Arizona's Fifita, Purdue's Thieneman highlight 2023 FWAA Freshman All-America Team

Arizona’s Noah Fifita and Purdue’s Dillon Thieneman are the 2023 National Freshman Players of the Year
Arizona’s Noah Fifita and Purdue’s Dillon Thieneman are the 2023 National Freshman Players of the Year

DALLAS (FWAA) – In a crowded field of outstanding quarterbacks in the Pac-12 Conference this season, Arizona's Noah Fifita stood tall guiding the Wildcats into title contention and a 10-win season while rewriting his school’s record book. Purdue safety Dillon Thieneman was a national interceptions and tackles leader leaving his mark as one of the top playmaking defenders in the Big Ten Conference. For their dynamic play on both sides of the ball, the Football Writers Association of America awarded the pair as its Offensive and Defensive Freshman Players of the Year presented by Chris Doering Mortgage.

Fifita and Thieneman headline the FWAA’s 2023 Freshman All-America Team, a list of 32 players who had standout seasons among their more experienced peers. The FWAA has selected a freshman All-America team since the 2001 season, but this is the first time the comminittee has split its Freshman Player of the Year Award into offensive and defensive honorees.

The FWAA Freshman All-America players will be honored at a banquet hosted by former coach Steve Spurrier and Gator Great and SEC Network Analyst Chris Doering at Spurrier’s Gridiron Grille on Monday, Feb. 26, in Gainesville.

Clemson and Georgia led the Freshman All-America Team with three players each among the 24 different schools and 10 FBS conferences represented. The Atlantic Coast Conference led the way with seven players with the Southeastern Conference next with six.

Fifita closed his 2023 season passing for 354 yards in Arizona’s 38-24 win over Oklahoma in the Valero Alamo Bowl, the second-best mark in a bowl game in program history. The Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year led the Wildcats to a 10-3 record, Arizona’s first 10-win season since 2014. The redshirt freshman from Huntington Beach, Calif., earned Pac-12 Freshman of the Week honors a conference-record five times, most recently after throwing for a school-record 527 yards in a 59-23 win over Arizona State.

He tied for fourth nationally with a 72.4 completion percentage, tops among all freshmen and second-only to Oregon’s Bo Nix in the Pac-12 and is Arizona’s first quarterback to complete more than 70 percent of his passes in a season. Fifita’s 25 touchdown passes were the most of any FBS freshman this season and his 2,869 passing yards are fifth among all freshmen. Arizona will begin the 2024 season riding a seven-game win streak, its longest since 1998.

Fifita gives Arizona a Freshman All-American for a second consecutive year following offensive tackle Jonah Savaiinaea from 2022 and is the Wildcats’ eighth player to make the team all-time.

Thieneman, the Big Ten Freshman of the Year, led all freshmen nationally in interceptions, tackles, solo tackles and forced fumbles. On the season among all players, the Westfield, Ind., product tied for third nationally in interceptions (six) and tied for sixth in solo tackles (74), both setting Purdue freshman records. Thieneman’s total tackles (106, tops at Purdue and seventh in the Big Ten) and forced fumbles (two) were tops among all freshmen. His six interceptions set a Purdue freshman season record and were double the nearest freshman player (four with three each). The 74 solo tackles tied for third in the Big Ten – he led the league at the end of the regular season – and marked another Purdue freshman record.

He is Purdue’s first player to make the FWAA Freshman All-America team since wide receiver David Bell and defensive lineman George Karlaftis in 2019, both true freshmen at the time as is Thieneman. He was the only Big Ten freshman defender to make one of the three all-league teams, earning second team All-Big Ten honors from the coaches and third team accolades from the media vote. He was a five-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week honoree, becoming the first defender in conference history to win any weekly award five times in a single season.

Among other highlights on the team is Tulane earning representation for the first time, a member coming from Miami (Ohio) for the first time in 20 seasons and Alabama gaining its FWAA-record 23rd all-time freshman honoree and extending its streak to six years in a row with at least one player.

