Defensive Freshman of the Year: CB Vernon Hargreaves, Florida
First Team Defense
DE Joey Bosa, Ohio State
Bosa, the Fort Lauderdale gem who spurned Florida State and Florida, has played like a budding superstar in his first season in Columbus. At 6-6 and 275 pounds, the honorable mention All-Big Ten pick has tremendous size to go along with the get-off and the drive to become an elite pass rusher. Bosa has been a starter since early in the year, recording 39 tackles, 12.5 stops behind the line, 6.5 sacks and a team-high six hurries.
DE A'Shawn Robinson, Alabama
True freshman defensive linemen don't often play for Nick Saban. Robinson, though, is different than most of his predecessors in Tuscaloosa. At 6-4 and 320 pounds, with quick feet, he's just so tough to block. And he's only going to get better with more reps. Despite just a couple of starts, Robinson leads 'Bama with 5.5 sacks and is second in tackles for loss.
DT Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss
The nation's most heralded recruit showcased his versatility by starting six early games at end and four late ones at tackle. The 6-5, 294-pounder is strong enough to play inside, yet quick enough to line up opposite the tackle. Heck, he even played some halfback in the Egg Bowl, exploding through the line with incredible suddenness. Nkemdiche was a little dinged up this fall, but managed to make 29 stops and eight tackles for loss, while strengthening his case as an emerging star.
DE Eddie Vanderdoes, UCLA
Vanderdoes took the winding road to Westwood, including a stop in South Bend, but the Bruins are just thrilled to have him. Uncommonly athletic for a 6-4, 305-pounder, he operates with all of the quickness and agility of a much smaller lineman. How nimble has the part-time starter been? Not only does Vanderdoes have 38 tackles, but he's also rushed for a score and caught an 18-yard pass.
LB Addison Gillam, Colorado
Gillam didn't start playing high school football until his junior year, and he was largely overlooked coming out of tiny Palo Cedro, Calif., but he's on the Pac-12 radar now. After enrolling early and nabbing the job in the middle, he went on to collect a team-high 119 tackles, seven stops for loss and three sacks. Gillam has the right size, range and toughness to evolve very quickly into an anchor in Boulder.
LB Myles Jack, UCLA
Dual-threats don't typically play linebacker, but Jack isn't the garden variety rookie. In an incredible testament to versatility, he was named the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year ... on offense and defense. Freakishly athletic, he's made 70 stops and has broken up 11 passes, yet he's also rushed for 267 yards and seven scores on 37 carries. Jack has the potential to be a household name by 2014.
LB Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame
Smith has taken his first steps toward becoming the next great linebacker to play in South Bend. The nation's top-rated player at his position hasn't just met lofty expectations; he's exceeded them by starting all 12 games on the outside. An exceptional all-around athlete at the position, Smith has used his range and closing speed to rank third on the team with 61 tackles, 6.5 of which were behind the line.
CB Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech
The Baltimore native has immediately shown why he was one of the most coveted East Coast recruits, earning ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year and a spot on the all-league second team. A starter in all but one game, he has 56 tackles, six picks and a team-best 16 passes defended. Fuller's versatility was crucial when the Hokies suffered injuries, starting six games at outside linebacker in packages.
S Su'a Cravens, USC
The five-star gem of Lane Kiffin's final recruiting class at Troy has instantly fit in as a regular in the secondary. Cravens is mature, heady and physically ready to excel at this level. The starter in all but one game at strong safety has shown violent pop in making 45 tackles, while ranking second on the Trojans with four interceptions.
S Jalen Ramsey, Florida State
You want versatility in a rookie? Ramsey became the first true freshman to start at cornerback for the Seminoles since Deion Sanders in 1985. Then he started a pair of games at strong safety, before closing the year in the lineup at free safety. Like a defensive version of Jameis Winston, Ramsey has all of the physical tools to be a star, as well as the rare intangibles that can't be taught.
CB Vernon Hargreaves, Florida
After starting the year on the bench, the Gators had no choice but to promote Hargreaves. He was just too good to be used as a part-timer. Flashing lockdown corner potential, the rookie ball-hawk already looks capable of becoming one of the SEC's top pass defenders by 2014. Instinctive and intelligent in coverage, he parlayed a team-high three picks and 11 passes defended into becoming a Thorpe Award semifinalist.
PK Robert Aguayo, Florida State
Even the kickers have been elite this season in Tallahassee. Aguayo studied behind Dustin Hopkins as a first-year redshirt in 2012, and then proceeded to follow in his footsteps this past season. The Groza Award finalist connected on all but one of his 20 field goal attempts, including a 53-yarder, to earn a spot on the All-ACC Second Team.
P Austin Rehkow, Idaho
No one in the FBS averaged more yards per punt than Rehkow, who normed a school-record 47.8 yards for the Vandals. He was also the program's placekicker and a good enough all-around athlete to earn a walk-on tryout with Don Verlin's hoops team. Rehkow is a 6-3, 202-pounder who really drives his leg into the ball.
DE Chris Jones, Mississippi State
DE Carl Lawson, Auburn
DE Shaq Lawson, Clemson
DE Avery Moss, Nebraska
LB Dominique Alexander, Oklahoma
LB Leonard Floyd, Georgia
LB Steve Longa, Rutgers
CB Brandon Facyson, Virginia Tech
S Nate Andrews , Florida State
S Ryan Janvion, Wake Forest
CB Cameron Sutton, Tennessee
PK Zane Gonzalez, Arizona State
P Cameron Johnston, Ohio State
DL: Tarell Basham (Ohio), Jesse Brubaker (Tulsa), Ralphael Green (Indiana), Treyvon Hester (Toledo), Monty Nelson (NC State), Ifeadi Odenigbo (Northwestern), Darius Philon (Arkansas) LB: Darian Claiborne (Texas A&M), Dakota Cox (New Mexico), Salamo Fiso (Arizona State), T.J. Holloman (South Carolina), Skai Moore (South Carolina), Hardy Nickerson (Cal), Michael Rose (Nebraska), Zack Ryan (Ball State), T.J. Simmons (Indiana), Christian Tago (San Jose State), Steve Taylor (Houston), Lucas Wacha (Wyoming), Ben Weaver (Boise State), Scooby Wright (Arizona)
DB: Tony Conner (Ole Miss), DeVon Edwards (Duke), Jacoby Glenn (UCF), Zach Edwards (Cincinnati), Dominique Green (North Carolina), Will Likely (Maryland), Obi Melifonwu (Connecticut), Darius Mosely (Illinois), Zack Sanchez (Oklahoma), Sojourn Shelton (Wisconsin), Jack Tocho (NC State), Cameron Walker (Cal), Tre'Davious White (LSU)
PK: Colby Delahoussaye (LSU), Jake Elliott (Memphis), Elliott Fry (South Carolina), Michael Geiger (Michigan State), Andy Phillips (Utah)
P: Sean Covington (UCLA), Cole Leininger (Cal)