College Football Freshman Report Card Grades Through Week 14
As we approach the conclusion of the 2013 college football regular season, we’ve finally got a full look at the nation’s top freshmen.
Although five of the six players on this list came away on the losing end this season, some did as much as they could to give their respective team the best chance at victory. For others, a poor performance has put a damper on what was once was a promising season. And for one particular player, another great outing has his team one win away from a berth into the BCS title game.
All in all, we’ve really learned a lot about these guys through 14 weeks of the season.
Let’s take a closer look and breakdown the recent performances of some of the top players in the freshmen class of 2013.
Note: While the Hackenberg and Jack fan bases seem to be a frequent visitors to this weekly piece, it's worth noting: this list consists of the top true freshmen on 247Sports' Composite Rankings, along with one player from outside the top six who has most impressed and one superlative redshirt freshman who couldn't be ignored.
DE Robert Nkemdiche (Ole Miss)
Previous Grade: B
Last Week: Three tackles (one for loss), one sack; Four carries, 21 yards (L 10-17, at Mississippi State)
Although the Rebels fell short last weekend, Robert Nkemdiche had himself a very nice game.
The freshman picked up another sack—his second in the last three games—and recorded three tackles. He demanded extra attention at the line of scrimmage and gave the Bulldogs trouble.
But most impressively, Nkemdiche also contributed on the offensive side of the ball.
Early in the first quarter, facing a 4th-and-1 from deep in its own territory, Ole Miss turned to Nkemdiche in the backfield. The 290-pounder stormed through the defensive line, rumbling for an 18-yard pickup. He added seven yards on the very next play.
Nkemdiche finished with 21 rushing yards on four carries.
All in all, it was an impressive showing for the youngster.
Updated Grade: B+
OLB Jaylon Smith (Notre Dame)
Previous Grade: A+
Last Week: Five tackles (L 27-20, at Stanford)
Surprisingly, in a close-contested game, Jaylon Smith made little to no impact last weekend.
Three weeks after recording a career-high 11 tackles against Pittsburgh, Smith has now tallied just eight tackles in the last two games. He hasn’t made his presence felt as much as he has earlier in the season.
A lot of that credit belongs to the play-calling of the Cardinal, who decided to run away from Smith and used two blockers when headed in his direction.
Sure, it’s a sign of respect for his ability. However, Smith has to learn to be able to get past that.
Still, it doesn’t take away from the stellar freshman campaign he has been having.
Updated Grade: A
CB Vernon Hargreaves III (Florida)
Previous Grade: A
Last Week: Three tackles, one pass defensed; 17-yard return (L 37-7, vs. Florida State)
Vernon Hargreaves III had another relatively quiet afternoon.
Then again, it’s not like anyone expected him and the Gators secondary to do much to slow down the Seminoles and quarterback Jameis Winston.
Winston threw for 327 yards and three touchdowns on the day. All three went to Kelvin Benjamin, who torched Hargreaves III and the secondary for 212 yards.
On a positive note, Hargreaves III did bring back his first kickoff return of the season, but 17 yards isn’t much to write home about.
All in all, it was a less than spectacular afternoon for the freshman.
Updated Grade: A-
S Su'a Cravens (USC)
Previous Grade: B+
Last Week: Six tackles (L 35-14, vs. UCLA)
Although the Trojans suffered defeat on Saturday, it wasn’t at the expense of safety Su’a Cravens.
In fact, the freshman actually had a rather solid showing.
While the Bruins scored at will on the ground—the team scored five rushing touchdowns—the same couldn’t be said about the passing attack. In fact, no wide receiver finished with more than 40 yards.
A large part of that must be credited to Cravens, who recorded six tackles on the night and limited any of UCLA’s wide outs from doing any serious damage.
It wasn’t the end result he was hoping for, but Cravens did all he could.
Updated Grade: B+
RB Alex Collins (Arkansas)
Previous Grade: B+
Last Week: 11 carries, 28 yards (L 31-27, at LSU)
Running back Alex Collins cemented his fall from grace by putting together his worst performance of the season last Friday against the Tigers. The freshman was held to a season-low 28 yards on 11 carries (2.5 YPC).
Furthermore, his longest run went for just eight yards. Aside from Collins, the Razorbacks had no trouble moving the ball on the ground, racking up 182 rushing yards on the day.
This marked the third consecutive game that Collins has failed top 60 yards on the ground. He hasn’t rushed for 100 yards since Week 5, and he hasn’t found the end zone since Week 7.
After starting out the year in a positive manner, his end-of-season collapse is a reason for concern as Arkansas heads into the offseason.
Updated Grade: B
QB Jameis Winston (Florida State)
Previous Grade: A++
Last Week: 19-of-31, 327 yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 interception (W 37-7, at Florida)
Quarterback Jameis Winston cemented the Seminoles’ place as the top-ranked team in the nation.
In a hostile environment, the redshirt freshman remained cool under pressure, finding the end zone three times on the day. It marked the eighth time this season that Winston has accounted for three scores and the sixth time he has thrown for over 300 yards.
Now, just the ACC title matchup against Duke stands in the way of a berth into the BCS title game.
Not only that, but the Heisman Trophy is also Winston’s to lose.
All in all, it’s been one heck of a campaign for the Bessemer, Ala., native.
All stats and rankings used in this article are courtesy of NCAA.com.