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November 27, 2007

Crabtree leads scary list of young talent

Here's a scary thought about the skill-position players in this year's freshman class: How good will they be next season? Or as juniors?

We do know this: Defensive coordinators will have their work cut out for them.

Running backs Knowshon Moreno and LeSean McCoy had amazing seasons. Missouri's Jeremy Maclin has broken - or will break - several national freshman records for all-purpose yardage. Redshirt freshman quarterback Sam Bradford leads the nation in passing efficiency and is leading Oklahoma into the Big 12 title game.

But the most impressive performance belongs to Texas Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree, who stands above the rest as Rivals.com's National Freshman of the Year.

Crabtree leads the nation in catches, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, and has from the first week of the season. His 1,861 yards, 21 touchdown catches and 125 receptions are national freshman records and Big 12 records. He is also the first freshman finalist for the Biletnikoff Award, given annually to the nation's best wide receiver.

Rivals.com 2007 Freshman All-America First Team
QB Sam Bradford, Oklahoma, (RS), 6-4/214
HIGH SCHOOL: Oklahoma City (Okla.) Putnam City North | Video
BUZZ: Though a concussion knocked him out of the Sooners' loss to Texas Tech, Bradford still led the nation in passing efficiency for most of the season. He is the fifth starting quarterback to lead OU to a Big 12 title game.
RB Knowshon Moreno, Georgia (RS), 5-11/207
HIGH SCHOOL: Bedford (N.J.) Middletown South | Video
BUZZ: By topping 100 yards in each of his final five SEC games, Moreno became Georgia's first 1,000-yard back since Musa Smith in 2002. Moreno has 1,335 yards this season, and only Herschel Walker had more yards as a freshman at Georgia.
RB LeSean McCoy, Pittsburgh, 5-11/210
HIGH SCHOOL: New Berlin (N.Y.) Milford Academy | Video
BUZZ: Despite splitting time with LaRod Stephens-Howling, McCoy became the third Pitt freshman to top 1,000 rushing yards. Going into the season finale against West Virginia, McCoy has 1,180 yards and 14 touchdowns.
WR Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech (RS), 6-3/208
HIGH SCHOOL: Dallas Carter | Video
BUZZ: Crabtree rewrote the record books, setting national freshman records for receiving yards (1,861), touchdowns (21) and receptions (125). He led the nation in all three categories.
WR Marcus Barnett, Cincinnati (RS), 6-1/175
HIGH SCHOOL: Upper Marlboro (Md.) Douglass | Video
BUZZ: Flourishing as QB Ben Mauk's top deep threat, Barnett finished the regular season with a school-record 13 touchdown catches to go with 845 receiving yards.

TE Rob Gronkowski, Arizona, 6-6/250
HIGH SCHOOL: Pittsburgh Woodland Hills | Video
BUZZ: He became more involved in the offense toward the end of the season. A big target in the passing game, Gronkowski had 26 catches for 496 yards and five touchdowns going into the regular-season finale against Arizona State.
OT Lee Ziemba, Auburn, 6-8/297
HIGH SCHOOL:Rogers (Ark.) HS | Video
BUZZ: Only the third true freshman at any position and the first true freshman lineman to start a season-opener during the Tommy Tuberville era, Ziemba has started every game at right tackle and graded out as one of Auburn's top linemen.
OT Trinton Sturdivant, Georgia, 6-5/293
HIGH SCHOOL: Wadesboro (Ga.) Anson County | Video
BUZZ: Sturdivant made every start this season at left tackle for the Bulldogs. He became the first true freshman offensive lineman to start an opener for Georgia in the Mark Richt era.

OG Maurkice Pouncey, Florida, 6-4/311
HIGH SCHOOL: Lakeland (Fla.) HS | Video
BUZZ: Pouncey started 10 games, including the season-opener, and helped pave the way for Tim Tebow's 838 rushing yards and 22 touchdown runs.

OG Anthony Davis, Rutgers, 6-6/350
HIGH SCHOOL: Piscataway (N.J.) High | Video
BUZZ: Davis helped re-ignite Rutgers' running game. Since Davis became a starter midway through the season, the Scarlet Knights have rushed for more than 230 yards per game.

