2016 Preseason Award Projections: Hornung 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 Paul Hornung Award is given to the most versatile player in college football. Last year’s winner was Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey.

Paul Hornung Award Winner:

Jabrill Peppers, Michigan

I’m kind of surprised that Peppers didn’t win this last year. Christian McCaffrey had a great season to be sure, but Peppers made plays in all three phases of the game. Defensively, he mainly played safety but also lined up at cornerback. He totaled 45 tackles with 10 passes broken up. On offense, Peppers was a gadget player with 18 carries for 72 yards and a touchdown. He had eight receptions for 79 yards as well. Peppers also averaged 11.4 yards per punt return. The numbers don’t fully illustrate the impact that he had and his versatility. The junior has a ton of upside to be a star on defense, offense, and special teams, so he looks like an ideal candidate for the Paul Hornung Award.

Paul Hornung Award Runner-Up:

Adoree Jackson, USC

Jackson became a starter as a freshman and was a sensation who also contributed as a wide receiver and returner/coverage defender on special teams. Defensively, Jackson had 35 tackles with eight passes broken up and one interception at corner in 2015. He also caught 27 receptions for 414 yards and two touchdowns on offense. Jackson returned two kickoffs for touchdowns and averaged 30 yards per kick returns as well. He showed improvement in his coverage skills in 2015, and for the next level, Jackson could project more as a slot corner and returner rather than a receiver. The 5-foot-11, 185-pounder is an athletic play-maker. Jackson has a lot of upside to be a star this season for the Trojans and could easily win the Hornung Award.

Paul Hornung Award Dark Horse:

Christian McCaffrey, Stanford

No player has ever repeated as a champion of the Hornung Award, thus McCaffrey is a dark horse. He was unstoppable in the last half of the 2015 season. On the year, he averaged six yards per carry for 2,019 yards with eight touchdowns, while as a receiver, he snagged 45 catches for 645 yards and five scores. McCaffrey also saw some special teams duty, averaging 29 yards per kick return – plus a score -on 37 kick returns and averaging 8.7 yards per punt return – plus a touchdown.

McCaffrey was a speedy play-maker who was threat to break off a long gain every time he touched the ball last year. He could be poised for another huge season, and that might enough for him to win the Hornung Award in back-to-back years.

Honorable Mentions: Texas A&M WR Christian Kirk, LSU CB Tre’Davious White, Miami WR Stacy Coley, Florida WR Antonio Callaway and LSU RB Leonard Fournette.

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