Johnny Manziel, Jameis Winston lead finalists for major awards


The finalists for six major college football awards recognizing the top players by position were announced Monday: the Davey O'Brien Award (top quarterback), Doak Walker Award (top running back), Fred Biletnikoff Award (top wide receiver), Jim Thorpe Award (top defensive back), John Mackey Award (top tight end), and the Outland Trophy (top interior lineman).

The awards will be presented to the winners Dec. 12 during the Home Depot College Football Awards show on ESPN.

Here is a look at each of the awards and their finalists.

Davey O'Brien Award

Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, Alabama's AJ McCarron and Florida State's Jameis Winston have been named finalists for the Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award, given annually to the nation's top player at the position.

A fan-participation vote counted for 5 percent of the ballot, and a selection committee considered the criteria of skills, athletic ability, academics, reputation as a team player, character, leadership and sportsmanship. Manziel, the defending Heisman Trophy winner, won the O'Brien award last year.

Manziel has passed for 3,537 yards and 32 touchdowns this season, and has rushed for 665 and another eight scores in leading the Aggies to an 8-3 record. He leads the nation in total offense.

McCarron is within reach of his third consecutive national championship, leading an undefeated Alabama team. He has completed 190 of 277 pass this season (69 percent) for 2,399 yards, 23 touchdowns and just five interceptions.

Winston, only a freshman, is considered the frontrunner for this year's Heisman. He has set an ACC freshman record with 32 touchdown passes.

Doak Walker Award

Arizona running back Ka'Deem Carey would already have the edge on his fellow Doak Walker Award finalists if the winner was determined by performances against common opponents.

Carey, Boston College's Andre Williams and Washington's Bishop Sankey were named finalists for the award on Monday.

Since the award goes to the top running back in college football, it will almost certainly come down to Williams and Carey. Williams is the FBS leader in rushing yards per game (188.5) and Carey is second (155.9) in the category.

Williams has rushed for 2,073 yards and 16 touchdowns in 11 games this season, becoming the 16th player in FBS history to break the 2,000-yard mark. With 556 yards in the regular-season finale against Syracuse and bowl game, Williams would break the single-season rushing record set by Barry Sanders at Oklahoma State in 1988.

Considering Williams has five games with 200-plus rushing yards this season, including a career-high 339 yards against North Carolina State, that mark is certainly in play.

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But Williams was held to a season-low 38 yards on 17 carries at USC, while Carey had 138 yards in a loss to the Trojans on the same field. Carey has also topped the 100-yard threshold in all 10 games he has played in this season, missing out on a chance to pile on against Northern Arizona in the season opener as he served a one-game suspension.

After leading the nation in rushing last season with 1,929 yards, Carey has 1,559 yards and 16 touchdowns this season including 206 yards and four touchdowns in the shocking demolition of Oregon this past Saturday.

Sankey has rushed for 1,575 yards and 17 touchdowns, impressing in back-to-back losses against Stanford and the Ducks, but he and the Huskies have been out of the spotlight since a brutal no-show at Arizona State.

Previous recipients of the Doak Walker include Montee Ball, Darren McFadden, Reggie Bush and LaDainian Tomlinson.

Fred Biletnikoff Award

Looking for three of the first four underclassmen wide receivers likely to be coming off the board in the 2014 NFL Draft? Mike Evans of Texas A&M, Sammy Watson of Clemson of Clemson and Brandin Cooks of Oregon State will all be in the green room before the winner of the Fred Biletnikoff Award, presented to the top wide receiver in college football, is announced Dec. 12.

Evans turned in the signature performance among the three finalists, with seven receptions for a career-high 279 yards and one touchdown in the thrilling 49-42 loss to Alabama. Playing the game like more a power forward with his leaping ability and ability to box out defenders, the 6-foot-5, 225-pound redshirt sophomore has formed a potent partnership with quarterback Johnny Manziel. Evans has 61 receptions for 1,314 yards and 12 touchdowns, his second-consecutive 1,000-yard season.

Watson is also a big-play threat, but relies on his electric speed to make things happen. Watson (78 receptions, 1,144 yards, 10 touchdowns) is averaging 50.5 yards per scoring strike this season, a bolt of lightning waiting to happen.

Cooks (110 receptions, 1,560 yards, 15 touchdowns) is on pace to break the Pac-12 single-season records for receptions and receiving yards set last season by reigning Biletnikoff recipient Marqise Lee, with the touchdown mark also in sight.

Whoever wins the award honoring the Raiders legend will join a fraternity that includes Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald and Randy Moss.

