Vertically, running back James Noble and wide receivers Ramses Barden and Tredale Tolver are very different. They are an odd bunch to stand together for a picture with Noble standing at just 5’6,” Tolver checking in at 5’9″ and Barden towering over the entire team at 6’6″.
One thing they have in common, however, is they are all redshirt freshmen who have led this year’s football team to a 5-1 overall record and 3-0 Great West Conference record.
In their last game, a 37-6 drubbing of nationally-ranked North Dakota State, each of the three players scored a touchdown, with Noble rushing for 161 yards on 20 carries, Barden racking up 77 yards receiving on five receptions and Tolver compiling 66 yards receiving on two receptions.
Most athletes competing in their first year of collegiate football would not expect to make an impact so soon, but Noble would beg to differ.
“It’s something you plan for, and work hard in practice for,” he said. “We worked together on scout team last year and all during summer, so after that we were ready to put it together on the field.”
This season’s success is just the beginning of their collegiate careers, and in addition to being teammates, the trio are good buddies off the field.
“The three of us and Fred (Hives II) live together and we always hang with each other,” Barden said. “The best part is knowing we have a lot more time together.”
The difference between high school football and Division I-AA college football is huge and most athletes generally take longer than one year to adjust to the pace, much less thrive in it.
“In college, there’s less room for error,” Tolver said. “Everything is more aggressive.”
“The college game is much faster, and more is expected of you,” Barden said.
Noble and Tolver both mentioned that their game has improved in many ways because of older teammates showing them the ropes of college football.
“There were great running backs in front of me when I came last year. I’ve learned from Jeremy (Konaris), and Geno (Randle) really took me under his wing and taught me a lot of things,” Noble said.
“A substantial amount of my football knowledge comes from Darrell Jones, and Jason Holmes has been a player-coach to me,” Tolver said.
Barden credited his lifelong experience with basketball in helping him perform on the football field.
“My basketball foundation has definitely helped me in football,” he said. “Basketball helped me learn how to use my body as a shield and how to get an extra step on the defense for higher balls.”
He added that, “the offense and defense have provided for us (redshirt freshmen). They’ve given us the opportunities to make plays.”
Barden, in addition to being one of the team’s leading receivers with 200 yards and three touchdowns so far this season, has also been a threat on special teams. He has blocked two field goal attempts this year and has come to close to blocking several others.
Tolver is also significant to the special teams unit, as he returns kickoffs and punts. In seven punt returns this season, he is averaging an impressive 16.6 yards a return. He is among the top wide receivers on the team with 155 yards receiving.
Meanwhile, Noble has snuck past opposing defenders all season, rushing for an average of 114.8 yards per game (second-best in the Great West Conference). He is averaging a whopping 7.3 yards per carry.
The redshirt freshmen will certainly play a key role when the No. 3 Mustangs travel to Missoula, Mont. to play No. 10 Montana University (4-2) at 12:05 p.m. tomorrow. The game will be televised live locally on KSBY-TV, channel 4 in San Luis Obispo.