The college season has flown by and now rivalry week and the bowls to finish. I have several more freshman to highlight before we wrap up this year’s series. It was hard to find many freshman offensive lineman but perhaps I’ll place more emphasis there next year. Next week I’ll compile a complete list of this year’s FTA “Freshman of Influence”.
Freshman of Influence Weeks 11 & 12:
Jesse Grandy, WR/KR – Mississippi
Grandy, a true freshman, is making a solid contribution to surging Ole Miss (huge victory over LSU)…he’s seemingly done a little of everything with 14 rushes for 91 yards and two scores, plus two receptions for 37 yards. But his biggest contribution has come in the kick return game with 22 for 603 yards and two scores. Interestingly he played some quarterback in high school at Dollarway in Arkansas, led them to a state title as a senior. He dabbled in a little track and field qualifying for state in the 4×100 (44.52). Is he another Dexter McCluster? Just wait and see…maybe Grandy’s not quite THAT explosive.
Mike Ball, RB – Nevada
This freshman is probably an afterthought on a team with THREE 1,000 yard rushers! However Ball, a 5’10 225 pound thumper, had a monster game against UNLV. He totaled 184 yards against UNLV and had one run of 89 yards for a touchdown. This indicates Ball’s big play potential and speed for a back his size. He ran track at Desert Pines High School (Nevada) and participated in the 400 relay (43.81), 800 relay (1:33.14) and long jump.
Kenny Okoro, CB – Wake Forest
Okoro has played 11 games this season and produced three interceptions, 34 tackles, eight PBUs and a forced fumble. Those are impressive tackle numbers for a freshman corner. Listed at 6’00 and 190 it looks like Wake might have a mainstay in Okoro. He attended Greensboro Dudley High School (North Carolina) and participated in track. His track performances suggest some athletic versatility in that he hurdled, high jumped and long jumped. Makes sense to me.
Al-terek McBurse, RB/KR – Purdue
This guy definitely has the coolest first name of any freshman so far. But anyway, McBurse was an early enrollee at Purdue and the true freshman was supposed to be pushing for the starting tailback job. The rise of sophomore Ralph Bolden diminished the need at running back this season but McBurse found a way to contribute via the return game. He returned 19 kicks for 468 yards and none bigger than this past week against rival Indiana which went for an 87-yard touchdown. He was even named ESPN’s BIG Ten Special Teams Player-of-the-Week. McBurse attended Winter Springs High School (Florida) and was a successful long jumper (21’05) and ran the 100, 200, and 400 meters (50.99).
Kanorris Davis, LB – Troy
Troy University’s recent history of developing NFL defensive talent – Demarcus Ware, Osi Umenyiora, Leodis McKelvin and Sherrod Martin come to mind – make this player all the more intriguing. Davis is a powerfully built at 5’11 and 215 pounds. He puts it to good use with 16 tackles, two TFLs, one sack and two forced fumbles in 10 games. Davis attended Perry High School (Georgia) and was the Class 3A state runner-up in the 100 meters (10.94) with a best of (10.84) in 2008. He ran on a state qualifying 1600 relay team (3:23.28) in 2007.
Paul Hazel, LB – Western Michigan
Here’s another very interesting freshman linebacker. What makes Hazel so interesting is his frame, he’s listed at 6’06 and 200 pounds. He’s got room to gain weight and at his height he might be a linebacker / end. Beyond that however he’s been productive with 11 tackles, 2.5 TFLs, and three sacks. Hazel was a standout basketball player at South Miami High School (Florida) and participated in track as well. He long jumped 21’08, high jumped and ran the 100 meters (11.35) and 200 meters (23.16). That 100 meter time is outstanding for an athlete his size. I’d expect we’ll hear more about him in coming seasons.
Matt Tucker, RB -TCU
There are a host of young skill athletes at TCU making an impact , we highlighted running back Ed Wesley in Week 7, but Tucker is also deserving. Tucker is a 6’01-215 pound workhorse that will compliment guys like Wesley and perhaps he’ll be the feature back going forward. He’s gained 605 yards on 93 carries for eight touchdowns in 11 games and while he isn’t TCU’s fastest back he has a great athletic background. He gained 6,000 yards at Chapel Hill High School (Tyler, Texas) and participated on the track team…long jumping over 20-feet, triple jump 41’00, and ran on 400 relay (43.10) and 800 relay (1:32.95) qualifying for regionals in both.
Greg Nwoko, FB – Arizona
Nwoko is a 6’02-220 pound “straight ahead” back or fullback (do those really exist anymore?) who’s given some production to Arizona’s running and passing game. Nwoko has 60 carries for 245 (4.0 avg) and three touchdowns, he’s also shown the ability to catch with 12 receptions for 144 yards. He appears to be a complete back and a great compliment to Arizona’s other running backs. Nwoko also has a touch of speed and burst as evidenced by his high school athletic background. He attended Pflugerville High School (Texas) and was reportedly 220 pounds back then too…ran 100 meters (11.8) and was an alternate for 400 and 800 relay teams.