DALLAS (FWAA) – This is the third installment of the Football Writers Association of America's weekly Freshman Focus for the Steve Spurrier First-Year Coach of the Year Award, Freshman Player of the Year and the 2023 FWAA Freshman All-America Team.
The Steve Spurrier First-Year Coach Award, presented by Chris Doering Mortgage, goes to the best first-year coach (at his school) in FBS football at the conclusion of the season.
The recipient of the Steve Spurrier First-Year Coach, the FWAA Freshman of the Year and the Steve Spurrier Legends Coach will be honored at a special reception on Feb. 26 in Gainesville, Fla.
FIRST-YEAR PLAYERS: THE FRESH FOUR
Jordan Castell, S, Florida (6-2, 220, Orlando, Fla.): 10 tackles, 1 pass defended
Castell's team-leading 10 tackles helped the Gators stifle Tennessee in a 29-16 win. Florida's defense was particularly stout in the clutch, forcing three turnovers on downs in the second half. The true freshman's 20 total tackles this season are the second-most on the team. Castell and the Gator defense will look to dominate a Charlotte offense averaging 16 points per game this weekend.
Zeon Chriss, QB, Louisiana (6-2, 209, Baton Rouge, La.): 14/20, 174 yards, 1 TD; 6 rushes, 103 yards, 2 TD
Chriss' dual-threat prowess led the Ragin' Cajuns to a comfortable 41-21 win over UAB. The redshirt freshman filled in for an injured starter in the first quarter and quickly took control. Chriss ripped off touchdown runs on consecutive drives to give Louisiana-Lafayette a 24-0 halftime lead. Chriss could make his first career start when the Ragin' Cajuns play host to Buffalo this weekend.
LJ Martin, RB, BYU (6-2, 205, El Paso, Tx.): 23 rushes, 77 yards, 2 TD; 2 receptions, 11 yards
Martin's combination of power and breakaway speed helped BYU grind out a 38-31 road win over Arkansas. The true freshman's feats were particularly impressive considering the Razorbacks boasted the country's fourth-ranked run defense entering Saturday. Martin leads the Cougars in yards rushing (195) and carries (45) through week three. Martin will get another chance to impress this Saturday at Kansas for BYU's first Big 12 game as a member of the conference.
Darius Taylor, RB, Minnesota (5-11, 195, Detroit, Mich.): 22 rushes, 138 yards, 1 TD; 1 reception, 25 yards
Taylor chased his 193 rushing yards from week two with another imposing performance in a 31-13 loss to North Carolina. He became the school's first true freshman to rush for over 100 yards in consecutive performances since 2003. Taylor's 111 yards per game are good for ninth-most in the FBS and lead all freshmen. The Golden Gophers will aim to run rampant on a porous Northwestern front this Saturday.
STEVE SPURRIER FIRST-YEAR COACHES
Jeff Brohm, Louisville: Brohm led his alma mater to its first 3-0 start since 2016, beating Indiana 21-14. Louisville's defensive front delivered a clutch fourth quarter stop at the goal line to preserve the victory. The Cardinals benefited from a fast start as they took a 21-0 lead into halftime. Brohm's squad aims to stay undefeated in the ACC when it hosts conference foe Boston College on Saturday.
Jamey Chadwell, Liberty: Chadwell's passing attack imposed its will on Buffalo in a decisive 55-27 win. Quarterback Kaidon Salter completed 16 passes for 344 yards and five touchdowns, averaging 21.5 yards per completion. The Flames' defense was particularly vicious on third down, allowing just five conversions on 18 attempts. Chadwell looks to lead Liberty to its first 4-0 start since 2020 with a win at Florida International this weekend.
Matt Rhule, Nebraska: Rhule's Cornhuskers got a much-needed 35-11 win over Northern Illinois. Heinrich Haarberg tallied 258 total yards and three total touchdowns in his first career start at quarterback. Nebraska outgained the Huskies 382-149, allowing just 26 yards rushing on 22 attempts. The Cornhuskers will look to improve to 2-2 against Louisiana Tech this Saturday.
Deion Sanders, Colorado: Sanders' Buffaloes continued to thrive in the national spotlight via a double overtime defeat of rival Colorado State, 43-35. Colorado roared back from an 11-point fourth quarter deficit to stay undefeated on the season. Quarterback Shedeur Sanders added 348 yards passing and four touchdowns to an electric start to 2023. The Buffaloes will face their strongest challenge yet when they visit Oregon this weekend.
Founded in 1941, the Football Writers Association of America consists of journalists, broadcasters, publicists, photographers and key executives in all areas of college football. The FWAA works to govern media access and gameday operations while presenting awards and honors, including an annual All-America team. For more information about the FWAA and its programs and initiatives, contact Executive Director Steve Richardson at 214-870-6516 or firstname.lastname@example.org.