College Football Freshman Report Card Grades Through Week 10

David LutherFeatured ColumnistNovember 6, 2012

College Football Freshman Report Card Grades Through Week 10

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    Another week in the books means it's time for another round of report cards for college football's freshman stars.

    In today's college football world, freshmen are rarely heralded as making major impacts.

    But 2012 seems to be breaking the mold a bit, and there are several youngsters that are making major contributions despite their lack of collegiate experience.

    Just as these students are learning the layout of campus, figuring out the best way from the dorm to the library, or finding that PoliSci 101 lecture hall, they're already well on their way to becoming the next legendary football player for Dear Old U.

    We've selected some of the biggest freshman names from around the nation, and it's time to go over their grades as we look at the college football freshman report cards through Week 10 of the 2012 season.

Shaq Roland, WR, South Carolina

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    8 games played; 3 receptions, 55 yards, 1 touchdown

    Grade: F

    We've mentioned Shaq Roland in the past, and he's been a disappointment almost from day one.

    While Roland appears to have the skill set necessary to be a success in college football, he never really developed into the freshman phenom for which Gamecocks fans were hoping.

    Because he's still stuck at three receptions for the entire season, we've dropped him all the way down to an F, and he'll have to do a lot in South Carolina's remaining games to even earn his way back on the list—much less get a passing grade.

Gabe Marks, WR, Washington State

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    9 GP; 38 rec, 477 yds, 2 TD; 2 tackles (1 solo)

    Grade: C+

    Not that we expected Washington State to beat Oregon, but we did expect a better showing from the Cougars this season—in particular, from Marks, who had been very impressive early in the season.

    Marks has averaged just over 28 yards receiving per game over the past five weeks, all losses for the Cougars, who are now a lowly 2-7.

    If new head coach Mike Leach is ever going to turn around this sagging program, he'll need young recruits like Marks to start taking a leadership role and mature much earlier than expected. If not, it could be another long offseason for WSU fans.

Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama

3 of 12

    9 GP; 32 rec, 472 yds, 5 TDs

    Grade: B

    Amari Cooper was electric earlier in the season, but he's cooled a bit—just like Alabama's pass offense, which now ranks 81st in the FBS.

    Because Cooper's 472 yards don't even rank him amongst the top 100 receivers in the nation, it's hard to continue heaping lofty grades on him.

    We've no doubt Cooper will continue to mature into a big contributor for the Crimson Tide, but in order for him to really become a national star, the Alabama passing game will need to step it up a couple of notches.

Keith Marshall, RB, Georgia

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    9 GP; 85 rushes, 520 yds, 5 TDs; 8 rec, 52 yds

    Grade: B

    Just when we thought Keith Marshall could step up as another superstar tailback at Georgia, his numbers took a nosedive.

    With double-digit carries in each of Georgia's first six games, Marshall toted the ball just six times against Kentucky and only four times (for four yards) in Jacksonville against Florida.

    Is it any wonder his yardage output has been severely depressed lately?

    Maybe UGA only has enough room for one explosive back.

    But don't write Marshall off quite yet. His early-season performance is more than enough to keep us intrigued, and we're excited to see how the Georgia backfield develops over the remainder of the 2012 season and into 2013.

D.J. Foster, RB, Arizona State

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    9 GP; 72 rushes, 393 yds, 2 TDs; 31 rec, 463 yds, 4 TD

    Grade: B+

    D.J. Foster is continuing to make contributions for the Arizona State Sun Devils, and ASU fans should be very excited about his future in Tempe.

    While his rushing totals haven't been terribly stellar (just 22 yards on five carries at Oregon State), his contributions to the passing game are huge for a freshman running back.

    Two weeks ago against UCLA, Foster had 107 yards and a touchdown on seven receptions, and his season totals for yardage in the passing game have now eclipsed his totals carrying the ball.

    He may not be the world's greatest pure running back, but that kind of versatility is a coach's dream.

Jalen Mills, CB, Louisiana State

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    9 GP; 2 INTs, 18 INT return yards, 38 tackles (26 solo), 3 passes broken up

    Grade: B+

    In the rough-and-tumble SEC—particularly on defense—LSU freshman corner Jalen Mills is showing every week that he's capable of making an impact for the Tigers.

    In a conference where there is no shortage of top defensive players, Mills looks to be a future all-star in the SEC. His early breaks on the ball and his ability to read quarterbacks' eyes is almost unmatched among his fellow freshmen.

    If LSU is ever to return to national championship form, Mills will need to continue to make quality contributions each and every week.

    He has had a few rough spots this season, though, including zeros all the way across the stat sheet in the October 6 loss at Florida. He also managed just two tackles and one pass breakup against Alabama last week, dropping him to a B+ for the season through Week 10.

Duke Johnson, RB, Miami (Fla.)

