Philadelphia, PA – It may seem early, but with conference media days and summer camps right around the corner, then the season just a little beyond that, the thought of college football awards is ripe.
The anticipation is only elevated this week when a number of watch lists are released. With the Maxwell and Bednarik awards being rolled out on Monday, it's time to start whittling the 70-player field down to the real contenders.
First up is a look at who will be adding some hardware to the trophy case on the offensive side of the ball.
DAVEY O'BRIEN AWARD - Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
This season's quarterback corps is one of the better ones in awhile. There are eight or nine signal callers who have the potential to earn this award, including defending award winner Johnny Manziel. However, this season it is Bridgewater who should rise to the occasion. Last season, Bridgewater led the then-Big East in just about every passing category while ranking in the upper echelon of the country as well. This season, with the diluted defenses of the weakened American Athletic Conference lining up across from him, Bridgewater could very well be even more productive. The only real hurdle that may face Bridgewater is living up to the enormous hype that has been building since he lead Louisville to a win in the Sugar Bowl.
RUNNER-UP - Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
DARK HORSE - David Fales, San Jose State
DOAK WALKER AWARD - Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona
It was a foregone conclusion that Arizona would become a team that excelled in the running game when Rich Rodriguez took over last season. No player benefited from that shift in philosophy than Carey. An absolutely explosive back, Carey has the type of breakaway speed and versatility that has many professional scouts salivating. The 5-foot-10 back led the country in rushing yards (1,929) and ranked third for Arizona in receptions (36) and receiving yards (303) while picking up consensus All-American honors and a spot on the All-Pac 12 first team. Carey also galloped into the record books as his 366 rushing yards against Colorado broke the Pac-12 single-game record on Nov. 10.
RUNNER-UP - De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon
DARK HORSE - Antonio Andrews, Western Kentucky
FRED BILETNIKOFF AWARD - Marqise Lee, USC
Last year at this time, another USC wide receiver, Robert Woods, was thought to be destined to take this award home as the Trojans were envisioned as a heavy national title favorite. At the end of the season, USC was far from a BCS championship. However, although Woods didn't collect the Biletnikoff, a Trojan still won the Biletnikoff thanks to Lee's exploits. Largely the lone bright spot in what was a severely underwhelming season in Los Angeles, Lee caught just about everything thrown his way while racking up ridiculous yardage totals. When the dust settled on the season, Lee led the nation in receptions (118) and ranked second in yards (1,721). Lee will be adjusting to a new quarterback with Matt Barkley gone to the NFL, but with Woods also gone, Lee won't have much competition for receptions.
RUNNER-UP - Sammy Watkins, Clemson
DARK HORSE - Brandon Coleman, Rutgers
JOHN MACKEY AWARD - Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington
On paper, Seferian-Jenkins is hands-down the front-runner for this award that goes to the nation's best tight end. The 6-6 junior has already smashed a bunch of Washington receiving records for a tight end, was one of just a handful tight ends to rank in the top 100 players in the country in receptions (69) and receiving yards (850) while also being named to the All-Pac-12 second team. However, a DUI arrest in April forced Washington coach Steve Sarkisian to suspend Seferian-Jenkins indefinitely. With no return date in sight, Seferian- Jenkins is far from a lock to collect the Mackey Award. However, if he is able to get back on the field before the end of August, his skill set and size make him the clear favorite.
RUNNER-UP - Eric Ebron, North Carolina
DARK HORSE - Chris Coyle, Arizona State
JOHN OUTLAND AWARD - Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
Luke Joeckel took home the Outland Trophy last season and he might as well have left it at College Station. Matthews was lining up right alongside Joeckel last season for the surprising Aggies and this year will be looked upon to lead the protection of prized man under center Johnny Manziel. At 6-5, 305 pounds, Matthews has the ideal size not only to dominate at the collegiate level but to be making plays on future Sundays. The son of Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews, he earned All-SEC first-team honors a year ago and likely could have had a shot at this award in 2012 if it weren't for Joeckel. That won't be a problem this season, and if the Aggies are going to be as tough as expected, Matthews will be a big part of that. That might be enough to give the Aggies this trophy again.
RUNNER-UP - Taylor Lewan, Michigan
DARK HORSE - Cyril Richardson, Baylor
DAVE RIMINGTON AWARD - Bryan Stork, Florida State
At the center position, there are not a lot of flashy stats or exposure on national highlight shows that put you in the public eye for award hype. Yet those who know college football are aware of the importance of the guys in the trenches, especially those who have a bulk of experience under their belts. So while touchdowns and yards get the attention for backs and receivers, experience is often the most valuable currency for centers. Stork has that in spades as he leads the Seminoles in both starts (27) and total games (35). That type of experience is crucial at the center position as the pivot spot can be considered the "quarterback" of the offensive line. Stork is anchoring a team that finished in the top 10 last season nationally while setting a school record in total offense (6,591).
RUNNER-UP - Travis Swanson, Arkansas
DARK HORSE - Tyler Larsen, Utah State