2019 Preseason Award Projections: Walter Camp Award

By Charlie Campbell
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Heading into the 2019 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 May for the 2020 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 quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

Walter Camp Award Winner:

Trevor Lawrence, Clemson

Surprisingly, Deshaun Watson didn’t win this award for either the 2015 or the 2016 season. Watson joined Tim Tebow as winning almost every other award possible but not the Walter Camp Award. In this century only six times has the Walter Camp Award not gone to a quarterback, with those previous winners being Derrick Henry, Manti Te’o, Darren McFadden, Reggie Bush, Larry Fitzgerald and Larry Johnson. Thus, I’m going to stick with a quarterback for my prediction.

This was a tough call between Lawrence, Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa and Oregon’s Justin Herbert. I ended up going with Lawrence because he has a ton of talent around him and I could see him producing some bigger numbers than Tagovailoa as Alabama runs the ball a lot, which could reduce some of Tagovailoa’s production. Both Tagovailoa and Lawrence should often miss playing time in the second half as both teams will be blowing out opponents and empty the bench, so that playing-time issue should be a wash. The late-season games are tougher for Alabama, and that could also lead to Lawrence producing a bigger stat line.

Tagovailoa won the Walter Camp Award last year, and this award avoids repeat winners, as Colt McCoy was the last one to do that a decade ago and Archie Griffin and O.J. Simpson are the only other two players to win the Walter Camp Award twice. Thus, I’m steering away from Tagovailoa.

Lawrence took college football by storm as a freshman in 2018, compiling a flawless season that culminated with him ripping Alabama’s defense comprised of NFL talent to win another National Championship for Clemson. On the year, Lawrence completed 65 percent of his passes for 3,280 yards with 30 touchdowns and four interceptions. The scary part about Lawrence is he looked like he was just scratching the surface and has the upside to get better as he gains experience.

The 6-foot-5, 205-pounder has a good arm, developed poise, and play-making ability. Lawrence makes good decisions while distributing the ball well to his phenomenal supporting cast. Clemson brings back a loaded offense with quality blocking, good running backs, and mismatch receivers. The Tigers also take on an easy schedule with a conference slate that should not pose much of a challenge to the defending National Champions. Unless Lawrence gets injured, he should have a massive sophomore season and earn a lot of postseason honors, like the Walter Camp Award.

Walter Camp Award Runner-Up:

Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama

A year ago, Tagovailoa won the starting quarterback job over Jalen Hurts for the 2018 season and was sensational for the Crimson Tide. Tagovailoa completed 69 percent of his passes last year for 3,966 yards with 43 touchdowns and six interceptions. With a loaded team around him, Tagovailoa should produce another prolific season in 2019.

Tagovailoa has the best receiver in college football in Jerry Jeudy. And aside from Jeudy, Alabama has a few other receivers who should get drafted by the NFL, including Henry Ruggs and sophomore Jaylen Waddle. The also backfield is loaded again, so there will be a running game to support to Tagovailoa.

The Crimson Tide will see some good defenses in their SEC West divisional games, which has excellent NFL talent, and that could hurt Tagovailoa’s numbers compared to other quarterbacks. Additionally, blowing teams out and the Crimson Tide emptying the bench against their early-season opponents could lead to Tagovailoa not wining some awards over other top quarterbacks who produce larger stat lines. As stated above, the Walter Camp Award has rarely ever gone to a repeat winner, so I think Tagovailoa is more likely to be a runner-up in 2019.

Walter Camp Award Dark Horse:

Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin

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. The running back who I think has the best shot at winning over a quarterback is Taylor.

Taylor should produce a huge 2019 season and could easily be the most productive running back in college football. As usual, Wisconsin has an offensive line that should open holes and a very easy schedule of opponents for Taylor to have his way with even when they know the run is coming. With the Badgers’ ground-based offense,Taylor is sure to get many rushing opportunities, and it would not be surprising to me if Taylor puts his name in their all-time record book with a prolific year similar to Melvin Gordon, Montee Ball and Ron Dayne.

As a sophomore, Taylor averaged 7.1 yards per carry for 2,194 yards with 16 touchdowns. He broke out in 2017, averaging 6.6 yards per carry for 1,977 yards with 13 touchdowns. The 5-foot-11, 216-pounder displays an overwhelming combination of size, quickness, and natural running skills. Taylor is a safe bet to be one of the best offensive players in college football, and he could end up winning some honors that typically go to quarterbacks, like the Walter Camp Award.

Honorable Mentions: Oregon QB Justin Herbert, Stanford QB K.J. Costello, Georgia QB Jake Fromm, Clemson RB Travis Etienne, Ohio State RB J.K. Dobbins and Michigan QB Shea Patterson

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