2020 Preseason Award Projections: Walter Camp Award

By Charlie Campbell
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Heading into the 2020 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 stars of next fall could be the headlining players next April in the 2021 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 LSU quarterback Joe Burrow.

Walter Camp Award Winner:

Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State

Surprisingly, Deshaun Watson didn’t win this award for either the 2015 or the 2016 season. Watson will join Tim Tebow as winning almost every other award possible but not the Walter Camp Award. The award has not gone to a quarterback only six times this century, 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 Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State’s Justin Fields. I ended up going with Fields because he has a ton of talent around him and I could see him producing some bigger numbers than Lawrence because Clemson runs the ball a lot, which could reduce some of Lawrence’s production. Both quarterbacks should often miss playing time in the second half because both teams tend to blow out opponents and empty the bench, so that playing time issue should be a wash.

The late-season games are tougher for Ohio State, and that could also lead to Fields producing a bigger stat line. Additionally, the Buckeyes lost J.K. Dobbins to the NFL. As usual, Ohio State has talented backs to replace a star, but it would not surprise me if this year’s backs are not quite as good and the offense relies more on Fields.

Conversely, Lawrence has star back Travis Etienne returning, so Etienne should get a lot of touches, plus Clemson will undoubtably look to protect Lawrence from injury. Lawrence also lost his top two wideouts from last year, as Tee Higgins went to the NFL while Justyn Ross is out for the season with a neck injury. The Buckeyes have No. 1 receiver Chris Olave returning, so Fields has an advantage there. Ohio State also runs up the score a lot on weak Big Ten opponents, so I could see Fields having a massive junior year. Thus, I lean toward Fields having the bigger production and receiving more postseason honors.

In 2019, Fields took over as the Buckeyes’ starting quarterback and dominated. The sophomore completed 67 percent of his passes on the season for 3,273 yards with 41 touchdowns and three interceptions. He also ran for 484 yards and 10 scores.

Fields has a dynamic skill set with natural passing ability and is a dangerous runner. Now that he has a year of experience at Ohio State, he could be even better. It would not shock me if Fields is the most prolific quarterback in college football in 2020. Unless Fields 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:

Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson

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

In 2019, Lawrence completed 66 percent of his passes for 3,665 yards with 36 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He also ran for 563 yards and nine touchdowns while leading Clemson back to the National Championship Game. Lawrence showed further development as a passer and as a team leader.

The 6-foot-5, 220-pounder has a good arm, developed poise, and playmaking 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 Tigers. Unless Lawrence gets injured, he should have a massive junior season and be a top contender for postseason honors, like the Walter Camp Award.

Walter Camp Award Dark Horse:

Najee Harris, RB, Alabama

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 Harris. It can be hard to get carries a large number of carries at Alabama because the program typically spreads the touches around to a stable of backs. However, Harris established himself as the feature back during the 2019 season and then decided to return for his senior year.

Nick Saban likes upperclassmen and seniors, so I could see Harris having a big year due to the Crimson Tide breaking in a new starting quarterback. In 2019, Harris averaged 5.9 yards per carry for 1,224 yards with 13 touchdowns. He had 27 receptions for 304 yards and seen scores as a receiver. Harris finished 2019 playing his best football, and that could be a sign of things to come. I think Harris could be a dark horse to win this award like Derrick Henry in his final season at Alabama.

Honorable Mentions: Georgia QB Jamie Newman, Texas A&M QB Kellen Mond, Florida QB Kyle Trask, Clemson RB Travis Etienne, LSU WR Ja’Marr Chase, Alabama WR DeVonta Smith and Memphis RB Kenny Gainwell.

2020 Preseason All-American Projections:
QB | RB | WR | TE | OT | G | C | DE | DT | OLB | ILB | CB | S | K/P

2020 Preseason Postseason Award Projections:
Thorpe Award | Biletnikoff Award | Outland Trophy | Rimington Trophy | Mackey Award | O'Brien Award | Doak Walker Award | Jet Award | Walter Camp Award

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