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Who are the top contenders for Freshman of the Year in the Pac-12?
The beauty of college football lies in its unpredictability and volatility.
Roster turnover is largely responsible for the tremendous amount of variability from year to year within the sport. Key graduations, early entries into the NFL Draft, dismissals and a massive influx of tomorrow's stars in the form of bright-eyed freshmen create more personnel turnover in college football than any other major sport in the country.
It's these (relatively) unknown commodities that offer fans a renewed hope of future success. Who are the top freshmen to watch in the Pac-12 this fall?
Adoree Jackson, ATH, USC
For lack of a better term, Coach Steve Sarkisian adores his true freshman, do-everything dynamo. Jackson is penciled in as the star kick returner but will also get carries as a running back, catch passes as a receiver and could even get reps as a defensive back. Coach Sark will use Jackson in any and all ways this fall because it looks like the freshman can handle it.
Anu Solomon, QB, Arizona
The former standout from famed Bishop Gorman High School has been taking most of the first-team reps and appears to have a leg up on Jerrard Randall and Jesse Scroggins. His skill set fits Rich Rodriguez’ offense perfectly and he’s had a year to sit and learn the playbook. He was a big-time winner in high school and is one of the highest-rated QB recruits to ever sign at Arizona.
Tyree Robinson, S, Oregon
While twin brother Tyrell will be suiting up for Fresno State after being dismissed from Oregon, Tyree is set to take over as the starting strong safety. The long, rangy athlete has put in the work this offseason and is in line to become a breakout defender in his redshirt freshman season in Eugene.
Khaliel Rodgers | Toa Lobendahn, OL, USC
Rodgers, a four-star member of the 2013 class, has been through two springs and was considered the best center in the nation two years ago. He is penciled in at the pivot currently. Lobendahn was a four-star early enrollee this spring and is currently holding the starting left guard position. The Trojans' front line is extremely talented, but also extremely inexperienced.
Jermaine Kelly | Budda Baker, DB, Washington
Baker is the highest-rated member of the 2014 Husky class and has already earned a spot in the two-deep at safety. Kelly, a redshirt freshman, is slotted to start at cornerback for new coach Chris Petersen and his reworked secondary. Look for both talented newcomers to lead a group of defensive backs that could feature half a dozen young contributors.
D.J. Calhoun, LB, Arizona State
One of three ASU early enrollees, Calhoun has shot up the depth chart to earn a potential starting spot at outside linebacker. His quickness and size allows him to be moved all over the formation. He will battle all fall camp to hold onto that starting spot and will undoubtedly be a long-term contributor for Todd Graham.
Bryce Bobo, WR, Colorado
Bobo is the top name in a collection of young freshmen who stand to get playing time this fall in Mike MacIntryre’s offense. Junior Nelson Spruce will be the top target for the Buffs but Bobo leads a deep group of redshirt and true freshmen who are eyeing first-team reps. Bobo, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound redshirt freshman, has the inside track for the No. 2 role in Boulder.
JuJu Smith, ATH, USC
Who knows what side of the ball it will be on but Smith appears to be earmarked for a large role as just a true freshman. He’s already gotten rave reviews as a wide receiver but rumors are swirling about the electric player switching to defensive back to start at nickelback. Wherever he lines up, keep an eye on the explosive youngster.
Devon Allen | Darren Carrington, WR, Oregon
The Ducks are in desperate need of quality depth at wide receiver and Oregon could have a couple of playmakers in Allen and Carrington. Allen, a world-class sprinter and track star, is a great fit in the offense while Carrington brings a bigger, more traditional frame. These are just two freshmen that coordinator Scott Frost and head coach Mark Helfrich will employ this fall.
Austin Hooper, TE, Stanford
Many are excited to see the nation’s No. 1 tight end prospect Dalton Schultz in action but they may have to wait until after he redshirts this fall. This is due, in part, to the development of redshirt freshman Austin Hooper. The 6-foot-4, 250-pounder is excellent at both in-line blocking (a must) and as a pass-catcher (a need) in Stanford’s offense. The three-time state champ from De La Salle is slated to start for David Shaw this fall.
Cole Madison, OL, Washington State
The 6-foot-5, 300-pounder is penciled in as the starter at right tackle for Mike Leach. The former tight end recruit has added plenty of weight (obviously) and has been considered the starter on the right side since spring camp. Look for Madison to have a long career in Pullman.
Best of the Rest:
Nick Wilson, RB, Arizona
Marcus Ball, S, Arizona State
Hunter Jarmon | Walter Jones, WR, Oregon State
Kenny Young, LB, UCLA
Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford
Jacob Alsadek, OL, Arizona
Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon
Tre Watson, RB, Cal
Salesi Uhatafe, OL, Utah