September 8, 2012 § 1 Comment
The first week of college football has already come and gone, so naturally, I feel like I know each and every single one of the award winners in the entire college football landscape. Or not. I will admit that one or two players (cough, cough, Andre Ellington) may have snuck onto this list due considerable help from their opening week performance, but they are primarily based from their productivity from last year, coupled with the opportunity to excel this season.
Forget saving the best for last, I’m jumping straight to my already-declared 2012 Heisman projection.
I said it over a month ago, and I’ll say it again after witnessing his sophomore debut. DeAnthony Thomas is my pick for the 2012 Heisman. Matt Barkley will be last year’s Andrew Luck, winning the Davey O’ Brien and Johnny Unitas awards, but losing the Heisman to a bigger game-breaker. Thomas is exactly that, as evidenced by his opening –weekend antics. In a game in which he was used sparingly due to the nature of the blowout, he only touched the ball eight times on offense. He made the most of every snap on the field by converting the eight touches for 125 yards and three scores. This nineteen year-old is about to blow Reggie Bush’s 2005 Heisman season out of the water.
Johnny Unitas, Davey O’Brien, and Maxwell: Matt Barkley, Southern Cal
Following in the footsteps of last year’s widespread favorite for the Heisman trophy and projected #1 NFL draft pick (Stanford’s Andrew Luck), I see Matt Barkley having a fantastic senior season but failing to bring home college football’s most coveted award. As a pretty legitimate consolation prize, I see him winning the Johnny Unitas and Davey O’Brien quarterback of the year awards, as well as taking home both the Maxwell player of the year award. He has arguably the best receiving corps in the nation and way too much talent to miss out on at least a couple major awards this year.
Anyone who saw the second SEC-ACC kickoff game at the Georgia Dome this year knows exactly why this pick was made. Ellington not only had incredible statistics, but showed flat-out amazing ball carrier instincts to get yardage that he had no business getting. Ellington actually had a very productive season last year despite nagging injuries that resulted in Ellington playing multiple games at less than 100%. He still managed to make 2011 his third straight year with a five-plus yards/carry average (2009: 7.2 ypc, 2010: 5.8, 2011: 5.3), and it looks like he is saving his best season for last (2012: 9.8 ypc).
Walter Camp: Geno Smith, West Virginia
I couldn’t bring myself to give Matt Barkley a full non-Heisman award sweep partly due to the fact that the quarterback/player of the year awards were split between both Andrew Luck and RG3 last year. Also, I have high expectations for the athletic quarterback out of West Virginia and felt remiss leaving him completely out. His team fits right in with the pass-happy Big 12, and the senior has great accuracy, arm strength, athleticism, and size for a spread quarterback. His mobility was put on display in the season opener when Smith ran for 63 yards on only eight carries against Marshall. He also put on a passing clinic by completing 32 of 36 attempts (88.9%) for 323 yards and four touchdowns. I fully expect the star senior to build on a 2011 Big East Player of the Year season.
To put it simply, it’s not much of a stretch to pencil in one of the best deep threats in college football as the Biletnikoff winner when his quarterback throws the best deep ball in college football. Marquis Lee may have been the second option to Robert Woods last year when he took home the Pac 12 co-freshman of the year award, but things have shifted in his favor as evidenced by the second half of 2011 and the season opener of 2012. Lee is one of the most talented receivers in college football today and it may come down to Lee holding off his teammate (Woods) and another in-state receiver (Keenan Allen, Cal) to win this award.
My pick for the tight end of the year goes to a Jimmy Graham-like athlete who, like the former Miami two-sport star, will play both basketball and football for the Huskies in 2012. Seferian-Jenkins is quite the physical specimen at 6’6” and 266 pounds. He may only be a sophomore, but he is coming off the 3rd best season for a tight end in Washington history (41 catches for 588 yards and six touchdowns). To start off his 2012 season, he pulled down a career high nine receptions for 82 yards last Saturday. If he and starting quarterback Keith Price can build on a solid 2011 season, their chemistry and Seferian-Jenkin’s elite athleticism could help him run away with the Mackey.
Outland and Rimington: Barrett Jones, Alabama
Barrett Jones’ biggest competition for the award he received last December may be on his own team. After an injury to LSU’s Chris Faulk this week I would rank Jones as Outland candidate 1a, while massive teammate D.J. Fluker (right tackle: 6’6”, 335) follows closely behind at 1b. Jones (6’5”, 304) won the Outland trophy last year by anchoring the left side of the national champion’s offensive line at tackle, this after starting at left guard for his freshman and sophomore years. Now Nick Saban has moved him to center, which means he is eligible for both the Outland (offensive lineman of the year) and Rimington (center of the year) awards. I think he’ll once again lead the nation’s most dominating offensive line and become only the second back-to-back Outland trophy winner ever.
Bednarik, Nagurski, Lombardi, and Butkus: Jarvis Jones, Georgia
Lane Kiffin’s decision to release linebacker Jarvis Jones from scholarship due to a “career-ending” neck injury doesn’t look too smart after witnessing the transfer terrorize SEC quarterbacks to the tune of 13.5 sacks in 2011. I see the 6’3”, 241 pound outside linebacker taking his game to the next level in 2012 by winning every defensive player of the year award that he is eligible for. Georgia’s absolutely massive defensive linemen create enough space for the supremely athletic Jones to run through or around opposing blockers. I can easily see Jones overcoming the single-season school record for sacks (14 by David Pollack in 2002) this year and collecting some impressive hardware along the way before being selected among the top 10-15 selections of the 2013 NFL Draft.
I believe that an LSU defensive back will win the Thorpe award for an unprecedented third year in a row. Now that Mathieu (Bednarik) and Claiborne (Thorpe) are no longer on the team to overshadow Eric Reid, the spotlight can shine directly on the best LSU safety since LaRon Landry. Reid is a hard-hitting safety that has excellent hands, as evidenced by his spectacular diving interception on Saturday. Les Miles and John Chavis’ defensive minds put their defensive backs in a position to excel every year, and this time Reid should be the one to reap the benefits.
Broyles: Todd Grantham, Georgia
While I seriously considered Kirby Smart (Alabama) and Manny Diaz (Texas) for this award, I’ll go with the underdog. Both Smart and Diaz are serious candidates for a 2013 head coaching gig after their success as an assistant. Grantham, however, received a raise and a contract extension from the Georgia Bulldogs after being wooed by the hometown Atlanta Falcons. While he would most likely serve as an outstanding defensive-minded head coach, I see Grantham sticking with the bulldogs for at least a few more seasons. He has installed a 3-4 defense to be reckoned with, and I see 2012 being UGA’s and Grantham’s flagship season. Despite a shaky opener against Buffalo, I see a strong rebound when the team comes together fully around week 3. With an extremely weak schedule, I see this being UGA’s best chance at competing for a national title since D.J. Shockley was quarterback.
While he may be despised by Al Davis and University of Tennesee fans, Lane Kiffin has earned the love and adoration of USC players and fans alike. By assembling an all-star coaching staff and improving from 8-5 in 2010 to 10-2 in 2011, he has created a national championship –contending atmosphere in Pasadena for the first season that the Trojans are bowl-eligible. If the Trojans can get past the mighty Ducks of Oregon, Kiffin could very well find himself playing Alabama, Georgia, or LSU for the national championship. He might not end the seven year streak of SEC dominance even if he does make it to the title, but luckily for him the awards are handed out before bowl games.