Today we continue our look at Clemson’s best freshmen seasons ever. No. 1-3 in this edition.
In our final installment of this series, we examine my top three freshman seasons in Clemson history. One will be familiar to most, as his exploits on the gridiron from day one made him a modern-day legend for the Tigers. The most recent example–and the reason this list even exists–makes an appearance here, as does arguably the most impressive one-year athlete in Tiger sports history.
3. Sammy Watkins, Football, 2011: Watkins’ 2011 season will forever be considered one of the most impressive individual efforts in Clemson football history. His 2,288 all-purpose yards rank second in school history and he ranks inside the top three in receptions (82), receiving yards (1,219), and receiving touchdowns (12). He was fourth in the country in all-purpose yards per game, seventh in receiving touchdowns, and 16th in receiving yards per game for the season.
Watkins was named the ACC Rookie of the Year, as well as a semifinalist for both the Biletnikoff and Walter Camp Awards. Three different outlets—College Football News, Rivals, and Sporting News—named him their National Freshman of the Year. His performance against Maryland, where he set the school record for all-purpose yardage in a game, earned him National Player of the Week honors from both the Capital One Cup and Rivals. Watkins was both a first-team all-ACC pick at running back and a second-team pick as a kick returner to cap off his outstanding season.
2. Skip Wise, Men’s Basketball, 1974-75: Wise spent only one season at Clemson, but he made the most of his time on campus. He averaged a team-best 18.5 points—no other freshman in school history has averaged more than 12.7—and made 188 field goals and 86 free throws, both program records for freshmen. He was the first freshman in ACC history to be named first-team all-conference. He won three Player of the Week Awards from the conference, as well.
Wise’s career achievements pale in comparison to the rest of this list since he left school for the NBA after one season, but there’s no denying his excellence for the one year he was in Tigertown, especially relative to other freshmen. Also, even though he didn’t have a wide array of accomplishments, the ones he did receive put him in a class by himself in Clemson’s men’s basketball history.
1. Seth Beer, Baseball, 2016: Beer racked up just about every conceivable accolade following his 2016 campaign, during which he was supposed to be in high school. He won the Dick Howser Award as the nation’s best player—the first freshman ever to win the award—and was named both the ACC Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year, the first player in history to acquire both honors in the same season.
Beer was also a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award, widely considered college baseball’s version of the Heisman Trophy. He led the Tigers in most relevant offensive categories and reached base in sixty consecutive games to close out the season. Perhaps most importantly, Beer became arguably the most respected and/or feared hitter in college baseball. That designation puts him in a class by himself.