With so many freshman doing outstanding things this year, its hard to rank them within college freshman’s all time great seasons. It is especially hard because some of the greats are left out (Lawrence Taylor and The Fridge) because certain defensive statistics were not kept back then. Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins’ numbers this year should put him in this list, but even he missed the cut.
Here are my five top freshman seasons in college football history.
5. 2002: Larry Fitzgerald, Wide Receiver, Pittsburgh
It’s hard to actually put his dominance of college football in numbers when he was there. He led the Big East in receptions with 69, was second in yards with 1,005, and 8th
nationally in touchdowns with 12. But what is funny about his touchdown ranking is that he was 7th
in the Big East in touchdowns. Sammy Watkins did not have as many top receivers to compete with as did Fitzgerald did. To name a few receivers with 1,000+ yards in 2002 are Jerricho Cotchery, Reggie Williams, Lee Evans, Kevin Curtis, Rashaun Woods, Charles Rodgers, Andre Johnson, and Braylon Edwards. A majority of those names play on Sundays.
4. 2000: Timmy Chang, Quarterback, Hawaii
Before Case Keenum was breaking every passing record in sight, Chang was throwing all over every team in the Western Athletic Conference. Nationally, he was fourth in completion percentage (52.2), 10th
in passing yards (3,041), and second in passing touchdowns (19). Funniest NCAA record Chang holds? He is the current holder of the FBS’s all-time interception record (80.)
3. 2006: Dan Lefevour, Quarterback, Central Michigan
This kid was Tim Tebow a second too late. In his freshman season, Lefevour was first in the MAC in completion percentage (63.7), passing yards (3,031), and passing touchdowns (26). Why is he ahead of Chang? He did all this while rushing for 521 yards and seven TDs. Had Lefevour been born a year before or three years after Tebow, this kid would also be a household name.
2. 1980: Herschel Walker, Running Back, Georgia
There wasn’t a more dominant running back of his time than Walker. Aside from running over the entire SEC, literally, when he left for the pro’s he had almost every rushing record in college football, not to mention every statue that went along with it. But his freshman year is when he broke onto the scene. Walker average 5.9 yards per carry while rushing for 1,616 yards and 15 touchdowns. He finished third in the Heisman voting, as a freshman, was SEC player of the year, and a Consensus All-American.
1. 2004, Adrian Peterson, Running Back, Oklahoma
He was the definition of unstoppable in Norman, and he literally put the entire Sooner team on his back. More of a workhorse than Ricky Williams was for the New Orleans Saints, Peterson shattered nearly every freshman rushing record. He led the nation in rushing attempts (339), was third in the NCAA in rushing yards (1,925), fourth in yards from scrimmage (1,937), all while being a Consensus All-American and finishing second in the Heisman voting. The only thing missing was the BCS National Championship Trophy, that Heisman winner Matt Leinart took home with his USC Trojans.
It is hard to list just five great freshman seasons because so many performances come to mind. Maurice Clarett’s National Championship season of 2002 comes to mind. If they tracked sacks back in the day, I'm sure Lawrence Taylor and William "The Fridge" Perry would rank near the top of my list. But for now, you have to settle with two of the most dominant running backs to play in college and a Hawaiian who was arrested on suspicion of robbery in 2009.