It's Watch List Season! Part I
By Steve Barnes
National signing day is in the past. Spring training is in the rear-view mirror. Most conference media days are said and done.
There is still a month until the 2013 college football season kicks off, so what are mild-mannered columnists to write about? What about the award watch lists?
Yeah, they're cool.
They actually don't mean too much. Unless you happen to be a sports information director who is between the publication of the media guide and the teams arriving for camp. Finally, a press release!
The lists come out normally with 20-30 names on them from schools ranging from Maine to San Diego State and Washington to Miami. The majority of the names on the lists don't have a shot at the award, but hey, it is a bullet point on the player's resume, so more power to them.
Instead of going through the entire lists of candidates for the hardware, let's boil it down. Let's just pick the three players with a legitimate shot at winning (at least in the preseason), add an under-the-radar candidate and a name that may as well be an alias from the witness protection program.
It goes to the nation's best interior lineman either on offense or defense. Basically it is won by the guy who disembowels the most quarterbacks or the guy the quarterback hugs first after throwing a touchdown.
Who?: Zac Kerwin, Toledo
Projected Winner: Matthews. With Johnny Manziel running around, the No. 2 on his chest doubling as a target, Matthews will be charged with making sure SEC defenses don't knock the number off of him or out of him. If Manziel finishes the season in one piece, Matthews gets the trophy.
The winner is the best receiver in the nation. Normally, he also racks up the most highlights on the Saturday late-night sports shows as well.
Top Three: Marqise Lee, USC; Sammy Watkins, Clemson; Amari Cooper, Alabama
Under The Radar: Mike Evans, Texas A&M
Who?: Titus Davis, Central Michigan
Projected Winner: Even though Lee won last year, this time around it goes to Watkins. The guy is a highlight film and he'll get plenty of targets in the Tigers' offense. It won't hurt his chances if he has a big game in the opener against Georgia on national TV.
Ray Guy Award
This goes to the best punter in college football. It gives voters a reason to keep up with hang time.
Top Three: Kyle Christy, Florida; Steven Clark, Auburn; Will Monday, Duke
Under The Radar: Tyler Williams, Marshall
Who?: Hunter Mullins, UAB
Projected Winner: Even though he won't get to punt as much as a lot of guys, let's go with Christy. The overall team speed at Florida means his coverage team will keep his net punting average very low.
The hardware for the top center in the nation. This is an underrated award due to all the adjustments the center has to make at the line of scrimmage, and he has to snap the ball. Call it the Ivy League Outland Trophy.
Top Three: David Andrews, Georgia; Cole Pensick, Nebraska; Bryan Stork, Florida State
Under The Radar: Jay Finch, Georgia Tech
Who?: Andre Huval, Louisiana-Lafayette
Projected Winner: A combination of his team's success, the explosive offense and the fact he will be doing all this with a freshman quarterback, Stork is the choice. Florida State should rack up all kinds of yards with a two-headed monster at tailback and four offensive linemen returning from a BCS bowl winner. With a freshman quarterback, this center will lead the unit.
Kickers normally get most of their attention when they miss a kick. This award goes to the guy who is the most clutch.
Top Three: Cairo Santos, Tulane; Chandler Catanzaro, Clemson; Nate Freese, Boston College
Under The Radar: Jared Roberts, Colorado State
Who?: Jeremiah Detmer, Toledo
Projected Winner: Besides having a very cool name, Santos won the trophy last year. Instead of repeating, let's go with Catanzaro. He is accurate and Clemson will be on TV much more than Tulane. Watch out for Roberts, however. He gets to kick in the thin air in Fort Collins.
Davey O'Brien Award
One of several quarterback awards. There is also the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm and the Archie Manning, and if we wanted to, we could probably give one as well. Let's call it the "We Are Envious Of The Guy Who Can Throw That Far" Award.
Top Three (actually four): Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M; Tajh Boyd, Clemson; Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville; Braxton Miller, Ohio State
Under The Radar: Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois
Who?: Keenan Reynolds, Navy
Projected Winner: As long as Ohio State puts on their jockstraps correctly, the Buckeyes will go undefeated during the regular season. That will make Miller 24-0 as a starter. How do you not give it to him?
More picks to come soon. Same bat time, Same bat channel.