2015 Preseason Award Projections: O’Brien Award

By Charlie Campbell
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Heading into the 2015 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 2016 NFL Draft. We also will project the winners of the postseason awards that are given out to the best of college football.

The Davey O’Brien Award is given to the best quarterback in college football. Last year’s winner was Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, who we predicted would win the award.

Davey O’Brien Award Winner:

Connor Cook, Michigan State

I don’t feel great about this prediction because Michigan State has a balanced offense and Cook is not going to be throwing the ball every play. Still, he could easily be the best quarterback in college football in 2015. Cook has a big arm, pocket presence and underrated mobility. In 2014, he completed 58 percent of his passes for 3,214 yards with 24 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Often Cook throws the ball better than the numbers indicate. He will make some amazingly accurate throws into tight windows downfield and then miss on some routine passes.

Michigan State returns a quality offensive line and should have good talent to help Cook at the skill positions. Cook could be trusted to throw the ball more in 2015, and if that happens, it wouldn’t be surprising if the senior’s production rises to the point where he could bring home the O’Brien Award.

Davey O’Brien Award Runner-Up:

Dak Prescott, Mississippi State

Prescott is definitely capable of putting together a big season to win the O’Brien Award. The award has also gone to a number of dual-threat quarterbacks this century, including the likes of Vince Young, Tim Tebow, Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III, Johnny Manziel and Marcus Mariota.

Last year, Prescott completed 61 percent of his passes for 3,449 yards with 27 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He averaged 4.7 yards per carry for 986 yards with 14 touchdowns on the ground as well. Prescott was slowed by an ankle injury in the second half of the 2014 season, but the 6-foot-2, 230-pounder is a dual-threat quarterback who could produce a huge 2015 for the Bulldogs and bring home the O’Brien Award.

Davey O’Brien Award Dark Horse:

Christian Hackenberg , Penn State

Hackenberg had a phenomenal freshman season playing for Bill O’Brien as he completed 59 percent of his passes for 2,955 yards with 20 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 2013. In 2014 however, O’Brien was coaching the Texans, and Hackenberg had a down year under new head coach James Franklin. With a terrible offensive line and less talent at receiver, Hackenberg completed 56 percent of his passes in 2014 for 2,677 yards with 12 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. He played better than the numbers indicate as his supporting cast was a huge liability.

The 6-foot-4, 234-pounder has a great skill set with a strong arm, pocket presence and the ability to make great throws downfield into tight windows. If Penn State gives Hackenberg some support, he could have a huge junior season and win some postseason honors like the O’Brien Award.

Honorable Mentions: California’s Jared Goff, Miami’s Brad Kaaya, Ohio State’s Cardale Jones, Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett, USC’s Cody Kessler, Kentucky’s Patrick Towles, Cinncinati’s Gunner Kiel, Stanford’s Kevin Hogan, N.C. State’s Jacoby Brissett, Tennessee’s Josh Dobbs, BYU’s Taysom Hill and Florida State’s Everett Golson.

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