2016 Preseason Award Projections: Walter Camp Award

By Charlie Campbell
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Heading into the 2016 college football season, WalterFootball.com will debut our projections for the nation’s leaders during the fall. The All-American teams always have some surprises, and the next fall’s stars could be the headline players next April for the 2017 NFL Draft. We also will project the winners of the postseason awards that are given out to the best of college football.

The Walter Camp Award is given to the Player of the Year in college football. Last year’s winner was Alabama running back Derrick Henry.

Walter Camp Award Winner:

Deshaun Watson, Clemson

Watson easily could have won this award last year, but he was edged out by Derrick Henry. Watson put up tremendous numbers in 2015 en route to leading Clemson to the National Championship. On the year, he completed 68 percent of his passes for 4,104 yards with 35 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Watson also averaged 5.3 yards per carry on the ground for 1,105 yards with 12 scores.

There is no reason to think that the junior won’t be just as good in 2016. Clemson has recruited a lot of talent around him, plus he gets wide receiver Mike Williams back. Additionally, Clemson lost seven defensive starters to the NFL, including three quarters of the starting defensive line and secondary. Thus, the Tigers could be in more shootouts in 2016. Watson plays in a point-machine offense to begin with, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he is deemed to be the Player of the Year in college football.

Walter Camp Award Runner-Up:

J.T. Barrett, Ohio State

This was a tough choice because I think other quarterbacks like Baker Mayfield, Pat Mahomes and Luke Faulk will produce huge stat lines playing in their respective college offenses. However, I went with Barrett because in Ohio State’s offense with the talent around him, Barrett should have a huge season. He was the Buckeyes’ starter for the majority of the 2014 season, completing 65 percent of his passes for 2,834 yards with 34 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, plus running for 938 yards and 11 touchdowns. With Cardale Jones and Braxton Miller in the NFL now, Barrett should be the leader of Ohio State’s offense and put together a massive 2016 season.

Barrett is a perfect fit in the Buckeyes’ read-option spread offense, and I think he could produce or surpass his 2014 totals. The media and voters also pay closer attention to Ohio State than Texas Tech and Washington State. Thus, I think Barrett could easily win the Walter Camp Award.

Walter Camp Award Dark Horse:

Dalvin Cook, Florida State

For the dark horse, I’m picking a running back. The Walter Camp Award typically goes to quarterbacks, but occasionally a tailback has won it.

Thus, that makes it really hard to pick a winner among the group of Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook and Nick Chubb. All four of them have weak quarterbacks, so defenses will be stacking the box to try and stop each of these runners. Cook was my selection because the ACC defenses are a lot worse than the SEC defenses and Pac-12 defenses that the other three runnings backs will take on.

In 2015, Cook averaged 7.4 yards per carry for 1,691 yards with 19 touchdowns. He also had 24 receptions for 244 yards and a score. Defenses knew that they were going to see a ton of handoffs to Cook, yet they were incapable of stopping him.

If he stays healthy, Cook should end up being at least a finalist for, if not the winner of, the Walter Camp Award. The ACC provides a lot of weak opponents for Cook to run over throughout the regular season. Perhaps the best team in the conference is the Clemson Tigers, and they’ve lost seven defensive starters to the NFL, including three quarters of their defensive line and secondary. Aside from Ole Miss and Florida on the schedule, Cook should run wild in 2016. Thus, he’s my dark horse selection to win the Walter Camp Award.

Honorable Mentions: LSU RB Leonard Fournette, Miami QB Brad Kaaya, Washington State QB Luke Faulk, Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey, Georgia RB Nick Chubb, UCLA QB Josh Rosen, Texas Tech QB Pat Mahomes, Tennessee QB Josh Dobbs, BYU QB Taysom Hill and USC WR JuJu Smith-Schuster.

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