C Ryan McMahon, Florida State (RS), 6-3/275
HIGH SCHOOL: Rome (Ga.) Darlington | Video
BUZZ: Florida State's offensive line has struggled in recent seasons, but this converted defensive tackle is a bright spot. He started every game at center.

DE Cameron Heyward, Ohio State, 6-6/282
HIGH SCHOOL: Suwanee (Ga.) Peachtree Ridge | Video
BUZZ: Heyward, the son of former NFL running back Craig "Ironhead" Heyward, took over the starting spot midway through the season for one of the nation's best defenses. He finished the regular season with nine tackles for loss.
DE Everson Griffen, USC, 6-3/265
HIGH SCHOOL: Avondale (Ariz.) Agua Fria | Video
BUZZ: Griffen, the No. 6 overall recruit in the 2007 class, did most of his damage in the second half of the season. He had 5.5 sacks this season, and 4.5 of them came against Oregon State on Nov. 3 and Arizona State on Nov. 22.
DT Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma (RS), 6-4/291
HIGH SCHOOL: Oklahoma City (Okla.) Southeast
BUZZ: McCoy, the No. 4 recruit in the class of 2006, occupied opposing offensive linemen on the Big 12's top run defense. He goes into the Big 12 Championship Game with six tackles for loss.
DT Scooter Berry, West Virginia (RS), 6-2/285
HIGH SCHOOL: North Babylon (N.Y.) HS
BUZZ: Berry played a big role on a vastly improved defense. West Virginia is in the top 10 in total defense and scoring defense this season. Berry has 4.5 tackles for loss going into the final regular-season game against Pittsburgh.
LB Rennie Curran, Georgia, 5-11/220
HIGH SCHOOL: Snellville (Ga.) Brookwood | Video
BUZZ: Curran worked his way into the starting lineup for the Florida, Auburn and Kentucky games. Georgia won all three. Against the Wildcats, he had a career-high 13 tackles.

LB Greg Jones, Michigan State, 6-1/220
HIGH SCHOOL: Cincinnati Archbishop Moeller | Video
BUZZ: Jones started six games at outside linebacker and became the Spartans' leading tackler with 73 stops and 7.5 tackles for loss.

LB Scott Lutrus, Connecticut (RS), 6-3/220
HIGH SCHOOL: Brookfield (Conn.) High | Video
BUZZ: Lutrus helped lead Connecticut's surprising season by finishing the regular season with 98 tackles and four interceptions, including two returned for touchdowns.

CB Tavious Polo, Florida Atlantic (RS)
HIGH SCHOOL: Plantation (Fla.) South Plantation | Video
BUZZ: For most of the season, Polo led the nation in interceptions - including the pick that ended Kentucky QB Andre Woodson's record-setting streak of 325 passes without an INT. Four of Polo's seven interceptions have come against BCS-league opponents.
CB Kareem Jackson, Alabama, 5-11/185
HIGH SCHOOL: Macon (Ga.) Westside | Video
BUZZ: Jackson started the season opener and never looked back. He's fourth on the team with 61 tackles and has three interceptions, including two picks in a rout of Tennessee.

SS Eric Berry, Tennessee, 5-11/195
HIGH SCHOOL: Fairburn (Ga.) Creekside | Video
BUZZ: Berry, the third-ranked prospect in the class of 2007, didn't disappoint with four interceptions and starts at cornerback and safety. His 207 yards on interception returns are an SEC freshman record.
FS Deunta Williams, North Carolina (RS), 6-2/195
HIGH SCHOOL: Jacksonville (N.C.) White Oak | Video
BUZZ: On a team that played a ton of freshmen, Williams was one of the best. He started every game and recorded a team-best three interceptions.

K Thomas Weber, Arizona State (RS), 6-1/202
HIGH SCHOOL: Los Angeles Loyola
BUZZ: A Lou Groza Award finalist, Weber started his career by converting his first 17 attempts. He is 20 of 21 overall. Weber is 6-for-6 on attempts of longer than 40 yards, including a long of 53.
P Ryan Shoemaker, Auburn (RS), 6-0/188
HIGH SCHOOL: Birmingham (Ala.) Oak Mountain
BUZZ: Auburn's punting duo of Shoemaker and true freshman Patrick Tatum ranks fourth in the nation in net punting. Shoemaker led the SEC with 43.2 yards per punt.

