DALLAS (FWAA) – This is the eighth 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
Nic Anderson, WR, Oklahoma (6-4, 207, Katy, Texas): 5 receptions, 105 yards, 2 TD
Anderson’s efforts helped Oklahoma escape an upset at the hands of UCF in a 31-29 win. The redshirt freshman flashed his field-flipping speed, burning man coverage and safety help on a 42-yard touchdown catch. His 29-yard slant-and-sprint touchdown marked Oklahoma’s first points of the day. Anderson will look to build on his performance against a 5-2 Kansas team this Saturday.
Rueben Bain Jr, DL, Miami (6-3, 275, Miami, Fla.): 8 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 1 FF
Bain’s team-leading eight tackles and explosive pass-rushing chops led Miami’s defense to a 28-20 double overtime win over Clemson. The true freshman imposed his will on offensive tackles with powerful pass-rushing moves for the first multi-sack performance of his career. Bain and the Hurricanes logged five sacks, forcing three turnovers in the marathon win. Miami will fight for its second conference win this weekend against Virginia.
Makhi Hughes, RB, Tulane (5-11, 195, Birmingham, Ala.): 20 rushes, 121 yards, 1 TD; 2 receptions, 13 yards
Hughes posted his third straight week with over 100 yard on the ground as Tulane beat North Texas, 35-28. The true freshman now leads the American Athletic Conference with 619 yards rushing on the season. Hughes’ combination of shiftiness, speed and goal line power gives him plenty of opportunities to rack up yards with his legs. Tulane will fight for its sixth straight win and its spot atop the American Athletic Conference when it travels to Rice on Saturday.
Nate Johnson, LB, App State (6-5, 230, Gaffney, S.C.): 6 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 TFL
Johnson’s power pass-rushing technique shined despite App State’s 28-21 loss to Old Dominion. The true freshman plowed through a double team and around the Monarchs’ right tackle to notch the first mutli-sack game of his career. Johnson’s team-leading five sacks on the season have been vital for a Mountaineer defense allowing just over 400 yards per game. Appalachian State aims to end a two-game losing streak against Southern Miss this weekend.
STEVE SPURRIER FIRST-YEAR COACHES
Zach Arnett, Mississippi State: Arnett’s defensive prowess helped Mississippi State wrestle a 7-3 win away from Arkansas. The Bulldog defense allowed only 200 total yards, averaging just under three yards allowed per play. It was the first SEC win of Arnett’s head coaching career. Mississippi State will try to churn out another road win at Auburn this weekend.
Tim Beck, Coastal Carolina: Beck’s Chanticleers earned their second conference road win, beating Arkansas State, 27-17. Senior quarterback and former FWAA Freshman All-American Grayson McCall led Coastal Carolina’s attack, completing 24 passes for 244 yards and two touchdowns. The Chanticleers struck early and often, taking control of the game with a 17-3 halftime lead. Beck’s team will look for a key divisional win when it hosts Marshall this Saturday.
Luke Fickell, Wisconsin: Fickell’s Badgers scored 18 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to stun Illinois, 25-21. Freshman quarterback Bradeyn Locke hit offensive lineman Nolan Rucci on a 3-yard touchdown pass to take Wisconsin’s first lead with 27 seconds remaining. Locke finished with 240 yards and two touchdowns while star running back Braelon Allen added 145 yards and a score on the ground. Fickell will look for a signature first-year upset when the Badgers host No. 3 Ohio State this weekend.
Barry Odom, UNLV: It only took Odom seven games to lead the Rebels back to bowl eligibility for the first time since the 2013 season. UNLV kicker Jose Pizano nailed a game-winning 28-yard field goal as time expired to take a 25-23 victory over Colorado State. The Rebels now sit in second place in the Mountain West Conference as one of two unbeaten teams in conference play. Odom will look to parlay a sixth straight win at Fresno State on Saturday.
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.