2016 Preseason Award Projections: Outland Trophy

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 May 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 Outland Trophy is given to the best interior lineman in college football. Last year’s winner was Stanford guard Joshua Garnett.

Outland Trophy Winner:

Cam Robinson, Alabama

The Outland Trophy has generally gone to offensive linemen with a tendency toward offensive tackles. Three years ago, Aaron Donald was the first defensive player to win the award since Ndamukong Suh in 2009. Entering the 2016 season, the defensive tackle position doesn’t look as strong as the offensive line, especially the offensive tackles. Thus, I think the Outland will stick with its inclination of going with an offensive lineman. Considering the committee has generally favored tackles over guards, I think Robinson has to be a heavy favorite as he could easily become the most dominant offensive tackle in the nation in 2016.

Robinson was a freshman sensation for the Crimson Tide in 2014. He was the leader on an offensive line that allowed only 16 sacks on the season. It didn’t go as well in 2015 as Robinson allowed pressure and sacks on the quarterback, especially early in the year. However, he was better down the stretch and helped open a lot of holes for Heisman Trophy winning running back Derrick Henry. Robinson also played well in the playoffs to help Alabama bring home another National Championship.

If Robinson can become more consistent in pass protection, he could be a very special player. The scary part for the opposition is that the 6-foot-6, 326-pounder has a ton of upside and could be a truly dominant blocker this fall. Thus, it wouldn’t surprise me if he wins the Outland Trophy.

Outland Trophy Runner-Up:

Pat Elflein, Ohio State

Elflein could easily win the Outland Trophy as I think he is a better guard than Josh Garnett, who won the award last year. The same could be said for Indiana guard Dan Feeney, but playing at a lower-profile school will hurt Feeney. The Buckeyes had a tremendous running game in 2014 and 2015, and Elflein was one of the reasons for that as he was an road-grading run blocker for Ezekiel Elliott. Elflein (6-3, 300) is very strong for his size and can blast defensive lineman off the line of scrimmage. He is an absolute beast, and that shouldn’t change as a senior. In pass protection, Elflein is reliable and a steady presence to protect his quarterback. It would be surprising if he isn’t one of the most acclaimed guards in college football in 2016. If he won the Outland Trophy, I wouldn’t be at all surprised.

Outland Trophy Dark Horse:

Chris Wormley, Michigan

When the Outland Trophy decides to go with a non-offensive lineman, it has been a defensive tackle in recent years. Thus, I think Wormley could be a dark horse to have a huge year like Carl Nassib did for Penn State last year. Michigan had a tough defense in 2015 led by a tremendous defensive line, and Wormley was the Wolverines’ leading defender. He recorded 43 tackles with 6.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for a loss on the year. At 6-foot-5, 303 pounds, Wormley has versatile size to play defensive end or tackle for Michigan’s 4-3 scheme. That can set him up for mismatch opportunities on weak offensive linemen. With Taco Charlton and other good talent around Wormley, it will be hard for offenses to double team him. Thus, Wormley could have a huge year as a senior.

Honorable Mentions: Indiana G Dan Feeney, Florida State OT Roderick Johnson, USC OT Chad Wheeler, Notre Dame OT Mike McGlinchey, UCLA OT Conor McDermott, Florida OT David Sharpe, Florida OT/G Martez Ivey, Florida State G Kareem Are, Georgia Greg Pyke, Utah G Isaac Asiata, North Carolina G Caleb Peterson, LSU C/OT Ethan Pocic and Wisconsin C Dan Voltz.

Missouri DT Josh Augusta, Michigan State DT Malik McDowell, LSU DT Davon Godchaux, Oklahoma DT Charles Walker, Clemson DT Carlos Watkins, Auburn DT Montravius Adams, Florida DT Caleb Brantley, Oklahoma State DT Vincent Taylor, Alabama DT Dalvin Tomlinson, Michigan DT Taco Charlton, Missouri DT Josh Augusta, Notre Dame DT Isaac Rochell, UCLA DT Eddie Vanderdoes, Utah DT Lowell Lotulelei, LSU DT Christian LaCouture and Iowa DT Jaleel Johnson.

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