Bleacher Report's Preseason College Football All-Freshman Team

Ben Kercheval@@BenKerchevalCollege Football Lead WriterAugust 21, 2014

Bleacher Report's Preseason College Football All-Freshman Team

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    USA TODAY Sports

    With the start of the college football season one week away—technically it starts this Saturday, but who's counting?—it's time to roll out preseason All-American lists.

    With freshmen playing bigger and bigger parts for their teams, preseason freshman All-American lists are making the rounds as well. 

    There's a lot of freshman star power making noise in preseason camps. Which ones, redshirt or otherwise, could have All-American seasons in 2014? We go position by position with the answers in the following slides. 

     

    Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.com. Recruiting rankings via 247Sports composite.

Quarterback

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    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    JT Barrett, Ohio State

    Frankly, there wasn't a ton of competition here. Ohio State quarterback JT Barrett is only under consideration in the first place because of a season-ending shoulder injury to Braxton Miller

    But the redshirt freshman has been taking a majority of the snaps for the Buckeyes during preseason practice, according to Bleacher Report's Ben Axelrod, and coaches have been impressed with his leadership qualities.

    Yes, Ohio State will miss Miller and the excitement he brings, but Barrett can have a great first year—provided his offensive line gives him time.  

     

    Brandon Harris, LSU

    Technically, Brandon Harris hasn't been named the starting quarterback for LSU yet. Head coach Les Miles said a starter won't be named until two days before the Tigers' season opener against Wisconsin, per Glenn Guilbeau The News-Star. But Harris has earned plenty of praise from Miles this offseason. 

    John Wolford, who was recently named Wake Forest's starting quarterback, earns some consideration here as well. 

Running Back

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    This seems like an obvious choice. 

    LSU running back Leonard Fournette has already laid out his expectations for 2014, and he's hardly shy about them. In an interview with Sports Illustrated, Fournette said he wanted to win the Heisman, be named an All-American and win a national championship.

    If these predictions hold true in any form, he'll be able to check off at least one of those goals. 

    At 6'1" and 225 pounds, Fournette already fits the mold of the bruising back the Tigers love. With an offense that should be geared more toward the run, Fournette should get his touches, too. 

    The No. 1 overall recruit from 2014 should show the college football world why he was considered the best of the best. 

Wide Receivers

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    KD Cannon, Baylor

    KD Cannon benefits from an offense that puts up huge numbers on an annual basis. And, aJohn Werner of the Waco Tribune-Herald notes, Cannon ran a "blazing" 10.3 seconds in the 100 meters at the Texas Class 4A state track meet in May. As good as Bears receiver Antwan Goodley is, he's better suited to make plays in the short to intermediate passing game and pick up huge yards after the catch.

    Cannon could be the new deep threat Baylor's offense is looking for now that Tevin Reese is gone. 

     

    Speedy Noil, Texas A&M

    Like Cannon, Speedy Noil slips into an offense that is geared toward big numbers in the passing game. Early reports, including this one from Sean Lester of The Dallas Morning News, from practice indicate Noil is already putting his stamp on the offense. An added bonus here is that Noil should contribute on special teams as well. 

     

    Ermon Lane, Florida State

    The Seminoles need two things from the passing game: a complement to veteran Rashad Greene and a red-zone threat like Kelvin Benjamin. At 6'3" and 206 pounds, Ermon Lane fits that description—at least physically. Whether he can fully take over that role in year one remains to be seen; Benjamin was truly a special talent. But Lane can have a big year right away all the same. 

Tight End

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    The top tight end recruit in the 2014 class, Dalton Schultz, may be just what Stanford needs to reignite its passing game.

    Schultz arrives at Stanford with a good chance to play right away. As head coach David Shaw explained, Schultz is already showing a difference-making ability in the passing game, via George Chen of The Stanford Daily.

    "We saw [Schultz] jump offside today and miss a block—those freshman mistakes that get you. But you also saw him make heck of a play today. In the passing game, he’s a difference-maker. He’s hard to cover, but he’s also a physical run-blocker," Shaw said.

    Coby Fleener and Zach Ertz gave Stanford a "Tight End U" brand, but tight ends were barely part of the passing game a year ago. 

    Quarterback Kevin Hogan needs another target besides Ty Montgomery in the passing game. A big body like Schultz at tight end will undoubtedly help. 

