Florida State Seminoles: Alex Figueroa
September, 25, 2013
By David M. Hale | ESPN.com
Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe is a throwback, and he's never been eager to play his freshmen too early. In his career at the helm of the Demon Deacons, just 22 true freshmen have seen action. And yet, in 2013, Grobe has already played 11 more.
It's a sign of the times that true freshmen are making an instant impact, and that's been particularly true in the ACC. And while virtually every program has seen some results from its Class of 2013 already, these five classes have produced the most through four weeks.
1. Pittsburgh: According to ESPN's rankings, Pitt had the 41st-ranked recruiting class last season, but few programs have gotten more production from their freshmen right off the bat than the Panthers. Pitt has played 12 true freshmen already this season, including two of the nation's best. Tailback James Conner ranks second in the ACC in rushing, and receiver Tyler Boyd has been electric, ranking fifth in the nation in all-purpose yards. Including receiver Scott Orndoff and kicker Chris Blewitt, freshmen have accounted for 70 percent of Pittsburgh's scoring this season.
Justin K. Aller/Getty ImagesIn FSU's season opener, Jalen Ramsey became the Noles' first true freshman cornerback to start a game since Deion Sanders in 1986.
2. Virginia Tech: The Hokies opened the season with two freshman defensive backs aiming to shut down the two-time defending champions. It was a major question mark, but Brandon Facyson and Kendall Fuller answered emphatically. Facyson has three interceptions and four passes defended so far, while Fuller has racked up 12 tackles, seven defended passes, six pass breakups and an interception. With the two freshmen starting all four games, Virginia Tech's passing defense ranks sixth in the nation.
3. NC State: Without starting quarterback Brandon Mitchell, the Wolfpack have had to find offense wherever they can, and two true freshmen have answered the call. Tailback Matt Dayes has racked up 143 yards on 37 carries so far, scoring three touchdowns. Meanwhile, receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling ranks in the top 15 in the ACC in receiving yards, yards per reception and yards per game.
4. Florida State: Jalen Ramsey became the first Florida State cornerback to earn a starting assignment as a true freshman since Deion Sanders in the opener, and he didn't disappoint, picking off Pitt QB Tom Savage for the Seminoles' first takeaway of the season. Ramsey ranks sixth on the team with 12 tackles, and he's recorded one of FSU's six sacks. Defensive end DeMarcus Walker earned a start, too, and Matthew Thomas has two tackles for loss. In all, 13 freshmen have seen the field for FSU.
5. Miami: The Hurricanes have yet to see significant contributions from a number of members of their 15th-ranked recruiting class, but the early results from Gus Edwards, Alex Figueroa and Stacy Coley have offered a glimpse of what's to come. Edwards has carried just 18 times, but he's scored on three of those runs, and his 7.3 yards-per-carry average ranks fourth in the ACC. Coley has just five catches, but one went for a touchdown, and Figueroa has eight tackles and a sack for a particularly tough Miami linebacking corps.
Next week is gaaaame week!
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- Clemson coach Dabo Swinney is in "tough love" mode.
- This might make some Clemson fans a little mad.
- Miami coach Al Golden answered questions about a variety of topics.
- Miami freshman linebacker Alex Figueroa was taught by Marines -- his parents.
- Former Clairton stars are trying to work their way into Pitt's lineup.
- Pitt doesn't plan on redshirting lineman Dorian Johnson.
- It's possible charges against NC State running back Shadrach Thornton could be dropped.
- Thornton is receiving counseling.
- Virginia quarterback David Watford has taken freshman cornerback Tim Harris under his wing.
- Not even getting engaged can distract UNC WR Sean Tapley right now.
- Duke walk-on Hud Mellencamp will continue to practice with the football team while he deals with felony battery charges in Indiana.
- Despite blood clots that will keep him out this season, Wake Forest offensive lineman Colin Summers could return for 2014.
- Here are six players who could become household names in the ACC this fall.
Handicapping Uncommitted Top 10 Recruits
5:37 2nd Qtr North Carolina 14 Virginia 21 3:30 PM ET Georgia Tech Pittsburgh
3:30 PM ET Boston College Wake Forest
7:00 PM ET Syracuse 21 Clemson