CFB Offseason Update: Early Season Award Candidates

Mid-Summer College Football Update

By Columnist Matt Lieberman

 

Believe it or not, we are less than 50 days away from the first weekend of this year’s NCAA football season. Last we saw, Deshaun Watson was throwing a game-winning touchdown pass to lead the Clemson Tigers to a National Championship victory over the highly favored Alabama Crimson Tide. July is the month in which the NCAA award committees announce watch lists for college football’s major awards. Quibbl is here to lay down the law about the favorites for some of the top awards. So, without further adieu, let’s kick this off.

Here are the standout candidates for the most popular awards:

Heisman Trophy: Most Outstanding Player

This season’s standout hopefuls:

  • Lamar Jackson (Louisville, QB): Last year’s Heisman Trophy winner is coming off an outstanding season as he put up 5,000 yards of total offense and 51 touchdowns.  He’ll have some of the ACC’s top targets back next year, so we’ll see what he can do.
    Highlights
  • Saquon Barkley (Penn State, RB): This highlight-reel back established himself as a major ground threat last season. His vision, explosiveness, agility, and cutting makes this 223-pound rusher a Heisman candidate.
    Highlights

 

  • Sam Darnold (Southern California, QB): The USC gunslinger put on an absolute show to close out last year, finishing with 31 touchdowns and only nine interceptions.  Will Darnold continue the momentum from a standout Rose Bowl performance?
    Highlights

 

  • Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma, QB): The two-time Heisman Trophy finalist has led the Sooners to back-to-back Big 12 championships and will look to use his strong arm to cement himself as the most outstanding player in NCAA football.
    Highlights

Editor’s Pick: Lamar Jackson

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Bednarik Award: Defensive Player of the Year

[Last season’s winner: Jonathan Allen, Alabama DE]

This season’s standout hopefuls:

  • Ed Oliver (Houston, DT): The favorite. This defensive juggernaut’s name has been thrown in as a Heisman hopeful; he’s that good. In 12 games as a Cougar last year, 290-pound Oliver made 65 tackles, with 22 of those for a loss. 22 – he’s that good.
    Highlights

 

  • Arden Key (Louisiana State, DE): This quick defensive end, coming off an off-season surgery, will look to return to stellar form. The 6-6, 231-pound pass rusher came up with 11 sacks in his sophomore season, and he will look to keep getting to opposing SEC quarterbacks, not an easy task.
    Highlights

 

  • Minkah Fitzpatrick (Alabama, CB): The consistently excellent Alabama defense will rely on this incoming junior in the upcoming season. Last year, he netted two sacks and six pick-sixes.
    Highlights

 

  • Derwin James (Florida State, S): James, a key member of the national favorites to win the championship in 2018, did not play much last year due to a meniscus tear. But before that, he was unstoppable: 11 tackles in two games. Even those of us most mathematically challenged can figure out that translates to a lot of sacks if he stays healthy.
    Highlights

 

Editor’s Pick: Ed Oliver

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Butkus Award: Linebacker of the Year

[ Last season’s winner: Reuben Foster, Alabama LB ]

This season’s standout hopefuls:

  • Malik Jefferson (Texas): The Class of 2015’s consensus top linebacker won the high school version of the Butkus Award as a high school senior. This isn’t high school, but Jefferson has proved he can handle Big 12 offenses by putting up nine tackles for losses in his sophomore season.
    Highlights

 

  • Arden Key (Louisiana State): Key set the LSU single-season record with 11 sacks last year, even tracking down quarterbacks like speedy Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson out of Louisville.
    Highlights

 

  • Josey Jewell (Iowa): Jewell, a Butkus finalist last year, was rated as a two-star recruit with Iowa as his only D1 offer. He has proven recruiting sites wrong since, piling up 124 tackles and nine pass break-ups last year.
    Highlights

 

  • Micah Kiser (Virginia): Likely overlooked because of the struggles of his 2-10 Cavaliers squad, Kiser led all Power 5 players in tackles last season with 133.  He will look to truly make a name for himself, as well as for his team, this season.
    Highlights

Quibbl’s Pick: Josey Jewell

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Davey O’Brien Award: Nation’s Best Quarterback

[Last season’s winner: Deshaun Watson, Clemson]

This season’s standout hopefuls:

  • Lamar Jackson (Louisville): Last year’s Heisman Trophy winner will look to utilize his returning options at wide receiver to throw and run his way to a Davey O’Brien Award win.
    Highlights

 

  • Sam Darnold (USC): After finishing last year with a standout Rose Bowl performance, the USC sophomore will miss wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (off to the Pittsburgh Steelers), but will try to establish himself as the top quarterback not only in the Pac-12, but also across the NCAA.
    Highlights

 

  • Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma): Mayfield will miss having fellow Heisman finalist wide receiver Dede Westbrook, who now plays for the Jacksonville Jaguars, but the senior quarterback will try to lead his team to another strong season in the Big 12.
    Highlights

 

  • J.T. Barrett (Ohio State): The fifth-year senior out of Columbus returns with 100 career touchdowns and a 26-4 starter record.  Before a season-ending ankle injury in 2014, Barrett showed signs of brilliance.  Will he keep that up, or will he struggle against formidable Big Ten East defenses?
    Highlights

 

Quibbl’s Pick: Sam Darnold

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Doak Walker Award: Nation’s Best Running Back

[Last season’s winner: D’Onta Foreman, Texas]

This season’s standout hopefuls:

  • Bo Scarbrough (Alabama): The Alabama rusher has often been limited by injuries and will hope to stay healthy this season after breaking his leg in the national championship game. After two pre-injury touchdowns in the biggest stage of them all, the National Championship game, Scarbrough showed he can perform when it matters most.
    Highlights

 

  • Derrius Guice (Louisiana State): With Leonard Fournette off to the Jacksonville Jaguars, it’s Guice’s time to shine. In LSU’s last four games of 2016, Guice scored eight touchdowns. Don’t be surprised if he keeps that up throughout the full season.
    Highlights

 

  • Saquon Barkley (Penn State): Barkley helped the Nittany Lions win last year’s Big Ten championship by rushing for 1,496 yards and 18 touchdowns. The future top NFL draft pick will look to recreate some of that magic when he returns to Happy Valley this fall.
    Highlights

 

  • Kamryn Pettway (Auburn): Auburn hopes to contend for the SEC West, just as Pettway hopes to contend for the title of Nation’s Best Running Back. The incoming redshirt junior will look to improve from last year’s totals of 1,224 yards and seven touchdowns.
    Highlights

 

Editor’s Pick: Derrius Guice

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