2014 Preseason Award Projections: Walker Award

By Charlie Campbell
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Heading into the 2014 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 2015 NFL Draft. We also will project the winners of the postseason awards that are given out to the best of college football.

The Doak Walker Award is given to the best running back in college football. Last year’s winner was Boston College’s Andre Williams.

Doak Walker Award Winner:

Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin

The Badgers have been a consistent machine of dominant running games and 2014 should be no different. Gordon could easily be the most physically talented back that Wisconsin has had, so a prolific season of huge totals looks very likely for the Badgers. Two years ago Montee Ball won the Doak Walker Award, and Gordon is a heavy favorite this year.

With Ball in the NFL, Gordon took over in 2013 and brought an explosiveness to the Wisconsin offense. He averaged 7.8 yards per carry over the year with 1,609 yards and 12 touchdowns on only 206 carries. Gordon has a rare combination of being extremely fast while having quality size. The lightning-fast ball-carrier brings an explosive element to the Badgers’ backfield that Ball never provided during his great college career.

Gordon (6-1, 215) has gained some more muscle this offseason to hold up under a heavier work load, and obviously Wisconsin will make him the featured player of its offense. He should rack up around 300 carries and could push for 2,000 yards. It would surprise nobody if Gordon brings the Doak Walker back to Madison.

Doak Walker Award Runner-Up:

Mike Davis, South Carolina

There is a lot of buzz in the scouting community about Davis. The Gamecocks power back has underrated quickness and is an excellent receiver. With South Carolina losing quarterback Connor Shaw to the NFL, Davis should be the featured play-maker in the program’s offense. At the same time, the Gamecocks have an experienced signal-caller ready to take Shaw’s place, so teams probably won’t be able to just sell out to stop Davis.

Davis had big shoes to fill in 2013 as Marcus Lattimore was a legend at South Carolina, yet Davis managed to address the void. Sources believe that Davis is actually better than Lattimore. Davis was a physical beast for South Carolina last year. Even with teams selling out to stop him, he ran over defenders on a weekly basis. Davis averaged 5.8 yards per carry for the year with 1,183 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also had 34 receptions for 352 yards.

The 5-foot-11, 215-pound Davis should be even better as a junior. Davis has the strength to handle a big workload and could end up leading the SEC in rushing over some more highly touted running backs.

Doak Walker Award Dark Horse:

Todd Gurley, Georgia

Gurley has the physical skill set to be a dominant runner. He has a great burst with speed to go along with size and power. Georgia has lost quarterback Aaron Murray to the NFL, so Gurley should be the bellcow of the Bulldogs’ offense in 2014. The only issues that could keep Gurley from a big year is if he gets injured again or sees overwhelming defensive fronts. Considering teams will no doubt sell out to stop Gurley and force the new quarterback to beat them, it wouldn’t be surprising if Gurley’s numbers don’t come close to Gordon’s or Davis’.

When healthy, Gurley was awesome in 2013. He averaged six yards per carry for 989 yards and 10 touchdowns. The sophomore also had 30 receptions for 344 yards and five touchdowns. Gurley was phenomenal against South Carolina (30-132) and Clemson (12-154) before getting injured. He missed three games and played well after returning to the lineup. In 2012, Gurley had a superb debut to lead the Bulldogs’ ground game. He averaged 6.2 yards per carry while totaling 1,385 yards with 17 touchdowns.

The reason I have Gurley as the dark horse is because I think Davis and Gordon have a better shot at staying healthy and totaling bigger stat lines. In terms of physical talent, Gurley could have the best skill set of any back in college football.

Honorable Mentions: Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon, Alabama’s Derrick Henry, Miami’s Duke Johnson, Florida’s Matt Jones, Florida State’s Karlos Williams, USC’ Javorius Allen, Florida’s Kelvin Taylor, Arkansas’s Alex Collins, Georgia’s Keith Marshall, Oregon’s Byron Marshall, Indiana’s Tevin Coleman, Texas A&M’s Tra Carson, Oregon State’s Storm Woods, Virginia Tech’s Trey Edmunds and Baylor’s Shock Linwood.

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