College Fantasy Football: Who Will Be the 2009 Freshman Phenoms?

Todd at CollegeFootballGeek.comCorrespondent IAugust 10, 2009

A look at some incoming freshman who are on the college fantasy football radar in 2009.

Part One of our story proves that you should temper your emotions when it comes to freshman—from a fantasy standpoint.  Try not to get too caught up in the hype that a hotshot recruit brings to campus before he has even played a down.  Some big name players dive right in and contribute (Alabama WR Julio Jones) while others disappoint in their rookie campaign (Colorado RB Darrell Scott).

By our count, sixteen freshman made a significant fantasy impact in 2008.  Half of those players were big-name recruits, while the others where not on the preseason fantasy radar.  Figuring out who will make that splash in year one isn’t easy, but we’ll take a stab at it.


QB Summary:  As we discussed in Part One, there were only three true freshman QBs who made a fantasy impact in 2008.  And of those three, only one was an every-week starter in most leagues (Robert Griffin).  It could be debated that the other two, Bo Levi Mitchell and Terrelle Pryor, were mostly situational starters.  Are there a couple QBs who could make a fantasy impact this fall?  The prospects don’t look very promising at the moment. 

Best Chance to Make 2009 Fantasy Impact

Tate Forcier (Michigan)
Rivals rank:  No. 5 Dual-threat QB
Also had offers from: Florida, Penn State, Oregon
Why he’s on the radar: When RichRod ditched Morgantown for Ann Arbor, he put all of his QB recruiting eggs in one basket.  The basket of Terrelle Pryor.  When Pryor ended up at arch-rival Ohio State, RichRod was left trying to fit square pegs into a round hole.  The result was a disastrous season where nobody proved to be the long-term solution at the QB position.  Rodriguez hit the recruiting trail hard to remedy the situation.  He had decommits from Kevin Newsome (Penn State) and Shavodrick Beaver (Tulsa), but landed Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson.  Forcier is an early enrollee, has a family QB pedigree, and is expected to be the front-runner to win the starting job.  If he wins the job, he will have an opportunity to put up nice stats on the ground and through the air.
What to be concerned about: Yeah, Forcier is a trendy pick here.  ESPN, Rivals, and the BigTen Network are all on board the Forcier Express.  With all the hub-bub about Forcier being a “perfect fit” for this offense, wouldn’t it be a kick in the pants if Denard Robinson eventually won the job?

QB Watchlist

Terrance Cain (Utah)
Matt Barkley (USC)
Russell Shepard (LSU)
Tom Savage (Rutgers)
Aaron Murray (UGA)
Denard Robinson (Michigan)
Shavodrick Beaver (Tulsa)
Tyler Russell (Mississippi State)
Austyn Carta-Samuels (Wyoming)
A.J. Graham (Marshall)

Running Backs

RB Summary:  Darrell Scott, De’Anthony Curtis, Chris Polk, and Josh Haden were four highly regarded freshman in 2008 who had an excellent chance to play early.  None of them made much of an impact.  There were five freshman RBs that made an impact, but only Jacquizz Rodgers and Bryce Beall hit the 1,000 yard, 10 TD plateau.  This year’s crop appears to be deeper and there is certainly early playing time opportunity for some of the big names.  We expect a bigger fantasy contribution from this year’s class.

Best Chance to Make 2009 Fantasy Impact

Edwin Baker (Michigan State)
Rivals rank:  No. 6 RB
Also had offers from: Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Texas
Why he’s on the radar:   Someone will need to replace all of those Javon Ringer carries.
What to be concerned about:   Larry Caper is another highly touted RB in his recruiting class.

Jarvis Giles (South Carolina)
Rivals rank: No. 3 RB
Also had offers from: Georgia, Clemson, Tennessee
Why he’s on the radar: People forget that Spurrier’s best Florida teams RUSHED the ball really well.  Giles is a big-time recruit for The Visor.  With Mike Davis off to graduation, Giles will step in and contribute from day one.  He enrolled early and looked good in the spring.
What to be concerned about: Other than the tough SEC defenses, the only concern is fellow 4-star newcomer Ben Axon stealing touches.

Trent Richardson (Alabama)
Rivals rank:  No. 2 RB
Also had offers from: Florida, LSU, Florida State
Why he’s on the radar:  One of the crown jewels of Saban’s latest recruiting haul.  Glen Coffee is off to the NFL and TR will have a shot to be a part of a one-two punch with Marc Ingram. 
What to be concerned about: Richardson won’t be a feature back as long as Ingram is healthy.  But Coffee and Ingram were able to co-exist, and there is hope that Ingram and Richardson will be the Tide’s next dynamic backfield duo.

Keep an Eye on These Guys in August

Desmond Scott (Duke)
Rivals rank:  No. 5 All-purpose back
Also had offers from: Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Auburn
Why he’s on the radar: Four-star skill position players don’t often land in Durham, but that’s exactly what happened here.  Desmond Scott is a hometown kid who should get every chance to play early and often.
What to be concerned about: Duke hasn’t had an RB crack the 500 rushing yard barrier in the past five seasons. 