Offensive Line

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    Cameron Robinson, Alabama

    When asked on ESPN's SportsCenter in July if Cameron Robinson would start at tackle for the Tide, head coach Nick Saban said, "I don't think there's any question about it." If that's not a ringing endorsement, what is?

    Robinson comes to Alabama as the No. 4 overall prospect and top offensive tackle prospect from the 2014 class. Expectations are high, and it looks like he'll play right away.

     

    Damian Prince, Maryland

    Damian Prince was a 5-star tackle and the highlight of Maryland's 2014 class. However, he's since made the switch to guard, which could give him a good chance to start for the Terps right away—or at least contribute as a rotational player. 

    Maryland's offense has talent, especially with receivers Stefon Diggs and Deon Long, but the Terps haven't been able to stay healthy. Provided that changes, Maryland's offense could take off, and Prince could play a big role in that. 

     

    Trevor Darling, Miami (FL)  

    The Hurricanes signed two touted linemen in the 2014 class: Trevor Darling and Kc McDermott. According to Miami's recent two-deep, Darling is slated to start at right tackle while McDermott is a backup at left tackle. 

    Theoretically, both could make a big impact this year. Experience and size up front isn't an issue for Miami, but depth had been a concern. Since Darling is slotted to start, he gets the edge over McDermott, but it wouldn't be surprising to see either on a freshman All-American list somewhere by year's end. 

     

    Toa Lobendahn, USC

    USC went heavy—so to speak—on offensive linemen in its 2014 class. Because of depth and experience concerns, there's a good chance most or all of them could play right away. 

    According to Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times, Toa Lobendahn is "on track to start at left guard." USC's unusual role as a Pac-12 South sleeper may come down to whether the O-line can give the offense enough room to get things going. 

    If it succeeds, the job Lobendahn and others did won't be overstated. 

     

    Braden Smith, Auburn 

    Auburn coach Gus Malzahn isn't sure if he'll play Braden Smith as a freshman. However, the first-year player is already drawing comparisons to former Tigers lineman Greg Robinson, who went No. 2 overall in the 2014 NFL draft. 

    "He's still learning, but he's a very smart young man, and he really, I mean, I know comparisons now, but when Greg Robinson was a freshman, there's a lot of similarities," Malzahn said via Brandon Marcello of AL.com. 

    With a comparison like that, it would be hard to keep Smith off the field. 

Defensive Line

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    Myles Garrett, Texas A&M

    Texas A&M's defense is, rightly, a cause for concern given the amount of attrition on that side of the ball. That said, Myles Garrett is turning heads and his future seems very bright.

    Garrett even got recognition by Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports during his trip to College Station. At 6'5" and 255 pounds, Garrett is already a physical, pass-rushing freak who should contribute greatly as a freshman. 

     

    Malik McDowell, Michigan State

    It took a while for Malik McDowell to make his way to East Lansing thanks to some, shall we say, family disagreements, but he's been wowing coaches and teammates ever since. 

    "I've never seen anyone that looks like Malik McDowell," Spartans quarterback Connor Cook said, via Mike Griffith of MLive.com. "Seeing the hands on him and how tall he is, and it's like, wow, we're getting five-star guys.'' 

    The interior of Michigan State's defensive line is breaking in new starters, so McDowell could absolutely see meaningful playing time this year. 

     

    Matt Elam, Kentucky

    To see Matt Elam in person must feel similar to how Dr. Alan Grant felt when he first saw the dinosaurs at Jurassic Park. 

    Elam, who was one of the top players in the state of Kentucky, should contribute right away in the middle of the Wildcats' defensive line. According to Larry Vaught of The Advocate Messenger, head coach Mark Stoops has praised Elam's athleticism, which is unique for a guy his size (he's listed at 6'7", 375 pounds on his official bio page). 

    That's going to be a hard guy to move. 

     

    Andrew Brown, Virginia

    Top defensive tackle prospect Andrew Brown could be just what the Cavaliers need to bolster their defensive line. The 5-star freshman was listed as a co-starter on Virginia's depth chart exiting the spring, per Mark Giannotto of The Washington Post

    Brown has been sidelined with a turf toe, but the injury shouldn't be serious enough to keep him from playing this year. 

