Spring Preview: Who'll Win The Awards?
USC QB Matt Barkley
USC QB Matt Barkley
Posted Mar 8, 2012

The way-too-early first look at the 2012 awards, starting with the Heisman and Davey O'Brien.

2012 Spring Football    

First Look: The Awards

2012 Spring Preview: First Look At The Awards
- Heisman, Maxwell, & Davey O'Brien
- Outland, Bednarik, & Lombardi | Doak Walker & Biletnikoff
- Rimington & Mackey | Butkus & Thorpe | Lou Groza & Ray Guy

By Richard Cirminiello 
Follow Us ... #ColFootballNews  

It's way too early to start bandying about the names of the most prominent candidates for 2012's individual awards in college football, right? Whatever. It's March and wild speculation is one of the joys of the offseason. It's a chance to debate, mull over and contemplate next year's stars with complete impunity.

Will lists of contenders in January be spot on in December? Of course not. Will they make you think and pine for September? Probably. And that's really the objective here, whetting appetites, generating some interesting discussions and taking a sneak peek into what might be lurking ahead for the upcoming season.

Most Outstanding Player (Heisman Trophy, Maxwell Award, Walter Camp Award)

16. QB Tajh Boyd, Clemson
Boyd has the supporting cast and the system knowledge to surpass last season's 38 total touchdowns.

15. WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson
As dangerous in the return game as he is running routes, Watkins is one of the game's budding superstars.

14. WR Robert Woods, USC
After catching 15 touchdown passes a year ago, Woods will begin his junior year as the country's premier wide receiver.

13. RB Kenjon Barner, Oregon
With LaMichael James off to the NFL, Barner has a chance to become a household name as the feature runner in Chip Kelly's spread offense.

12. RB Knile Davis, Arkansas
Remember me? Davis returns after missing 2011 with a fractured ankle, determined to recapture his All-SEC form as a breakout sophomore.

11. QB Collin Klein, Kansas State
If Klein can sharpen his passing skills in the offseason, he's very capable of ascending into the top 5.

10. QB Tyler Wilson, Arkansas
Wilson loses a ton of production to the NFL, but has the strong right arm, pocket toughness and right head coach to continue putting up impressive numbers.

9. RB De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon
Thomas possesses the "wow" factor that few other contenders enjoy. The sophomore is arguably the most electrifying playmaker in America.

8. QB Landry Jones, Oklahoma
A sloppy final month of 2011 encouraged Jones to return to school for his senior year, where he's hoping for the kind of rebound that resembles his sophomore season.

7. QB Geno Smith, West Virginia
Six-touchdown Orange Bowl effort might be a harbinger of things to come. Smith's candidacy gets a boost if the Mountaineers are allowed to join the Big 12 for 2012.

6. CB Tyrann Mathieu, LSU
In his third—and likely final—year in Baton Rouge, the sparkplug Mathieu will be looking to improve on last season's fifth-place finish in the Heisman vote.

5. RB Montee Ball, Wisconsin
Ball's rather surprising decision to pass on the NFL puts him right back in contention, but repeating last year's robust numbers will be a tall order.

4. QB Aaron Murray, Georgia
Murray threw 35 touchdown passes with a young receiving corps that figures to be far more polished this season.

3. QB Denard Robinson, Michigan
While Robinson may be the most complete dual-threat quarterback at this level, he must find a way to cut down on his turnovers as a senior.

2. RB Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina
No disrespect to the nation's other top backs, but they're all looking up at Lattimore, who's itching to return from a knee injury that shelved him in the second half.

1. QB Matt Barkley, USC
Barkley is perfectly positioned to go wire-to-wire as his Trojans take their first high-profile steps outside of the dark shadows of the NCAA penitentiary.

Top Quarterback (Davey O'Brien Award)

10. James Franklin, Missouri
The next in a growing line of terrific Mizzou quarterbacks accounted for 36 scores and 981 yards rushing in his debut as a starter.

9. Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech
Thomas is poised to become the best Hokie to ever play quarterback … including Michael Vick. He does uncommon things outside the pocket for a 6-6, 242-pounder.

8. Collin Klein, Kansas State
Everyone knows Klein can run it like Jake Locker, but can he grow as a passer? The reward if he does will be a possible hat trick that includes the Heisman Trophy and Maxwell Award as well.

7. Tajh Boyd, Clemson
Boyd is to Clemson what Smith is to West Virginia. He has a great supporting cast, while working out of a second-year system designed to produce huge results from the quarterback position.

6. Landry Jones, Oklahoma
Jones has the physical gifts and enough up-and-coming receivers around him to rebound with authority. Now all he needs is to put it all together during a 12-game regular season.

5. Geno Smith, West Virginia
Surrounded by so many good weapons—and in his second year in Dana Holgorsen's offense—it would be a shocker if Smith doesn't deliver a monster senior year.

4. Denard Robinson, Michigan
Better decisions in the passing game. They might be the only things separating Robinson from even greater acclaim in his Ann Arbor swan song.

3. Tyler Wilson, Arkansas
Great quarterback. A reduction in weaponry. Hogs may shift slightly toward the ground game now that RB Knile Davis is back from injury, and 2011's two best receivers have graduated.

2. Aaron Murray, Georgia
If Murray makes the same strides in 2012 that he did in 2011, breaking Matt Stafford's school single-season touchdown record, he'll pass Wilson to become the SEC's top quarterback.

1. Matt Barkley, USC
With so much going in his favor, from maximum media exposure to the best collection of receivers in college football, only an injury can keep Barkley from enhancing his Trojan legacy.

2012 Spring Preview: First Look At The Awards
- Heisman, Maxwell, & Davey O'Brien
- Outland, Bednarik, & Lombardi | Doak Walker & Biletnikoff
- Rimington & Mackey | Butkus & Thorpe | Lou Groza & Ray Guy