|Dave Martin/Associated Press|
|Johnny Manziel took the college football world by storm with his sensational freshman season.|
All this talk about freshmen that could make a big impact this season got us thinking: What are the best freshman performances at each position in college history?
We found some big-time seasons turned in by freshmen. The toughest position to narrow down was running back, by the way, as there have been dozens of impressive performances by freshmen at that position.
Important to remember: Except for a few pockets of eligibility (usually during war years), the NCAA prohibited freshmen from competition until 1972.
Here is our all-time All-Freshman team:
QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
Buzz: He became the first freshman to win the Heisman and it came on the heels of a phenomenal campaign. Manziel threw for 3,706 yards and 26 TDs (with a 68.0 completion percentage) and also ran for 1,410 yards and 21 TDs -- making him responsible for 5,116 yards (an SEC single-season record) and 47 TDs. His yardage in total offense is an FBS record for freshmen, and the rushing total is an FBS record for freshman quarterbacks.
RB Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma
Buzz: He ran for an FBS freshman-record 1,925 yards and added 15 rushing TDs, and was a consensus All-American as a freshman; he finished second in the Heisman voting, the highest-ever finish for a freshman at that time. He had 11 100-yard games and three 200-yard outings that fall.
RB Herschel Walker, Georgia
Buzz: The best freshman season in college football history? This guy's. The stats were impressive enough: 1,616 yards, 15 TDs, four 200-yard games for an offense as conservative as they come. But his impact on the national landscape was even bigger: Georgia won the national title because of Walker (starting QB Buck Belue completed just 77 passes that season). Walker's first college TD came on a 16-yard run in an early-season game against Tennessee in which he broke four tackles and simply ran over Tennessee strong safety Bill Bates, leaving legendary Georgia radio play-by-play man Larry Munson awestruck. Walker was named a first-team Associated Press All-American, just the second freshman (following Tony Dorsett) to be so honored.
WR Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech
Buzz: His season was remarkable for a receiver of any age, much less a freshman receiver. He led the nation in every important receiving category: receptions (134), receiving yards (1,962) and receiving TDs (22). He was a consensus All-American and won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation's best receiver.
WR Randy Moss, Marshall
Buzz: We're cheating a bit here, as Marshall was a Division I-AA school that season. But Moss -- who first signed with Notre Dame, then Florida State before ending up at Marshall because of off-field trouble -- certainly was a big-time talent. He had 78 receptions for 1,709 yards (21.9 yards per catch) and an astounding 28 TD catches as the Herd won the Division I-AA title in its last season at that level; Marshall moved up to the MAC the next season (when Moss had 26 TD catches).
WR Mike Williams, USC
Buzz: Williams, a Tampa native, went cross country to play for the Trojans, and he made it pay off. He had 81 receptions for 1,265 yards (15.6 yards per catch) and 14 TDs. He had at least six receptions in nine games and had five 100-yard outings and three more with at least 90 yards; he was Heisman winner Carson Palmer's favorite receiver.
OT Tony Boselli, USC
Buzz: He was a first-team All-Pac-10 selection as a true freshman in 1991, the first of three times he was so honored. He also won USC's Offensive Player of the Year Award in 1991, when he played the most minutes of anyone on the team.
OT Bill Fralic, Pittsburgh
Buzz: Fralic, who weighed 175 pounds as a 9-year-old, started immediately for Pitt as a true freshman, taking over at left tackle for departed All-American Mark May. As good as May's career was, Fralic's was better (he twice finished in the top 10 in the Heisman voting, which is unreal for an offensive lineman). Fralic graded out at 100 percent in one game as a freshman, meaning his blocking target never penetrated the Pitt line of scrimmage on any play. Pitt finished fourth in the nation in '81.
G Brad Budde, USC
Buzz: In the 1970s, USC pumped out big-time offensive linemen like Detroit used to pump out cars. Budde might have been the Trojans' best lineman that decade; at the least, he was the best interior lineman. He was the first freshman to start a USC season opener since the days of World War I and was an important cog on an offensive line that helped the Trojans to a No. 2 national ranking in '76.
G Steve Hutchinson, Michigan
Buzz: He arrived on campus as a defensive lineman, was redshirted as a true freshman while he transitioned to the offensive line, then was a first-team All-Big Ten selection as a redshirt freshman in '95. That was the first of four consecutive times he was an All-Big Ten team pick. Michigan finished 17th in the nation in '95.
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C Chuck Bednarik, Penn
Buzz: He enlisted in the Army Air Forces following his high school graduation and flew 30 combat missions over Germany as a gunner on B-24 bombers. When he returned to the States in the summer of 1945, he expected to begin work in the steel mills in Bethlehem, Pa. But his high school football coach talked him into playing football at Penn. He enrolled as a 20-year-old freshman that fall, and though he had not played football in three years, he started all but one game at center that season. In his final three years at Penn, he played both center and linebacker and never came off the field. Penn finished eighth in the nation in '45.
DE Ross Browner, Notre Dame
Buzz: Browner was a key component on a national-title-winning defense. He was third on the team with 68 tackles and added a team-leading 15 tackles for loss (sacks were not an official stat at the time), two fumble recoveries and a blocked punt; the block came in the season-opening game against Northwestern -- and on the play, the punter suffered a broken leg. Browner arguably is the best defensive player in Irish history.
