2019 Preseason Award Projections: O’Brien 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 May 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 Davey O’Brien Award is given to the best quarterback in college football. Last year’s winner was Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray.

Davey O’Brien Award Winner:

Trevor Lawrence, Clemson

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 as Alabama runs the ball a lot, which could reduce some of Tagovailoa’s production.

Lawrence took college football by storm as a freshman in 2018, compiling a flawless season that culminated with him ripping Alabama’s defense comprised of NFL talent to win another National Championship for Clemson. Lawrence completed 65 percent of his passes 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 Davey O’Brien Award.

Davey O’Brien Award Runner-Up:

Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama

A year ago, Tagovailoa won the starting quarterback job over Jalen Hurts for the 2018 season, and he was sensational for the Crimson Tide. He completed 69 percent of his passes on the season 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, the Crimson Tide have a few other receivers that should get drafted for the NFL, including Henry Ruggs and sophomore Jaylen Waddle. The Alabama 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.

Davey O’Brien Award Dark Horse:

Justin Herbert, Oregon

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 has a good size and displays 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.

Herbert is going to see a challenging schedule as a senior, which starts in Week 1 with a matchup against Auburn. The Tigers have a lot of NFL talent on their defense, and they will probably be the toughest defense Herbert will face all season. After Auburn, he has some cupcakes to pad his stats before seeing better Pac-12 competition. Playing well against Stanford, Washington and USC will be important for Herbert. He also had some issues with Arizona and Arizona State last year, so it will be interesting to see if he rebounds in the rematches against those teams prior to the in-state rivalry game to close out the year.

Herbert’s schedule and competition might keep him from producing as large of statistics as other quarterbacks, especially compared to the Big XII quarterbacks. Hence, I could see Herbert coming up short on a few awards, like the Davey O’Brien Award.

Honorable Mentions: Georgia’s Jake Fromm, Stanford’s K.J. Costello, Michigan’s Shea Patterson, Michigan State’s Brian Lewerke, Iowa’s Nate Stanely, LSU’s Joe Burrow, Texas’ Sam Ehlinger and Colorado’s Steven Montez.

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