Since we're about halfway through the season, I thought it was time to examine who the biggest impact freshmen have been. One caveat: With apologies to standouts such as Ryan Williams and Nick Perry, this list is true freshmen, not redshirts.
LeSean McCoy, now of the Philadelphia Eagles, was a huge part of the Pitt offense the past two years. When he jumped to Sunday football, it seemed that a lot of the air might come out of this program. Enter Lewis, a fairly unheralded 5-foot-8, 195-pound recruit from Albany, N.Y. All he's done is dart his way to almost six yards per carry, while sparking the Panthers to a 5-1 record. He's fifth in the nation in rushing (123 yards per game) and has run for seven TDs. Rutgers coach Greg Schiano, who faces Pitt this Friday, gave Lewis a huge compliment recently: "I hate to say it, but you know who he reminds me of," Schiano said, alluding to former Scarlet Knights running back Ray Rice. "He's got good patience and balance, and Ray did as well. He's very elusive."
Trojans coaches and players have raved about Barkley from the moment he put the pads on last spring; he's backed it up with his play. He's been more solid than spectacular overall, although the poise he displayed in leading a late-fourth-quarter, length-of-the-field TD drive at Ohio State was a pretty big statement for a young quarterback. Keep in mind that Barkley is also operating in a new system (new offensive coordinator and new play-caller for USC) and has been without Ronald Johnson, the team's top deep threat. For the season, Barkley has connected on 59 percent of his throws and is ranked 42nd in quarterback efficiency. "He is a very talented, fundamentally sound quarterback, playing well beyond his years," Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis said of Barkley. Weis has him Saturday afternoon in South Bend.Wait a second -- where is Tate Forcier on this list? BRUCE! Keep reading for where the Michigan quarterback ranks here -- plus five key players to watch Saturday in terms of NFL draft stock, a blow-up between the Orlando Sentinel and Mickey Andrews and another reason Bedlam in late November is heating up. For all of it, you must be an ESPN Insider.
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