Biggest Snubs and Surprises from College Football's Preseason Awards Watch Lists

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistJuly 25, 2017

Biggest Snubs and Surprises from College Football's Preseason Awards Watch Lists

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    Watch-list season has arrived. The reactions are coming.

    The representatives of college football's major awards have released a catalog of players they consider the athletes to watch in 2017. As the popularity of the preseason lists has risen, the array of nominees has skyrocketed, too.

    For several awards, it seems just about everyone and their brother is included. Projected first-time starters or role players may even be mentioned—despite having little previous experience.

    However, talented players still manage to go unmentioned on some lists, and we're trying to correct that.

Snub: Justin Herbert for Davey O'Brien Award

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    Steve Dykes/Getty Images

    Oregon has the makings of a bounce-back team. That doesn't make the Ducks a national contender, but they're worth monitoring.

    And if Willie Taggart's club puts together a successful year, Justin Herbert will merit additional attention. In just seven starts as a true freshman, he posted a 63.6 completion percentage for 1,866 yards with 19 touchdowns and only four interceptions.

    Even though Oregon probably won't be in the running for a championship, there is precedent for individual excellence pushing a quarterback into the Davey O'Brien Award conversation.

    That's a huge bar for Herbert, but he has the opportunity for big numbers in Taggart's system behind a healthier offensive line.

Surprise: Chris James for Doak Walker Award

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    Mike Stewart/Associated Press

    Wisconsin always has productive running backs, and Bradrick Shaw is almost assuredly the next in line. He collected 457 yards and five touchdowns while sharing the reserve snaps as a freshman.

    Because of Corey Clement's graduation, Shaw had a place on the Doak Walker Award list—but so did a teammate.

    Perhaps Chris James will end up demanding a larger workload, which would be welcome news for the Badgers. Seeing him mentioned along with Shaw was still a surprise.

    At least James, who sat during the 2016 campaign after transferring from Pitt, has 690 career rushing yards to his credit.

Snub: Connor Williams for Walter Camp Award

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    An offensive lineman is rarely considered the best player in college football, and that's partially due to the lack of popular counting stats.

    That needs to change, though, especially when it comes to Connor Williams.

    According to Pro Football Focus, the Texas standout ceded just four pressures and one sack in 423 pass-block attempts last year. He's also a dominant force in the running game, which was evident in D'Onta Foreman cresting the 2,000-yard mark in 2016.

    The Longhorns won't contend for a Big 12 championship without another stellar year from Williams.

Surprise: Cole Cook for Mackey Award

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    By all accounts, Cole Cook is a great person. He served as a captain for three games in 2015 and the entire 2016 season. The tight end could reprise the leadership role in 2017.

    There are trophies to recognize that, but the John Mackey Award simply isn't one of them.

    Over his three seasons at North Carolina State, Cook has pulled in a total of 10 receptions for 110 yards and one touchdown.

    Cook is an important blocker, particularly since the Wolfpack use tight end Jaylen Samuels in a hybrid position. But Cook's value in a specific role doesn't means he's a threat for the Mackey.

Snub: Ben Humphreys for Butkus Award

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    Joe Giles-Harris and Ben Humphreys give Duke a terrific duo at linebacker. They tallied 107 and 106 tackles, respectively, in 2016.

    Neither player made the Butkus Award list, though.

    Take your pick on the snub. Giles-Harris added 9.5 tackles for loss with four sacks, plus four hurries, two pass breakups, one interception and one fumble recovery. Humphreys notched 11 stops behind the line with 4.5 sacks, four hurries and a pick.

    All that production seemed to be worth one nod.

Surprise: Jacob Pugh for Butkus Award

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    Florida State would be worse off with Jacob Pugh roaming the field. Last season, he provided 43 tackles with six for loss and 4.5 sacks.

    "Jacob is an all-around player," teammate Brian Burns said, per Brendan Sonnone of 247Sports. "He runs to the ball, he covers people. He does everything, so Jacob is a key part to our defense."

    But a solid contributor is not an award winner.

    Besides, the 'Noles already have another Butkus Award watch-lister in Matthew Thomas, whose 77 tackles led the defense in 2016. Although Pugh's ability won't surprise anyone on the field, there's a considerable difference between valuable and elite.

Snub: Jordan Thomas for Thorpe Award

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    Jordan Thomas finished the 2016 campaign tied for fourth nationally with 19 passes defended, but he's nowhere to be found on the Jim Thorpe Award's preseason list.

    What gives?

    According to Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman, Thomas' previous off-field issues resulted in his exclusion. He has twice been suspended while playing for the Sooners.

    "You've got to be a great player to win the Jim Thorpe Award," said Eddie Griffin, the president of the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame, the organization that oversees the award. "But you've also got to be a man of character and a community leader.

    While understandable, it's still a snub.

    Thomas, who was named to the Bednarik Award watch list, registered 49 tackles, 17 pass breakups and two interceptions last year. League coaches voted him a first-team All-Big 12 corner.

Surprise: Andrew Celis for Hornung Award

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    Andrew Celis does a little bit of everything for Nevada, so his skill set logically follows the criteria for the Hornung Award.

    The hang-up is he's only done a little of a little bit of everything.

    Last season, the wideout grabbed 23 passes for 318 yards. Celis chipped in 101 punt-return yards and threw a 36-yard touchdown. Two years ago, he gathered 188 yards as a returner.

    Those aren't enormous numbers. Celis brings excitement because he'll contribute in several ways, but as legendary UCLA coach John Wooden once said: "Don't mistake activity for achievement."


    All recruiting information via Scout. Stats from or B/R research. Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.