- David M. Hale, ESPN Staff Writer
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More than a few eyes rolled when the watch list for this year's Biletnikoff Award was released, and a number of notable names -- primarily underclassmen -- were left off.
Among the absentees was FSU sophomore Rashad Greene, who as a true freshman in 2011 led the Seminoles in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns. (It didn't help that Willie Haulstead, who missed all of last season for FSU, was on the watch list.)
Of course, even those numbers don't sufficiently capture Greene's performance as a freshman, particularly given that he missed four games with an ankle injury.
Before the injury, Greene was on fire. He caught a touchdown pass in each of his first five games. He'd gone for at least 98 yards in three of them. The preceding week, in a loss to Wake Forest, Greene caught 12 passes for a whopping 163 yards.
Things tailed off markedly after the injury, with the freshman accounting for just seven receptions (and 40 yards) the remainder of the regular season -- a dip due largely to the slow recovery from the injury.
After a few weeks of rest, however, Greene returned to form for FSU's bowl win over Notre Dame, grabbing five catches for 99 yards and his seventh TD of the season.
It was an impressive debut to say the least, but it might have been even better had Greene not gotten hurt.
It's hard to gauge the impact his injury had on his overall production, but if we project his numbers out over a full 13-game season rather than just the nine games in which he played, Greene's actual stat line might have looked something this: 55 receptions, 861 yards receiving and 10 touchdowns.
How impressive is that?
Well, we asked ESPN's stats and research department to come up with a list, and while it's not guaranteed to be exhaustive, the number of com parables were slim.
Going back through the past eight years, they found 19 true freshmen who exceeded Greene's actual receiving totals from 2011. But if we extend the limits to Greene's projected numbers, that number dips to just seven.
Remarkably, two of those receivers accomplished the feat just last season. Two others were a part of high-flying offenses at Hawaii, which used the run-and-shoot to rack up huge numbers. The other three weren't exactly playing against top-notch defenses each week either.
That makes Greene's freshman campaign unique, but it doesn't mean there's no precedent.
If we lower the bar for touchdowns -- a stat notoriously subject to being a fluke -- and we're willing to stray a bit from the yardage totals, we get a few more seasons that more or less resemble Greene's impressive (adjusted) numbers from last year.
None of these five match Greene perfectly -- in terms of numbers or physical skills. But they do provide a rough template, and in virtually every case, the player maintained or improved their numbers as sophomores. The lone exceptions were Green and Fuller, and both can be easily explained. Green's numbers dipped a tad as a sophomore, but he also missed three games with injury and went from future NFL star Matthew Stafford at QB to soft-tossing Joe Cox. Fuller, too, missed three games with injury as a sophomore. He still had three 100-yard receiving games as a sophomore and returned as a junior to catch 72 balls for 1,066 yards and 12 touchdowns.
In other words, Greene's performance last season wasn't just good by the standards of a diminished wide receiver corps at FSU. He put together a stellar campaign by any measure, and if you provide a bit of extra credit for the games he missed with injury, Greene's true freshman campaign was in rarified air.
And that, of course, bodes awfully well for what's to come in his sophomore season in 2012. If he can stay healthy, something in the neighborhood of 60 catches, 900 yards and 10 scores is probably a fair starting point.
1dJeremy Crabtree and Brandon Chatmon