DT Tommie Harris, Oklahoma
Buzz: He was a starter from the moment he arrived on campus; his first college play was a tackle for loss in a season-opening win over North Carolina. He was the Big 12 defensive freshman of the year and a first-team all-conference pick in '01, when he had 16 tackles for loss, two sacks and 14 quarterback hurries for a team that finished 11-2.
DE Hugh Green, Pittsburgh
Buzz: He might be the best defensive player in college history, and his career got off to a rousing start in '77. He had 11 tackles, two sacks and a blocked punt in his first college game, a loss to Notre Dame, and never really tailed off for four years. He finished his freshman season with 92 tackles, 12 sacks, 15 tackles for loss, five forced fumbles, an interception and 21 quarterback hurries. He was named a second-team All-American.
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LB Brian Bosworth, Oklahoma
Buzz: Bosworth was a star in each of his three seasons with the Sooners, leading OU in tackles all three seasons. He had 128 tackles, eight tackles for loss, three sacks, an interception, five pass breakups and two fumble recoveries as a freshman, when he began gaining notice not only for his on-field play but also his persona. He was a second-team All-American as a freshman.
LB Marvin Jones, Florida State
Buzz: "Shade Tree" was a mega-recruit from Miami who immediately lived up to the hype. Jones was a big hitter who led 10-2 FSU with 133 tackles and added eight tackles for loss and an interception in '90, when he was named a third-team All-American.
LB Andy Katzenmoyer, Ohio State
Buzz: Katzenmoyer grew up outside of Columbus, Ohio, and was considered the nation's top defensive recruit coming out of high school. If that wasn't enough pressure, he wore No. 45 for the Buckeyes -- the same number worn by two-time Heisman winner Archie Griffin. But he lived up to the hype, becoming the first true freshman in school history to start a season opener at linebacker. "Big Kat" was a first-team All-Big Ten pick and a second-team All-American that season, when he had 85 tackles, 12 sacks, 23 tackles for loss and four interceptions, and wowed everyone with his mix of size (6-foot-4, 255 pounds) and speed (4.57 in the 40).
LB Luke Kuechly, Boston College
Buzz: As a redshirt freshman in '09, Kuechly was a first-team All-ACC pick, the ACC defensive freshman of the year and the national freshman defensive player of the year in some circles. He had 158 tackles, a number that ranked second nationally, to go with 15 tackles for loss, a sack and four pass breakups.
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CB Dre Bly, North Carolina
Buzz: He led the nation with 11 interceptions in '96 and was a consensus first-team All-American; he was the first freshman in ACC history so honored. He added 13 pass breakups that season and had three multi-interception games. He finished his career as the leading interceptor (20) in ACC history; that figure now ranks second.
CB George Shaw, Oregon
Buzz: He led the nation with 13 interceptions in '51, tied for the second-highest single-season total in NCAA history. Shaw, who also starred in baseball, was the No. 1 overall pick of the Baltimore Colts as a quarterback in the 1955 NFL Draft. He broke his leg early in the 1956 season and was replaced as the starter by a guy named Johnny Unitas.
S Kenny Easley, UCLA
Buzz: He was a freshman All-American in '77, then a consensus All-American in each of his next three seasons. As a freshman, Easley -- who was from Chesapeake, Va. -- had nine interceptions and was named a first-team All-Pac-8 performer; he is the only player in league history to be a four-time first-team all-conference selection.
S Keith McMeans, Virginia
Buzz: McMeans led the nation with nine interceptions in '87 and graduated as Virginia's career leader in interceptions. McMeans also had six pass breakups and 35 tackles in '87, when he was an honorable mention All-America pick.
K Kai Forbath, UCLA
Buzz: He made an FBS freshman-record 25 field goals in '07 for the Bruins; he hit five field goals of at least 50 yards, including a 54-yarder. The 25 made field goals led the Pac-10 and was fourth-most nationally.
P Tom Tupa, Ohio State
Buzz: Tupa started at quarterback for the Buckeyes as a senior in 1987, but he strictly was a punter in his first season on campus. He did a great job, averaging an FBS freshman-record 47.1 yards per attempt. He punted all four seasons at Ohio State, with a career average of 44.7 yards.
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KR Raghib Ismail, Notre Dame
Buzz: He averaged 36.1 yards per kick return as a freshman, scoring on two returns for the national-champion Irish. He also started some at wide receiver that season.
Coach: Larry Coker, Miami
Buzz: He had been offensive coordinator under Butch Davis, but when Davis left to coach the Cleveland Browns, Coker was promoted. He took over one of the most talented teams in NCAA history and steered it to a national title. He was unable to keep the train rolling, though, and was fired during the 2006 season. But he has done yeoman work in starting Texas-San Antonio's program, and the Roadrunners have a legit shot to go bowling this season, just their fourth season of football.
QB Clint Castleberry, Georgia Tech
Buzz: Castleberry was an all-state football, baseball and basketball player at Atlanta's Boys High (now known as Grady High), then decided to stay home and attend Georgia Tech. He led the Yellow Jackets in rushing and passing in '42, guiding them to a Cotton Bowl appearance against Texas. He finished third in the Heisman voting, the highest finish for a freshman in the trophy's history until Adrian Peterson finished second in 2004. Castleberry enlisted in the Army Air Forces after the season, expecting to serve two years, then return home to Atlanta and Tech. But the bomber he piloted went down off the coast of Africa in 1944; there were no survivors. His No. 19 is the only jersey number that has been retired in school history.
Mike Huguenin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.