DALLAS – The 2021 Football Writers Association of America Freshman All-America Team features one of the dynamic playmakers from national champion Georgia, a key linebacker from national runner-up Alabama, the country’s third-leading passer and a combined 13 players from the Big Ten and Southeastern Conferences.
This is the 21st season the FWAA has honored freshman All-Americans.
The recipients of the fifth annual FWAA Freshman of the Year, the 2021 Steve Spurrier First-Year Coach of the Year Award, the Most Inspirational Freshman Player and the Top Freshman Performance awards, all presented by Chris Doering Mortgage, will be announced tonight at 7:45 p.m. ET on a virtual press conference that will also be streamed on SEC Country.
Three schools had teammates on the Freshman All-America team, led by Ohio State with three, followed by Iowa and Texas A&M with two each. The list includes players who were either redshirt freshmen, true freshmen, or freshmen playing in their second season via the NCAA’s updated COVID eligibility rules as designated by their respective schools.
Paced by a combined five selections from Iowa and Ohio State, the Big Ten led all conferences with eight members followed by the SEC’s seven and the Big 12 and Pac-12 had three each. The American Athletic, Atlantic Coast, Conference USA and Independents had two apiece with the Mid-American, Mountain West and Sun Belt placing one as all 10 conferences were represented. Of the 32 honored players, 24 are true freshmen.
“This was among the most competitive FWAA Freshman All-America Team selections to date, on account of COVID-19 eligibility allowances adding to the pool of players eligible to make the team,” said Mike Griffith of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s DawgNation and the chair of the 2021 Freshman All-America Committee. “The talented group of young men who made this team are also to be applauded for their perseverance, as well as their performances, amid the unprecedented circumstances of these times in collegiate athletics.”
Following is the complete, 32-man 2021 FWAA Freshman All-America Team:
|QB||• Seth Henigan, Memphis||6-3||200||Denton, Texas|
|QB||CJ Stroud, Ohio State||6-3||218||Inland Empire, Calif.|
|RB||• Braelon Allen, Wisconsin||6-2||238||Fond du Lac, Wis.|
|RB||• TreVeyon Henderson, Ohio State||5-10||215||Hopewell, Va.|
|WR||Corey Rucker, Arkansas State||6-0||203||Bentonia, Miss.|
|WR||• Xavier Worthy, Texas||6-1||160||Fresno, Calif.|
|TE||• Brock Bowers, Georgia||6-4||230||Napa, Calif.|
|OL||• Joe Alt, Notre Dame||6-7||305||North Oaks, Minn.|
|OL||• Campbell Barrington, BYU||6-6||285||Spokane, Wash.|
|OL||• Connor Colby, Iowa||6-6||298||Cedar Rapids, Iowa|
|OL||• Reuben Fatheree II, Texas A&M||6-8||320||Richmond, Texas|
|OL||• Bryce Foster, Texas A&M||6-5||325||Katy, Texas|
|OL||• Wyatt Milum, West Virginia||6-6||291||Kenova, W. Va.|
|DL||• Collin Oliver, Oklahoma State||6-2||225||Oklahoma City, Okla.|
|DL||• Maason Smith, LSU||6-6||292||Houma, La.|
|DL||• Josaiah Stewart, Coastal Carolina||6-2||245||Everett, Mass.|
|DL||Lukas Van Ness, Iowa||6-5||264||Barrington, Ill.|
|LB||• Junior Colson, Michigan||6-2||225||Brentwood, Tenn.|
|LB||• Eric Gentry, Arizona State||6-6||200||Philadelphia, Pa.|
|LB||Cal Haladay, Michigan State||6-1||235||Elysburg, Pa.|
|LB||• Dallas Turner, Alabama||6-4||245||Fort Lauderdale, Fla.|
|DB||• Calen Bullock, USC||6-3||180||Pasadena, Calif.|
|DB||• Denzel Burke, Ohio State||6-1||192||Scottsdale, Ariz.|
|DB||• Duce Chestnut, Syracuse||6-0||195||Camden, N.J.|
|DB||• Jack Howell, Colorado State||5-11||195||Chandler, Ariz.|
|DB||Donte Kent, Central Michigan||5-11||185||Harrisburg, Pa.|
|DB||• Andrew Mukuba, Clemson||6-0||185||Austin, Texas|
|K||• Cam Little, Arkansas||6-2||185||Moore, Okla.|
|P||• Nick Haberer, Washington State||6-5||224||Queensland, Australia|
|KR||Brian Battie, USF||5-8||165||Sarasota, Fla.|
|PR||Jaylin Lane, Middle Tennessee||5-8||174||Clover, S.C.|
|AP||Rasheen Ali, Marshall||6-0||201||Cleveland, Ohio|
* Denotes true freshman
Brock Bowers, the true freshman tight end at Georgia who burst upon the national scene quickly with a highlight 89-yard catch-and-score against UAB on Sept. 11, stands out on the team as one of two selections to also earn FWAA All-America status as its second-team tight end. Bowers’ 56 receptions for 882 yards and 13 touchdowns led all Bulldogs receivers and the SEC Newcomer of the Year also broke school records for receptions and touchdown receptions by a tight end in a single season. Bowers is Georgia’s 10th FWAA Freshman All-America selection of the past six seasons and its 12th of the past 10 seasons.
Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud powers the team as one of two quarterbacks, along with Memphis’ Seth Henigan. Stroud, a true freshman, was a Heisman Trophy and Davey O’Brien Award finalist and had four games of 400-or-more passing yards. He swept the Big Ten’s Offensive Player of the Year, Freshman of the Year and Quarterback of the Year awards, the first time for one player to win all three in the same season. He led the nation’s top offense (561.4 ypg) and a scoring offense (45.7 ppg) that was fifth in passing yards (380.9 ypg).
Bowers and Stroud, along with Oklahoma State defensive end Collin Oliver, are the finalists for the 2021 FWAA Freshman of the Year.
Also selected from Ohio State was Denzel Burke at defensive back and running back TreVeyon Henderson. Burke started all 13 games at cornerback – a first for a freshman at Ohio State – and led the team with 12 pass break-ups to go with one interception. Henderson, the top-ranked running back in the 2021 recruiting class, didn’t disappoint as the Buckeyes’ rushing leader with 1,272 yards and 15 touchdowns, setting multiple OSU records along the way. Along with Stroud, the trio are Ohio State’s first Freshman All-America players in five seasons.
Henigan’s deep balls were one of Memphis’ top weapons this season and his 3,322 yards passing were the most among FBS true freshmen. Henigan earns the school a third consecutive season with a member of the team, joining all-purpose player Kenneth Gainwell (2019) and receiver Tahj Washington (2020), and is one of two players from the American Athletic Conference to make the team. Kick returner Brian Battie of USF, a first-team FWAA All-American, had three kick return touchdowns as a constant special teams threat to earn his spot on the team.
Joining Henderson in the backfield was Big Ten mate Braelon Allen, who averaged 6.8 yards per rush as Wisconsin’s top rusher with 1,268 yards and 12 touchdowns. Allen is the first Wisconsin player selected to the team since center Tyler Biadasz and running back Jonathan Taylor, both now in the NFL, in 2017.
Xavier Worthy led Texas in receptions (62), receiving yards (981) and touchdowns (12, most among all FBS freshmen). He is Texas’ first Freshman All-American in three seasons and its first at a skill position since Colt McCoy in 2006. The other receiver spot went to Arkansas State’s Corey Rucker, who led Sun Belt Conference wide receivers with nine touchdown catches. Rucker is A-State’s first Freshman All-American since 2014 and its first on offense in nine seasons.
The committee awarded six offensive line spots, buoyed by the Texas A&M pair of Reuben Fatheree II and Bryce Foster. They are the Aggies’ first Freshman All-Americans since 2015 and A&M’s first on the offensive front since Luke Joeckel in 2010. Foster started every game. Iowa, always a staple for offensive linemen, has Connor Colby on the team along with teammate Lukas Van Ness at linebacker. Colby is just the sixth true freshman to start on the offensive line under Kirk Ferentz. He gave up one sack all season to become the Hawkeyes’ first Freshman All-American on the offensive line since Alaric Jackson in 2017. With Van Ness, it’s the first time for Iowa to have two players on the team.
Joining them on the line are the Notre Dame’s Joe Alt and BYU’s Campbell Barrington, who make up the representation from the FBS Independents. Alt helped reform the Irish up front, moving into the starting left tackle spot after six games. The Irish line surged in the second half of the season and helped Kyren Williams, a member of last year’s Freshman All-America team, to become just the fifth Notre Dame running back to have back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. The Irish have had a Freshman All-American in three consecutive seasons. Barrington is BYU’s first player on the team in three seasons. West Virginia’s Wyatt Milum, who rounds out the offensive line, made seven starts at right tackle to earn the school’s fifth Freshman All-America honor and first since 2019.
