Power Ranking the Top 10 Freshmen in September

Ben Stepansky@@benstepanskyCorrespondent ISeptember 30, 2012

Power Ranking the Top 10 Freshmen in September

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    Rather than the typical freshman initiation activities such as doing the dirty laundry, college football is witnessing a breakout year for many freshman players.

    Big-name schools such as Alabama and Georgia who have thrived off of college veteran experience are in the midst of undefeated seasons thanks to the performance of their young guns.

    With September, and Week 5, in the books, let's rank the top 10 freshman stars so far.

10. WR Stefon Diggs, Maryland

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    Maryland currently finds itself in the middle of the pack in the ACC. However, there's a shining star on the Terrapins squad in Stefon Diggs.

    The freshman has hauled in 12 catches in four games for 259 yards and three touchdowns.

    He has also been returning kicks, averaging over 23 yards on kick returns and nearly 12 yards a return on punts.

    In Maryland's most recent game against West Virgina, a 31-21 defeat, Diggs pulled in just three catches but made them count for 113 yards and two scores.

    He's a big-play receiver with a bright future.

9. RB T.J. Yeldon, Alabama

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    On the depth chart, T.J. Yeldon is the second-tier running back behind Eddie Lacy. However, he has been producing like a feature back for the Alabama Crimson Tide.

    Yeldon has rushed for 296 yards and two touchdowns in five games for the Tide, averaging almost six yards per carry.

    He's also tacked on seven receptions for 94 yards (13.4 yards per reception). 

    Yeldon has not been able to repeat his production from Alabama's opening-week game against Michigan, when he ran for 111 yards on 11 carries and one score, including a 40-yard burst.

    He's had 10-plus carries in four of five games and has earned the respect of Coach Saban.

8. CB Jalen Mills, LSU

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    Heartbreaking news for LSU Tigers fans was the dismissal of star Tyrann Mathieu for repeated positive drug tests.

    Filling his shoes, however, has been a star in the making, freshman Jalen Mills.

    Through five games in September Mills has recorded 23 tackles (16 solo), two interceptions and two passes deflected.

    He is part of an LSU defense that is ranked ninth in the country in points against (9.6 points per game).

    Honey Badger who?

7. QB Brett Hundley, UCLA

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    Red-shirt quarterback Brett Hundley has been torching defenses in leading the Bruins to a 4-1 start.

    Hundley is approaching 1,500 yards on the season with 1,480 through five games. He has found the end zone through the air 11 times and has thrown just three interceptions.

    He has also added four rushing touchdowns to his resumé.

    In a Week 2 matchup against a good Nebraska team, Hundley threw for 305 yards and four touchdowns.

6. RB Keith Marshall, Georgia

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    The Georgia Bulldogs rushing attack is an unfair opponent for any defense.

    It is similarly unfair that Keith Marshall is the second thought in one's mind when the Georgia running game is mentioned.

    Marshall, along with Todd Gurley, has been unstoppable this season. Through five games this season, he has accumulated 428 rushing yards on 52 carries, an 8.2 yards-per-carry average. He has found the end zone five times.

    In the two games Marshall has eclipsed the 100-yard mark, he averaged more than 10 yards a carry—10.4 against Florida Atlantic in Week 3 and 16.4 against Tennessee in Week 5.

5. WR Amari Cooper, Alabama

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    Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper has gotten better and better with each game he plays.

    In the Crimson Tide's most recent win against Ole Miss, Cooper caught eight passes for 84 yards and two touchdowns.

    On the year he has 17 receptions for 222 yards and three touchdowns and has quickly become A.J. McCarron's favorite target.

4. QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M

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    Another red-shirt quarterback, Johnny Manziel, has been as close to perfect as a player can get.

    In four games, Manziel has thrown for 1,094 yards, 10 touchdowns and no interceptions. He has completed 87 of his 124 passes for a 70.2 completion percentage, which is the 12th-best among college quarterbacks.

    He can create offense with his legs too, rushing 52 times for 366 yards and six touchdowns.

    Manziel is the biggest reason the Aggies are 3-1 and have scored 58, 70 and 48 points in their three wins this season.

3. QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon

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    Hawaii native and red-shirt freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota has been the driving force in the Ducks' 5-0 start and No. 2 AP ranking.

    Mariota has thrown for 1,103 yards, 11 touchdowns and four interceptions. He has also rushed for 181 yards and a touchdown.

    HIs most impressive game came against Tennessee Tech in Week 3 when he passed for 308 yards and four touchdowns en route to a 75 percent completion percentage.

    Mariota and the Ducks have a tough match up against No. 23-ranked Washington and their 19.8 points allowed per game next week.

2. RB Duke Johnson, Miami (FL)

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    Duke Johnson's statistics speak for themselves.

    In five games Johnson has accumulated 956 total offensive yards as a rushing, receiving and returning threat.

    He has picked up 359 yards on the ground, caught 13 passes for 164 yards and has added 433 yards on 15 kick returns.

    His seven total touchdowns (five rushing, one receiving, one kick return) is the second-highest on the Hurricanes only behind quarterback Stephen Morris' nine.

    Johnson will help lead Miami back to glory.

1. RB Todd Gurley, Georgia

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    Needless to say, Mr. Gurley knows how to play football.

    Four of the five games he has played in, Gurley has rushed for 100 yards or more, including back-to-back games in Week 4 and 5 in which he has rushed for 130 yards.

    He has total 536 rushing yards on the season, which averages to be 107 yards per game. He has also crossed the goal line nine times.

    If that wasn't enough for the Bulldogs, Gurley has also been returning kicks, gaining 243 yards on seven returns. His shining moment was a 100-yard return for a touchdown.

    Gurley is a freak on the field and has brought Georgia to the forefront of college football.