College Football Awards 2020: Results, Winners, Highlights and Twitter Reaction

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistJanuary 8, 2021

Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith (6) gains yardage after a catch in the first half of the Rose Bowl NCAA college football game against Notre Dame in Arlington, Texas, Friday, Jan. 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Roger Steinman)
Roger Steinman/Associated Press

Before Alabama and Ohio State battle for a national championship, the top players in the country were honored at Thursday's College Football Awards show.

Crimson Tide receiver DeVonta Smith already took home the 2020 Heisman Trophy, becoming the first receiver to win the prestigious award since 1991, but there was plenty more hardware to be handed out this week.

The National College Football Awards Association highlighted the best players at individual positions, as well as the top defensive and overall player in college football from the past season.

Even in a unique year, these young men stood above the rest.


Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award

Winner: Mac Jones, Alabama

Finalists: Trevor Lawrence, Clemson; Kyle Trask, Florida

In what might have been the closest race of the night, Mac Jones beat out fellow Heisman Trophy finalists Trevor Lawrence and Kyle Trask for the Davey O'Brien Award.

It put him in unique territory in the long history of his school:

Mike Rodak @mikerodak

Mac Jones becomes the first Alabama winner of the Davey O’Brien Award as nation’s best QB in its 40-year history: https://t.co/qTuyq4vpuy

This is even more surprising considering he sat behind elite college quarterbacks Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa earlier in his Alabama career.

Jones goes into the national championship game with 4,036 passing yards, 36 touchdowns and only four interceptions in 12 games. He has been the key to a team that averages 48.2 points per game and is undefeated with just one game left in the year.

Lawrence is considered one of the most talented quarterbacks in years and could be the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL draft, while Trask produced huge numbers for Florida. However, Jones was arguably even better leading the Crimson Tide:

PFF College @PFF_College

Mac Jones: Highest-graded season by a QB since 2014 (95.5) https://t.co/zR3ONmMnBc

It's quite an accomplishment for a player in his first full season as a starter.


Chuck Bednarik Award (Defensive Player of the Year)

Winner: Zaven Collins, Tulsa

Finalists: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame; Patrick Surtain II, Alabama               

While a major story this season was the lack of respect to Group of Five teams, Zaven Collins was honored at an individual level thanks to his production this year at Tulsa.

Tulsa Football @TulsaFootball

Zaven Collins is the undisputed Best Defensive Player in College Football! #ReignCane 👑🌀 #HuntForTheCrown https://t.co/nkwziLAb9q

The linebacker was all over the place this season, totaling four sacks, four interceptions and two forced fumbles. He returned two of those interceptions for touchdowns, including a game-sealing score in double overtime to beat Tulane.

It was enough to get the attention over elite defensive players who competed in the College Football Playoff:

Gabe McDonald @GabeMcDonald_

Cool to see G5 guys get some love. One time for #Tulsa LB Zaven Collins on winning the Bednarik Award

Collins is just the second player from the American Athletic Conference to win the award after Temple's Tyler Matakevich.

Former NFL player Timothy Flanders also praised his cousin for the win:

Timothy Flanders @TFlanders405

Lets Go Cuzzo !!! Excited for you fam @ZavenCollins https://t.co/zZ3dbX41bL

Collins was under-recruited out of high school with just one Division I offer, but Tulsa gave him the chance and he became the best defensive player in the country.


Outland Trophy (Top Interior Lineman)

Winner: Alex Leatherwood, Alabama

Finalists: Liam Eichenberg, Notre Dame; Daviyon Nixon, Iowa

Alex Leatherwood continued a proud Alabama tradition in the trenches by becoming the sixth player in school history to win the Outland Trophy.

Alabama Football @AlabamaFTBL

Alex Leatherwood: Best Interior Lineman in College Football. #RollTide https://t.co/BerDdYjE1b

The award given to the top interior linemen in the country was also won in recent years by Quinnen Williams and Cam Robinson.

Leatherwood has been one of the top offensive linemen in college football this year, excelling at left tackle after playing right guard earlier in his career. He's an anchor for a Crimson Tide offense that has allowed Jones to be sacked just eight times in 12 games.

It could lead to a long NFL career, but first Leatherwood will match up with a tough Ohio State front in the national championship. 


Lou Groza Collegiate Place-Kicker Award

Winner: Jose Borregales, Miami

Finalists: Jake Oldroyd, BYU; Will Reichard, Alabama           

No kicker in college football was more reliable than Miami's Jose Borregales, earning him the Lou Groza Award.