A standout season by two linemen put them at the head of the defense. Oklahoma State’s Oliver took full advantage of his first start, posting five solo tackles, two sacks and three hurries in an Oct. 2 win over Baylor. He tied for 15th in the FBS with 11.5 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss. Oliver, who had the game-sealing sack against Oklahoma that sent the Cowboys to the Big 12 Championship Game, is the fourth Freshman All-American in school history and the first on defense in 11 seasons. Josaiah Stewart, a true freshman at Coastal Carolina, was one of the country’s top pass rushers, tallying 12.5 sacks to lead all FBS freshmen and tied for fifth in the nation. He had four sacks and forced two fumbles against Georgia Southern. Stewart is Coastal Carolina’s third all-time Freshman All-American, each of them from the past two seasons.
Maason Smith of LSU was the nation’s top prep defensive lineman in the fall of 2020 and became a coaches’ pick as an All-SEC Freshman in 2021. He earned three starts toward the end of the season and was third on the team with four sacks. Smith gives LSU a defensive member of the team in five of the last six seasons. Iowa’s Van Ness tied for the team lead with 7.0 sacks and was second with 8.5 tackles for loss among his 33 total tackles. Van Ness, along with Colby, are the fifth- and sixth all-time Freshman All-America selections from Iowa and Van Ness is the first on defense since 2010.
Depth in the secondary led the committee to expand to six selections. Joining Ohio State’s Burke, Syracuse’s Duce Chestnut became one of the top cover cornerbacks in the country. He tallied three interceptions and had eight passes defended to anchor an Orange secondary that allowed just 202 yards passing per game. He is Syracuse’s third defensive Freshman All-America nod in the past four seasons. Chestnut and Clemson’s Andrew Mukuba are the ACC’s two selections on the team. Mukuba was the Tigers’ first freshman to start at safety since 1973 and had eight tackles and a pass breakup in the opener against Georgia. He had 54 tackles and a sack this season as Clemson’s seventh All-Freshman pick of the past eight seasons.
Calen Bullock, USC’s first true freshman to start an opener at safety since 2013, had two interceptions on the season, three PBU’s and 40 tackles. He is USC’s first All-Freshman player on defense since 2014. Jack Howell of Colorado State made six starts at safety for the Rams and finished fifth on the team with 64 tackles, including 3.5 TFL’s. He is CSU’s third all-time Freshman All-American and the second in three seasons, and is the lone choice from the Mountain West. Central Michigan cornerback Donte Kent started all 13 games and led the MAC with 14 PBU’s. He was third on the team with 55 total tackles and second with 45 solo stops. Kent is CMU’s second Freshman All-American, joining Antonio Brown from 2007.
Two true freshmen started for two of the College Football Playoff teams, both of them linebackers. Michigan won the Big Ten title with its defense and true freshman Junior Colson was fourth on the team in tackles with 61 to go with two PBU’s and three quarterback hurries. Colson is Michigan’s first Freshman All-American since 2017 and its first on defense since 2015. Dallas Turner of Alabama is the Crimson Tide’s seventh Freshman All-American of the past four seasons and the fifth on defense during that span. He earned a starting role in mid-season and finished third on the team with 8.5 sacks for the national runner-up.
Linebacker Cal Haladay of Michigan State started 12 of 13 games for the Spartans and was third on the team with 96 tackles to go with two interceptions and two forced fumbles. An honorable mention All-Big Ten selection, he is Michigan State’s first Freshman All-American since 2016 and its first on defense since 2014. Arizona State linebacker Eric Gentry had 45 tackles as ASU’s first Freshman All-American since 2018.
Rasheen Ali, selected as the all-purpose player, made an immediate impact with four touchdowns in Marshall’s opener against Navy. He carried on more than half of the Herd’s rushing plays (250 of 449) and his 23 rushing touchdowns tied for the most in the FBS. He is only the second player from Marshall to earn FWAA Freshman All-America honors and its first since 2012. Ali, who also returned a kickoff for a score, is one of two players from Conference USA on the team, along with punt returner Jaylin Lane of Middle Tennessee, who was fourth in the nation in punt return average at 14.6. Lane is MTSU’s fourth Freshman All-American.
Punter Nick Haberer from Washington State is the sixth Australian to earn a Freshman All-America honor, all of whom are punters. He finished the season with a 42.8-yard average and is the school’s second Freshman All-American. Arkansas kicker Cam Little led the team in scoring with 106 points and connected on 20 field goals, the third-most in school history.
From the Freshman All-America team, California and Texas took honors as the most common home state with four players each, followed by two each from Arizona, Florida, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania.
The panel of nationally-prominent college football experts from the FWAA membership represented each of the FBS conferences along with independents in the selecting the team.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
• All-Time FWAA Freshman All-America Teams (.pdf)