Christine Michael (Texas A&M)
Rivals rank: No. 3 RB
Also had offers from:  Florida, LSU, Oklahoma
Why he’s on the radar:  Loads of talent.  A home-run threat with a blend of speed and strength. 
What to be concerned about: Cyrus Gray stands in his way.  Also, it’s still difficult to try and get a sense for what kind of offense A&M is going to run this fall.  Will they be enticed to follow the pass-happy trend in the Big 12 and ride the arm of Jerrod Johnson?  Or will Coach Sherman decide to shift gears and give the running game a chance?

Bryce Brown (Tennessee)
Rivals rank:  No. 1 RB
Also had offers from: Miami, Kansas State, Oregon, LSU, USC
Why he’s on the radar: Rivals’ top ranked player in the country.  Verbally committed to Miami, but did not sign on LOI Day.  Eventually landed with the Vols.
What to be concerned about:  Is he a headcase?  Brown’s recruitment took some strange twists and turns.  He considered playing in the CFL.  He has a “handler” guiding his every move.

Chris Whaley (Texas)
Rivals rank:  No. 8 Athlete
Also had offers from:  Florida State, Oklahoma, Notre Dame
Why he’s on the radar:  Mack Brown has churned out several fantasy feature backs in the past.  Nobody currently on the roster has taken the bull by the (long)horns and emerged as a go-to guy in the running game.  Can Whaley fill that role?
What to be concerned about:  Fozzy Whitaker and Vondrell McGee are back.  Colt McCoy and his pass-happy offense could limit the number of carries even if Whaley becomes The Man.  And don’t forget about Cody Johnson.  The 255-pounder could continue to vulture goalline TDs—he had 12 last year. 

Larry Caper (Michigan State)
Rivals rank: No. 28 RB
Also had offers from: Michigan, Purdue, Stanford, Iowa
Why he’s on the radar: Javon Ringer and his incredible 390 carries are off to the NFL.  Caper is going to have a chance to fill the void.  If he could get even half of those carries, you are looking at a 1,000 yard RB.
What to be concerned about:  Caper will be competing for carries with another highly touted freshman, No. 6 ranked RB Edwin Baker.

Lamon Muldrow (San Jose State)
Rivals rank: N/A, 4-star RB (JUCO)
Also had offers from: Arizona, Colorado State
Why he’s on the radar: Muldrow is the No. 13 rated JUCO player in the country.  This is a prized recruit for San Jose State.  For that reason alone, one would think Muldrow has a great chance to see early playing time for the Spartans.  More good news—their 2008 leading rusher graduated.  Muldrow is the definition of a sleeper candidate.
What to be concerned about:  San Jose State averaged 2.7 yards per carry as a team.  They will need to improve on the O-line to open up holes for Muldrow and company.

RB Watchlist

Rivals Rank - Player - School

No. 8 RBCierre Wood (Notre Dame)
No. 8 All-purpose backFitzgerald Toussaint (Michigan)
No. 13 All-purpose backTavon Austin (West Virginia)
No. 1 All-purpose backDavid Oku (Tennessee)
No. 37 RBTeric Jones (Michigan)
No. 74 RBCharles Sims - Houston
No. 10 RBWaymon James (TCU)
No. 39 RBArthur Burns (Washington State)
No. 12 RBRodney Scott (Ole Miss)
No. 5 RBJaamal Berry (Ohio State)
No. 14 RBBrandon Wegher (Iowa)
No. 4 RBDavid Wilson (Virginia Tech)
No. 16 All-purpose backKendial Lawrence (Missouri)
No. 7 RBMichael Ford (LSU)
No. 32 RBKevin Whaley (Minnesota)

Wide Receivers

WR Summary: This class isn’t considered to be as strong as the 2008 version, which boasted eight impact fantasy players.  Also, the early playing opportunities for the 2009 top dogs don’t seem to be slam-dunks like they were for DeAndre Brown, A.J. Green and Julio Jones.

Best Chance to Make 2009 Fantasy Impact

Andre Debose (Florida)
Rivals rank:  No. 2 WR
Also had offers from: Florida State, USC, Georgia, LSU
Why he’s on the radar: Percy Harvin is NFL-bound.  Debose has a similar skill set and could see action right away.  Defenses will once again have to key on Timmy Tebow, leaving ample opportunity for the other Gator weapons to get the ball in space.  And “space” is where Debose is dangerous.
What to be concerned about: Even the great Harvin was an average fantasy WR in his first year (855 total yards, 5 TDs). 

Rueben Randle (LSU)
Rivals rank: No. 1 WR
Also had offers from:  Oklahoma, Georgia, Alabama
Why he’s on the radar: Because he’s the top-ranked WR in the country.
What to be concerned about: LSU might lean more on the running game as they are likely to be breaking in a new QB next fall.  Top receiver Brandon LaFell removed his name from the NFL draft and will return for another year.  Does LaFell’s presence help or hurt Randle from a fantasy standpoint?  It’s debatable.