David Furones @DavidFurones_

Add Lou Groza Award winner to Jose Borregales' accolades in his one season with the Miami Hurricanes! He becomes UM's first national award winner since 2003. https://t.co/HFVAKlx98p

Susan Miller Degnan @smillerdegnan

Bravo, Jose! BREAKING: Miami’s Jose Borregales wins Lou Groza Award as the best kicker in college football https://t.co/B9VifeIFLQ @CanesFootball @HeraldSports @MiamiHerald

The senior transferred from Florida International to Miami this year and was a key part of the team's success.

Borregales finished the year 20-of-22 on field goals, which tied for second in the country in made field goals, while his 90.9 percentage was also one of the best.

The kicker wasn't hitting chip shots either, making nine from at least 40 yards away and two from 50-plus. He hit a long of 57 yards in the September win over Louisville.

Adding in his perfect 37-of-37 on extra points and Borregales was simply outstanding in 2020.


Biletnikoff Award (Top Receiver)

Winner: DeVonta Smith, Alabama

Finalists: Elijah Moore, Ole Miss; Kyle Pitts, Florida

After winning the Heisman, it's no surprise Smith was named the best player at his position.

Rex Castillo @rexcastillotv

In the most un-shocking result #HesimanTrophy winner Devonta Smith wins the Biletnikoff award for being the best WR in the country. #RollTide

Michael Casagrande @ByCasagrande

DeVonta Smith excited to win an another award. https://t.co/A8w1eSS66H

Yahoo Sports College Football @YahooSportsCFB

DeVonta Smith wins the Biletnikoff Award (this was about the least surprising one of the night)

The Alabama wideout has put up outstanding numbers throughout the year, entering the title game with 105 catches, 1,641 receiving yards and 20 receiving touchdowns.

He leads the nation in each category with one game still to go.

Perhaps most impressively, Smith has remained productive even with defenses doing everything they can to stop him. He had 15 catches for 184 yards in the SEC Championship Game against Florida, adding 130 yards and three scores in the national semifinals against Notre Dame.

The senior has truly been unstoppable this year, and the sky is the limit for him.

Meanwhile, Kyle Pitts became the first tight end to become a finalist for the award after scoring 12 touchdowns in eight games.


Ray Guy Award (Top Punter)

Winner: Pressley Harvin III, Georgia Tech

Finalists: Jake Camarda, Georgia; Lou Hedley, Miami       

Miami had a chance to sweep the special teams awards, but it was Pressley Harvin III who won the Ray Guy Award as the best punter in college football. Not only is it a big win for him, but it also broke new ground at the position:

Michael Lahoud @MikeLahoud

Pressley Harvin III is the first black player to win the Ray Guy Award. Historic moment for @GeorgiaTechFB and sports. https://t.co/I5u40w26hk

Harvin led the nation in punt yards last season and was even better in 2020 with fewer opportunities.

The senior averaged 48.0 yards per punt, best in college football, including a long of 70 yards.

He also has turned heads off the field:

Kelly Quinlan @Kelly_Quinlan

Congrats to #GaTech punter Pressley Harvin III who has won the @RayGuyAward for 2020. Also an amazing person I’ve had the pleasure to know the last five years.

Though he is bigger than your usual punter at 255 pounds, Harvin was outstanding at his job the past couple of years and could continue punting on Sundays. 


Rimington Trophy (Top Center)

Winner: Landon Dickerson, Alabama

Finalists: Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa; Josh Myers, Ohio State

Landon Dickerson provided one of the bigger moments of the night, bringing his teammates on screen to accept the award as the top center in college football:

Michael Casagrande @ByCasagrande

Landon Dickerson brought his teammates on camera to accept his Rimington Award. https://t.co/LktwiU3C7d

Mark Heim @Mark_Heim

Landon Dickerson is so good for college football I can't even tell you. https://t.co/9wFkXU4kx6

Dickerson argued he needed the rest of the offensive line to help him out and it was a group effort all year.

Of course, the center was pretty good on his own this year:

PFF College @PFF_College

Highest-graded run-blocking center this season: Landon Dickerson - 92.8 🥞 https://t.co/7PJkvca5qb

He was one of five Alabama players named to the first-team All-American offense and helped the Crimson Tide dominate offensively.

Unfortunately, a knee injury kept him out of the Rose Bowl and will hold him out of the title game against Ohio State.


Doak Walker Award (Top Running Back)

Winner: Najee Harris, Alabama

Finalists: Travis Etienne, Clemson; Breece Hall, Iowa State

A hurdle against Notre Dame was the most memorable moment of the season for Najee Harris, but it continued what has been an incredible year for the Alabama running back.

