FAYETTEVILLE – Six Razorback freshmen football players were named to Rivals.com’s SEC All-Freshman team with five coming on the defensive side of the ball and one as a specialist.
Jake Bequette, Elton Ford, Jerry Franklin, Jerico Nelson and Zach Stadther made up nearly half the defensive squad while Dennis Johnson took the kick returner specialist honor. The five Razorback defenders were easily the most by any school on defense with the remaining six spots going to Florida (2), Vanderbilt (2), Alabama (1) and LSU (1). Overall, Arkansas’ six players on the Rivals.com All-SEC Team ranked tops among the 12 SEC schools with Georgia getting five on the squad followed by Vanderbilt’s four. Alabama and Florida each had three players named to the team while Auburn, Kentucky, LSU and Miss. St. had one a piece.
The Rivals.com honor is Bequette’s second post-season award this year. He was also named to the SEC Coaches’ All-SEC Freshman Team and had a productive first season in Cardinal and White with 45 tackles, three for loss and six quarterback hurries. He ranked tied for third on the Razorback roster in QB pressures.
Ford and Nelson each earned their first post-season honors with the Rivals.com release. Ford played in eight games this season before an injury ended his year. One of Arkansas’ starting safeties, Ford had 42 tackles over his eight games and had Arkansas’ second longest interception return of the season when he took a Kentucky pick back 23 yards. Nelson also saw injuries derail his freshman season although the Destrehan, La., native did play in 10 games and start seven. Nelson made 38 tackles on the year including 3.5 sacks and six quarterback hurries.
Franklin is easily the most decorated freshman in the group as he claims his seventh award since the end of the season. Rivals.com named him a Second-Team All-American and he has taken three other national All-Freshman team honors as well as two All-Conference accolades. Franklin led the Razorbacks in solo, assisted and total tackles this season as well as interceptions and fumble recoveries.
Stadther has received three awards this year for his play. Stepping in for an injured interior lineman, the North Little Rock, Ark., native made 57 tackles, tied for fourth on the Razorback roster, and was second on the team with eight quarterback hurries. Stadther has also been named to Phil Steele’s and the College Football News’ national All-Freshman teams as well as the SEC Coaches’ Freshman All-SEC team.
The lone specialist for the Razorbacks, Johnson’s play in the LSU contest placed him on the map as he takes his second post-season and third award of the year. Named the SEC Freshman of the Week for his 230 all-purpose yards against LSU, Johnson then took SEC Coaches’ All-SEC Freshman honors. This year Johnson set an Arkansas record with 905 yards of kickoff return yardage and took one back for the game-winning touchdown against Tulsa.
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