5 Greatest College Football Freshman Seasons
Greatest College Freshmen of All Time
There has been an enormous amount of discussion this season about the talented freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel and the impact he has had on the Texas A&M program. His transition to the college game has been fast and complete, and watching him play he looks like he’s been doing it forever. He is poised to be a Heisman finalist and he’s made the transition to the SEC for the Aggies an easy one.
An interesting footnote to Manziel’s dream season is that coming into the 2012 season the redshirt freshman was in a battle for the starting job with 2 other quarterbacks, Jameill Showers and Matt Joeckel. But Manziel won the starting job, and the rest as they say is history. Considering Manziel has 3 more years in the program, it will be interesting to see what a player like Showers chooses to do with his career. But I digress.
But I must take exception with something I heard on ESPN Radio today. I am just sitting there listening, minding my own business when one of them said that Johnny Manziel is having the greatest freshman season of all time. Blashphemy! I immediately started trolling the depths of my football soaked brain for the best freshman years that I could recall. I came up with 5 freshman seasons I was able to witness personally that I would put at least equal to, or in some cases surpassed the year Manziel is having. And an important footnote is none of these young men were Heisman finalists.
What my searching did was help me formulate my personal list for the 5 greatest freshman seasons that I have every personally witnessed. I made sure to be specific about that because with any list like this, I will never include a player I haven’t personally seen play. I don’t go off antecdote and I don’t rely on highlights. So I regret that I didn't include Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk as I missed his freshman year and go to him later in his college career. He is certainly among the best of all time.
So here is my list of the 5 greatest freshman seasons in college football history. Maybe when this season is said and done Manziel will be able to fit in among them as well.
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Micheal Crabtree, WR Texas Tech
When Crabtree was able to get on the field as a redshirt freshman Red Raiders fans got to see what all the fuss was about. He was a perfect fit for that spread passing game and just racked up numbers week after week, no matter how they tried to defend him. He ended his freshman year with 134 receptions, 1,962 yards and 22 TD and just left us all shaking our heads at just how good he was.
Brad Smith, QB Missouri
When I first saw Smith play, I couldn't believe he was just a freshman. His mix of talent and raw athletic ability was astounding. He finished his freshman season as only the 2nd player to throw for at least 2,000 yards and rush for at least 1,000. He finished the year with over 3,350 yards and 22tds was unprecedented as a quarterback at the time. 10 years ago quarterbacks didn't do what Smith did, and while his numbers are more commonplace with the novelty of the dual threat quarterback, for his time Smith played like he was sent from the future.
Adrian Peterson, RB Oklahoma
As a freshman Peterson did something that was unprecedented. He led the entire country in carries with 339. As a freshman. He finished the season with just over 1,900 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns. I firmly believe if not for Peterson's teammate quarterback Jason White also bring a finalist, and stealing votes from him, Peterson would have won the Heisman as a freshman. We are seeing now as a pro just how amazing he is as a player and he was doing it as a freshman
Herschel Walker, RB Georgia
I admit I was young when Walker was a freshman. But my dad was a huge Georiga Bulldogs fan, so in 1980 when Walker was a freshman I was given a front row seat to just how great he was. His numbers might have not been the most impressive by today's standards; just a little over 1,600 yards and 16 total touchdowns, but his impact on the Bulldogs season was impossible to quantify. Being the first true freshman to ever win an All-American and ending up in the top 3 of the Heisman ballot over 30 years ago was remarkable.
Michael Vick, QB Virginia Tech
If we are grading these freshman based on the impact they had in their first year as opposed to just statistics, Vick wins by a large margin. He only had around 2,400 total yards and 20 touchdowns, but the fact he carried that offense to the BCS championship game cannot be understated. Yes, the defense and special teams were great, but without his impact on offense, there is no way they are in the BCS title game.