Alongside Fifita on offense are Tulane’s first FWAA Freshman All-Americans, running back Makhi Hughes and guard Shadre Hurst. Hughes was the American Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year after becoming the first freshman in school history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season, finishing with 1,378 yards and seven touchdowns with Hurst up front blocking for him. Western Michigan running back Jalen Buckley, the Mid-American Conference Freshman of the Year, joins Hughes in the backfield as the only other freshman back to eclipse 1,000 yards, finishing with 1,003 yards and 10 touchdowns. Also from the MAC is Miami (Ohio) cornerback Raion Strader, his school’s first freshman honoree since 2003 and its first ever on defense.

Washington’s Parker Brailsford is at center, a redshirt freshman starter who helped the Huskies reach the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Brailsford was one of three players from teams who played in the CFP along with Alabama safety Caleb Downs and Texas linebacker Anthony Hill. National champion Michigan does not have a representative. Hill was the Big 12’s Co-Defensive Freshman of the Year along with Texas Tech linebacker Ben Roberts, who also made the team as the Red Raiders’ first FWAA freshman honoree in five seasons. Downs, the SEC Freshman of the Year, is Alabama’s sixth defensive honoree of its last seven members since 2019.

Georgia’s nation-leading trio includes offensive tackle Earnest Greene III along with linebacker CJ Allen and punter Peyton Woodring. The Bulldogs last had three members in 2018 and now have six in the last three seasons since tight end Brock Bowers, this year’s FWAA First-Team All-American at tight end and the FWAA's National Freshman Player of the Year in 2019. Georgia has had at least one FWAA Freshman All-American in the last eight seasons, a national best.

Oklahoma placed two on the offense in guard Cayden Green and wide receiver Nic Anderson. Green announced at the end of the regular season he would be transferring to Missouri. Miami’s Francis Mauigoa is also on the offensive line, who along with Rueben Bain Jr. are Miami’s first FWAA Freshman All-Americans since 2019. Bain was the ACC’s Defensive Rookie of the Year along the defensive front.

The four-man wide receiver corps includes Anderson from Oklahoma along with Pofele Ashlock, Hawaii’s first Freshman All-American in 12 seasons and its first on offense since 2005, Georgia Tech wideout Eric Singleton Jr., its first freshman honoree since 2017, and Florida’s Eugene Wilson III, the Gators' first honoree since 2016. The Gators also have tight end Arlis Boardingham on the team, making Florida one of four schools to have two players on the team (joining Miami, Oklahoma and Tulane).

Clemson’s national-high three players are all on defense with two on the defensive line – Peter Woods and T.J. Parker. Khalil Barnes is the other at safety. It’s the first time for Clemson to have three freshman honorees in one season and gives the Tigers six in the last four seasons.

It was another banner year in the Sun Belt Conference, prompted by James Madison’s rise into the rankings. The Dukes earned their first FWAA All-American this season in Jalen Green, and now add their first FWAA Freshman All-American in cornerback D’Angelo Ponds. Defensive lineman Nate Johnson is App State’s first freshman honoree in six seasons and its first on defense since 2016. Georgia Southern kick returner DeAndre Buchannon is the Eagles’ second-ever freshman honoree. The trio mark the SBC’s highest total in one season.

Liberty made headlines getting to the Fiesta Bowl this season and has defensive lineman TJ Bush on the team, representing Conference USA. California linebacker Cade Uluave, the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, makes the team and gives the Bears a freshman member in consecutive years for the first time following wide receiver J. Michael Sturdivant from 2022.

From the special teams are Michigan State punter Ryan Eckley, USC punt returner Zacharia Branch – the Trojans’ first special teams freshman honoree since kick returner Reggie Bush in 2003 – and N.C. State all-purpose player Kevin “KC” Concepcion, the ACC’s Rookie of the Year who also starred as a wide receiver.

