2012 College Football Kickoff: Predicting the Doak Walker Award Finalists
There is no question that the Heisman Trophy is the most coveted individual award in all of college sports. However, there are still a number of other prizes handed out at the end of the college football season that are of great esteem.
One of these rewards is the Doak Walker Award, named for the 1948 Heisman Trophy winner of SMU and handed out to the top player at his position every December.
The award, which was won by Trent Richardson of Alabama last year, was first given to Washington’s Greg Lewis following his stellar 1990 campaign.
Southern Methodist University released a 52-player watch list for the Doak Walker about a month ago. In this slideshow, I will go over the running backs on that list that have the best chance of claiming the award at Disney World in early-December.
Montee Ball, Wisconsin
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Montee Ball opted to stay at Wisconsin for his senior year and make the NFL wait for his services. Ball should be poised to get the Badgers back into a BCS bowl game after two consecutive Rose Bowl loses.
Not only will he look to help his team conquer the Big Ten for the third year in a row, but Ball will be eager to top his record 2011 campaign.
Last year, Ball was not only a Heisman Trophy and Doak Walker Award finalist, but he also tied Barry Sanders’ NCAA record of 39 touchdowns scored in a single season. Ball was honored as an All-American selection and the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year at season’s end.
With Russell Wilson and Nick Toon in the NFL, this is Ball’s team. If he can keep himself healthy the entire season then there is no question that with his experience and Wisconsin’s mammoth offensive line, he will be a Doak Walker Award finalist.
Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina
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Marcus Lattimore got off to a fast start in the 2011 season by scoring 10 touchdowns in South Carolina’s first six games. Then, in mid-October, the dark horse Heisman contender tore a ligament in his knee and was sidelined for the remainder of year.
By the time South Carolina kicks off the 2012 season in a little over a week, Lattimore should be back at full strength and ready to make his statement for the 2013 NFL Draft, where he is projected to be a top pick.
Before the pros, the 2010 SEC Freshman of the Year will also hope to add some more accolades to his name. If not the Heisman Trophy then certainly the Doak Walker Award. More importantly though, Lattimore will do his best to take the Gamecocks to a place they have never gone before, the BCS.
If Lattimore can make it look like he is playing Pop Warner football against the top SEC defenders, then South Carolina may finally reach the Promised Land and he may also claim some hardware of his own along the way.
Kenjon Barner, Oregon
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After three fantastic years as the backup to the record-breaking LaMichael James, Kenjon Barner finally gets his chance as Oregon’s full-time starter. He will have to compete with Heisman contender De'Anthony Thomas, but Thomas is more of an all-purpose player than a true halfback.
There is no reason to believe that the senior running back will not seize the moment to take center stage in Chip Kelly’s offense. This being said, Barner will likely capitalize on all that he did as James’ backup, which included running for over 100 all-purpose yards a game over the course of the last three seasons.
His credentials may be better than any other halfback in the country, from three straight BCS bowl appearances to earning Pac-10 Player of the Week honors multiple times.
In one of the handful of starts he has made in his career, Barner scored five touchdowns on 147 rushing yards against New Mexico in the Ducks’ 2010 season opener.
Playing for one of the best, if not the best offensive mind in the country, Chip Kelly, Barner has a legitimate shot at following in the footsteps of his good friend LaMichael James and becoming Oregon’s second Doak Walker Award winner.
Knile Davis, Arkansas
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After missing the entire 2011 season due to injury, Knile Davis will look to return from where he left off two seasons ago as the leading rusher at the running back position in the SEC.
Davis will have to share the backfield with his replacements from a year ago, Dennis Johnson and Ronnie Wingo, to start. Before long he should have no trouble taking over almost all of the Razorbacks carries, as he did as an All-SEC selection in 2010.
The offseason scandal that ended with the departure of head coach Bobby Petrino will certainly have an effect on the Arkansas program, and especially the offense. However, Davis’ quarterback, Tyler Wilson, is one of the most reliable in the country and should not be fazed by the coaching change.
With Wilson at the helm of the Razorbacks’ offense, Davis should be given all of the opportunities he needs to continue from where he left off in 2010. As long as Davis stays healthy, Darren McFadden may have some company in Arkansas’ Doak Walker Award trophy case.