Previewing college football's 'other' awards: Who will win Maxwell, Bednarik, more?
- Expect Lamar Jackson to claim the Maxwell and Davey O'Brien awards while Jonathan Allen wins the Bednarik Award.
The biggest individual honor in college sports won’t be handed out until Saturday, but there are plenty of college football stars, including all five Heisman Trophy finalists, hoping to hear their names called Thursday night at the Home Depot College Football Awards. And with Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson considered the heavy favorite to win the Heisman, Thursday’s award may have more suspense.
So who will win some of the biggest prizes in college football, including the Bednarik Award, the Biletnikoff Award, the Maxwell Award, the Doak Walker Award and more? Here’s what to expect and which players got snubbed this season.
Chuck Bednarik Award (defensive player of the year)
2015 winner: Tyler Matakevich, Temple
2016 finalists: Jonathan Allen, Alabama; Myles Garrett, Texas A&M; Jabrill Peppers, Michigan
Biggest snub: Reuben Foster, Alabama. In terms of pure linebackers (which Peppers is not), there’s no one better than Foster. Great against the run and in coverage, Foster finished the regular season with 94 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, four sacks and two pass breakups.
Projected winner: Allen. A force to be reckoned with no matter where he lines up on the defensive line, Allen already won the Bronko Nagurski Trophy for defensive player of the year and should add the Bednarik to his haul. He’s got 13 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks and 15 quarterback hurries entering the College Football Playoff. Peppers may be the defensive player with the Heisman finalist nod, but Allen is the top player on this side of the ball.
Biletnikoff Award (wide receiver of the year)
2015 winner: Corey Coleman, Baylor
2016 finalists: Austin Carr, Northwestern; Zay Jones, East Carolina; Dede Westbrook, Oklahoma
Biggest snub: Corey Davis, Western Michigan. Somehow the star receiver on one of only two undefeated teams in college football failed to be recognized. Davis has shined all season, racking up 1,427 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns, including eight catches for 144 yards with a score in the Broncos’ 29–23 MAC championship win over Ohio.
Projected winner: Westbrook. It’d be a stunner if this went to anyone else. The Heisman finalist is second among Power 5 receivers in yards with 1,465 and is averaging a ridiculous 19.8 yards per catch. He gained 100 or more yards in eight of Oklahoma’s last nine games, and his 16 receiving touchdowns are tied for fourth in the nation.
Lou Groza Award (kicker of the year)
2015 winner: Ka’imi Fairbairn, UCLA
2016 finalists: Daniel Carlson, Auburn; Zane Gonzalez, Arizona State; Younghoe Koo, Georgia Southern
Biggest snub: Emmit Carpenter, Minnesota. Kicking outdoors in Minnesota is no simple task, yet Carpenter has been nearly perfect this season. He’s 21 of 23 on field goals, including 7 of 7 on boots of 40–49 yards and 2 of 2 on kicks of 50 yards or more. The sophomore also hit a game-winner to spare Minnesota what would have been an embarrassing defeat to Rutgers.
Projected winner: Gonzalez. The Arizona State kicker set the FBS record for field goals in a career with 96. But this is hardly just a lifetime achievement award. Gonzalez’s 2016 campaign is worthy of praise in its own right. He connected on 23 of 25 field goals this season, including 7 of 9 from 50-plus yards. His 59-yarder against Colorado is the longest made field goal this season.
Ray Guy Award (punter of the year)
2015 winner: Tom Hackett, Utah
2016 finalists: Michael Dickson, Texas; Cameron Johnston, Ohio State; Mitch Wishnowsky, Utah
Biggest snub: Johnny Townsend, Florida. The nation’s leader in yards per punt somehow didn’t make the final three while the punters ranked Nos. 2–4 did. Townsend averaged 48.1 yards per boot and dropped 25 of his 60 punts inside the 20-yard line.
Projected winner: Wishnowsky. Another year, another Utah punter winning the Ray Guy Award. After Tom Hackett claimed it the last two years, Wishnowsky appears poised to follow in Hackett’s shoes. His 48.0 yards per punt ranks second nationally, and he managed to drop 34 of his 60 punts inside the 20-yard line and 17 inside the 10-yard line, both best in the country.
