Posted by Bryan Fischer
CBSSports.com senior writer Dennis Dodd has tabbed Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict as his preseason defensive player of the year. Burfict is a known quality at the college level but things get a bit murkier when you start to look at possible candidates for freshman defensive player of the year. It's difficult for high schoolers to make the jump to the next level and make an impact but some, such as Oklahoma's Tony Jefferson last season, have what it takes to play right away and provide a boost to their team's defense. Here's five candidates to be freshmen defensive player of the year out of the class of 2011.
Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
Clowney was the consensus best player in the class of 2011 and is expected to contribute right away as a pass rusher for the Gamecocks. He's already big enough to play in college and is lightning quick coming out of his stance, often blowing by the tackle before they've even moved. South Carolina led the SEC in sacks last season and should put even more pressure on the quarterback with Clowney making his way to the backfield.
Karlos Williams, Florida State
Williams is one of the bigger safeties coming out of high school and could almost bulk up a little and play linebacker. Wherever he lines up, expect Seminoles defensive coordinator Mark Stoops to put Williams in a position to make plays. Freshmen have come in and played well for FSU in the past and the talented 6-foot-2, 215 pound safety might be the next one to.
Ray Drew, Georgia
The Pastor of the Pass Rush, as Drew is affectionately nicknamed, is a terror for opposing quarterbacks. He can standup and play a little linebacker in Georgia's 3-4 scheme and has the flexibility of moving around the defensive line. He should be able to compete for a starting spot from day one and will at least be used situationally to generate some pass rush. The top player in the state of Georgia coming out of high school should be a household name nationally before too long.
Aaron Lynch, Notre Dame
Notre Dame seemed to collect defensive ends like they were candy in the class of 2011 but Lynch was one of the few who enrolled early. He impressed coaches throughout the spring and dominated during the annual Blue and Gold game, racking up seven tackles and 1.5 tackles-for-loss. The expectations are sky high for Lynch and with there's no reason to think he can't get on the field to make an impact for the nation's most televised team.
Marcus Roberson, Florida
Still a bit skinny, Roberson will have to learn to be a good tackler at the next level. That said, he's a terrific cover corner and can turn and runs with the best wide outs in the game. It was thought he would play early for the Gators in nickel situations but the dismissal of Janoris Jenkins might mean he's starting at corner sooner rather than later.