Jim Thorpe Award

Three senior cornerbacks -- Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard, Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert and Florida State's Lamarcus Joyner -- were announced as finalists for the Jim Thorpe Award, which annually goes to the nation's top defensive back.

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Gilbert (6-0, 200 pounds) was not on the list of 15 semifinalists released Oct. 28. He is tied for fifth in the nation with six interceptions, including two returned for touchdowns. He also has 37 tackles, five pass breakups and a quarterback hurry.

Dennard (5-11, 197) also is a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, which goes to the nation's best defensive player. Dennard, who has accepted an invitation to play in the Senior Bowl, leads the Spartans with four interceptions and seven pass breakups and also has 47 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss. Michigan State leads the nation in total defense and is fourth in total defense.

Joyner (5-8, 190) has one interception and three pass breakups to go with 55 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, five sacks, two quarterback hurries and three forced fumbles. FSU is tied for second in the nation in scoring defense and is fifth in total defense.

Dennard has been the steadiest performer of the three and has the inside track on the award, but Gilbert has received a lot of acclaim of late and also has a strong chance.

The past four Thorpe winners had come from the SEC: Mississippi State cornerback Johnthan Banks in 2012, LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne in 2011, LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson in 2010 and Tennessee free safety Eric Berry in 2009.

A committee of Jim Thorpe Association members picked the finalists. The finalists are submitted to a national panel of more than 50 sports writers, sportscasters, former players and coaches, who vote to determine the winner.

Outland Trophy

Pitt senior defensive tackle Aaron Donald heads the list of three finalists for the Outland Trophy, given annually to the nation's best interior lineman.

The other two finalists are Texas A&M senior offensive tackle Jake Matthews and Baylor senior guard Cyril Richardson.

The other two finalists are better pro prospects than Donald (6-0, 285 pounds), whose size is a concern, but Donald has been dominant and should win the award. He leads the nation with 26 tackles for loss and is within reach of the NCAA's single-season record (32) in the statistic. He is trying to become the first tackle to lead the nation in that category since the stat was instituted in 2000. Donald also is tied for ninth nationally with 10 sacks, and has four forced fumbles.

Matthews (6-5, 305) is in his first season as the Aggies' left tackle. He had played right tackle before changing side to replace Luke Joeckel, who won the Outland last season. Matthews has helped the Aggies rank fourth nationally in total yards and fifth in scoring. He's the son of Pro Football Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews and has two cousins, Clay and Casey, currently in the NFL.

Richardson (6-5, 340) is a road grader when blocking for the run. His blocking is a key reason Baylor is ninth in the nation in rushing and first in scoring offense and total offense.

The Football Writers Association of America votes on the candidates.

Other past winners include Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (2009), Wisconsin offensive tackle Joe Thomas (2006), Miami offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie (2001) and UCLA offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden (1995). Offensive tackles have won the past three Outlands, four of the past five and 10 of the past 15. Suh is the most recent defensive tackle to win, and no guard has won since Nebraska's Aaron Taylor in 1997.

John Mackey Award

Eric Ebron of North Carolina, Nick O'Leary of Florida State and Austin Seferian-Jenkins of Washington are the three finalists for John Mackey Award presented to the top tight end in college football, but combine the stats of any two of them, and it would barely match Jace Amaro of Texas Tech.

Amaro has 92 receptions for 1,157 yards and six touchdowns, ranking seventh in the nation in receptions per game and 10th in receiving yards. But because he plays almost exclusively as a slot receiver in the Red Raiders' spread offense, Amaro was not included on the award's initial watch list, seeming to value in-line play over the junior's unquestionably dynamic receiving skills.

The award takes into account all aspects of a tight end's play, and blocking would seem to be criteria that helped push O'Leary and Seferian-Jenkins into the final three.

Seferian-Jenkins (31 receptions for 361 yards and six touchdowns) has helped block for Huskies running back Bishop Sankey, who ranks fourth in the FBS in rushing yards per game and is a finalist for the Doak Walker Award.

O'Leary, the grandson of golfer Jack Nicklaus, has helped the Seminoles become the second-best scoring offense in the game at 55.2 points per game. The junior has 27 receptions for 457 yards and seven touchdowns.

Ebron (50 receptions for 774 yards and three touchdowns) has already declared for the 2014 NFL Draft, while Seferian-Jenkins, O'Leary and Amaro could well follow.

The winner will be announced Dec. 11, but the award will be presented the following day at the ESPN awards show.

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