Patrick Patterson (Ole Miss)
Rivals rank: No. 4 WR
Also had offers from: Alabama, Tennessee, Auburn
Why he’s on the radar: Another weapon at Jevan Snead’s disposal.  Leading receiving yardage gainer (Mike Wallace) is gone.  Snead threw for 26 TDs last year and he’s only going to be better in '09.
What to be concerned about:  Shay Hodge and Dexter McCluster are proven commodities and are slated to be the top two receivers in this offense.  Patterson will have to become a solid No. 3 option to make a fantasy impact in '09.

Jheranie Boyd and Joshua Adams (UNC)
Rivals rank: No. 3 WR, No. 35 WR
Why they’re on the radar: Hakeem Nick and Brandon Tate are off to the NFL, leaving plenty of opportunity in their wake.
What to be concerned about:  Dwight Jones appears to have the inside track for the number one WR job.  Can Boyd or Adams crack the starting lineup opposite Jones?

WR Watchlist

Rivals Rank - Player - School
No. 5 WRMarlon Brown (Georgia)
No. 68 WRDarius Johnson (SMU)
No. 73 WRAnthony Foster (Tulsa)
No. 69 WRA.J. Dugat (Houston)
No. 41 WREric Ward (Texas Tech)
No. 4 ATHRandall Carroll (UCLA)
Ansel Ponder (Western Michigan)
No. 10 WRBryce McNeal (Clemson)
No. 4 ATHRandall Carroll (UCLA)
No. 47 WRDiante Jackson (Oregon)
No. 9 WRNu’Keese Richardson (Tennessee)
No. 16 WRChad Bumpis (Mississippi State)
No. 48 ATHRonnie Kennedy (Central Michigan)
No. 11 WRDuron Carter (Ohio State)
No. 24 WRShaquelle Evans (Notre Dame)
Cameron Kenney (Oklahoma)
Tyrece Gaines (Oregon)
Hayo Carpenter (Minnesota)
Jamar Howard (Cincinnati)
Chelb Ravenell (Western Michigan)
Edgard Theliar (FIU)

Tight Ends

TE Summary: No freshman tight ends made a significant fantasy impact in 2008.  That is pretty amazing considering it doesn’t take too much to make a statistical impact at this position.  400 yards and 5 TDs will rank you as a Top 20 fantasy tight end. 

Best Chance to Make 2009 Fantasy Impact

Morrell Presley (UCLA)
Rivals rank:  No. 12 WR
Also had offers from: USC
Why he’s on the radar:  When a WR plays the TE position, it can equate to fantasy success.  Presley is rated as the No. 12 WR in the land, but will probably sneak onto fantasy rosters as a TE.  The Bruins need playmakers on offense, and Presley should see action early.
What to be concerned about: Granted, UCLA dealt with a rash of QB injuries, but the Bruins passing game was brutal in Neusheisel’s first year as head coach.  As a team, they only threw nine touchdown passes on the season.

Ra’shede Hageman (Minnesota)
Rivals rank: No. 6 TE
Also had offers from: Ohio State, Florida, Oklahoma
Why he’s on the radar: QB Adam Weber and WR Eric Decker both return to bolster the Gopher passing game.  With starting TE Jack Simmons graduating, defenses will be keying on Decker which could open up opportunities for Hageman to contribute right away.
What to be concerned about:  The departing Simmons grabbed 36 balls for 331 yards and 2 TDs in 2008.  Not exactly fantasy gold.

Tracy Moore (Oklahoma State)
Rivals rank: No. 17 TE
Also had offers from: Colorado, Kansas, Kansas State
Why he’s on the radar: Brandon Pettigrew graduates.  If Moore can get on the field, he will see plenty of passes in the Pokes’ high-powered offense.
What to be concerned about:   Moore will battle Jamal Mosley and others for the starting job.

Dion Sims (Michigan State)
Rivals rank: No. 5 TE
Also had offers from: Ohio State, Michigan, Tennessee
Why he’s on the radar: Tremendous athlete who should see the field early.  MSU will be breaking in a new QB in '09 and tight ends have been known to serve as safety valves for young signal-callers.
What to be concerned about:  Will the MSU offense utilize Sims’ considerable talents?  Starting TE Charlie Gantt returns and his fantasy numbers were very average last season (19-302-4). 

TE Watchlist
Rivals Rank - Player - School
UNR ATH - Tyler Chambers (Houston)
No. 7 TE - Barrett Matthews (Texas)
No. 1 TE - Logan Thomas (Virginia Tech)
No. 32 TE - Jacoby Bell (Southern Miss)
No. 3 TE - Philip Lutzenkirchen (Auburn)
No. 13 TE - Richard Wilson (BYU)
No. 2 TE - Arthur Lynch (Georgia)
No. 4 TE - Levine Toilolo (Stanford)
No. 24 TE - Tyler Eifert (Notre Dame)


Kicker Summary: This year’s top two kicker prospects both go to programs where they have an opportunity to play from the get-go.

Dustin Hopkins (Florida State)
Rivals rank:  No. 1 Kicker
Also had offers from: Notre Dame, Missouri, Kansas State
Graham Gano graduates and Hopkins could step right in and start from day one.


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