2017 Preseason Award Projections: Doak Walker Award

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 Doak Walker Award is given to the best running back in college football. Last year’s winner was Texas’ D’Onta Foreman.

Doak Walker Award Winner:

Saquon Barkley, Penn State

The Doak Walker Award has a tendency to favor runners with one of the highest totals. Thus, that makes it really hard to pick a winner, but with Barkley’s talent level, he is definitely capable of producing a massive season. Entering 2017, he looks like the most physically talented running back in college football and appears to have the potential be a high pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. The 5-foot-11, 223-pounder has good speed to go along with size, quick feet, vision, natural pad level, and elusiveness. He is a well-balanced back who is a threat to rip off runs in chunks and dominate any defense.

Barkley was superb as a sophomore, averaging 5.5 yards per carry on the year for 1,496 yards and 18 touchdowns. He also made 28 catches for 402 yards and four touchdowns as a receiver. Barkley, quarterback Trace McSorley, and wide receiver Chris Godwin led an effective offense that took Penn State to the Rose Bowl in a breakout year for Franklin’s tenure at Penn State. Barkley was also impressive as a freshman in 2015 when he averaged 5.9 yards per carry for 1,076 yards with seven touchdowns. He also caught 20 passes for 161 yards and a score.

Barkley will see a quality schedule with tough defenses during his 2017 slate. However, Barkley is so physically talented that he should still be productive even with defenses selling out to stop him. In 2018, Barkley is a safe bet to be one of the best offensive players in college football, and he definitely is a favorite to win the Doak Walker Award.

Doak Walker Award Runner-Up:

Derrius Guice, LSU

With Leonard Fournette in and out of the lineup with an ankle injury in 2016, Guice took advantage of a larger-than-expected workload to have a breakout sophomore season. He averaged 7.6 yards per carry for 1,387 yards with 15 touchdowns, with nine receptions for 106 yards. Guice had some massive games with 252 yards versus Arkansas and 285 yards rushing against Texas A&M. With Fournette now playing for the Jacksonville Jaguars, Guice is the undisputed feature back for the Tigers and looks poised for a huge 2017 season.

LSU has some good talent on its offensive line to go along with gifted wide receivers and skill-position contributors. The biggest detriment to the Tigers the past few seasons has been subpar quarterback play, and that remains the biggest question mark heading into the season. While the play of the signal-callers has held the program back from competing for SEC and National Championships, it hasn’t prevented the Tigers from having productive running backs as Fournette had a huge 2015 season prior to Guice’s breakout year last fall. With the blocking talent in front of him, Guice should have a massive 2017 season and win the Doak Walker Award.

Doak Walker Award Dark Horse:

Nick Chubb, Georgia

Sources in the scouting community thought of Chubb as a future first-round pick prior to his ACL tear as a sophomore. As a freshman while splitting time with Todd Gurley, Chubb averaged 7.1 yards per carry for 1,547 yards with 14 touchdowns. He also caught 18 receptions for 213 yards and two scores that seaosn. Chubb dominated the SEC in impressive fashion in his debut season.

Prior to his season-ending knee injury in 2015, Chubb had picked up where he left off as a freshman. The sophomore averaged 8.1 yards per carry for 747 yards and seven touchdowns in his shortened 2015 season. Last year, Chubb averaged 5.0 yards per carry for 1,130 yards with eight touchdowns. He had five receptions for 86 yards and a touchdown as well. Chubb didn’t quite have the speed and explosion that he had before his 2015 knee injury. Considering it was only about a year since he was hurt, that is understandable. It also helps him that he was able to stay on the field while avoiding injury in 2016.

I think Chubb could rediscover the explosiveness that he had prior to the injury. When healthy Chubb is akin to a human bowling ball, rolling over tacklers and and being a physical force in the SEC. He is a powerful runner who also has the speed to rip off yards in big chunks. Chubb also was track competitor at Georgia. If the senior returns to his pre-injury form, he could easily be too low on this list and end up winning the Doak Walker Award.

Honorable Mentions: Iowa’s Akrum Wadley, Ohio State’s Mike Weber, Alabama’s Bo Scraborough, USC’s Ronald Jones, Appalachian State’s Jalin Moore, Washington’s Myles Gaskin, Arkansas’ Rawleigh Williams, Alabama’s Damien Harris, Oregon’s Royce Freeman, Auburn’s Kamryn Pettway, Florida’s Jordan Scarlett, Vanderbilt’s Ralph Webb, Northwestern’s Justin Jackson, Michigan State’s L.J. Scott and Washington’s Lavon Coleman.

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