2013 Preseason Award Projections: O’Brien Award

By Charlie Campbell
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Heading into the 2013 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 this coming fall’s stars could be the headline players next April for the 2014 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 Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.

Davey O’Brien Award Winner:

Tajh Boyd, Clemson

In the history of the Davey O’Brien Award, only Ty Detmer (BYU), Danny Wuerffel (Florida) and Jason White (Oklahoma) have won the award twice. It has been nearly a decade since White won the award for the second straight year. That doesn’t bode well for Manziel to repeat in 2013 and most likely a new quarterback will bring home the hardware.

The top candidates this season include Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, Alabama’s A.J. McCarron, UCLA’s Brett Hundley, Fresno State’s Derek Carr, San Jose State’s David Fales, Ohio State’s Braxton Miller, Georgia’s Aaron Murray and Stanford’s Kevin Hogan. My pick is Boyd because I believe he will produce the biggest year, statistically, and production seems to be the driving force for the O’Brien Award.

Boyd (6-1, 225) elevated his play to another level last year. The junior had a dominant season and was a force through the air. He carried Clemson to an 11-2 record and a last minute comeback win over LSU in the season finale. Boyd completed 67 percent of his passes for 3,896 yards with 36 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He also ran well with 769 yards (514 net) and 10 touchdowns on the ground.

IBoyd was a sometimes dominant play-maker for the Tigers in 2011. The first-year starter completed 59 percent of his passes for 3,828 yards with 33 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

Clemson could be in a lot of shootouts in 2013, so Boyd could rack up big numbers again. He also has one of the most talented receivers in college football to work with in Sammy Watkins. Boyd should post impressive statistics as a senior and light up the ACC. I think of all of the top quarterback candidates, Boyd is the most likely to produce a massive season and bring home the Davey O’Brien Award.

Davey O’Brien Award Runner-Up:

Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville

Bridgewater has an excellent skill set and enters the season as the top draft-eligible quarterback prospect. The 6-foot-3, 218-pounder has a strong, accurate arm with good field vision and decision-making. He has an efficient game and is very polished heading into his junior season. While NFL teams could end up rating Bridgewater at the top of their boards, he may not produce the numbers to win the Davey O’Brien Award this year.

Bridgewater should be able to build on his sophomore season this year. Louisville has an easy schedule. The toughest opponents in the regular season are Rutgers and Cincinnati, so Bridgewater will be in position to have a dominant season before turning pro. Defenses will be aiming to stop him, and it wouldn’t be surprising if they play their safeties deep to try and take away Bridgewater’s ability to burn them downfield. That could open up a lot of running room and the Cardinals like to run the ball. As a result, it wouldn’t be surprising if the junior’s passing totals are lower than some might expect.

Bridgewater elevated his game to another level last season. The sophomore carried Louisville to an 11-2 season including a Sugar Bowl win over Florida. Bridgewater completed 68.5 percent of his passes for 3,718 yards with 27 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He ran for 237 yards (211 net) and a touchdown as well. Florida Gators safety Matt Elam said that Bridgewater was the best quarterback they played in 2012 including Johnny Manziel, Aaron Murray and E.J. Manuel.

Two years ago, Andrew Luck was the top quarterback prospect, but Robert Griffin III produced the bigger season and won the O’Brien Award. I could see that same scenario playing out this fall.

Davey O’Brien Award Dark Horse:

Brett Hundley, UCLA

Johnny Manziel received all the headlines last year, but he wasn’t the only redshirt freshman quarterbackwho an impressive season. Hundley led the Bruins’ revival and helped get his team to the Pac-12 Championship Game. He completed 66 percent of his passes for 3,740 yards with 29 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Hundley also ran for 702 yards (355 net) with nine touchdowns.

The 6-foot-3, 227-pound quarterback could be even better now that he’s gained a year of experience. UCLA has a quality offensive line and group of receivers for the sophomore to work with. With Johnathan Franklin in the NFL, Hundley could take on more of the running load this season. Hundley fits in the mold of athletic quarterbacks with good arms, so he could produce a huge statistical season through the air and on the ground.

UCLA’s coaches has a lot of NFL experience and are grooming Hundley well for the next level. Of all the young quarterbacks who look capable of producing a massive season like Manziel did last year and Griffin did the year before, Hundley could fit that description in 2013. While other signal-callers are receiving more attention, it wouldn’t surprise this writer if Hundley has a massive season and wins the O’Brien Award.

Honorable Mentions: Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron, Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr, San Jose State quarterback David Fales, Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray, Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan, Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller, North Carolina quarterback Bryn Renner, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger, Washington quarterback Keith Price, Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton, TCU quarterback Casey Pachall and Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel.

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