2019 Preseason Award Projections: Hendricks 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 April 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 Ted Hendricks Award is given to the best defensive end in college football. Last year’s winner was Clemson’s Clelin Ferrell. Ferrell was our prediction to be the runner-up to Nick Bosa.

Hendricks Award Winner:

Chase Young, Ohio State

The Hendricks Award favors players with big sack production, and the talented Young easily could put together a massive junior year. With Nick Bosa injured for most of 2018, Young took over for the Buckeyes and led their edge rushing over his superb sophomore season. On the year, Young recorded 34 tackles with 15.5 tackles for a loss, 10.5 sacks, five passes broken up and two forced fumbles. The 6-foot-5, 265-pounder is a quick edge rusher who has lot of athleticism with the upside to be even better as he gains experience. Young will see a lot of double teams and extra attention this fall, but he is good enough to overcome it and still produce a big year that yields a lot of postseason honors, including the Ted Hendricks Award winner.

Hendricks Award Runner-Up:

A.J. Epenesa, Iowa

Over the past two seasons, Epenesa has been a very good defender for the Hawkeyes. He flashed as a freshman with 4.5 sacks, 5.5 tackles for a loss, 15 tackles and one forced fumble. Epenesa proved he was just scratching the surface, producint even better as a sophomore and recording 10.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, four passes batted, 16.5 tackles for a loss and 37 tackles. The 6-foot-5, 277-pounder is one of the best edge defenders in college football, and if continues his upward trajectory, he could put together a huge junior year to be a top NFL prospect and earn the Hendricks Award.

Hendricks Award Dark Horse:

Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State

There was a trio of sophomore Big Ten defensive ends who had huge 2018 seasons, and Gross-Matos was right there with Chase Young and A.J. Epenesa as a force for his team. Gross-Matos showed more as a run defender than Epenesa or Young, totaling 54 tackles with 20 tackles for a loss. While Epenesa and Young got to the quarterback more, Gross-Matos still put heat on the quarterback with eight sacks and two forced fumbles. He has good length, size and upside to continue his strong play as a junior, and if he can increase his sack total, he could be a top contender for the Hendricks Award.

Honorable Mentions: Auburn’s Nick Coe, Alabama’s Terrell Lewis, Utah’s Bradley Anae, Michigan State’s Kenny Willekes, Mississippi State’s Chauncey Rivers, Boise State’s Curtis Weaver, Auburn’s Marlon Davidson, Northwestern’s Joe Gaziano, Notre Dame’s Khalid Kareem and Florida’s Jabari Zuniga.

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