Following is the complete 2023 FWAA Freshman All-America Team:


QB Noah Fifita, Arizona (5-11, 195, RFr., Huntington Beach, Calif.)
RB Jalen Buckley, Western Michigan (5-11, 210, RFr., Aurora, Ill.)
RB Makhi Hughes, Tulane (5-11, 205, RFr., Birmingham, Ala.)
WR Nic Anderson, Oklahoma (6-4, 207, RFr., Katy, Texas)
WR Pofele Ashlock, Hawaii (6-2, 175, Fr., Euless, Texas)
WR Eric Singleton Jr., Georgia Tech (5-11, 173, Fr., Douglasville, Ga.)
WR Eugene Wilson III, Florida (5-10, 170, Fr., Tampa, Fla.)
TE Arlis Boardingham, Florida (6-3, 248, RFr., Van Nuys, Calif.)
T Earnest Greene III, Georgia (6-4, 320, RFr., Los Angeles, Calif.)
T Francis Mauigoa, Miami (6-6, 330, Fr., Ili'ili, American Samoa)
G Cayden Green, Oklahoma (6-5, 316, Fr., Lee's Summit, Mo.)
G Shadre Hurst, Tulane (6-2, 305, RFr., Cartersville, Ga.)
C Parker Brailsford, Washington (6-2, 275, Mesa, Ariz.)


DL Rueben Bain Jr., Miami (6-3, 270, Fr., Miami, Fla.)
DL TJ Bush, Liberty (6-2, 255, Fr., Woodridge, Va.)
DL Nate Johnson, App State (6-5, 230, Fr., Gaffney, S.C.)
DL T.J. Parker, Clemson (6-3, 255, Fr., Phenix City, Ala.)
DL Peter Woods, Clemson (6-2, 315, Fr., Alabaster, Ala.)
LB CJ Allen, Georgia (6-1, 235, Fr., Barnesville, Ga.)
LB Anthony Hill, Texas (6-3, 234, Fr., Denton, Texas)
LB Ben Roberts, Texas Tech (6-3, 230, RFr., Haslet, Texas)
LB Cade Uluave, California (6-1, 230, Fr., South Jordan, Utah)
CB D'Angelo Ponds, James Madison (5-9, 162, Fr., West Park, Fla.)
CB Raion Strader, Miami (Ohio) (6-0, 180, Fr., Pittsburgh, Pa.)
S Khalil Barnes, Clemson (6-0, 195, Fr., Athens, Ga.)
S Caleb Downs, Alabama, 6-0 (203, Fr., Hoschton, Ga.)
S Dillon Thieneman, Purdue (6-0, 205, Fr., Westfield, Ind.)


K Peyton Woodring, Georgia (5-10, 175, Fr., Lafayette, La.)
P Ryan Eckley, Michigan State (6-2, 205, RFr., Lithia, Fla.)
KR DeAndre Buchannon, Georgia Southern (5-11, 175, Fr., Atlanta, Ga.)
PR Zacharia Branch, USC (5-10, 175, Fr., Las Vegas, Nev.)
AP Kevin "KC" Concepcion, NC State (5-11, 187, Fr., Charlotte, N.C.)

Schools: Clemson 3, Georgia 3, Florida 2, Miami 2, Oklahoma 2, Tulane 2, Alabama 1, App State 1, Arizona 1, California 1, Georgia Southern 1, Georgia Tech 1, Hawaii 1, James Madison 1, Liberty 1, Miami (Ohio) 1, Michigan State 1, NC State 1, Purdue 1, Texas 1, Texas Tech 1, USC 1, Washington 1, Western Michigan 1.

Conferences: ACC 7, SEC 6, Big 12 4, Pac-12 4, Sun Belt 3, American Athletic 2, Big Ten 2, Mid-American 2, CUSA 1, Mountain West 1, Independents 0.

True Freshmen: 22; Redshirt Freshmen: 10.

For more information on attending or sponsoring the reception at Spurrier’s Gridiron Grille for both the players, Steve Spurrier First-Year Coach and the Steve Spurrier Legend Coach awards on Monday, Feb. 26, please contact Tricia Garzon of the JAG Agency at 352-214-2331.

Chris Doering Mortgage, based in Gainesville, Fla., was established in April 2007 as a residential lending company providing mortgage products including conventional, FHA, USDA, and VA loans. The branch is a division of – 3940 NW 16th Blvd., Suite A, Gainesville, FL 32605 – NMLS 70168/1937321. FHA Lender ID 2631500094. For more information, visit College football analyst Chris Doering, a former wide receiver for Coach Spurrier both in college and the NFL, serves as the branch manager.

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

Related link:
All-Time FWAA Freshman All-America Teams