Ted Hendricks Award (Defensive End of the Year) – Barkevious Mingo, Defensive End, LSU – Is there a better name in College Football? If there is, then there isn’t a better defensive end. He owns one of the two claims. Mingo is a lightning quick end that is disruptive and can’t be handled by a single tackle. Mingo had eight sacks last season, as a sophomore in a loaded defense, and will improve on that total for sure in 2012. Extra attention will be aimed at Mingo, but not excessive enough to contain his rush, the nation’s second best defensive end might line up across from him in Sam Montgomery.
Jim Thorpe Award (Most Outstanding Defensive Back) – Tryann Mathieu, Safety, LSU – The Honey Badger ran away with this award in 2011 and will have all the preseason hype needed to win again in 2012. Mathieu is going to have a full highlight film due to his instincts and play making ability, and has all the tools amongst the LSU defensive front. As highlighted above, LSU has a pair of future 1st round draft picks rushing passers into making errant throws – giving Mathieu interception attempts or sitting ducks.
Dick Butkus Award (Most Outstanding Linebacker) – Manti Te’o, Notre Dame – I don’t think Te’o is the best linebacker, but I think the best linebacker will get the Bednarik award. With that said, Te’o is very good, has NFL size and speed, and will be showcased in his golden helmet on NBC every weekend. Brian Kelly’s emphasis on defensive line help will bolster Te’o’s path to ball carriers and to the quarterback. Despite his speed Te’o is also adept at covering backs and tight ends.
Chuck Bednarik Award (Defensive Player of the Year) – Jarvis Jones, Linebacker, Georgia – I didn’t get too many looks at Jones last year, but when I did I had one of those “OMG” moments. Jones reminds me of current Denver Bronco Von Miller in his ability to always be around the football and make plays with superior athleticism and aggression. The junior to be finished only behind Illinois’ Whitney Mercilus in the sack department, with 13.5 in his sophomore campaign
Rimington Trophy (Outstanding Center) – Barrett Jones, Center, Alabama – Jones started 10 games at Left Tackle last season and won the Outland Trophy. Some players have a hard time moving inside, but the 6-5, 305 pound Jones is more physically situated to play center. Jones also started games at guard and center for the National Champion Crimson Tide in 2011. I imagine the transition is smooth, and Jones dominates while preparing for his NFL position and showcasing himself to scouts at Center.
Vince Lombardi Award (Outstanding Lineman) – Star Lotulelei, Defensive Tackle, Utah – Because Lotulelei plays in Utah he wasn’t as hyped to the national media as he deserved. But after being heralded as one of next April’s most coveted draft prospects, star should blow up. Because he is huge and has a Samoan sounding name, Lotulelei is naturally being compared to Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. But check him out, he is a bear of a man, a scary-scary bear.
Outland Trophy (Best Interior Lineman) – Barrett Jones, Center, Alabama – Barrett Jones won this award last year, I imagine that streak will continue. Jones is a fantastic run blocker and showed large improvements at using his quickness in pass blocking. The move to center won’t hurt his chances of repeating with the Outland. Jones is once again blocking for one of the best running backs in the country, so the offensive numbers will back up his dominance.
John Mackey Award (Most Outstanding Tight End) – Levine Toilolo, Tight End, Stanford – Toilolo is the most talented tight end playing for the most tight end friendly offense. With the departure of Coby Fleener, Toilolo will receive 30% more targets, and at 6-8 and 265 pounds, he’ll secure plenty of them. Despite being hampered by a leg injury Toilolo was an explosive weapon for Andrew Luck. And tight ends are a quarterbacks best friend; and some lucky quarterback (Brett Nottingham or Josh Nunes) is going to need a new friend trying to replace the NFL Drafts no. 1 pick.
Fred Biletnikoff Award (Most Outstanding Wide Receiver) – Marquise Lee, Wide Receiver, USC – I wrote exclusively about Marquise Lee a week ago, but this kid is the goods and is playing with one of the best quarterbacks around. Lee is a Desean Jackson – Reggie Wayne hybrid that is going to tear up the Pac-12 for another two years before graduating on to the NFL. As a true freshman Lee went for 1,143 yards receiving and 11 touchdowns – and that was while earning Barkley’s trust. The only thing standing in the way of Lee earning this award is teammate Robert Woods or Lane Kiffin calling off the dogs before he can get his insane stats.
Davey O’Brien Award (National Quarterback Award) – Matt Barkley, Quarterback, USC – Barkley would have been a top-10 pick this past April but returned to USC to hang out with really hot chicks and throw to the two best receivers in the country. The millions of dollars can wait; I support your decision Matt. The Davey O’Brien usually goes to the quarterback with the 2nd most Heisman votes; and if I think Denard Robinson gets the Heisman, then Barkley gets another trophy to show off to the Southern California chickadees.
Doak Walker Award (National Running Back Award) – Montee Ball, Running Back, Wisconsin – Ball should have probably been closer to winning the Heisman last year than he was. Setting the Big Ten records in every major rushing category should have drawn Ball more acclaim. Trent Richardson was the better football player, but Ball was ridiculous in 2011. He finished with 1,923 yards, 33 rushing touchdowns, another 306 receiving yards, and another six receiving touchdowns. Wisconsin lost two future NFL starters from the O-line, but they’ll reload and ride Ball in 2012.
The Home Depot Award (Coach of the Year) – Chris Peterson, Boise State – After losing four-year-starting quarterback Kellen Moore to graduation, people will dissect where the Boise State program is heading. By now, Boise State is in a place to continue to succeed, and its a credit to Peterson. The Bronco’s won’t lose more than two games this year and they’ll end up back in a respectable bowl game.
Maxwell and Walter Camp Awards (College Football’s Most Outstanding Player 1a) – Montee Ball, Running Back, Wisconsin – see Doak Walker. Ball won’t win the Heisman because Wisconsin won’t be good enough, and because football is once again stacked with quarterbacks that will compile monster numbers. Because he won’t win the Heisman but will be sitting in the finalist section twice, he’ll get the consolation prize aka, Best Personality at Miss America.
Heisman Trophy (College Football’s Most Outstanding Player) – Denard Robinson, Quarterback, Michigan – Robert Griffin III in 2011, Cam Newton in 2010. This award has always been about Quarterbacks and Running Backs, but lately has been all about Running Quarterbacks. Robinson is a dominating runner with devastating speed, playing in his senior year after back-to-back incredible years. In 2011 Robinson ran for 1,176 and 16 touchdowns (he ran for 1702 as a sophomore) and threw for 2,173 and 20 TDs. If Robinson keeps his rushing total, cuts down on interceptions, and has Michigan at the top of the Big Ten he should win the top prize in college football.
Send comments and questions @Einsane to appear in Wednesday’s Gold Rush column.