2014 Preseason Award Projections: Walter Camp 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 Walter Camp Award is given to the Player of the Year in college football. Last year’s winner was Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston.

Walter Camp Award Winner:

Jameis Winston, Florida State

The Walter Camp Award isn’t opposed to rewarding the same player in two straight seasons. The award went to Colt McCoy in 2008 and 2009, so it isn’t a stretch for Winston to win it again. Playing in the weak ACC with a ton of talent around him, it would be shocking if Winston didn’t dominate the competition and put up a massive stat line. Because of the weaker competition, I project Winston over Oregon’s Marcus Mariota.

As long as off-the-field issues and distractions don’t derail Winston, he should be unstoppable. Winston took college football by storm in 2013 as the Heisman Trophy winner while leading Florida State to a National Championship. The redshirt freshman demonstrated a quality arm with well-developed passing ability. Winston completed 67 percent of his passes for 4,057 yards with 40 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. On the ground, he ran for 219 yards with four touchdowns.

As a sophomore, everyone expects Winston to match his freshman year. He could produce a season of around 4,500 combined yards and 50 total touchdowns. It would be surprising if Winston doesn’t carry Florida State to another undefeated season, ACC Championship and a bid to the college football playoffs. He looks like a strong candidate to repeat as the Walter Camp Award winner.

Walter Camp Award Runner-Up:

Marcus Mariota, Oregon

The Walter Camp Award has been inclined to go with quarterbacks. Running backs have done well, but Manti Te’o broke a streak of four straight years for a quarterback. The junior quarterback Mariota should produce a big season, and nobody would be surprised if he wins the Walter Camp Award.

The Ducks point-machine has been led by Mariota the past two seasons, and there is no reason to think that he will slow down at all in 2014. Mariota (6-4, 218) has a good arm, passing skills and running ability. He should produce another prolific season for Oregon.

In 2013, Mariota completed 64 percent of his passes for 3,665 yards with 31 touchdowns and four interceptions. On the ground, the redshirt sophomore ran for 715 yards with nine touchdowns. While Mariota did a great job of avoiding throwing picks, he had some issues with fumbles. Mariota did a good job of running Oregon’s offense in 2012. The redshirt freshman completed 68 percent of his passes for 2,677 yards with 32 touchdowns and six interceptions. He also ran for 898 yards (752 net) with five touchdowns.

The reason I have Mariota finishing behind Winston is because of the schedule. Mariota will see a lot better defenses and talent in the Pac-12 than what Winston will go against in the ACC. Thus, I think Winston could produce a bigger stat line and play in more dominant fashion than Mariota slugging it out over some quality Pac-12 opponents.

Walter Camp Award Dark Horse:

Christian Hackenberg, Penn State

Hackenberg was the star recruit for Bill O’Brien and proved the hype legitimate during an impressive 2013 season when he was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year. The freshman completed 59 percent of his passes for 2,955 yards with 20 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also ran for four touchdowns. Hackenberg has great size, a strong arm, pocket presence and is very advanced in his field vision. While losing O’Brien hurts, James Franklin is an astute offensive coach who should develop Hackenberg well.

WalterFootball.com has heard from sources in the NFL that Hackenberg could end up being an elite quarterback prospect and worthy of going first overall. Some feel he could be the best signal-caller in college football as soon as 2015 and end up being a better prospect than either Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota.

The 6-foot-4, 234-pound Hackenberg has the skill set to dominate. If his receivers play well and Penn State finds a replacement for Allen Robinson, Hackenberg should have a huge season. Considering the stiff competition, Hackenberg would have to be considered a dark horse for the Walter Camp Award even though he should become a top quarterback prospect for the NFL.

Honorable Mentions: Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty, Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall, UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley, Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook, Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion, Georgia running back Todd Gurley, Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon, Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper, Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory, USC defensive tackle Leonard Williams and Michigan State defensive end Shilique Calhoun.

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