2016 Preseason Award Projections: Lombardi 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 Lombardi Award is given to the top offensive lineman, defensive lineman, tight end or linebacker in college football. Last year’s winner was Penn State defensive end Carl Nassib.

Lombardi Award Winner:

Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M

The Lombardi Award has a wide range of eligible players but it hasn’t gone to an offensive player since Orlando Pace in 1996. Pace was also the last player to win the award in back-to-back seasons. The award has been inclined to go toward defensive tackles and linebackers more than ends, but I think the Lombardi Award voters will be looking hard at Garrett considering he easily could have been the choice last year. A large sack total seems to be the most common attribute of Lombardi Award winners.

Garrett became a superstar during his freshman season for the Aggies. Instantly, he started to dominate the best conference in college football. Garrett broke the NCAA freshman sack record previously set by Jadeveon Clowney with 11.5 sacks. Garrett also had 53 tackles and 14 for a loss. He took his game to another level as a sophomore, and even with teams sending extra blocking his direction, he continued to overwhelm the opposition. In 2015, Garrett had 59 tackles with 12.5 sacks, 19.5 tackles for a loss, five forced fumbles, two passes batted and an interception. He was utterly unblockable in many games. Garrett is too talented to be held in check despite seeing double teams as he is extremely fast and freakishly athletic.

Don’t be surprised if Garrett has a massive 2016 season even though teams will be selling out to stop him and he will see steady double teams. The junior is just that much better than the competition. I think he will get close enough and reach double-digit sacks to bring home a lot of postseason hardware.

Lombardi Award Runner-Up:

Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama

A tremendous defense helped lead the way to Alabama winning a National Championship last season, and Allen was the team’s most consistent pass-rusher. He played really well with 36 tackles with 14.5 for a loss, 12 sacks, two forced fumbles and four passes batted. Alabama uses Allen creatively as the 6-foot-3, 294-pounder plays end and moves inside in passing situations. It will be interesting to see where Allen lines up this season since the Crimson Tide lost A’Shawn Robinson and Jarran Reed to the NFL. The team puts Allen into a lot of good pass-rushing opportunities, so it wouldn’t be surprising if he has a big sack total as a senior and is a true challenger for the Lombardi Award.

Lombardi Award Dark Horse:

Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida

The Lombardi Award favors pass-rushers, but it has gone to a non-pass-rushing linebacker at times. Luke Kuechly and Manti Te’o both won the award in the last five years. If you watched the Gators last year, Davis leapt out at you and was maybe the most impressive player on their defense even with a ton of future draft picks around him. In 2015, he totaled 98 tackles with 11 tackles for a loss, four passes broken up, an interception and 3.5 sacks. The 6-foot-2, 230-pounder is fast, physical and instinctive. With the likes of Antonio Morrison, Jonathan Bullard, Keanu Neal, and Vernon Hargreaves III all in the NFL, it wouldn’t be surprising if Davis’ numbers leap in his second year as a starter. With his experience, he could be poised for a massive season.

Honorable Mentions: Auburn DE Carl Lawson, Florida DE Bryan Cox Jr., Louisville DE Devonte Fields, Texas A&M DE Daeshon Hall, Alabama OLB Tim Williams, LSU DT Davon Godchaux, LSU DE Lewis Neal, Michigan State DT Malik McDowell, Florida Atlantic Trey Hendrickson, Alabama ILB Rueben Foster, Ohio State LB Raekown McMillan, Tennessee LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Northwestern LB Anthony Walker, Mississippi State LB Richie Brown and Tennessee DE Derek Barnett.

Alabama OT Cam Robinson, Notre Dame OT Mike McGlinchey, Florida State OT Roderick Johnson, USC OT Chad Wheeler, UCLA OT Conor McDermott and Florida OT David Sharpe.

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