Fine Freshman Performances From Spring Games

aroundtheacc3Early roster projections are often weighted heavily towards seniority. After all, we have seen what juniors and seniors can do at the college level, even if their playing time was limited by players who have since graduated.  However, ACC spring games featured some strong performances from both redshirted freshmen preparing for their second year on campus and true freshmen who enrolled early to participate in spring practices.  Some of these players may have to wait their turn to contribute in the fall, but others could have an immediate impact in 2013.

Josh Banks, defensive end, Wake Forest: In a spring game dominated by defense, Banks was the leader. The redshirt freshman from Cary, NC’s Middle Creek High School recorded eight tackles, four tackles for a loss, and two sacks in the 70 minute scrimmage.  Banks is unlikely to start this season with the return of rising seniors Zack Thompson and Kris Redding, but he should provide always-important depth on the defensive front before moving into a bigger role in 2014.

Jontavious Carter, wide receiver, Miami: The redshirt freshman led all receivers in Miami’s spring game, catching five passes for 113 yards.  For now, at least, it will be the only time Carter can say he had more catches and yards in a game that featured Andre Johnson.  The five-time Pro Bowler made a cameo appearance in the third quarter to catch a touchdown pass from Gino Torretta.  There are a number of strong receivers in Coral Gables (junior Rashawn Scott and sophomore Herb Waters also had strong showings), so Stephen Morris should have no shortage of options running Miami’s passing attack in 2013.

Khris Francis, running back, North Carolina: True freshman Khris Francis stole the show at UNC’s spring game. While many were looking to see how senior AJ Blue or sophomore Romar Morris would perform as the likely successors to Giovani Bernard, the early enrollee rushed for 101 yards on 20 carries.  All three of the running backs had strong outings, but Francis was the game’s leading rusher.  The Tar Heels used Blue and Morris regularly alongside Bernard last season, so there’s plenty of reason to believe Francis could earn significant playing time as part of a three-man platoon in the backfield this season.

Mark Hall, linebacker, Virginia: Hall, a redshirt freshman from Virginia Beach, recorded 3.5 tackles and two sacks for the Blue Team in a defense-heavy Virginia spring game.  While the Orange Team was considered the first-team defense, there are  two openings at linebacker following the departures of LaRoy Reynolds and Steve Greer.  Hall is probably an outsider to fill those holes, but it won’t be by fault of his spring game performance.

Jordan Leggett, tight end, Clemson: True freshman Jordan Leggett made a strong impression in the Tigers’ spring game. Ranked seventh amongst tight ends in the recruiting class of 2013 by ESPN, Leggett caught seven passes for 97 yards and a touchdown.  The touchdown came on a short pass from Donny McElveen which Leggett turned into a 50 yard gain with speed and a slick juke to evade a tackler.  With Brandon Ford graduated and Sam Cooper suffering a torn ACL during the scrimmage, there will be opportunities available for Leggett in the fall.

Chad Voytik, quarterback, Pittsburgh: The Panthers limited Tom Savage’s time on the field during Pittsburgh’s spring game, enabling redshirt freshman Chad Voytik to take some snaps. Voytik used the opportunity to complete 27 of 33 passes for 358 yards and three touchdowns.  Savage is considered the leader in Pittsburgh’s quarterback battle, but Voytik showed he will push Savage all the way to opening kickoff.  If nothing else, he could be a promising starter for the Panthers after Savage’s departure at season’s end.

Jameis Winston, quarterback, Florida State: On his first pass, redshirt freshman Jameis Winston completed a 58-yard touchdown pass to David Tyrrell.  Winston finished the day with 205 yards and two touchdowns on 12-of-15 completed passes.  Four days later, Clint Trickett was released from his scholarship to transfer from Florida State, signaling the beginning of the Jameis Winston era in Tallahassee.  Certainly, the defenses will be more challenging going forward, but Winston’s debut was a strong one.

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