2017 Preseason Award Projections: Outland Trophy

By Charlie Campbell
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Heading into the 2017 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 2018 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 Alabama offensive tackle Cam Robinson. A year ago in August, I picked Robinson to be the Outland Trophy winner.

Outland Trophy Winner:

Trey Adams, OT, Washington

The Outland Trophy has generally gone to offensive linemen with a leaning toward offensive tackles, and that was one of the reasons why Robinson was my preseason pick lsat year. Four years ago, Aaron Donald was the first defensive player to win the award since Ndamukong Suh in 2009.

There is a lot of interior defensive line talent in college football, and I have a hard time passing on the likes of Clemson’s Dexter Lawrence, Houston’s Ed Oliver, Georgia’s Trenton Thompson, and Alabama’s Da’Ron Payne. However, I think the Outland Trophy will stick with its inclination of going with an offensive lineman. Considering the selection committee has generally favored tackles over guards, I think Adams has to be a heavy favorite as he could easily be the most dominant offensive tackle in the nation in 2017.

Scouting sources say they think that Adams could emerge as one of the top talents for the 2018 NFL Draft. They compared Adams’ size and athleticism to Taylor Lewan coming out of Michigan, and also said that Adams has good technique to go with his impressive skill set. They think that the 6-foot-7, 309-pound Adams is bigger with better range than Connor Williams and more athletic than Mike McGlinchey. Another thing that impressed sources was how Adams played against Alabama in the first round of the college football playoff last season. They say that Adams shut down the Crimson Tide defenders anytime he was isolated on them, and that defense featured three dangerous pass-rushers in the form of Jonathan Allen, Tim Williams, and Ryan Anderson.

Adams has a great skill set with a lot of athletic ability. He is the favorite to be the top offensive lineman in college football in 2017. Thus, it wouldn’t surprise me if he wins the Outland Trophy.

Outland Trophy Runner-Up:

Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson

When the Outland Trophy decides to go with a non-offensive lineman, it has been a defensive tackle in recent years. The 6-foot-5, 340-pound Lawrence was a tremendous freshman to help Clemson win last season’s National Championship. NFL sources have already raved about Lawrence as he was impossible to ignore last year. Lawrence was an All-Freshman selection all over the nation in 2016, while also named being the ACC Rookie of the Year. He totaled 63 tackles with 9.5 tackles for a loss, seven sacks and a pass batted on the season. With other good talent around him and now that he has a year of experience, Lawrence could dominate in 2017. The sophomore is a heavy favorite to end up being one of the top linemen in college football, and he could definitely win the Outland Trophy.

Outland Trophy Dark Horse:

Ed Oliver, DT, Houston

Oliver dominated at the point of attack in 2016, starting with his debut game against Oklahoma. All season, the freshman overwhelmed offensive linemen with his quickness, athletic ability, and physicality. He totaled 66 tackles with 22.5 tackles for a loss, five sacks, three forced fumbles and nine passes batted on the year. The 6-foot-2, 290-pounder is going to see a ton of double teams for the rest of his college career, but he is good enough to produce even with the extra attention. Oliver and Lawrence look like future top-five picks in the 2019 NFL Draft. Those talented sophomores could be the top defensive tackles in the nation in 2017, and both are top candidates for postseason awards like the Outland Trophy.

Honorable Mentions: Texas OT Connor Williams, Notre Dame OT Mike McGlinchey, Mississippi State OT Martinas Rankin, Florida OT Martez Ivey, Clemson OT Mitch Hyatt, Stanford OT Casey Tucker, Oklahoma OT Orlando Brown, Ohio State OT Jamarco Jones, Florida State OT Brock Ruble, Louisville OT Geron Christian, Oregon OT Tyrell Crosby, North Carolina OT Bentley Spain, LSU OT Toby Weathersby, Iowa OT Ike Boettger and Miami OT K.C. McDermott.

Alabama DT Da’Ron Payne, Georgia DT Trenton Thompson, Clemson DT Christian Wilkins, Washington DT Vita Vea, Ohio State DT Dre’Mont Jones, Auburn DT Dontavius Russell, Florida State DT Derrick Nnadi, Michigan DT Maurice Hurst, Texas A&M DT Daylon Mack, Notre Dame DT Jerry Tillery, Tennessee DT Kahlil McKenzie Jr. and Utah DT Lowell Lotulelei.

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