Maxwell Award (player of the year)
2015 winner: Derrick Henry, Alabama
2016 finalists: Lamar Jackson, Louisville; Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma; Jabrill Peppers, Michigan
Biggest snub: Deshaun Watson, Clemson. If anyone other than Jackson wins the Heisman Trophy, it’s likely to be Watson, yet the Clemson quarterback couldn’t crack the top three in another award honoring college football’s top player. Watson has replicated many of the numbers that made him a finalist for the Maxwell Award last season, completing 67.6% of his passes for 3,914 yards with 37 touchdowns along with 529 yards rushing and six more scores this season.
Projected winner: Jackson. The Louisville quarterback is the deserved frontrunner for every award for the most outstanding player in college football this season. His 51 touchdowns are the most by any player and would tie him for 39th most among all teams. Even though he ended the season with two of his worst performances (though 452 total yards and four touchdowns against Kentucky weren’t too bad), it’s important to remember just how incredible he was for his first 10 games when he basically ran laps around defenders and around every other contender for this award.
Davey O’Brien Award (quarterback of the year)
2015 winner: Deshaun Watson, Clemson
2016 finalists: Lamar Jackson, Louisville; Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma; Deshaun Watson, Clemson
Biggest snub: Jake Browning, Washington. The sophomore quarterback topped both Jackson and Watson in efficiency with a 176.51 QB rating. Browning led Washington to the playoff by dissecting defenses with remarkable consistency and threw only seven interceptions all season. Needing to beat rival Washington State to win the Pac-12 North, Browning delivered one of his best performances of the season, passing for 292 yards with three touchdowns to guide the Huskies to a 45–17 victory.
Projected winner: Jackson. For the reasons mentioned above, Jackson has been the best player this season from Week 1. His ability as a dual-threat quarterback is unmatched.
Outland Trophy (interior lineman of the year)
2015 winner: Joshua Garnett, Stanford
2016 finalists: Pat Elflein, Ohio State; Cody O’Connell, Washington State; Cam Robinson, Alabama
Biggest snub: Ethan Pocic, LSU. He’s a finalist for the Rimington Trophy for college football’s top center, so Pocic may not go home empty-handed (though he’ll have to best Outland finalist Elflein for that). Pocic allowed just one sack this season and was named the SEC offensive lineman of the week three times.
Projected winner: Robinson. The junior anchors an offensive line that is a finalist for the Joe Moore Award, which honors the top O-line in college football. Robinson has proved up to the task against some of the best pass-rushers in the country like Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett and Tennessee’s Derek Barnett.
Thorpe Award (defensive back of the year)
2015 winner: Desmond King, Iowa
2016 finalists: Adoree’ Jackson, USC; Jourdan Lewis, Michigan; Tre’Davious White, LSU
Biggest snub: King. Don’t look at King’s drop in numbers this year (two interceptions and nine passes defended, down from eight interceptions and 21 passes defended last season) and assume he regressed. Big Ten quarterbacks just finally got smart. King is a shutdown cornerback and remains one of the nation’s best.
Projected winner: Lewis. The Michigan senior led all cornerbacks targeted 20 or more times in QB rating against, according to Pro Football Focus. He finished the year with 10 passes defended, 3.5 tackles for loss and two interceptions, including one of the greatest plays of the season.
Doak Walker Award (running back of the year)
2015 winner: Derrick Henry, Alabama
2016 finalists: Dalvin Cook, Florida State; D’Onta Foreman, Texas; Donnel Pumphrey, San Diego State
Biggest snub: Christian McCaffrey, Stanford. He wasn’t able to match his record-setting all-purpose production from last season, but McCaffrey may have actually been a better running back in 2016. Although his overall usage declined, he still finished with 1,603 rushing yards and upped his yards per carry to 6.3, better than all three finalists.
Projected winner: Foreman. In a tight race like this, look to whose résumé best resembles the previous winner’s. Foreman’s season looks a lot like Derrick Henry’s 2015 campaign. The Texas running back carried the Longhorns’ offense, rushing 323 times for 2,028 yards, most in the nation. Foreman even topped Henry’s efficiency, gaining 6.3 yards per carry to Henry’s 5.6 last season.