to be a perfect catalyst for Chip Kelly's spread offensive attack.

    With Martiota leading the way, the Ducks currently rank second in the nation in scoring offense and eighth in total offense, averaging 52 points and 541 yards per game.

Running Back: Todd Gurley, Georgia

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    When Georgia's leading rusher from 2011, Isaiah Crowell, was dismissed from the team this offseason, many Bulldog fans worried that his loss would have a major effect on the offense's productivity in 2012. However, Crowell's replacement, Todd Gurley, has looked even better than his predecessor. 

    The 6'1'', 218-pound freshman has rushed for 575 yards and scored 10 touchdowns so far this season. 

    Given his rare blend of size, speed, power and instincts, it looks like he may have the chance to be the best back that Georgia's had since Herschel Walker.

    Gurley and fellow freshman Keith Marshall will form one of the most dangerous backfield duos in the country for the next few years. 

Honorable Mention: Duke Johnson, Miami

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    Miami has been home to plenty of big-name running backs in recent years such as Lamar Miller, Frank Gore, Clinton Portis, Willis McGahee and Edgerrin James.

    Now, Duke Johnson is the back that everyone in Coral Gables is getting excited about.

    Johnson was one of the most highly touted members of the Canes' 2012 recruiting class, and he's paying immediate dividends for the offense right away. 

    The Miami native, who played for Miami Norland High School, is currently averaging 5.7 yards per carry. Plus, he's scored seven touchdowns in three different ways (five rushing, one receiving and one on a kickoff return).

    The future is certainly bright for the talented 5'9'', 183-pound freshman back.

Wide Receiver: Jaime Wilson, Western Michigan

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    Jaime Wilson hasn't just been the most productive freshman receiver in the country this season; Wilson has been one of college football's most productive receivers period, regardless of class. 

    Wilson currently ranks third in the nation with 56 catches for 681 yards, and he's already hauled in six touchdowns in his first six games. 

    The explosive 5'11'', 196-pound freshman didn't receive much attention from BCS schools when he was playing at Florida's Glades Central High School. However, he's proving early on in his career that he's capable of producing in a big way at the collegiate level.

Honorable Mention: Amari Cooper, Alabama

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    Julio Jones arrived at Alabama back in 2008 amid a great deal of fanfare. Jones immediately lived up to lofty expectations as a freshman, leading the Tide in receiving with 58 catches that season. 

    This year's freshman sensation Amari Cooper is having a similar type of impact in 2012. 

    Cooper has already caught 21 passes for 263 yards and three touchdowns, and he's made his fair share of highlight-reel grabs. 

    The 6'1'', 198-pound freshman seems like he's on track to have a similar type of stellar career in Tuscaloosa to the one Jones put together just a few years ago. 

Tight End: Kyle Carter, Penn State

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    Penn State has actually developed quite a potent passing attack during head coach Bill O'Brien's first season at the helm in Happy Valley. 

    The Nittany Lions are currently ranked second in the Big Ten in passing offense, averaging 251 yards through the air per game.

    One of the team's top receiving weapons has been TE Kyle Carter.

    Carter has proven that he's an athletic and reliable receiver who can stretch the seam and cause matchup problems for a defense, as he's hauled in 23 passes for 279 yards and a touchdown in 2012.

Honorable Mention: Devin Funchess, Michigan

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    Michigan's passing offense hasn't been very productive so far this season, as the Wolverines are averaging just 186 yards through the air per game. However, they have gotten a quality contribution from young freshman tight end Devin Funchess. 

    Funchess has only caught 10 passes for 173 yards, but he's been a valuable red zone weapon, hauling in three touchdown passes in just five games of action. 

    The 6'5'', 229-pound freshman possesses outstanding athleticism for his size, and his speed can really put a lot of stress on opposing secondaries. 

Offensive Line: John Theus, Georgia

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    The SEC is home to some of the best defensive lines in college football, which is why it can be very risky for an SEC team to start a true freshman at offensive tackle. 

    Sometimes, however, there's a special young player who is ready to handle life in SEC trenches, and Georgia's John Theus appears to be exactly that kind of player. 

    Theus arrived in Athens as one of the most heralded offensive line prospects of the 2012 recruiting class, and he's immediately managed to live up to his high school hype. 

    The talented 6'6'', 309-pound freshman has filled the void at right tackle and helped the Bulldogs average 226 rushing yards per game this season. 

Honorable Mention: Tyler Johnstone, Oregon

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    Oregon currently ranks fourth in the country in rushing offense, averaging 302 yards on the ground per game. 

    The team's two dynamic running backs, Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas, get most of the credit for the Ducks' dominant rushing attack. However, they wouldn't be able to be as productive as they've been this season if it wasn't for the offensive line opening up some huge holes for them to burst though. 

    One of the pleasant surprises up front has been freshman Tyler Johnstone, who has started every game at left tackle and looked like a natural. 

