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

Brian Leigh@@BLeighDATFeatured ColumnistJuly 18, 2014

CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 07:  Quarterback Jameis Winston #5 of the Florida State Seminoles looks to pass against the Duke Blue Devils during the ACC Championship game at Bank of America Stadium on December 7, 2013 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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
RB Ameer AbdullahSeniorNebraskaBig Ten
WR Nelson AgholorJuniorUSCPac-12
RB Jay AjayiJuniorBoise StateMWC
LB Chi Chi AriguzoSeniorNorthwesternBig Ten
DL Vic BeasleySeniorClemsonACC
DL Shilique CalhounJuniorMichigan StateBig Ten
QB Shane CardenSeniorEast CarolinaAAC
QB Rakeem CatoSeniorMarshallC-USA
DB Landon CollinsJuniorAlabamaSEC
WR Amari CooperJuniorAlabamaSEC
WR Jamison CrowderSeniorDukeACC
RB Mike DavisJuniorSouth CarolinaSEC
WR Stefon DiggsJuniorMarylandBig Ten
DB Lorenzo DossJuniorTulaneAAC
DB Ifo Ekpre-OlomuSeniorOregonPac-12
OL Cameron ErvingSeniorFlorida StateACC
DL Devonte FieldsSophomoreTCUBig 12
WR Devin FunchessJuniorMichiganBig Ten
QB Everett GolsonSeniorNotre DameIndependent
RB Melvin GordonJuniorWIsconsinBig Ten
QB Garrett GraysonSeniorColorado StateMWC
DL Randy GregoryJuniorNebraskaBig Ten
RB Todd GurleyJuniorGeorgiaSEC
DB Vernon Hargreaves IIISophomoreFloridaSEC
DB Anthony HarrisSeniorVirginiaACC
DL Brock HekkingSeniorNevadaMWC
WR Austin HillSeniorArizonaPac-12
QB Taysom HillJuniorBYUIndependent
QB Brett HundleyJuniorUCLAPac-12
LB Myles JackSophomoreUCLAPac-12
RB Duke JohnsonJuniorMiamiACC
QB Matt JohnsonJuniorBowling GreenMAC
QB Taylor KellySeniorArizona StatePac-12
QB Trevor KnightSophomoreOklahomaBig 12
LB Qushaun LeeSeniorArkansas StateSun Belt
WR Tyler LockettSeniorKansas StateBig 12
QB Sean MannionSeniorOregon StatePac-12
QB Marcus MariotaJuniorOregonPac-12
QB Nick MarshallSeniorAuburnSEC
QB Braxton MillerSeniorOhio StateBig Ten
WR Ty MontgomerySeniorStanfordPac-12
OL Andrus PeatJuniorStanfordPac-12
QB Bryce PettySeniorBaylorBig 12
LB Terrance PlummerSeniorUCFAAC
DB Cody PrewittSeniorOle MissSEC
QB Keenan ReynoldsJuniorNavyIndependent
DB Derron SmithSeniorFresno StateMWC
LB Ramik WilsonSeniorGeorgiaSEC
QB Jameis WinstonSophomoreFlorida StateACC
RB T.J. YeldonJuniorAlabamaSEC
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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


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

Apr 12, 2014; Athens, GA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs running back Todd Gurley (3) runs for a touchdown during the first half of the Georgia Spring Game at Sanford Stadium. Red defeated Black 27-24. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-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

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 07:  Braxton Miller #5 of the Ohio State Buckeyes throws a pass before the Big Ten Championship against the Michigan State Spartans at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 7, 2013 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty
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

MADISON, WI - SEPTEMBER 07: Melvin Gordon #25 of the Wisconsin Badgers runs for 65 yards during the first half against the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles at Camp Randall Stadium on September 07, 2013 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Imag
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