Harris leads all players in college football with 27 touchdowns, adding 1,387 rushing yards and 346 receiving yards in 12 games. He was at his best in the SEC Championship Game, scoring five touchdowns with 245 yards from scrimmage against Florida.

With his impressive 6.1 yards per attempt against top competition all year, it was enough to become the latest Alabama winner.

SEC Network @SECNetwork

Najee Harris joins Trent Richardson and Derrick Henry as the third @AlabamaFTBL player to win the Doak Walker Award. The Tide is the first SEC team to have three winners. https://t.co/t1j6WK33tI

Iowa State's Breece Hall fell short despite leading the country with 1,572 rushing yards, continuing a tough trend for the state's representatives:

Scott Dochterman @ScottDochterman

The state of Iowa goes 0 for 3 against Alabama in national awards: Doak Walker (best RB): Najee Harris (over ISU's Breece Hall) Outland (best interior lineman): Alex Leatherwood (over Iowa's Daviyon Nixon) Rimington (best center): Landon Dickerson (over Iowa's Tyler Linderbaum)

Harris was still the deserving winner as a first-team All-American who was nearly unstoppable in 2020.


Paycom Jim Thorpe Award (Top Defensive Back)

Winner: Trevon Moehrig, TCU

Finalists: Richie Grant, UCF; Patrick Surtain II, Alabama  

Patrick Surtain II has a bright future and was a finalist for both the top defensive back and top defensive player, but it was Trevon Moehrig who took home the Jim Thorpe Award in an upset.

Paycom @Paycom

Congratulations to Trevon Moehrig of @TCUFootball, the 2020 Paycom @jimthorpeaward winner! @thereal_tre7 #PaycomJimThorpeAward #GoFrogs https://t.co/TMb3OOujvo

TCU finished with just a 6-4 record in 2020, but Moehrig stood out with his play at safety.

He ranked third on the team with 47 tackles, two for a loss, while his nine passes defended were among the most in college football despite playing just 10 games. He also added two interceptions during the outstanding season.

The Horned Frogs had problems offensively, but Moehrig's presence in the back of the defense helped hold opponents to just 24.2 points per game.

It allowed the junior to become the first TCU player to win the Thorpe Award and a rare safety to be honored, with high-profile cornerbacks often taking home hardware.


Maxwell Award (Player of the Year)

Winner: DeVonta Smith, Alabama 

Finalists: Mac Jones, Alabama; Trevor Lawrence, Clemson      

Just like with the Heisman Trophy, Smith was again named the best player in college football by winning the Maxwell Award.

ESPN College Football @ESPNCFB

.@AlabamaFTBL's DeVonta Smith will take home the Maxwell Award as college football's player of the year. https://t.co/cwCQSWRO6d

This has also become mostly a quarterback award with passers winning in six of the last seven years. Desmond Howard was the last receiver to win until this year as Smith continues to break all the norms.

Alabama never had a Maxwell winner from its inception in 1937 through 2012, but things have certainly changed over the last few years:

Mike Rodak @mikerodak

DeVonta Smith wins the Maxwell Award as college football’s player of the year, joining three other Alabama players in history: AJ McCarron (2013), Derrick Henry (2015) and Tua Tagovailoa (2018).

It also continued a dominant run from the Crimson Tide with six trophies going to the No. 1 team in the country Thursday night.

Lawrence had an outstanding career, but he was shut out Thursday. 


Disney Spirit Award

Winner: Darien Rencher, Clemson      

An award that had little to do with on-field play, Darien Rencher was honored with the Disney Spirit Award for his off-field actions:

ESPN College Football @ESPNCFB

The Disney Spirit Award goes to @ClemsonFB’s Darien Rencher. The senior, who overcame injuries in high school and eventually earned a scholarship, is college football’s most inspirational individual. https://t.co/w0yyIecDZD

ACC Network @accnetwork

.@ClemsonFB's Darien Rencher wins the 2020 Disney Spirit Award. His leadership amid college football’s push to overcome social injustice and the coronavirus pandemic was inspiring. https://t.co/DpQjIKA0qg

Rencher was a vocal leader during the Black Lives Matter movement against racial injustice, which he discussed during his acceptance speech.

ESPN College Football @ESPNCFB

"At the end of the day, I feel like I wanted to be on the right side of history and I knew I wanted to stand up for what I believed in." Rencher demonstrated leadership amid college football’s push to overcome social injustice and the coronavirus pandemic. https://t.co/yYsMZGSL2f

He also took on a major role in representing players' fight to continue the 2020 season after it was threatened by COVID-19, organizing the "We Want to Play" movement.

The senior finished his season at Clemson with just 24 carries for 137 yards and a touchdown, but his impact in 2020 was far greater than his statistics. 


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