Power Ranking Best Candidates Named to 2013 Maxwell Award Watch List

Randy ChambersAnalyst IJuly 8, 2013

Power Ranking Best Candidates Named to 2013 Maxwell Award Watch List

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    You can argue that the Maxwell Award is the most popular college football award behind only the Heisman Trophy. It is awarded to the College Player of the Year and has been presented to some of the best who have ever played.

    Herschel Walker, Barry Sanders and Peyton Manning are just some of the great players to win the award. Notre Dame's Manti Te'o won it last year.

    The list for this year's candidates was released by the Maxwell Football Club, and it includes nearly every top player in the country. It also nominates six defensive players, and for the first time in the award's history, three offensive linemen were named to the watch list.

    The Maxwell Award has quickly become popular with the quarterbacks, but there are a few other positions out there that deserve consideration. There is a ferocious defensive end SEC offensive lines have to worry about and an unstoppable Pac-12 wide receiver.

Don't Count Them out

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    Dri Archer, RB, Kent State: Archer touched the ball only 149 times last season but still rushed for 1,429 yards and 16 touchdowns. He is as explosive as Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas and is a treat to watch on game day.

    Duke Johnson, RB, Miami: Johnson is a reason to believe the Hurricanes are on the right track. He does a little bit of everything for the team, but that 6.8 yards per carry average as a freshman was ridiculous.

    Devin Gardner, QB, Michigan: Gardner is a lot more accurate than Denard Robinson ever was, and he also has similar playmaking ability. He'll make a valid case to win the award if he can keep Michigan afloat and give the Buckeyes a run for the Big Ten title.

    De'Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon: The most explosive player in the country is the Black Mamba. Last season, he averaged 7.6 yards per rush and 9.9 yards per catch, in addition to scoring two special team touchdowns. Flashiness earns votes and wins awards in today's game.

    Keith Price, QB, Washington: Don't be surprised if you see a few votes for Washington to win the Pac-12. A lot of that has to do with Price at quarterback. He's thrown for more than 5,700 yards and 52 touchdowns in the last two seasons. This should be a big year with an improved offense line and solid weapons around him.

8. Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson

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    Tajh Boyd has done just about anything he can do to take that next step. Now it comes down to actually reaching the next level and begin winning the hardware.

    He is as consistent as any quarterback in the country and was named First-Team All-ACC last season.

    Boyd has topped 3,800 yards and 30 touchdowns the last two seasons. He has also drastically improved his completion percentage three straight years, including an impressive 67.2 completion percentage last season.

    Boyd is in a pass-happy offense and has the weapons around him to get the job done. He has also proven that he can produce the eye-popping numbers.

    Now it is a matter of winning the big games to receive the attention he deserves.

7. A.J. McCarron, QB, Alabama

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    A.J. McCarron may be the most slept-on quarterback in college football history. Yes, he gets credit for being the starter for Alabama and is a two-time champion as a starting quarterback. But he hasn't won any college football awards besides championship rings.

    Usually, a champion quarterback brings home the Heisman, Maxwell Award or something. Not McCarron.

    Some would say this has to do with him being a game manager and not making enough plays. But he threw for 30 touchdowns and 2,933 yards last season. What else would you like from the guy?

    There are other flashy quarterbacks out there, but McCarron is effective and leads his team to victories. It doesn't get much better than that.

6. Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia

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    Barrett Sallee of Bleacher Report mentioned that Todd Gurley isn't a Heisman candidate. While that may be true, don't rule him out on winning the Maxwell Award.

    In the last 20 years, workhorse running backs such as Eddie George, Ricky Williams, Ron Dayne and Larry Johnson were able to win the Maxwell. Johnson was the last running back to win the award, back in 2002.

    Gurley rushed for 1,385 yards and 17 touchdowns last season. Keep in mind that he was only a true freshman. He also showed great potential on kickoffs, averaging 34.71 yards a return and taking one of his seven attempts back for a touchdown.

    He has the perfect combination of speed and power, and he is a tall order to tackle.

    The sky is the limit for the Georgia running back.

5. Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville

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    Teddy Bridgewater is rapidly climbing up the totem pole as more people take the time to learn more about him. He isn't somebody just feasting on poor competition. He has the goods to win many awards and eventually become a legit NFL quarterback.

    Bridgewater is insanely accurate, completing 68.5 percent of his passes last season. He throws a tight football that is usually right on the numbers, finishing six games completing at least 71.4 percent of his throws.

    The two concerns to have with Bridgewater are the lack of competition and the injury history. He'll really enter the mix if he can remain healthy and lead Louisville to an undefeated season. The potential is clearly there.

4. Marqise Lee, WR, USC

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    Desmond Howard was the last wide receiver to win the Maxwell Award, in 1991. Since then, this hardware usually goes to the best quarterback who plays on a successful team. But Marqise Lee has a real shot of representing the wide receivers well.

    Lee finished last season with 118 receptions for 1,721 yards and 14 touchdowns. He broke conference and school records along the way, while separating himself from the rest of the receivers. There isn't another receiver in the country as talented as Lee, and he will prove it for a third straight season.

    USC will have to perform better as a team if Lee has any chance of winning this award. He will make a strong case if the Trojans can somehow win 10 games.

3. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina

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    Last season, Manti Te'o became the first defensive player since 1980 to win the Maxwell Award. It took many clutch plays and an inspirational story to make it happen, but the former Notre Dame linebacker got it done.

    Jadeveon Clowney has a great chance to become the next defender to take home the award.

    Clowney is surrounded by overwhelming hype due to his NFL draft stock and the way he plays the game. He is a man among boys and is a must-watch player every Saturday.

    Clowney finished last season with 54 tackles, 23.5 tackles for loss, 13 sacks and three forced fumbles. He is scary good and could also join Heisman conversations if that production can continue.

    Don't bet against the South Carolina defensive end.

2. Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State

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    Nine of the last 10 Maxwell Award winners have played quarterback.

    Braxton Miller is a Heisman candidate and quarterbacks a national championship contender. Playing the percentages and the odds of another quarterback winning the award, Miller has a great shot.

    Miller's season last year was downplayed due to the sanctions the Buckeyes were dealing with. His numbers can't be denied, as he passed for 2,039 yards, rushed for 1,271 yards and scored 28 touchdowns. He is a flashy player and always a threat to score with his legs.

    Miller will remain in the hunt for some of college football's most prestigious awards, especially if Ohio State can run the table for a second consecutive season.

1. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

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    Expect Johnny Manziel to become the Matt Barkley of this season. Many are going to predict him to win nearly every award possible. He nearly accomplished that feat last season, taking home the Heisman, Davey O'Brien Award, Manning Award, Chic Harley Award and AP Player of the Year.

    Manziel probably should have won the Maxwell Award, but arguing that is for a different time. He has yet to be figured out by an SEC defense and puts up numbers that would be tough to top in the video game world. He is one of the most explosive playmakers this game has ever seen and truly puts the Aggies on his back come game day.

    Some are already tired of hearing about the young quarterback. However, Manziel is the real deal and should be considered the favorite for just about every award in which he's a candidate.