Texas A&M was being run over by Ole Miss on Saturday, but Speedy just kept on going.
That former Edna Karr receiver Devante “Speedy” Noil continues to blossom at Texas A&M was evident in the Aggies’ 35-20 loss Saturday night: He caught a season-high 11 passes for 105 yards against one of the nation’s best defenses. That reception total was one off the A&M freshman record.
Noil took advantage of an opportunity to play in more of a slot receiver role after an injury to receiver Malcome Kennedy. But coach Kevin Sumlin decided to use Noil on more screens and crossing routes in the middle of the field to take advantage of his elusiveness.
He was effective until the end, breaking loose for a 33-yard reception to the Ole Miss 40 on A&M’s final scoring drive.
“There is a lot going on with him, and I think he’s coming along as good as anyone we have,” Sumlin said. “He is a tough guy, and he loves to play and loves to compete and is only getting better every week.”
Noil is one of several true freshmen from the New Orleans area who are making an impact with power conference teams this season. Getting most of the attention is LSU running back Leonard Fournette, who had 140 yards and two touchdowns in the Tigers’ 30-27 win Saturday at Florida, but Noil is starting to make waves, too.
Noil had an impressive touchdown catch against Mississippi State last week, and he has contributed impact plays as a return man.
“Speedy has done an excellent job,” Sumlin said. “He has a knack for the football and goes up and gets it. He has explosiveness as a return man and a wide receiver, and I think you will continue to see him improve and become an even larger part of our game plan.”
The same can be said of the trio at LSU.
Fournette made his first start Saturday at Florida, and the former St. Augustine High standout (and nation’s top recruit) had the best game of his young career. John Curtis’ Malachi Dupre is a five-star recruit who has boosted the Tigers’ receiving corps, and running back Darrel Williams of Ehret has seen time in the Tigers’ backfield rotation.
“I think there’s a very quality group of underclassmen that are really working hard, doing right things, participating and even (have) given their team a real lift,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “I think these three have.”
Fournette is LSU’s leading rusher with 515 yards on 93 carries, and he is tied for the team lead in touchdowns with six. His 958 all-purpose yards (136.9 per game) also leads LSU.
Dupre was second in receiving yards (257) among the Tigers and third in receptions (11 for a whopping 23.4 yards per catch) with four touchdowns. He had four catches for 120 yards and two touchdowns in the Tigers’ loss to Mississippi State, now ranked the top team in the nation.
Williams is fourth on the team in rushing with 193 yards and three touchdowns on 39 carries. He also has five receptions for 55 yards.
When John Curtis linebacker Kenny Young decided to sign with UCLA, much of the decision hinged a chance to play early. Last season, 18 freshmen played regularly for the Bruins. This year, Young has played in all six games, starting three, with 19 tackles.
“What I’ve seen is a young man who is very serious about being an outstanding football player,” Bruins coach Jim Mora said. “He can’t get enough film study. He works hard in practice. He’s not what you imagine a typical 18-year-old is like. There’s a level of intensity with him you don’t see in many young men his age. That comes from playing at John Curtis, in that environment.”
Another Curtis product, defensive back Terrence Alexander, is also laying the foundation for a successful career in the Pac-12 at Stanford. Alexander isn’t a starter but has appeared in all six games for Stanford. He is playing primarily on special teams but is the only Cardinal freshman seeing any playing time on defense.
Gerald Willis, a highly touted defensive tackle from Karr, is working his way in at Florida, appearing in two games so far. One of Willis’ Karr teammates, cornerback Juwan Offray, has played mostly special teams and has seen spot duty on defense at Oklahoma State.
Rummel defensive back Henre Toliver and linebacker Dwayne Eugene are getting a chance to contribute as true freshmen at Arkansas. Toliver has started two games, and Eugene has made one appearance.