Posted by Mark Branstad – Football Talent Advisors
Some more freshman making an impact even as we enter the last few weeks of the season, a few of these players are probably overdue to be recognized. Overdue players like LSU’s Russell Shepard come to mind. I’m not sure how to categorize his position he’s sort of part quarterback / receiver / runner…well the newest incarnation of “slash”. Here’s the list.
First though let me say cfbstats.com is the best site out there for updated college football player and team statistical data. They update constantly and have game split statistical categories, a great feature which I use for the “Freshman of Influence” series.
Freshman of Influence Week 9
Russell Shepard, QB – LSU
This freshman quarterback’s stats aren’t eye popping, yet. In the past two games Shepard has 11 carries for 119 yards and two touchdowns. For the season he has 28 carries for 225 yards (8.0 avg) and two scores. He’s definitely brought a new dimension to LSU’s offense. Shepard has a deep background in high school track at Cypress Ridge (Texas) with bests in the 100 meters (11.1 FAT), 4×100 (42.53), 4×200 (1:29.02) and over 22-feet in the long jump…although I’ve heard he’s gone well over 23-feet.
Janzen Jackson, DB – Tennessee
Jackson, a true freshman safety, was just named SEC Freshman of the Week for his defensive performance against South Carolina. He had seven tackles, one forced fumble (apparently earth shattering hit) and two PBUs. For the season Jackson has 33 tackles, tied for sixth best on the team. Not bad considering the talent on that side of the ball for Tennessee.
Certainly his athletic background hasn’t hurt his ability to perform well at the SEC level…he qualified for the Louisiana High School State Track Meet on multiple occasions. He ran track for both Carencro and Barbe HS, while at Carencro specialized in the hurdles and sprints with bests of (7.70) 55 meters high hurdles and (6.68) 55 meter dash. He qualified for the state meet in the 110 hurdles in 2007 and 2008, and ran a leg on the third place 4×100 relay (42.10) for Barbe HS in 2008.
Ronnell Lewis, LB – Oklahoma
Lewis is a backup linebacker on a very talented Sooner defense but he’s found ways to contribute. Through eight games he has 11 tackles, two TFLs, one sack and a forced fumble. He’s listed at 6’02, 235 pounds but perhaps it was his speed and athleticism that attracted Sooner coaches most. Lewis attended Dewar HS (Oklahoma) and was a three-sport athlete, played eight-man football. Apparently was surprised by the scholarship offer from Oklahoma but I’m sure the coaching staff is glad he’s a Sooner now. Lewis, among his many high school achievements, qualified for the Oklahoma State 2A Track Meet and ran the 200 in (22.99). Not bad for a 220 pound plus athlete.
Chris Borland, LB – Wisconsin
Another Wisconsin freshman ‘backer Mike Taylor appeared on an earlier Freshman of Influence blog but Borland is deserving. First, Borland is a true freshman. Second, two weeks ago he had a monster game against then 8th ranked Iowa (10 tackles). Third, he’s had 26 tackles, five TFLs, 2.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and a blocked kick on the season. And fourth, Borland attended Archbishop Alter HS (Kettering, Ohio) and was a four-sport athlete participating in football, basketball, track and tennis…wow! Perhaps his most impressive high school feat was throwing 61’00 in the shot put and winning state runner-up at the Division 2 Ohio State Track Meet this past spring.
There’s that number 61 again in the shot put…first Nebraska’s Suh and Crick, now Borland. Who’s next?!
Sterling Griffin, WR – South Florida
Another true freshman without great statistics but when he’s made plays they’ve counted. Griffin only has nine catches on the season for 190 yards and two touchdowns. But his two touchdowns came against FSU and last week at West Virginia. His scores were huge factors in both winning efforts. I mentioned several weeks ago that USF has recruited some serious speed in last year’s class and one of those recruits was Griffin:
University of South Florida recruited several very fast players too this past year. 2009 Recruits: Lindsey Lamar, Kayvon Webster and Sterling Griffin all have top notch track speed. Even their linebacker recruit, Sam Barrington, ran hurdles and threw some discus in high school. Lamar is already producing some numbers for USF after three games.
Griffin has an extensive high school track background out of Monsignor Pace in Miami, Florida. He was twice the state runner-up in the 400 meters (best time of 48.21) in Class 2A; and ran on the state champion 4×100 relay (41.79) in 2008, with a blistering best time of (41.04) at the Region 4-2A Meet. Griffen even qualified for the state meet in the 4×400 relay finishing seventh in (3:22.01).
Butler Bulldogs are now 8-0 but face three tough Pioneer League games to close the season.
John Goodman, Notre Dame wide receiver, is picking up some quality playing time for the Irish particularly in ’wildcat’ formations. Goodman was a Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger HS (Indiana) graduate and a multi-sport athlete guy. In fact, qualified multiple years for state track meet in 100, 200, and 4×100 relay.
“Touchdown Man” Chad Spann, Northern Illinois running back, is tied for fifth in the nation in scoring with 14 touchdowns through 8 games. Spann, a graduate of Indianapolis North Central HS, was a terrific track athlete as well. Long jump probably was his best event with a best approaching 23-feet, (22.42) 200 meter dash, (6.72) 55 meter dash and was a member of 4×100 relay team (42.15) that finished fourth at the state meet in 2006. Pretty amazing he was originally a walk-on for NIU…appears he’s earned his scholarship.