Linebackers

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    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    Matthew Thomas, Florida State

    There aren't many areas of weakness for Florida State, but for what it's worth, the Seminoles are replacing two starters at linebacker. One player in that group who could finally get going is Matthew Thomas. 

    The redshirt freshman was a 5-star member of the 2013 class who struggled, initially, over whether he actually wanted to play for Florida State. His true freshman season was cut short by a shoulder injury, but he's been impressing at one of the outside linebacker spots. 

    An ankle injury has slowed Thomas recently, but head coach Jimbo Fisher doesn't expect him to be out for long. 

     

    Raekwon McMillan, Ohio State

    From the time he stepped on to Ohio State's campus in January, Raekwon McMillan has been in the conversation to start in the middle of the Buckeyes' linebacker unit. 

    If David Biddle of 247Sports is correct, though, senior Curtis Grant will start in the middle of Ohio State's defense in Week 1, not McMillan. That doesn't mean McMillan won't play a lot this year, though, or that he couldn't eventually overtake Grant. 

    With a secondary that has a lot to prove, McMillan could be part of a front seven that makes life easier for the Buckeyes' final line of defense. 

     

    D.J. Calhoun, Arizona State

    A 4-star member of Arizona State's recruiting class, D.J. Calhoun recently moved up to the first-team defense during preseason practice, per Tyler Lockman of Fox Sports Arizona.

    The Sun Devils should once again have a potent offense, but there are concerns about the defense, which returns only two starters from a year ago. That should provide plenty of opportunities for Calhoun to make a name for himself right away. 

Cornerbacks

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    Tony Ding/Associated Press

    Jabrill Peppers, Michigan

    In all likelihood, Jabrill Peppers will get more time at nickelback since Michigan is good to go at corner with Blake Countess and Raymon Taylor. Still, there's almost no way, barring injury, that Peppers doesn't see the field as a freshman. 

    The No. 1 athlete in the 2014 class could see some playing time on offense and/or special teams as well in an effort to get him on the field. Undoubtedly, there are high expectations for Peppers in Ann Arbor. 

     

    Tony Brown, Alabama

    Frankly, both of these spots are tough to fill since Alabama could have two freshman All-American corners by year's end. Tony Brown and Marlon Humphrey were 5-star members of the Tide's 2014 class. The only reason Brown gets the edge right now is because he enrolled early and has a little more experience under his belt. Both, however, could be excellent corners.

    And Brown will have an opportunity to start right away. Depth at corner isn't great, and it was a disappointing position a year ago. 

Safeties

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    Steven Parker, Oklahoma

    Oklahoma returns what should be a stout defensive front seven, but the Sooners have more questions in the secondary. One of the new faces in that group that should emerge right away is safety Steven Parker.

    Just a few days into preseason camp he was already earning the praise of defensive coordinator Mike Stoops, via Guerin Emig of the Tulsa World): 

    I’ve been impressed with his movements and his ability to cover well. The game isn’t too big for him, and he handles things well. I’ve been pleasantly surprised that he’s been the player I thought he was. Sometimes, that’s not always the case. In Steven’s case, he’s got a chance to be a great player if he continues to keep doing what he’s doing.

    Playing time shouldn't be a problem for Parker, then, a 4-star member of Oklahoma's 2014 class. 

     

    Jamal Adams, LSU

    As far as star freshmen go, Leonard Fournette has garnered most of the attention for LSU. But don't forget about safety Jamal Adams, a 5-star member of the Tigers' 2014 class. Per Glenn Guilbeau of The News-Star, Adams has been practicing at both safety spots and in nickel and dime packages. 

    It would appear that the Tigers' defensive coaches know what they have in Adams and want to get him on the field in any way possible. With recent defensive backs like Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu playing as freshmen, the precedent has been set. 

Specialist

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    This is a consolation prize of sorts for USC athlete Adoree' Jackson. 

    Jackson had a case to make the preseason All-American team as a cornerback but just missed the cut. He is, however, proving to be a versatile weapon for the Trojans on defense, offense and special teams. 

    Per Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times, Jackson recently returned a punt for a touchdown in practice. It's hardly the same situation he would face in a game, but there's no denying Jackson has speed and skill in open space. 

    "He's got some great tools, and he's a real sharp—he's very smart," defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox said, via Klein. "So he'll pick it up and he can do some things that can really help us."