True Freshmen Contributing for BCS Contenders
It isn't easy for true freshmen to break starting lineups right when they arrive on campus—especially on teams that are talented enough to compete for BCS bowl and even national title berths.
However, that hasn't stopped these five fantastic freshmen from making a major impact early on.
Alabama has had several young contributors this year, but one has stood out above all the rest. The same goes for Florida State, which has seen one young defensive back become a major player on the best pass defense in the nation.
Ohio State has also had immediate benefits from its stellar recruiting class, though one freshman has surprised head coach Urban Meyer more than the rest.
We'll look at impact freshmen from the nation's top three teams, as well as other talented youngsters that could be seen on Freshman All-American lists at season's end.
TE O.J. Howard, Alabama
Remember that enormous Alabama tight end who was fast enough to find the corner around the entire LSU secondary for a 52-yard touchdown reception?
That's O.J. Howard. He's a true freshman.
Defenses all across the South will have to deal with Howard for at least two more years. The Prattville, Ala., native joined the Crimson Tide as a 247Sports composite 5-star and the No. 1 tight end in the 2013 class.
He has lived up to that billing thus far, leading all Tide tight ends with 11 receptions for 225 yards and two touchdowns.
UA offensive lineman Cyrus Kouandjio relayed some high praise for Howard, per Andrew Gribble of AL.com:
He’s one of those guys when they first get here on campus you see what he does and you think, ‘OK, this guy is something special.' He’s showing flashes of things that guys who have been here five years can’t do.
Give Howard five years, and he will be starring on Sundays.
DB Jalen Ramsey, Florida State
The Florida State secondary is stacked with talent, making Jalen Ramsey's rise to the top of the depth chart that much more impressive.
The true freshman battled for a starting job during summer camp and was a starter at cornerback from day one. Later in the season, he was slid back to safety after the injury to Tyler Hunter.
No matter where he goes, he succeeds in the Seminoles secondary.
Ramsey joined FSU as a composite 4-star, flipping his commitment late in the process from USC to FSU. The rest has been history.
The Smyrna, Tenn., native has logged 34 tackles, one sack, an interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
Ramsey's always-verbose teammate Lamarcus Joyner claimed earlier this season that FSU has college football's best secondary, per Brendan Sonnone, Orlando Sentinel:
Let my brothers tell you, we're the best secondary in the country. We know that Clemson has a lot of great players, we know that going along the schedule we're going to play against a lot of great players. But we have players that can play all over the secondary.
Statistically, he's right: FSU is tied for No. 1 in the nation with 18 picks on the year and is first nationally in pass defense, allowing just 147.9 yards through the air on average.
DE Joey Bosa, Ohio State
Defensive end Joey Bosa joined Ohio State with plenty of accolades.
The freshman was a composite 4-star Under Armour All-American out of high school football powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Even with a strong resume, his early success has come as a surprise to OSU head coach Urban Meyer. The Buckeyes boss told Ari Wasserman of Cleveland.com that he isn't used to freshman defensive lineman see success like Bosa has:
He’s an impact player, and I’ve never really had a freshman defensive lineman (emerge the way Bosa has). It’s usually a corner or a receiver or a running back that can step in and play (as a freshman).
OSU has had a pair of successful freshman skill players, running back Ezekiel Elliott and Dontre Wilson, but Bosa has been the most impressive.
Bosa took over the starting job up front for the Buckeyes and has registered 22 tackles, five tackles for a loss, two sacks, three hurries, a pass deflection and a fumble recovery.
With Bosa playing a major role up front, OSU is in contention for a national title berth.
RB Thomas Tyner, Oregon
Thomas Tyner joined Oregon as its crown jewel for the 2013 recruiting class.
The Aloha, Ore., native was a composite 5-star and the No. 3 running back in the nation. So far, he has been the No. 3 rusher for the Ducks, as well.
Tyner has provided some crucial depth for the Ducks, who have had to adapt through the injury of star back De'Anthony Thomas.
I think the fact that he is playing and the fact that he’s playing early means the coaches trust him and the players trust him.
They've been used to being the hero and a star when it's all positive. But now there can be negative mixed in as they fumble or blow an assignment as the case may be. … The other thing that all of them learn very quickly if they're going to be successful is the speed of the game changes.
Tyner has had his share of freshman mistakes, but he has had more than his share of success as well. He has tallied 439 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. Both of those marks put him in first place among all Pac-12 freshmen.
DE Carl Lawson, Auburn
It hasn't been easy for Auburn's young defensive linemen to earn playing time.
The Tigers start two juniors and two seniors up front, but have still seen significant contributions from a trio of freshmen: Carl Lawson, Montravius Adams and Elijah Daniel.
Lawson has led the way with 18 tackles, 6.5 tackles for a loss, three sacks, six hurries and two forced fumbles. Meanwhile, Adams and Daniel have combined for 23 tackles, four tackles for a loss, three sacks and 15 hurries.
One of those upperclassmen on the line, senior Nosa Eguae, had great praise for Lawson earlier this year, per ESPN's Greg Ostendorf:
That guy is going to be a mammoth player by the time he leaves here. He’s just continuing to get better every single week. He’s like a sponge, he just soaks in everything. He asks a lot of questions. He just wants to be the best player he can be.
When Eguae and co. move on, the Auburn defensive front will be in good hands with Lawson, Adams and Daniel sliding into full-time roles.