2014 Preseason Award Projections: Hendricks Award

By Charlie Campbell
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Heading into the 2014 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 2015 NFL Draft. We also will project the winners of the postseason awards that are given out to the best of college football.

The Ted Hendricks Award is given to the best defensive end in college football. Last year’s winner was Texas defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat.

Hendricks Award Winner:

Randy Gregory, Nebraska

After a breakout 2013, Gregory won’t take anyone by surprise this season. However, he looks too physically dominant to be contained by Big Ten offensive tackles. The 6-foot-6, 255-pounder has great speed and agility to rush the passer. Last year, Gregory was a better player than Jeffcoat, so perhaps the Hendricks Award committee will be more inclined to pick Gregory if he has another big season.

Gregory was initially slated to go to Purdue, but it didn’t work out with the Boilermakers, and Gregory became one of the most sought after junior college prospects in years. He landed at Nebraska and made an impact for the Cornhuskers as one of the best pass-rushers in the nation. In only 10 starts, Gregory totaled 66 tackles with 19 tackles for a loss, 10.5 sacks, one pass batted and an interception.

Gregory will see tons of double-team attention in 2014, but Nebraska will move him around to find good rushing opportunities. He also just overwhelms the opposition, so he should be in line for another big sack total this fall. Gregory looks like the best defensive end in college football, so winning the Hendricks Award in 2014 isn’t a stretch.

Hendricks Award Runner-Up:

Vic Beasley, Clemson

Beasley has spent the past two seasons as one of the most consistent pass-rushers in college football. The senior enters the 2014 campaign with over 20 sacks across the past two years. He has blinding speed off the edge to continue his torrid pace this coming season.

Beasley was a tremendous pass-rusher for Clemson last year with 13 sacks. He also picked up 23 tackles for a loss, 41 tackles, six passes batted, four forced fumbles and a fumble recovery for a touchdown. Beasley ended the season in impressive fashion as he outplayed South Carolina and Ohio State. As a sophomore, Beasley recorded 14 tackles with eight sacks and a forced fumble.

Beasley won’t be able to stay at defensive end in the NFL. However, he should produce one more big sack total as an end who overwhelms ACC offensive tackles. While Beasley is going to see a steady amount of double-teams, Clemson has other talent on the defensive line to help take the heat off of him. Beasley is a well-known commodity entering his senior year, and that will help him to pick up postseason honors as long as he continues to produce.

Hendricks Award Dark Horse:

Cedric Reed, Texas

While Texas’ defense had some ugly performances in 2013, Reed played really well and fellow defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat won the Hendricks Award. The 6-foot-6, 270-pound Reed has good size and quickness off the edge. Playing in college football’s version of the Arena Football League, he should see plenty of opportunities to rush the passer in 2014. That, along with Charlie Strong’s coaching, could lead to Reed totaling a big sack total and being a candidate for a lot of postseason awards.

Reed had 10 sacks, 68 tackles, 17.5 tackles for a loss, four passes batted and five forced fumbles in 2013. With his performance, the Longhorns didn’t have a big drop off after losing Alex Okafor to the NFL.

This year, Texas will also be without Jackson Jeffcoat, so double-teams will surely come Reed’s direction, and he won’t take teams by surprise as a senior. Still, Reed could produce a big stat line to get some postseason honors.

Honorable Mentions: Ohio State’s Noah Spence, Ohio State’s Joey Bosa, Michigan State’s Shilique Calhoun, Florida’s Dante Fowler, Kentucky’s Alvin Dupree, Kentucky’s ZaDarius Smith, Ole Miss’ Robert Nkemdiche, Baylor’s Sam Ukwuachu, Georgia’s Ray Drew, Missouri’s Marcus Golden, Baylor’s Shawn Oakman, Stanford’s Henry Anderson, Louisville’s Lorenzo Mauldin, Florida’s Jonathan Bullard, Arkansas’ Trey Flowers, Cincinnati’s Silverberry Mouhon, Oklahoma’s Charles Tapper, Miami’s Anthony Chickillo, Clemson’s Corey Crawford, Michigan’s Frank Clark and Notre Dame’s Sheldon Day.

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