KR DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma (RS), 6-0/203
HIGH SCHOOL: Las Vegas Bishop Gorman | Video
BUZZ: A member of the Sooners' three-man attack at tailback, Murray was a one-man wrecking crew as a kick returner. He returned two kickoffs for touchdowns among his 15 total scores.
PR David Gilreath, Wisconsin, 5-11/160
HIGH SCHOOL: New Hope (Minn.) Robbinsdale Armstrong | Video
BUZZ: Gilreath led all freshmen with 14.9 yards per return, though none resulted in a touchdown. He also is a good kick returner, as well.

ALL-PURPOSE Jeremy Maclin, Missouri (RS), 6-1/200
HIGH SCHOOL: Kirkwood (Mo.) HS | Video
BUZZ: Maclin has set an NCAA freshman record with 2,509 all-purpose yards (954 receiving, 309 rushing, 947 on kickoff returns, 299 on punt returns) heading into the Big 12 Championship Game. He accounted for 16 touchdowns through the first 12 games.

Rivals.com 2007 Freshman All-America Second Team
QB Jake Locker, Washington (RS), 6-2/225
HIGH SCHOOL: Ferndale (Wash.) High
BUZZ: Locker is helping to revive the Huskies. He has 1,920 passing yards, 14 touchdowns and 14 interceptions while running for 910 yards and 12 scores.

RB Terry Grant, Alabama (RS), 5-10/188
HIGH SCHOOL: Lumberton (Ala.) High
BUZZ: Grant helped to ignite Alabama's running game with 891 rushing yards and eight touchdowns.

RB Harvey Unga, BYU (RS), 6-0/221
HIGH SCHOOL: Provo (Utah) Timpview
BUZZ: Unga has 1,050 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground headed into the regular-season finale. He has added 600 receiving yards and three more TDs.

WR Arrelious Benn, Illinois, 6-2/215
HIGH SCHOOL: Washington (D.C.) Dunbar
BUZZ: The Big Ten freshman of the year, "Rejus" was a matchup nightmare. He finished the regular season with 989 all-purpose yards (596 receiving, 158 rushing and 235 on kickoff returns).
WR Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State, 6-2/210
HIGH SCHOOL: Lufkin (Texas) High
BUZZ: The Cowboys will be in OK shape even when Adarius Bowman leaves because of this physical receiver. Bryant finished the regular season with 34 receptions for 505 yards and four touchdowns.
TE James Casey, Rice, 6-4/245
HIGH SCHOOL: Azle (Texas) High
BUZZ: A former minor league pitcher, Casey - who is 23 - returned to college to catch 46 passes for 585 yards and four touchdowns. He also rushed for five scores and saw time at five positions, including defensive end and quarterback.
OT Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin (RS), 6-8/292
HIGH SCHOOL: Cottage Grove (Wis.) Monona Grove
BUZZ: The mammoth tackles fared well in spite of taking over for No. 3 overall NFL draft pick Joe Thomas.

OT Stephen Schilling, Michigan (RS), 6-5/298
HIGH SCHOOL: Bellevue (Wash.) High
BUZZ: Despite his struggles against Ohio State, Schilling has been solid in 10 starts at right tackle and two at right guard.

OG Clint Boling, Georgia, 6-5/290
HIGH SCHOOL: Alpharetta (Ga.) Chattahoochee
BUZZ: Along with tackle Trinton Sturdivant and guard Chris Davis, Boling is one of three freshman starters on the Bulldogs' line. Boling has started at right tackle and right guard, and Georgia's running game has taken off during the second half of the season.
OG Ryan Tolar, Washington (RS), 6-5/310
HIGH SCHOOL: Pasco (Wash.) High
BUZZ: Tolar has started 11 games at left guard, paving the way for the two-pronged rushing attack headed by QB Jake Locker (910 yards, 12 TDs) and TB Louis Rankin (1,149 yards, six TDs).
C Kristofer O'Dowd, USC, 6-5/300
HIGH SCHOOL: Tucson (Ariz.) Salpointe Catholic
BUZZ: O'Dowd was limited by injuries, but few freshmen were as effective in the offense as he was in his three starts. He was the first Trojans true freshman to start at center.

DE Greg Romeus, Pittsburgh (RS), 6-5/250
HIGH SCHOOL: Coral Springs (Fla.) Coral Glades
BUZZ: He made most of his time with four sacks and 11.5 tackles for a loss, which is tied for the team lead.

