2016 Preseason Award Projections: O’Brien 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 Davey O’Brien Award is given to the best quarterback in college football. Last year’s winner was Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson.

Davey O’Brien Award Winner:

Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma

I don’t feel great about this prediction because Deshaun Watson could repeat. However, the Davey O’Brien Award has rarely been won twice in a row. The last player to do that was Jason White in 2003-04. I think Watson could do it, but he isn’t the safe pick. Of the remaining quarterbacks, I think Mayfield could produce the biggest year to win the Davey O’Brien Award.

Mayfield went on a tear late in the 2015 season as he turned the Sooners’ offense into a point machine. He was a Heisman finalist, having completed 68 percent of his passes for 3,700 yards with 36 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He also ran for 405 yards with seven scores. The effectiveness of Mayfield carried Oklahoma into the college playoff.

Mayfield needs to continue to develop his pocket passing for the NFL, but the 6-foot-2, 214-pounder should produce a massive 2016 season. He has a quality supporting cast and plays in college football’s Arena League. The Big XII lacks quality defenses, so Mayfield should dominate his conference slate again. It would be surprising if Mayfield didn’t have a 2016 season comparable to last year and brought home honors like the Davey O’Brien Award.

Davey O’Brien Award Runner-Up:

J.T. Barrett, Ohio State

This was a tough choice because I think other quarterbacks like Pat Mahomes and Luke Faulk will produce huge stat lines playing in their college offenses. However, I went with Barrett because in Ohio State’s offense with the talent around him, Barrett should have a huge season. In 2014, Barrett was the Buckeyes’ starter for the majority of the season and completed 65 percent of his passes for 2,834 yards with 34 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also ran for 938 yards and 11 touchdowns. With Cardale Jones and Braxton Miller in the NFL, Barrett should be the leader of Ohio State’s offense and put together a massive 2016 season.

Barrett is a perfect fit in the Buckeyes’ read-option spread offense, and I think he could produce or surpass his 2014 totals. The Davey O’Brien Award also favors running quarterbacks as recent past winners include Marcus Mariota, Johnny Manziel, Robert Griffin III, Cam Netwon, Tim Tebow and Troy Smith. The media and voters also pay closer attention to Ohio State than Texas Tech and Washington State. Thus, I think Barrett could easily win the Davey O’Brien Award.

Davey O’Brien Award Dark Horse:

Deshaun Watson, Clemson

Last year, Watson earned the Davey O’Brien Award as he completed 68 percent of his passes for 4,104 yards with 35 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. On the ground, he averaged 5.3 yards per carry for 1,105 yards with 12 scores. There is no reason to think that Watson won’t be just as good in 2016. Clemson has recruited a lot of talent around him, plus he gets wide receiver Mike Williams back. With other good talent at tight end, running back, and the offensive line, Watson should lead a prolific offense this fall. He just might have a year big enough to win the Davey O’Brien Award in back-to-back seasons. The only quarterbacks to do that over the past 35 yards have been Jason White, Danny Wuerffel and Ty Detmer. Perhaps Watson will join that group.

Honorable Mentions: UCLA’s Josh Rosen, Texas Tech’s Pat Mahomes, Ole Miss’ Chad Kelly, Miami’s Brad Kaaya, Washington State’s Luke Faulk, Tennessee’s Josh Dobbs, Boston College’s Patrick Towles, Cinncinati’s Gunner Kiel and BYU’s Taysom Hill.

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