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Our favorites for major the positional awards in college football
Why should the Heisman Trophy have all the fun?
Unfair to award contenders or not, the Heisman Trophy is the only major sports award where the favorites are decided almost as soon as the previous winner is named.
We think college football’s rich history of trophies and awards deserves more fanfare all season long. That’s why we’ll take a look at contenders for major position awards, and later coach of the year awards. We’ll name our weekly leaders for the Davey O’Brien, the Doak Walker, Nagurski, Lombard, Outland and more each week, here in the weekly awards watch.
If you’re looking for our thoughts on that other trophy, check our weekly Heisman poll.
Davey O’Brien (Top quarterback)
Last year’s winner: Robert Griffin, Baylor
Our leader: Geno Smith, West Virginia
USC’s Matt Barkley is the Heisman favorite, but it was tough to beat Geno Smith’s stat line against Marshall. Smith completed 32 of 36 passes for 323 yards with three touchdowns. He also rushed for 65 yards and a score, a career high. He never ran for more than 26 yards in a game last season. Smith leads an offense that has scored 139 points in two games.
Others: USC’s Matt Barkley, Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez
Doak Walker (Top running back)
Last year’s winner: Trent Richardson, Alabama
Our leader: Le’Veon Bell, Michigan State
Bell took the pressure off first-time starting quarterback Andrew Maxwell by rushing for 210 yards and two touchdowns against Boise State. Bell, who had split time in past seasons, had never topped 20 carries in a game in his career.
Others: UCLA’s Johnathan Franklin, Clemson’s Bruce Ellington
Biletnikoff Award (Top wide receiver)
Last year’s winner: Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State
Our leader: Marqise Lee, USC
Lee may be overtaking the more veteran Robert Woods as USC’s most visible receiver. Against Hawaii, Lee caught 10 passes for 197 yards and a touchdown. He added a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to boot, marking the second time in his career he’s had a touchdown catch and a special teams score. Lee has 10 touchdowns in his last six games.
Others: Clemson’s DeAndre Hopkins, Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews
Mackey Award (Top tight end)
Last year’s winner: Dwayne Allen, Clemson
Our leader: Kaneakua Friel, BYU
The junior tight end caught seven passes all of last season and almost topped that against Washington State. Friel caught six passes from 101 yards, including touchdown catches from two different quarterbacks.
Others: Arkansas’ Chris Gragg, Washington’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins
Outland Trophy (Top interior lineman)
Last year’s winner: Barrent Jones, Alabama
Our leader: Jones, Alabama
No offensive lineman came into this season with more fanfare than the defending Outland winner, even earning a little bit of Heisman attention from those who’d like to see the award go to a lineman every once in a while. Led by Jones, the Alabama offensive line was dominant against Michigan, opening gaping running lanes for Alabama backs. The Crimson Tide rushed for 232 yards and 5.2 yards per carry in the win over The Wolverines.
Others: Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o, Alabama’s D.J. Fluker
Rimington Trophy (Top center)
Last year’s winner: David Molk, Michigan
Our leader: Alabama’s Jones
Others: Clemson’s Dalton Freeman
Bednarik Award/Nagurski Award (Defensive Player of the Year)
Last year’s winners: Tyrann Mathieu, LSU (Bednarik), Luke Kuechly, Boston College (Nagurski)
Our leader: Dee Milliner, Alabama
Michigan probably tested Alabama’s new first-time cornerback one too many times in the 41-14 rout. Milliner finished the game with four pass breakups and an interception returned 35 yards to set up a short Alabama field goal. Denard Robinson completed only 5 of 16 passes in the first half against the Alabama defense.
Others: Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o, Florida State’s Bjoern Werner
Lombardi Award (Top lineman or linebacker)
Last year’s winner: Keuchly
Our leader: Manti Te’o, Notre Dame
Notre Dame’s star linebacker recorded six tackles and picked up two turnovers (one interception and a fumble recovery) in the 50-10 Irish win over Navy. Hard to believe for one of the nation’s best linebackers, but it was just his first career interception.
Others: BYU’s Kyle Van Noy, Florida State’s Bjoern Werner
Butkus Award (Top linebacker)
Last year’s winner: Kuechly
Our leader: Te’o, Notre Dame
Others: Michigan State’s Max Bullough, West Virginia’s Isaiah Bruce
Thorpe Award (Top defensive back)
Last year’s winner: Morris Claiborne, LSU
Our leader: Milliner, Alabama
Others: Rutgers’ Brandon Jones, Texas’ Kenny Vacarro
Groza Award (Top kicker)
Last year’s winner: Randy Bullock, Texas A&M
Our leader: Sean Ianno, UTSA
Ianno accounted for 15 points, including a 51-yard field goal with 23 seconds remaining to clinch a 33-31 win over South Alabama. in UTSA’s debut as an FBS program Ianno also kicked field goals of 47, 32 and 21 yards.
Others: Clemson’s Chandler Catanzaro, Iowa’s Mike Meyer
Ray Guy Award (Top punter)
Last year’s winner: Ryan Allen, Louisiana Tech
Our leader: Kirby Van Der Kamp, Iowa State
Van Der Kamp averaged 43 yards per kick on nine punts, landing five of them inside Tulsa’s 20-yard line in the Cyclones 38-23 win.
Others: Colorado’s Darragh O’Neill, Michigan’s Will Hagerup
Freshman of the Year
Our leader: Duke Johnson, Miami
Whether breaking tackles or running to the end zone untouched, Duke Johnson hinted at entering his spot in Miami’s long running back tradition. Johnson rushed for touchdowns of 54 and 56 yards against Boston College, finishing with 135 yards on seven carries.
Others: UCLA’s Brett Hundley, Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon
by David Fox
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