LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- While Pittsburgh senior defensive tackle Aaron Donald continued his postseason awards haul Thursday night, quarterbacks A.J. McCarron and Jameis Winston were the stars of the evening.
Winston, a redshirt freshman who has guided Florida State to the Jan. 6 BCS national championship game, won the Davey O'Brien Award as the nation's best quarterback, while McCarron, a senior at Alabama who guided the Tide to the past two national titles, won the Maxwell Award as the nation's best player. Those were two of the nine awards handed out at the College Football Awards show at Disney World.
Donald, meanwhile, won the Chuck Bednarik Award as the nation's top defender and the Outland Trophy as the best interior lineman Thursday. Those were his third and fourth national awards; he earlier had won the Bronko Nagurski Trophy as the nation's top defender and Lombardi Award as the nation's outstanding lineman or linebacker. He also was named the ACC's defensive player of the year.
McCarron and Winston are scheduled to leave Orlando on Friday and fly to New York for Saturday night's Heisman Trophy presentation. Good news for Winston, who is the prohibitive favorite to take home the trophy, is that six of the past seven O'Brien winners have gone on to win the Heisman. More good news for Winston: Just two Maxwell Award winners since 2000 have doubled-up by winning the Heisman (Florida's Tim Tebow in 2007 and Auburn's Cam Newton in 2010).
Winston also got off the best line of the night. Awards show host Chris Fowler mentioned to Winston that the BCS national championship game would be played on Winston's 20th birthday. Winston: "I'm glad it's on my birthday because I'm going to be celebrating."
Here's a look at each award presented Thursday night.
Bednarik Award (top defender)
Winner: DT Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh
Other finalists: LB Anthony Barr, UCLA; LB C.J. Mosley, Alabama
Buzz: Donald, a senior, leads the nation with 26.5 tackles for a loss, and is bidding to become the first interior lineman to lead the nation in the category since the stat was instituted in 2000. Donald also is tied for 13th nationally with 10 sacks; he has 28.5 career sacks, tied for second with Buffalo senior outside linebacker Khalil Mack among all active players.
Biletnikoff Award (top receiver)
Winner: Brandin Cooks, Oregon State
Other finalists: Mike Evans, Texas A&M; Sammy Watkins, Clemson
Buzz: Cooks, a junior, is the No. 2 receiver in the nation, with 120 receptions; he also is second with 15 TD catches. He had eight 100-yard games, two 200-yard games and five games with at least two TD receptions. Cooks also had six games with double-digit catches. He is the 16th player in FBS history with 120 receptions (Fresno State's Davante Adams, who has 122 receptions this season, was the 15th).
Groza Award (kop kicker)
Winner: Roberto Aguayo, Florida State
Other finalists: Anthony Fera, Texas; Marvin Kloss, USF
Buzz: Aguayo, a redshirt freshman, is third in the nation in scoring with 147 points, the most - - by 20 points - - of any kicker nationally. Aguayo has made all 90 of his extra-point attempts and is 19-of-20 on field goals, including 8-of-9 from at least 40 yards; he kicked a 53-yarder against Syracuse. His point total is more than three teams nationally - - and it's also 10 more than FSU's defense has allowed this season.
Ray Guy Award (top punter)
Winner: Tom Hornsey, Memphis
Finalists: Drew Kaser, Texas A&M; Cody Webster, Purdue
Buzz: Hornsey, a senior from Australia, is eighth nationally in punting (45.6 yards per attempt) and helped Memphis finish fourth nationally in net punting. Eighteen of his 62 punts traveled at least 50 yards, and he dropped 29 inside the 20.
Maxwell Award (top player)
Winner: QB A.J. McCarron, Alabama
Other finalists: QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M; QB Jameis Winston, Florida State
Buzz: McCarron is the first Alabama player to win the award. He has thrown for 2,676 yards and 26 touchdowns this season; he had eight games with at least two TD passes and four with at least three.
Davey O'Brien Award (top quarterback)
Winner: Jameis Winston, Florida State
Other finalists: Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M; A.J. McCarron, Alabama
Buzz: Winston is the second consecutive freshman to win the award, following Manziel. Winston has set NCAA single-season freshman records for passing yards (3,820) and TD passes (38); the 38 TD passes also is a single-season ACC record. Winston has seven 300-yard games this season and has thrown at least three TD passes in eight contests.
Outland Trophy (top interior lineman)
Winner: DT Aaron Donald, Pitt
Other finalists: OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M; G Cyril Richardson, Baylor
Buzz: Donald has had a big season and is cleaning up on the awards circuit, too, as well he should.
Jim Thorpe Award (top defensive back)
Winner: CB Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State
Other finalists: CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State; CB Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State
Buzz: Dennard, a senior, was a leader of the team's "Spartans Dawgs" defense - - a unit that leads the nation in total defense. Dennard (5-11, 197) has four interceptions, 10 pass breakups, two forced fumbles and five quarterback hurries. He's both physical and fast, and is comfortable in press coverage. He is expected to be one of the first cornerbacks off the board in the 2014 draft. Dennard is from Dry Branch, Ga., a town of about 3,000 people, and graduated from Twiggs County High in a senior class of 40 students.
Doak Walker Award (top running back)
Winner: Andre Williams, Boston College
Finalists: Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona; Bishop Sankey, Washington
Buzz: Williams leads the nation in rushing and is just the 15th back in FBS history to rush for 2,000 yards. He is the first 2,000-yard rusher in the FBS ranks since UConn's Donald Brown in 2008. Williams has had five 200-yard games and nine 100-yard performances this season, including 149 against Florida State. The award was fitting for another reason, too: He graduated from BC on Thursday with a applied psychology and human development degree but was unable to attend the ceremony, so awards show host Chris Fowler presented him with a mortarboard on stage.
The Paul Hornung Award, which honors the nation's most versatile player, will be awarded Friday. The finalists are Western Kentucky running back Antonio Andrews, LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., Arizona State running back Marion Grice, UCLA running back/linebacker Myles Jack and Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.
Previously announced awards
Butkus Award (best linebacker): C.J. Mosley, Alabama
Ted Hendricks Award (top defensive end): Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas
Lombardi Award (best lineman/linebacker): DT Aaron Donald, Pitt
Ronnie Lott (top defender, on- and off-field impact): LB Anthony Barr, UCLA
John Mackey Award (top tight end): Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington
Bronko Nagurski (top defender): DT Aaron Donald, Pitt
Rimington Trophy (top center): Bryan Stork, Florida State
Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award (top fourth-year junior or senior quarterback): A.J. McCarron, Alabama
Mike Huguenin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.