Power Ranking College Football's Top 10 Freshmen from 2012
Johnny Manziel capped off an excellent freshman campaign with the Heisman Trophy and enough hype to satisfy all but the most avid Tim Tebow fanatic.
It was a great season for Johnny Football, but he wasn't the only first-year player to have a monster campaign.
The 10 players listed here were the best freshman this season, each putting up big numbers and garnering all kinds of attention at their respective positions.
Forget the seasoned veteran and well-traveled upperclassmen, these guys were fresh off high school careers, yet still had a huge impact in their first seasons at the collegiate level.
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Isaac Seumalo, C, Oregon State: Started all 12 games and earned honorable mention All-Pac-12 honors.
Shaq Thompson, S, Washington: 66 tackles, two sacks and three interceptions in opening campaign. All-Pac-12 honorable mention.
Duke Johnson, RB, Miami: Posted 2,060 all-purpose yards and named offensive and overall ACC Rookie of the Year.
Tyler Johnstone, LT, Oregon: Started all 13 games for Oregon, helping anchor a squad that led the Pac-12 in rushing, scoring and total offense.
Stefon Diggs, WR, Maryland: Led the Terps in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, while averaging over 28 yards per kickoff return.
Everett Golson, QB, Notre Dame: Led the Irish to a perfect season.
Denzel Nkemdiche, LB, Ole Miss: Recorded 78 tackles, three sacks and three interceptions.
KeiVarae Russell, CB, Notre Dame: Russell was thrown into the starting role after injuries decimated the Irish secondary. Started all 12 games for the Irish.
Kenneth Dixon, RB, Louisiana Tech: Set FBS freshman record with 27 rushing touchdowns this season.
Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State: Adams stepped in after Jalen Saunders transferred to Oklahoma and became quarterback Derek Carr's favorite target. Grabbed 89 catches, 13 of them for touchdowns.
10. Deion Barnes, DE, Penn State
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In spite of the Nittany Lions' postseason ban and all the turmoil the program faced, Penn State was one of two teams that finished ahead of Wisconsin in their Big Ten Leaders division.
Barnes emerged as a legit star for the Nittany Lions, as Bill O'Brien's defense continued the PSU tradition of excellent play.
Barnes finished the season with six sacks, 10 tackles for a loss, three forced fumbles and clearly demonstrated his ability to become a future Big Ten star.
Jordan Hill and Sean Stanley, two of his teammates on the defensive line, will be gone next season, so Barnes needs to step up in a big way in 2013.
9. Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
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Following the departure of Marquis Maze and Darius Hanks, Alabama needed a target to step up for A.J. McCarron heading into this season.
Amari Cooper provided that big-play ability and became McCarron's primary target over the course of the season.
He finished 2012 with 53 catches for 895 yards and nine touchdowns. He also produced four 100-plus yard receiving games, including three in the Tide's last four contests.
The added dimension Cooper provides to Alabama's offense has been key to the team's success title run.
8. Leonard Williams, DT, USC
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USC's much ballyhooed offense was a disappointment, an unpleasant surprise for Trojan fans across the nation.
But the play of the team's young defensive line, led by Leonard Williams and JUCO stud Morgan Breslin, proved to be an early Christmas surprise.
Williams spent the season maturing before our eyes, and wound up with some excellent numbers.
He notched 50 tackles (13 of them for a loss) to go along with 7.5 sacks, earning Pac-12 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year honors.
A very impressive first season indeed for Williams.
7. T. J. Yeldon, RB, Alabama
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T.J. Yeldon was part of a tandem that replaced top draft pick Trent Richardson and allowed Alabama's rushing attack to not miss a beat.
With Eddie Lacy carrying most of the load, the Tide rushing attack averaged over 224 yards per game, good enough for second in the SEC.
Yeldon demonstrated he is going to be a star when he gets the opportunity, finishing with 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns on 154 carries.
He also contributed in the passing game, catching 10 passes for 131 yards and a touchdown.
It was a solid first season for Yeldon, and he put the icing on the cake with a 153-yard effort in the SEC championship versus Georgia.
6. Devonte Fields, DE, TCU
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Stopped paying attention to TCU after all the craziness the team went through?
Then you missed a monster season from Devonte Fields. The man posted 17.5 tackles for a loss—as a freshman!
He earned Big 12 Freshman of the Year honors and was one of the best defenders in the conference.
Keep an eye on Fields next season, as he can only improve after another year under defensive guru Gary Patterson.
5. Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
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Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall teamed up for a great season as freshman for Georgia.
Gurley definitely carried the load, racking up six 100-yard performances in SEC play, and scoring 16 touchdowns to go with 1,260 yards on the season.
His physical running style makes him special, while he also has the hands to make a big contribution in the passing game.
Given the fact that Georgia returns its entire offensive line in 2013, you can expect more big performances from Gurley.
4. John Theus, RT, Georgia
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While Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley were earning all the accolades, John Theus was part of an offensive line that stepped up in a big way for the 'Dawgs this season.
The O-line started the year as an area of uncertainty and wound up being an area of strength.
Theus helped with that maturation, starting all 13 games and holding down the right side of the line for Georgia.
Theus earned SEC All-Freshman honors for his excellent season.
3. Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
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Overlooked amid all the buzz about Johnny Manziel and Marcus Mariota was the stellar play of UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley.
Hundley was the perfect fit for Bruins offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone's spread offense and he torched defenses all season long.
The QB finished the season with 35 total touchdowns (26 of them through the air) and wound up with 3,411 passing yards.
Hundley led the Bruins to the Pac-12 title game, but the team fell just short against Stanford.
You can expect a bright future from this guy in the seasons to come.
2. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
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Talk about a high-powered offense. This Ducks team certainly fits that description after averaging over 550 yards and 50 points per game.
All of that with a freshman under center.
Mariota completed 69.9 percent of his passes and threw for 30 touchdowns, while adding another four on the ground.
He is clearly one of the most talented quarterbacks in the nation and will certainly make a bid for the Heisman in 2013.
1. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
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The man won the Heisman Trophy as a freshman—what more can you do?
Let's take a look at his numbers anyway: an SEC-record 4,600 yards of total offense, 43 touchdowns and a 10-2 record in his first season at the collegiate level.
With offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury departing for the Texas Tech head coaching position, Manziel's numbers could go down in 2013.
But with the talent he possesses, it's not likely.