2014 Preseason Award Projections: Maxwell 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 Maxwell Award is given to the best player in college football. Last year’s winner was Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron.

Maxwell Award Winner:

Jameis Winston, Florida State

It is an absolute joke that the Maxwell Award thought A.J. McCarron was the best player in college football season. McCarron didn’t come close to being as good as large number of players like Winston, Marcus Mariota, Johnny Manziel, Khalil Mack, Sammy Watkins, Greg Robinson, Jake Matthews, Randy Gregory, Aaron Donald, Mike Evans, Odell Beckham Jr, Justin Gilbert, Carlos Hyde, Tre Mason and many, many more. I can’t fathom how the Maxwell Award selected McCarron. Perhaps the award committee will right a wrong by awarding Winston this year.

Playing in the weak ACC with a ton of talent around him, it would be shocking if Winston didn’t dominate the competition and put up a massive stat line. Because of the weaker competition, I project Wilson over Oregon’s Marcus Mariota.

As long as off-the-field issues and distractions don’t derail Winston, he should be unstoppable. Winston took college football by storm in 2013 as the Heisman Trophy winner while leading Florida State to a National Championship. The redshirt freshman demonstrated a quality arm with well-developed passing ability. Winston completed 67 percent of his passes for 4,057 yards with 40 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. On the ground, he ran for 219 yards with four touchdowns.

As a sophomore, everyone expects Winston to match his freshman year. He could produce a season of around 4,500 combined yards and 50 total touchdowns. It would be surprising if Winston doesn’t carry Florida State to another undefeated season, ACC Championship and a bid to the college football playoffs. Winston looks like a strong candidate to bring home the Maxwell Award assuming the award’s committee actually watches teams other than Alabama this season.

Maxwell Award Runner-Up:

Marcus Mariota, Oregon

The Maxwell Award has been inclined to go with quarterbacks. The junior quarterback Mariota should produce a big season, and nobody would be surprised if he wins the Maxwell Award.

The Ducks point-machine has been led by Mariota the past two seasons, and there is no reason to think that he will slow down at all in 2014. Mariota (6-4, 218) has a good arm, passing skills and running ability. He should produce another prolific season for Oregon.

In 2013, Mariota completed 64 percent of his passes for 3,665 yards with 31 touchdowns and four interceptions. On the ground, the redshirt sophomore ran for 715 yards with nine touchdowns. While Mariota did a great job of avoiding throwing picks, he had some issues with fumbles. Mariota did a good job of running Oregon’s offense in 2012. The redshirt freshman completed 68 percent of his passes for 2,677 yards with 32 touchdowns and six interceptions. He also ran for 898 yards (752 net) with five touchdowns.

The reason I have Mariota finishing behind Winston is because of the schedule. Mariota will see a lot better defenses and talent in the Pac-12 than what Winston will go against in the ACC. Thus, I think Winston could produce a bigger stat line and play in more dominant fashion than Mariota slugging it out over some quality Pac-12 opponents. Plus, Winston really should have won the award last year, so the Maxwell Award committee could be out to right a wrong in 2014.

Maxwell Award Dark Horse:

Brett Hundley, UCLA

The 6-foot-3, 227-pound Hundley has the physical skill set to be a top quarterback in 2014. He’s shown improvement over his first two years as a starter and could be poised for a big junior season.

As a redshirt freshman in 2012, Hundley led the Bruins’ revival and helped get his team to the Pac-12 Championship Game. He completed 66 percent of his passes in 2012 for 3,740 yards with 29 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, plus ran for 702 yards (355 net) with nine touchdowns.

Hundley completed 67 percent of his passes in 2013 for 3,071 yards with 24 touchdowns and nine interceptions. On the ground, he ran for 970 yards (748 net) and 11 scores. In a win over Utah, he showed off his athletic ability when he caught a touchdown, ran for a touchdown and threw for a touchdown. Hundley struggled versus Stanford, but he played better against Oregon than his numbers indicated.

Hundley doesn’t have as big of a profile or stat line like Winston or Mariota, but Hundley is capable of a big year to win some post-season honors like the Maxwell Award. After all, they gave the award to a less deserving player last season.

Honorable Mentions: Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty, Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall, Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg, Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook, Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion, Georgia running back Todd Gurley, Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon, Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper, Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory, USC defensive tackle Leonard Williams and Michigan State defensive end Shilique Calhoun.

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