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August 30, 2011
True freshmen with the skills to play right away
Perhaps the biggest play of the 2010 season was made by a true freshman.
Oregon's defense believed it had brought freshman Mike Dyer down on Auburn's final possession of the BCS championship game, but nobody ever blew a whistle. Displaying the smarts of a fifth-year senior, Dyer alertly got himself up and kept on running, eventually gaining 37 yards and setting up the winning 19-yard field goal in Auburn's 22-19 victory.
Dyer's brilliant run capped a season in which he rushed for 1,093 yards, the most ever by an Auburn freshman. While Heisman-winning quarterback Cam Newton and Lombardi Award-winning defensive tackle Nick Fairley justifiably garnered the majority of the praise during Auburn's championship season, the Tigers probably don't win the title without Dyer in the backfield.
What true freshmen could make a similar impact this season? Well, we found so many true freshmen across the country who could play immediately that we couldn't limit our list to 10, 15 or 20 guys. We finally settled on 21. Let's call them the "Under 21 Club" since they're all going to be playing major minutes before they've reached drinking age.
We're not necessarily forecasting any of these guys will find themselves delivering the key play in this season's BCS championship game. But they all have a good shot to contribute immediately. In fact, the majority of them should open the season in the starting lineup.
Before unveiling this list, we must admit that we cheated a bit by including some teammates as one entry. Some teams are relying on multiple freshmen to contribute immediately.