The Freshman Factor

Caleb Couturie FishWrap, FishWrap Archive

I don’t even try to keep it a secret that I’m absolutely enamored with this freshman class. Royce Freeman, Darren Carrington, Devon Allen, Charles Nelson, Doug Brenner and Aidan Schneider have all made their own significant impacts on the Ducks’ 2014 season. In fact,one could make the argument that without these guys the Ducks wouldn’t have a shot at playing Florida State in the Rose Bowl. In a season marred with knee injuries (Tyler Johnstone, Bralon Addison, Pharaoh Brown and now Ifo Ekpre-Olomu), the little ducklings have truly stepped up to fill roles and exceed expectations.

Freshman Charles Nelson is one of many young Duck players to make a huge impact this season.

Kevin Cline

Freshman Charles Nelson is one of many young Duck players to make a huge impact this season.

Ironically enough, this is one thing that both the Ducks and the Seminoles share. FSU hasn’t exactly had an injury free season either, as both the offense and defense have been banged up since the start of spring ball. Whereas last year Jameis Winston had the luxury of both a veteran and healthy surrounding team, this year has been a different story. It’s shown in Winston’s game, too, as the likely first-round pick has seen a huge dip in numbers since last year’s Heisman run. None the less, FSU finds itself competing for back-to-back championships, and just like Oregon the Seminoles have the freshmen to thank for that.

On the offensive side of the ball, the freshmen have come up huge for FSU. Freshman Dalvin Cook completely carried the load for the Seminoles, averaging 5.8 yards per carry on his way to 905 yards and eight touchdowns. In a year where starting RB Karlos Williams performed adequate at best, Cook was a driving force behind FSU’s success. Cook’s best performance came at a time when FSU needed him most, too, as the freshmen ran for a season high 177 yards in the ACC Championship Game.

Along with Cook, WR Travis Rudolph ranks third on the team in receiving yards, and fourth in receptions and TDs. Considering Rudolph didn’t even see any action until the fourth game of the season, he has put together quite an impressive campaign. On defense, FSU saw freshmen DT Derrick Nnadi and S Trey Marshall make huge plays in the ACC Championship game as well, helping to carry the Seminoles to their biggest victory of the season.

Coming into the Rose Bowl, both Oregon and Florida State will be led by key seniors and juniors on both sides of the ball, but watch carefully for these freshmen. With the game on the line, they might just be the players Mark Helfrich and Jimbo Fisher go to.

Top Photo by Craig Strobeck

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