DALLAS (FWAA) – This is the 11th 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
C.J. Allen, LB, Georgia (6-1, 235, Barnesville, Ga.): 9 tackles, 1 sack, 1 TFL
Allen’s first career start gave Georgia the defensive support it needed in a 52-17 win over Ole Miss. The true freshman’s team-leading nine tackles helped hold a prolific Rebel run game to 179 yards on 40 rushes. Allen and the Bulldogs surrendered just three second-half points in the win. Top-ranked Georgia will look for another stout defensive week when it visits Tennessee this Saturday.
Abu Sama III, RB, Iowa State (5-11, 200, Des Moines, Iowa): 8 rushes, 110 yards, 2 TD
Sama’s career day helped Iowa State notch a statement 45-13 win at BYU. The true freshman flashed elite breakaway speed on a 59-yard rushing touchdown to finish off the Cougars. The Cyclones, now in a four-way tie for second place in the Big 12, also earned bowl-eligibility with the win. Sama III will need another strong game if Iowa State wants to upset Texas this weekend in Ames.
Brendan Sorsby, QB, Indiana (6-3, 230, Denton, Texas): 22/33, 289, 3 TD, 1 INT; 17 rushes, 53 yards, 2 TD
Sorsby set career-high totals in yards passing, yards rushing and rushing touchdowns in a 48-45 overtime loss to Illinois. The redshirt freshman also displayed his two-minute drill prowess, leading the Hoosiers on an 85-yard, game-tying touchdown drive to force overtime. It was Indiana’s highest-scoring game of the season. Sorsby can raise more eyebrows this Saturday against a Michigan State secondary allowing the second-most passing yards in the Big Ten.
Cade Uluave, LB, Cal (6-1, 230, South Jordan, Utah): 9 tackles, 1 FF, 2 FR, 1 TD, 1 INT
Uluave led a Cal defense that scored two touchdowns, forced four turnovers and tallied a season-high six sacks. The true freshman’s efforts – including his team-high 9 ninetackles – helped the Golden Bears beat Washington State, 42-39. Uluave’s 51-yard scoop-and-score set the tone for an electric day of havoc from Cal’s defensive unit. The Golden Bears aim to wreak havoc again this Saturday against a sputtering Stanford offense.
STEVE SPURRIER FIRST-YEAR COACHES
Tim Beck, Coastal Carolina: Beck’s Chanticleers extended their winning streak to five games, beating Texas State, 31-23. Quarterback Ethan Vasko led the offense with 145 yards and two touchdowns on 17 completions. Coastal Carolina also rushed for 188 yards and two scores in the win. The Chanticleers visit Army this weekend before finishing the schedule with undefeated James Madison.
Kenny Dillingham, Arizona State: The Sun Devils, losers of seven of their last eight, earned a refereshing 17-7 win over UCLA. Dillingham’s defense delivered in the clutch, as the Bruins were 3-for-11 on third down conversions and were 0-for-4 on fourth down. Arizona State’s win was especially impressive considering the Sun Devils were down five offensive linemen. Dillingham will need to make some more offensive magic to finish the season strong with only Oregon and Arizona left on the schedule.
Hugh Freeze, Auburn: Freeze led the Tigers through an SEC West division full of top-notch coaching and talent to bowl eligibility with a 48-10 win over Arkansas. Auburn outgained the Razorbacks, 517-255, powered by 354 rushing yards. The Tigers also allowed just one third down conversion in 12 attempts.
Ryan Walters, Purdue: The Boilermakers’ highest-scoring game of the season was simply electric. Purdue’s 49-30 win over Minnesota is impressive enough before considering that Walters’ offense amassed 604 yards of total offense with no turnovers. Running backs Devin Mockobee and Tyron Tracy Jr. combined for 275 yards rushing and three touchdowns. The Boilermakers can spark their first win streak of the season at Northwestern on Saturday.
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