Freshman Report Card Grades Through Week 11
With only a handful of games remaining for each team in the college football season, we’ve gained a pretty good feel for this year’s freshman class.
We’ve seen some exceed expectations and become key performers in their teams' success this season. For others, it’s been a rather up-and-down campaign, but the potential has shown through. And for one, he has his team on track for an appearance in the BCS title game and has positioned himself as the front-runner for the Heisman Trophy.
All in all, it makes for quite the freshman class in 2013.
Let’s take a closer look and break down the recent performances of some of the nation’s top first-year players.
Note: This list consists of the top true freshmen on 247Sports' composite, one player from outside the top six who has most impressed and one superlative redshirt who couldn't be ignored.
DE Robert Nkemdiche (Ole Miss)
Previous Grade: B
Last Week: 4.0 tackles, 1.0 tackle for loss (W 34-24 Arkansas)
Robert Nkemdiche made his return from a hamstring injury last weekend, helping the Rebels to a 34-24 victory.
The freshman looked good on the field, recording four tackles on the day. He also recorded his first tackle for loss since the team’s Week 3 victory over Texas.
However, the moment everyone will remember from Nkemdiche’s performance came in the fourth quarter.
Following the completion of a play, the Razorback’s Dan Skipper got tangled up while trying to block Nkemdiche. Although it appeared like Skipper shoved first, Nkemdiche responded with a strong shove that sent the Arkansas offensive lineman tumbling down to the ground.
The play resulted in an automatic ejection for the top recruit of Ole Miss’ Class of 2013.
It was a momentary lapse of judgment for Nkemdiche. But in a game that was close at the time, it’s also one that the Rebels can’t afford to have from one of their top defensive playmakers.
Nkemdiche needs to be smarter.
OLB Jaylon Smith (Notre Dame)
Previous Grade: A
Last Week: 11.0 tackles, 1.0 tackle for loss (L 28-21 Pittsburgh)
In a season to forget for the Irish, linebacker Jaylon Smith keeps giving reasons to remember.
During the team’s disappointing loss to the Panthers, the freshman put in his latest showing. Smith was all over the field, racking up 11 tackles and even found his way into the backfield to make a stop.
While the Notre Dame defense continues to make miscues that have proved costly, Smith has done nothing but be consistent for the team.
It’s amazing what he’s been able to do in just 10 games. The future is bright for Smith.
CB Vernon Hargreaves III (Florida)
Previous Grade: A+
Last Week: 2.0 tackles, 1 pass broken up (L 34-17 Vanderbilt)
Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III has been one of the Gators’ biggest surprises this season. However, last weekend, even he couldn’t help prevent the team from an embarrassing defeat to the Commodores, 34-17.
In the loss, the freshman didn’t do much to register on the stat sheet, recording just two tackles and a pass broken up. But given that Vanderbilt rarely passed—just 12 attempts—he didn’t have to do much.
But Hargreaves III and the secondary held their ground when called upon, limiting the Commodores to just six completions and 57 yards total through the air.
In general, the Florida defense played rather well for coughing up 34 points. It’s just hard to expect a unit to keep making plays when the offense keeps turning the ball over and giving the opposition great field position.
Expect Hargreaves III to keep up his high level of play even when the Gators do not.
S Su'a Cravens (USC)
Previous Grade: B+
Last Week: 3.0 tackles (W 62-28 Cal)
Safety Su’a Cravens returned to the lineup after missing the last game with a groin injury. However, he failed to have much of an impact.
The Bears had no trouble moving the ball through the air, racking up 293 yards. Quarterback Jared Goff threw for three touchdowns and no interceptions while registering his highest adjusted QBR (86.9) of his career.
And this is from a quarterback that entered the game having thrown an interception in six of his previous nine games.
All in all, it was a decent effort for Cravens in his return from injury. But it’s certainly not the kind of play we’ve come to expect from him this season.
RB Alex Collins (Arkansas)
Previous Grade: A-
Last Week: 10 carries, 57 yards (L 34-24 Ole Miss)
Running back Alex Collins has looked to be a shell of his former self as of late.
After rushing for over 100 yards in four of the Razorbacks' first five contests, the freshman has failed to accomplish the feat in five consecutive games. Furthermore, he has found the end zone just once in his last five.
It didn’t get better for Collins as he only mustered 57 yards against the Rebels. He was once again outperformed by fellow running back Jonathan Williams.
Whatever the case, Arkansas needs Collins back to his best if the team hopes to end its seven-game slide.
Losing is no fun. We’ve got to think underperforming isn’t too much of a blast either.
QB Jameis Winston (Florida State)
Previous Grade: A++
Last Week: 17-of-28 passing, 159 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception (W 59-3 Wake Forest)
Quarterback Jameis Winston has the Seminoles on track for a berth in the BCS title game. He also has himself in fine shape as far as the Heisman Trophy is concerned.
Did we mention that this kid is just a redshirt freshman?
Winston’s numbers last Saturday weren’t too out of this world. But when your defense accounts for two scores and your backfield adds in three, there’s not much left for you to do.
The fact that a less-than-stellar performance by Winston standards is a solid performance for most quarterbacks speaks volumes.
He only loses a “+” for the interception.
All stats and rankings used in this article are courtesy of NCAA.com.