Every BCS Conference's Top Freshman to Watch in Week 1
College football's freshmen have finally wrapped up spring ball and fall camp, and have hopefully learned the playbook. The regular season is rapidly approaching, the time they have all been waiting for since the end of their high school careers.
While learning the ropes will continue to take time, a lot of these kids take the field as early as Week 1. Even if it's only for a few plays, it's going to be exciting to see all of these players earn their stripes in what will likely be lengthy and successful careers.
There are a couple of new starting quarterbacks to watch next weekend, along with a pair of defensive linemen who have all-conference potential.
AAC: James Quick, WR, Louisville
Matchup: vs. Ohio
When: Sept. 1, 3:30 p.m. ET
Where: Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, Louisville, Ky.
Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has plenty of weapons at wide receiver, and freshman James Quick is the latest addition. At 6'2", he has the height to be a deep threat, and he is incredibly gifted at making plays after the catch. His explosiveness should also make him a valuable asset on special teams.
Quick did spend time with the first—and second—team throughout practices, and offensive coordinator Shawn Watson likes what he sees, per Mike Hughes of 247Sports.
"James started out really fast learning things, but has sort of hit a lull," Shawn Watson said. "We'll limit what we ask him to do and won't ask him to do all the things we ask Damian [Copeland] to do but we're going to get him on the field because he's so fast and has so much ability. We'll bring him along and he'll play a lot of football for us."
With Bridgewater's arm and Quick's speed, Louisville has a deadly offensive combination.
ACC: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
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Matchup: at Pittsburgh
When: Sept. 2, 8 p.m. ET
Where: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pa.
Jameis Winston was finally named the starter for Florida State.
He has nearly everything a coaching staff would want in a quarterback. From his imposing size at 6'4", 227 pounds, to his strong arm and athletic ability, Winston has the look of the next great dual-threat quarterback.
Winston's name has been buzzing throughout the offseason, and many college football fans are eager to see if he can live up to the hype. It's interesting that Florida State will begin its season Monday night on the road. That puts a little added pressure on the young man to succeed with everybody watching.
Usually a Florida State-Pittsburgh matchup wouldn't be must-see television, but it will be with Winston at quarterback.
Big 12: Trevor Knight, QB, Oklahoma
Matchup: vs. Louisiana-Monroe
When: Aug. 31, 6 p.m. CT
Where: Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, Norman, Okla.
Trevor Knight somehow managed to win the starting quarterback job over junior Blake Bell. Now is when the real pressure begins for the redshirt freshman.
Knight is an athletic quarterback at 6'2", 201 pounds. He does a nice job of buying himself extra time in the pocket and can make plays with his legs. He also has terrific arm strength and can fit the ball into tight spaces.
While the potential is there, Knight's first game won't be a cakewalk. Louisiana-Monroe upset Arkansas (34-31) last season and gave Auburn (31-28) and Baylor (47-42) a run for their money. Considering Bell was the overwhelming favorite to win the starting job, it will be worth giving Knight a look to see if head coach Bob Stoops made the right decision.
Big Ten: Derrick Green, RB, Michigan
Matchup: vs. Central Michigan
When: Aug. 31, 3:30 p.m. ET
Where: Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, Mich.
Michigan will begin the season with Fitzgerald Toussaint as the starting running back but is sure to use a plethora of other talented runners.
One of those running backs is Derrick Green. Many consider him to be a power back at 6'0", 220 pounds, but he has deceptive speed and can surprise defenders with a few moves. He also has terrific hands and doesn't mind lowering his shoulder to help his team move the chains.
Green is obviously still learning, but offensive coordinator Al Borges likes his potential, per Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com.
"Well he's just got to keep learning the system," he said. "He's only been here for a couple weeks, and he's still figuring things out. But you can tell there's some talent there.
"As soon as he does, he's going to be a force."
He should receive a few touches in the season opener, as he begins his promising career.
SEC: Robert Nkemdiche, DE, Ole Miss
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Matchup: at Vanderbilt
When: Aug. 29, 8:15 p.m. CT
Where: Vanderbilt Stadium, Nashville, Tenn.
Why wouldn't you want to watch Robert Nkemdiche?
He was the top recruit of the 2013 recruiting class and is a man-child when compared to anybody else. His well-built frame—6'4", 285 pounds—and athleticism is scary for a kid fresh out of high school. It would give you nightmares just to think what he may look like in a couple of years.
Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze is already drooling over him, per Edward Aschoff of ESPN:
“He’s physically gifted enough to play, so it’s all about can he understand what we’re trying to accomplish, what his assignments are,” Freeze said. “If he can get that, there’s no question he can physically play. [The defensive coaches] better be trying to get him ready.”
Ole Miss and Vanderbilt will clash in an important SEC matchup. Expect to see Nkemdiche play quite a bit.
Pac-12: Eddie Vanderdoes, DT, UCLA
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Matchup: vs. Nevada
When: Aug. 31, 7 p.m. PT
Where: Rose Bowl, Los Angeles, Calif.
Surprisingly, Eddie Vanderdoes was cleared to play this season after transferring from Notre Dame. He's a massive player at 6'2", 310 pounds and has a unique combination of athleticism and strength. He will be key to UCLA's success and is expected to play a lot.
Vanderdoes has been dealing with back issues during the offseason and was recently cleared to participate in contact drills. Head coach Jim Mora Jr. is taking a cautious approach in incorporating the defensive lineman back into the fold, according to Chris Foster of the Los Angeles Times:
"We have to really work him back in, not at a snail's pace, but at a pace where we don't overload him too early," Mora said. "You can certainly see the level of ability."
Even if it's for a series or two, Vanderdoes is going to be a treat to watch.