    Johnstone is still a bit on the skinny side, but he's shown that he has the strength and toughness to become a monster run-blocker. 

Defensive Line: Devonte Fields, TCU

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    Going into the season, junior defensive end Stansly Maponga was expected to be TCU's top pass-rusher. Surprisingly, though, Maponga has been overshadowed thus far by true freshman Devonte Fields.

    Fields has been one of the top defensive playmakers in the Big 12 this year. He currently leads the conference with 11.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks.

    The 6'4'', 240-pound freshman has displayed tremendous power, tenacity and explosiveness off the edge in his first six games.

Honorable Mention: Leonard Williams, USC

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    There were some serious concerns about USC's defensive line this offseason. The Trojans had lost their top pass-rusher Nick Perry early to the NFL and had lost another defensive end, Devon Kennard, to a season-ending injury in the preseason. 

    Luckily, the team has had new starters such as DE Morgan Breslin and defensive tackles George Uko and Leonard Williams all step up and play at a high level in 2012. 

    One of the most impressive performers has been Williams, who has totaled 5.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss in his first six games. 

    The young standout freshman should develop into a premier defensive player in the Pac-12 over the next few years. 

Linebacker: Benardrick McKinney, Mississippi State

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    The reason Mississippi has been able to start the season 6-0 and garner a Top 20 national ranking has a lot to do with the play of the team's defense. 

    The Bulldogs currently rank 16th in the nation in scoring defense and 25th in total defense, giving up an average of just 16 points and 331 yards per game. 

    One of the team's top defenders has been LB Benardrick McKinney. 

    McKinney leads the team with 50 tackles, including 23 solo stops. 

    The big 6'5'', 235-pound freshman runs extremely well for his size, and you can just tell that he's the type of player that has true star potential.

Honorable Mention: Jabari Hunt-Days, Georgia Tech

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    Unfortunately, the Georgia Tech defense lost its best overall player, LB Julian Burnett, to a career-ending injury last December.

    With Burnett gone, that meant that a new linebacker would have to step up in 2012.

    So far, the Yellow Jackets have gotten exactly what they needed from his replacement in the middle, freshman Jabari Hunt-Days.

    Hunt-Days has racked up 37 tackles, and he's also proven to be a valuable piece of the team's pass coverage, as he's picked off a pass and broken up another four throws.

    The 6'3'', 252-pound freshman has the potential to be even better than Burnett was.

Defensive Back: Karl Joseph, West Virginia

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    West Virginia's secondary has looked pretty shaky during the first half of the season, giving up an average of 364 passing yards per game. However, there has been one Mountaineer defensive back, safety Karl Joseph, who's actually been very solid in 2012. 

    Joseph currently ranks second on the team with 43 tackles, including 32 solo stops, and he's also picked off a pass, broken up another four throws and forced a fumble. 

    The young budding star safety seems like he should develop into a true defensive leader in Morgantown over the next few years. 

Honorable Mention: Rohan Gaines, Arkansas

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    Rohan Gaines was not a very highly touted recruit during his time at Georgia's Blainbridge High School, but he's still managed to come in and play a critical role for the Arkansas defense in 2012. 

    Gaines has notched 46 total tackles, including 27 solo stops, so far this season. 

    The Razorbacks' pass defense hasn't been all that great this season, but it hasn't been the fault of the 5'11'', 190-pound freshman, who has been better than anyone could have hoped or expected. 

Kicker: Austin Lopez, San Jose State

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    Austin Lopez is one of just three kickers who has made double-digit field goals so far this season. 

    Lopez has knocked through all 11 of his field-goal attempts as well as 20 of his 21 extra-point tries. 

    The freshman kicker has booted through five kicks of over 30 yards and two kicks of over 40 yards. 

Punter: Landon Foster, Kentucky

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    Kentucky has one of the least productive offenses in the country, averaging just 306 total yards per game, which of course means that Wildcats punter Landon Foster has seen plenty of action. 

    Foster has punted the ball 35 times already this season. He's used those many opportunities to show off his powerful leg, as he's averaged nearly 43 yards per punt. 

    The Tennessee native was rated as just a 2-star recruit during his senior year at Independence High School, but he's already proved that he definitely belongs in the best conference in college football. 

Returner: Stefon Diggs, Maryland

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    Stefon Diggs was one of the top-rated prospects of the 2012 recruiting class, and it certainly hasn't taken him long to make a big impact at Maryland. 

    Diggs has displayed game-changing playmaking ability and explosiveness as both a receiver and a returner in his first season as a Terrapin. 

    The super-speedster currently ranks fifth in the nation with a 33-yard average on kickoff returns, and he scored his first career kickoff return touchdown this past weekend against Virginia.

    Diggs has also been a key contributor on Maryland's offense, catching 21 passes for 453 yards and three touchdowns.