2019 Preseason Award Projections: Maxwell 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 Maxwell Award is given to the best player in college football. Last year, Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa won the award.

Maxwell Award Winner:

Trevor Lawrence, Clemson

The Maxwell Award typically goes to a quarterback. Since 2000, the award has only not gone to a quarterback three times, being won by Larry Johnson (2002), Manti Te’o (2012) and Derrick Henry (2015). Thus, I’m going with a signal-caller. Sometimes, the Maxwell Award follows the Heisman Trophy and at other times, goes in another direction. I could see that happening for 2019 as the top quarterbacks are not playing for the high-ranked teams and top playoff contenders.

This was a tough call between Lawrence, Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa and Oregon’s Justin Herbert. I ended up going with Lawrence because he has a ton of talent around him and I could see him producing some bigger numbers than Tagovailoa because Alabama runs the ball a lot, which could reduce some of Tagovailoa’s production. Both Tagovailoa and Lawrence should often miss playing time in the second half as both teams will be blowing out opponents and empty the bench, so that playing time issue should be a wash. The late-season games are tougher for Alabama, and that could also lead to Lawrence producing a bigger stat line.

Tagovailoa won the Maxwell Award last year, and this award avoids doing repeat winners. Tim Tebow was the last one to repeat, and that was over a decade ago. Johnny Lattner (1952, 1953) is the only other player to have won the Maxwell Award twice. Thus, I’m steering away from Tagovailoa.

Lawrence took college football by storm as a freshman in 2018, compiling a flawless season that culminated with im him ripping Alabama’s defense comprised of NFL talent to win another National Championship for Clemson. Lawrence completed 65 percent of his passes last season for 3,280 yards with 30 touchdowns and four interceptions. The scary part about Lawrence is he looked like he was just scratching the surface and has the upside to get better as he gains experience.

The 6-foot-5, 205-pounder has a good arm, developed poise, and play-making ability. Lawrence makes good decisions while distributing the ball well to his phenomenal supporting cast. Clemson brings back a loaded offense with quality blocking, good running backs, and mismatch receivers. The Tigers also take on an easy schedule with a conference slate that should not pose much of a challenge to the defending National Champions. Unless Lawrence gets injured, he should have a massive sophomore season and earn a lot of postseason honors, like the Maxwell Award.

Maxwell Award Runner-Up:

Justin Herbert, Oregon

Of all the draft-eligible quarterbacks for the 2020 NFL Draft, Justin Herbert has the best skill set. The 6-foot-6, 233-pound signal-caller has a NFL skill set and could put up a huge year with his arm and legs. Herbert displays a good size and a strong arm with the ability to loft in touch passes. Herbert can loft in passes with nice ball placement, leading his receivers and beating quality coverage with the location of his passes. With his height and size, Herbert is comfortable to stand tall in the pocket with patience to let routes develop. Along with his arm talent, he is a quality athlete with the ability to pick up yards on the ground and should add a good number of rushing touchdowns to his stat line.

As long as he stays healthy, there is no reason to think that Herbert won’t put up massive numbers in 2019. Even though Oregon plays in one of the best conferences in the nation, Herbert has a schedule that should help him to produce plenty of big games. I think that Herbert is going to throw for and run for a lot of touchdowns this season to end up being a heavy favorite for the Maxwell Award.

Maxwell Award Dark Horse:

Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama

A year ago, Tagovailoa won the starting quarterback job over Jalen Hurts for the 2018 season. He was then sensational for the Crimson Tide, completing 69 percent of his passes for 3,966 yards with 43 touchdowns and six interceptions. With a loaded team around him, Tagovailoa should produce another prolific season in 2019.

Tagovailoa has the best receiver in college football in Jerry Jeudy. And aside from Jeudy, Alabama has a few other receivers who should get drafted by the NFL, including Henry Ruggs and sophomore Jaylen Waddle. The also backfield is loaded again, so there will be a running game to support to Tagovailoa.

The Crimson Tide will see some good defenses in their SEC West divisional games, which has excellent NFL talent, and that could hurt Tagovailoa’s numbers compared to other quarterbacks. Additionally, blowing teams out and the Crimson Tide emptying the bench against their early-season opponents could lead to Tagovailoa not wining some awards over other top quarterbacks who produce larger stat lines. As stated above, the Maxwell Award has rarely ever gone to a repeat winner, so I think Tagovailoa is more likely to be a dark horse in 2019.

Honorable Mentions: Stanford QB K.J. Costello, Georgia QB Jake Fromm, Oklahoma QB Jalen Hurts and Michigan QB Shea Patterson.

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