DE Kirk DeCremer, Wisconsin (RS), 6-5/238
HIGH SCHOOL: Middleton (Wis.) Verona Area
BUZZ: He was used in a reserve role for most of the season before starting the final two regular-season games. He has 5.5 sacks.

DT Brian Price, UCLA, 6-1/295
HIGH SCHOOL: Los Angeles Crenshaw
BUZZ: The Bruins' veteran defense didn't miss a step when Price entered the lineup because of injury. He has four tackles for losses, a pass breakup and a forced fumble heading into the regular-season finale against USC.
DT Marvin Austin, North Carolina, 6-3/295
HIGH SCHOOL: Washington (D.C.) Ballou
BUZZ: Austin started four games for the Tar Heels, recording 26 tackles, six tackles for a loss and four sacks.

LB Lawrence Wilson, Connecticut (RS), 6-1/220
HIGH SCHOOL: Tuscaloosa (Ala.) Paul W. Bryant
BUZZ: Along with Scott Lutrus, Wilson makes up an outstanding tandem of freshman outside linebackers. Wilson finished the regular season with 106 tackles for the surprising Huskies.

LB Rolando McClain, Alabama, 6-4/255
HIGH SCHOOL: Decatur (Ala.) High
BUZZ: McClain started the season on a tear but cooled off late. He still finished the regular season with 69 tackles.

LB Obinna Ezeh, Michigan (RS), 6-2/243
HIGH SCHOOL: Grand Rapids (Mich.) Catholic Central
BUZZ: Ezeh made eight starts and is fifth on the Michigan team in tackles. He made a total of 35 stops in the final three regular-season games.

CB Donovan Warren, Michigan, 6-0/173
HIGH SCHOOL: Long Beach (Calif.) Poly
BUZZ: The former five-star prospect has a bright future after starting the final 11 games of the regular season. He sealed a victory over Illinois with his first career interception.

CB Omar Bolden, Arizona State, 5-11/200
HIGH SCHOOL: Ontario (Calif.) Colony
BUZZ: Bolden has five pass breakups and an interception for a defense that ranks 17th in pass efficiency heading into the regular-season finale against Arizona.

SS Zac Etheridge, Auburn (RS), 5-11/200
HIGH SCHOOL: Troy (Ala.) Henderson
BUZZ: Second on the team in tackles, Etheridge has five pass breakups and two forced fumbles. He started in all but one game this season.

FS Major Wright, Florida, 6-1/205
HIGH SCHOOL: Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas
BUZZ: The hard-hitting Wright played out of position he's a natural strong safety, a position he'll likely play next season and has forced three fumbles on the season. He became a starter early in the year.
K Daniel Lincoln, Tennessee, 6-4/204
HIGH SCHOOL: Ocala (Fla.) Forest
BUZZ: The Volunteers had few reservations about sending Lincoln out for a long field goal. He attempted 10 between 40-49 yards and made seven. He heads into the SEC Championship Game 21 of 26 on the season.
P Keenyn Crier, Arizona (RS), 6-1/200
HIGH SCHOOL: Spring (Texas) Westfield
BUZZ: Crier leads the Pac-10 in punting with an average of 43.4 yards per kick.


KR Antonio Brown, Central Michigan, 5-11/175
HIGH SCHOOL: Miami Norland
BUZZ: Brown averages 27.7 yards per kickoff return, including one touchdown. He also has 92 receptions for 879 yards and five touchdowns going into the MAC Championship Game.

PR Joe McKnight, USC, 6-0/180
HIGH SCHOOL: River Ridge (La.) John Curtis
BUZZ: Though not quite Reggie Bush yet, McKnight averaged 8.8 yards per punt return to go with his offensive totals. A 45-yard return against Arizona turned the tide in a Trojans win.

ALL-PURPOSE Charles Clay, Tulsa, 6-3/222
HIGH SCHOOL: Little Rock (Ark.) Central
BUZZ: The fullback/H-back has been a key weapon for the Golden Hurricane. Clay goes into the Conference USA Championship Game with 843 receiving yards and five touchdowns to go with 255 rushing yards and a score.

PAST RIVALS.COM ALL-FRESHMAN TEAMS: 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002
MORE: Rivals.com 2007 Midseason All-Freshman Team



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