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Five Freshmen of Influence

Cooper hauled in five touchdown passes in the final three games of the season.

Each week during the 2012 season, BOL highlighted five freshmen -- either redshirt or true -- who made strong contributions for the Crimson Tide. Here is the season's final top five following Alabama's 42-14 win over Notre Dame in the BCS Championship Game:

1.] WR Amari Cooper (last week: 1)
Notre Dame: Two touchdown receptions pushed Cooper to the top of UA's single-season list with 11. Six catches for 105 yards moved him past Julio Jones' 2008 freshman totals, leaving Cooper with 59 grabs and 1,000 receiving yards on the season.
Season to date: Caught 55 passes over the last 10 games of the season. Hauled in 927 yards worth of passes during that span for an average of 16.9 yards per catch. Freshman all-america and Freshman all-SEC. Two-time 247sports National Freshman of the Week selection. One of four players to receive Offensive Achievement Award at UA football banquet.

2.] RB TJ Yeldon (2)
Notre Dame: Joined Eddie Lacy in surpassing the 100-yard mark against the Irish defense, the second time two UA backs have hit the century mark in a BCS Championship Game in the last four years (Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson did it against Texas in 2010). Finished the game with 108 yards on 21 carries. Lone score in the game was eleventh in final nine games. With Lacy leaving a year early, Yeldon assumes the rule of starter at running back.
Season to date: Rushed for 1,108 yards in fourteen games, easily surpassing freshman numbers for Ingram (728 yards in 2008) and Richardson (751 yards in 2009), setting a new rookie mark in the process (Terry Grant rushed for 891 yards in 2007). Player of the week honors from the UA coaching staff following wins over Mississippi State and Georgia. Offensive player of the game honors from CBS for his efforts against LSU. Received Offensive Achievement Award at UA football banquet.

3.] CB Geno Smith (3)
Notre Dame: Saw time at the star position in the nickel and dime packages. Credited with one solo stop against the Irish. With Dee Milliner off to the NFL, Smith heads into the offseason as a prime candidate to step into a starting role.
Season to date: Appeared in 13 games, making two starts. Recorded nine total tackles, a half tackle for loss and two pass breakups. One of five players to receive Commitment to Academic Excellence Award at UA football banquet.

4.] S Landon Collins (5)
Notre Dame: No word from UA on players of the week for the championship game, but we'll go ahead and tab Collins for special teams. The youngster was an absolute force while covering punts and kickoffs, posting a solo stop on both units. Also had a tackle while working at safety late in the game. Impressive play on special teams should pave the way for prominent role at safety in 2013.
Season to date: Appeared in all 14 games, recording 17 total tackles and a punt block. Earned special teams player of the week honors from the UA coaching staff following wins over Missouri, WCU, Auburn and Georgia. One of four players to receive Special Teams Award at UA football banquet.

5.] OLB Denzel Devall (4)
Notre Dame: Rebounded from minor knee injury sustained during on-campus bowl prep to see time at outside linebacker and on special teams against the Irish. Posted an assisted tackle in the win. Following a run through the strength and conditioning program, look for Devall to push for a starting role in 2013.
Season to date: Appeared in every game, recording 18 total tackles, including three for loss, two sacks, three quarterback hurries and one fumble recovery. Defensive player of the week honors from the UA coaching staff after posting two sacks against Mississippi State. One of five players to receive Commitment to Academic Excellence Award at UA football banquet.

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