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    9 GP; 94 rushes, 555 yds, 6 TDs; 23 rec, 200 yds, 1 TD; 18 kick returns, 565 yds, 1 TD

    Grade: B+

    A few weeks ago, Miami's Duke Johnson was a solid A or A- candidate with some downright impressive games as Miami's running back and featured kick returner.

    Since Week 5, however, Johnson has added just 196 yards and one touchdown over four games.

    Realistically, the only reason Johnson didn't drop further than a B+ after Week 10 was due to his 100-yard, one-touchdown outing against Virginia Tech on November 1.

    But with Miami controlling its own destiny in the ACC right now, Johnson can easily earn his way back up to an A- or even higher with more performances like last week—possibly leading the Hurricanes all the way to the ACC Championship Game.

Stefon Diggs, WR, Maryland

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    9 GP; 22 punt returns, 221 yds; 43 rec, 721 yds, 6 TDs; 12 rushes, 65 yds; 21 kick returns, 567 yds, 1 TD

    Grade: A-

    Don't look now, but the Terps have a budding All-American candidate on their hands.

    Stefon Diggs has turned into that quintessential do-it-all freshman wide receiver. He catches, he runs, he returns...

    About the only thing he hasn't done this season is throw the ball.

    It seems like only yesterday we were writing Maryland off as just an ACC also-ran that didn't really threaten anyone. A game against the Terps used to mean a nice win against a program that everyone knew, but few feared.

    Times may be changing, especially if Diggs continues his upward trend.

T.J. Yeldon, RB, Alabama

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    9 GP; 104 rushes, 725 yds, 7 TDs; 8 rec, 122 yds, 1 TD

    Grade: A-

    T.J. Yeldon continues to impress us, and there's a decent chance we could see a freshman 1,000-yard rusher at Alabama this season if everything pans out as expected.

    Because Alabama's passing game has been so anemic this season, the run has been the focus of the Tide offense in 2012. That has certainly benefited young Mr. Yeldon.

    About the only thing we have yet to figure out about Yeldon is how far he can go, which is probably dependent on how long he stays in Tuscaloosa.

Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia

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    9 GP; 138 rushes, 857 yds, 10 TDs; 9 rec, 80 yds; 7 kick returns, 243 yds, 1 TD

    Grade: A-

    Todd Gurley was already sporting an A or better for much of the year, and for good reason.

    We've moved him back slightly to an A- after Week 10, but not because we no longer believe in his supernova-bright future with the Bulldogs.

    As the SEC competition stiffens and the rest of the nation has learned that Gurley is a men amongst boys when carrying the football, his stats have understandably taken a bit of a hit.

    He's no longer putting together back-to-back 130-yard rushing games, but he did manage 118 yards and a touchdown against Florida a couple of weeks back.

    But now, he needs a few more carries each game to reach that coveted century mark.

    Still, it's clear that Gurley is going to play a pivotal role in Georgia's future, especially if there's ever going to be the word “champion” attached.

Kenneth Dixon, RB, Louisiana Tech

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    9 GP; 149 rushes, 908 yds, 20 TDs; 5 rec, 22 yds

    Grade: A

    If you have seen Louisiana Tech play this season, you know why the Bulldogs have found themselves at No. 19 in the latest B/R College Football Top 25 Poll.

    You also know that Kenneth Dixon is one heckuva football player.

    Dixon has been the backbone of the Bulldogs offense this season, and he now leads all freshman running backs with 908 rushing yards on the season (Johnny Manziel leads all freshmen of any position with just 14 more rushing yards).

    His 20 rushing touchdowns also leads the nation—not just among freshmen.

    He averages over six yards per carry and averages a touchdown every 7.3 carries. With numbers like that, it's hard not to give him an A.

    And when you factor in that he has led his WAC-favorite Bulldogs to a 9-1 start and a narrow loss to Texas A&M at home, it makes it downright impossible.

Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

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    9 GP; 203-of-305 for 2,527 yds, 16 TDs, 6 INT; 138 rushes, 922 yds, 15 TDs

    Grade: A

    Take Denard Robinson, slow him down about a half step, make him a bigger, stronger guy and, oh yeah, make him able to throw a pass that doesn't look like a wounded duck.

    That's Johnny Manziel, the do-it-all quarterback for the Texas A&M Aggies.

    And yes, he's a freshman. We've checked.

    “Johnny Football” is probably the best quarterback in the SEC West this season, and quite possibly the entire conference.

    If he keeps this pace through his career at A&M, the Aggies should very quickly find themselves competing for conference titles, and Manziel could find his name associated with some very prestigious postseason awards.

    The biggest game of Manziel's young life is this weekend as A&M travels to Tuscaloosa to take on No. 1 Alabama. A solid performance will propel him into the stratosphere among elite quarterbacks in the country.

    A win, and you might start hearing some sophomore Heisman buzz.