DALLAS (FWAA) – Oklahoma State defensive end
Collin Oliver was named the third annual
Most Inspirational Freshman for 2021 by the
Football Writers Association of America and
Chris Doering Mortgage on Monday night.
|Oklahoma State's Collin
Oliver (Icon Sportswire)
Oliver, a 6-foot-2, 225-pounder from Oklahoma City, played considerably
bigger than his frame and made giant contributions for a defense
that led the nation with 4.0 sacks per game. Oliver's 11.5 sacks
led FBS Power 5 conference freshmen, and only Coastal Carolina freshman
Josaiah Stewart (12.5) had more.
The unanimous Big 12 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year was
somewhat under the radar when he signed with the Cowboys in 2020,
rated a three-star linebacker by the 247 Composite. Oliver quickly
changed the narrative upon his arrival in Stillwater, so much that
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy acknowledged his potential days
before his debut against Missouri State.
"Collin's going to play," Gundy told the Oklahoman. "How
much? It's based on a lot of different things, the packages we use.
But I feel like he's going to be in the game playing."
Senior defensive end Brock Martin was also quick to endorse Oliver
at the start of the season.
"He came in and he worked his tail off," Martin told
The O'Colly. "He never complained about anything. He did everything
he was supposed to, and then he just went on to fall camp and he
was very coachable."
Former Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles revealed
Oliver grabbed the staff's attention by graduating high school a
semester early so he could begin spring practice in Stillwater.
"We noticed Collin when he was with us and he should've
been at his senior prom," Knowles told The Oklahoman. "He's
a guy that just jumps right off the screen when you're watching
video. The quickness, the natural skills of being a great athlete.
… He's got some things you can't coach."
Oliver garnered eight tackles and 0.5 sacks in his first four
games in the defensive line rotation before making his first career
start against eventual Big 12 champ Baylor. Oliver seized the opportunity,
recording 2 sacks, including a game-sealer in the 24-14 win over
the then-No. 21 Bears. There were more sacks ahead for Oliver, who
despite his smaller size continued to provide stellar play upfront
with seven sacks over the next seven games.
Oliver's most impactful play was arguably in the annual Bedlam
rivalry game with Oklahoma. The Sooners were threatening to score
the winning touchdown with 14 seconds to go when former Oklahoma
QB Caleb Williams dropped back on a fourth-and-10 from the Cowboy
24. Oliver, rushing Williams from his blindside, was forced to the
ground on the play. Down, but not out, Williams army-crawled to
Williams' ankles and dragged him down as the Cowboys beat Oklahoma
for the first time since 2014.
Oliver recorded two sacks in the ensuing Big 12 Championship
Game against Baylor before the Cowboys' offense came up inches short
at the goal line, losing the heartbreaker, 21-16. Oklahoma State
bounced back to beat Notre Dame in a thrilling, 37-35 comeback victory
in the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl.
The win marked the program's first New Year's Six Bowl win since
2012 and capped the Cowboys' 12-2 season.
Previous winners of the FWAA's Freshman Most Inspirational Award
are Grayson McCall (Coastal Carolina, 2020), Kedon Slovis (USC,
2019) and Adrian Martinez (Nebraska, 2018).
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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 email@example.com.