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Walter Camp Award Watch List 2014: Full List and Bleacher Report Favorites

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Walter Camp Award Watch List 2014: Full List and Bleacher Report Favorites
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The watch list for the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award, given annually to the top performer in college football, was released Friday afternoon.

"We are proud to continue the great work of Walter Camp and recognize the best college football players in the nation," said Walter Camp Football Foundation president James Monico, per the official release. "This watch list is a great start to what is shaping up to be another exciting year of college football."

The list consists of 50 players (33 offensive, 17 defensive), headlined by last year's winner, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston. But this trophy, unlike some of the other major awards in college football (*cough* the Heisman), has been fairly accessible to other positions: Five of the last 12 winners did not play quarterback.

Winston will try to become the first back-to-back Walter Camp winner since Colt McCoy (Texas) in 2008-2009 and the second since Archie Griffin (Ohio State) in 1974-1975.

Here is his primary competition:

2014 Walter Camp Award Watch List
Player Class School Conference
RB Ameer Abdullah Senior Nebraska Big Ten
WR Nelson Agholor Junior USC Pac-12
RB Jay Ajayi Junior Boise State MWC
LB Chi Chi Ariguzo Senior Northwestern Big Ten
DL Vic Beasley Senior Clemson ACC
DL Shilique Calhoun Junior Michigan State Big Ten
QB Shane Carden Senior East Carolina AAC
QB Rakeem Cato Senior Marshall C-USA
DB Landon Collins Junior Alabama SEC
WR Amari Cooper Junior Alabama SEC
WR Jamison Crowder Senior Duke ACC
RB Mike Davis Junior South Carolina SEC
WR Stefon Diggs Junior Maryland Big Ten
DB Lorenzo Doss Junior Tulane AAC
DB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu Senior Oregon Pac-12
OL Cameron Erving Senior Florida State ACC
DL Devonte Fields Sophomore TCU Big 12
WR Devin Funchess Junior Michigan Big Ten
QB Everett Golson Senior Notre Dame Independent
RB Melvin Gordon Junior WIsconsin Big Ten
QB Garrett Grayson Senior Colorado State MWC
DL Randy Gregory Junior Nebraska Big Ten
RB Todd Gurley Junior Georgia SEC
DB Vernon Hargreaves III Sophomore Florida SEC
DB Anthony Harris Senior Virginia ACC
DL Brock Hekking Senior Nevada MWC
WR Austin Hill Senior Arizona Pac-12
QB Taysom Hill Junior BYU Independent
QB Brett Hundley Junior UCLA Pac-12
LB Myles Jack Sophomore UCLA Pac-12
RB Duke Johnson Junior Miami ACC
QB Matt Johnson Junior Bowling Green MAC
QB Taylor Kelly Senior Arizona State Pac-12
QB Trevor Knight Sophomore Oklahoma Big 12
LB Qushaun Lee Senior Arkansas State Sun Belt
WR Tyler Lockett Senior Kansas State Big 12
QB Sean Mannion Senior Oregon State Pac-12
QB Marcus Mariota Junior Oregon Pac-12
QB Nick Marshall Senior Auburn SEC
QB Braxton Miller Senior Ohio State Big Ten
WR Ty Montgomery Senior Stanford Pac-12
OL Andrus Peat Junior Stanford Pac-12
QB Bryce Petty Senior Baylor Big 12
LB Terrance Plummer Senior UCF AAC
DB Cody Prewitt Senior Ole Miss SEC
QB Keenan Reynolds Junior Navy Independent
DB Derron Smith Senior Fresno State MWC
LB Ramik Wilson Senior Georgia SEC
QB Jameis Winston Sophomore Florida State ACC
RB T.J. Yeldon Junior Alabama SEC

Source: WalterCamp.org

Of those 50 preseason candidates, here are five who stick out as favorites, along with some other names to keep an eye on.

 

QB Jameis Winston, Florida State

Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

Obviously.

Winston led the nation in quarterback rating (by a substantial margin) last season and still hasn't lost a game as a starter. He was cited for stealing crab legs from a supermarket this offseason, which did not curry favor with the general public, but once the season starts and Winston gets back on the field he should (hopefully) be able to keep his head down and get back to doing what he does best: winning.

 

RB Todd Gurley, Georgia

USA TODAY Sports

Georgia has a first-time starter at quarterback and a defense that should be better against the run (its front seven is loaded) than the pass (its secondary is…not). Its best game plan will be running the ball, controlling the clock and making teams earn every inch—on both sides of the line. Todd Gurley is the most gifted skill-position player in America, and if he stays healthy he is perfectly suited to take advantage of that system and post Walter Camp-type numbers.

 

QB Marcus Mariota, Oregon

Eric Gay/Associated Press

Marcus Mariota was a Heisman candidate—if not the downright Heisman front-runner—at the halfway point of last season. But a blown-out knee hindered his production, and losses to Stanford and Arizona effectively ended his bid for the major awards. He's back for his redshirt junior season, though, and a quarterback doesn't turn down the money from a likely first-round NFL draft pick unless he has some unfinished business. Winning the Walter Camp is part of that.

 

QB Braxton Miller, Ohio State

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

It feels weird to say this, but given how they ended last season, the Buckeyes might sneak up on some people. A big reason for that is the return of Braxton Miller, the two-time reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year who forewent the NFL draft to play his senior year in Columbus. With Carlos Hyde gone, an even bigger offensive onus will fall on Miller's shoulders—something that seems absurd given his usage rate the past two seasons. If Ohio State makes the College Football Playoff, Miller will have a legitimate shot at this trophy.

 

RB Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin

Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

Wisconsin's normally run-heavy system might get even run-heavier this season. Questions under center and (especially) at receiver exist more than ever, but the offensive line should remain great, and Melvin Gordon is finally the No. 1 option. If he keeps up his per-carry pace from 2013, Gordon would turn 250 carries into 1,950 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns. There are sure to be some highlight-worthy plays in there as well. That would make for a compelling case.

 

Other Names to Watch: RB Ameer Abdullah (Nebraska), RB Mike Davis (South Carolina) WR Tyler Lockett (Kansas State), QB Nick Marshall (Auburn), QB Bryce Petty (Baylor)

 

Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BleighDAT

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