DALLAS (FWAA) – This is the 10th 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
Byrum Brown, QB, South Florida (6-3, 209, Raleigh, N.C.): 31/38, 357 yards, 5 TD, 1 INT; 23 rushes, 100 yards
Brown was a dual-threat explosion for South Florida in a 59-50 loss at Memphis. The redshirt freshman led both teams in passing and rushing, tossing a career-high five touchdowns. Brown’s season total of 673 yards rushing is good for the third-most among FBS quarterbacks and the most among freshman quarterbacks. Brown and the Bull offense will try to exploit another struggling defense this weekend when they host Temple.
Caleb Downs, S, Alabama (6-0, 203, Hoschton, Ga.): 13 tackles
Downs led Alabama’s defense with 13 tackles as the Crimson Tide took control of the SEC West, beating LSU 42-28. The true freshman’s efforts helped Alabama suffocate the Tiger offense late, as LSU did not score after the 11:14 mark of the third quarter. Downs now has 76 total tackles on the season, by far the most on Alabama’s defense. The Crimson Tide will aim to clinch the SEC West with a win at Kentucky on Saturday.
Noah Fifita, QB, Arizona (5-11, 194, Huntington Beach, Calif.): 25/32, 300 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT; 4 rushes, 4 yards
Fifita dethroned his third top-25 team in as many weeks, upsetting then-No. 19-ranked UCLA 27-10. The redshirt freshman took control of the game with two early touchdown passes and never looked back. Fifita, whose five career starts have all come against ranked competition, is averaging over 290 yards and 2.8 touchdowns per game. The Wildcats will battle their first unranked team since Fifita took over when they travel to Colorado this weekend.
Eugene Wilson III, WR, Florida (5-10, 170, Tampa, Fla.): 8 receptions, 90 yards, 2 TD
The best statistical day of Wilson III’s young career led Florida in all-purpose yards as the Gators dropped a 39-36 contest to Arkansas. The true freshman’s speed and shiftiness out of the slot burned the Razorback secondary on both of his touchdowns. Wilson III posted his third-straight game with over 70 yards and has solidified himself as Florida’s second-leading receiver. The Gators, still one win shy of bowl eligibility, will need a strong finish from Wilson III with three ranked opponents left to end the schedule.
STEVE SPURRIER FIRST-YEAR COACHES
Jeff Brohm, Louisville: Brohm’s Cardinals took control of second place in the division-less ACC with a statement 34-3 win over Virginia Tech. Louisville’s physicality dominated another conference foe as the Cardinals rushed for 231 yards, compared to the Hokies’ 68. Louisville’s defense was just as forceful, surrendering just two third-down conversions in 11 attempts. The Cardinals can take another step towards the program’s first ACC Championship berth by beating Virginia on Saturday.
Jamey Chadwell, Liberty: Chadwell’s Flames are now one of seven remaining undefeated teams in FBS after beating Louisiana Tech, 56-30. Liberty’s offense imposed its will both on the ground and through the air, combining for 602 yards of total offense. The win also gave Liberty the first 9-0 start in school history. The Flames will shoot for 10-0 when a struggling Old Dominion team comes to Lynchburg this weekend.
Trent Dilfer, UAB: Dilfer’s Blazers scored 10 unanswered points in the game’s last five minutes to steal a 45-42 win from Florida Atlantic. UAB quarterback Jacob Zeno exploded for 484 yards and five touchdowns, the first 400-yard game of his career. Zeno also led the Blazers on a 66-yard, 90-second drive to set up a 29-yard game-winning field goal. A UAB win this weekend at Navy would spark its first winning streak of the season.
G.J. Kinne, Texas State: Kinne’s Bobcats are now eligible for their first bowl in program history after knocking off Georgia Southern, 45-24. Texas State’s offense shook off a sluggish start to score 38 unanswered points. Quarterback TJ Finley delivered his second five-touchdown game of the season as the Bobcats outgained the Eagles, 487-375. Texas State will fight for another statement Sun Belt win at Coastal Carolina this 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 email@example.com.