CFB Award Predictions: Top 5 Davey O'Brien Award Candidates

Joshua A. Bickel / USA TODAY NETWORK

CFB Award Predictions: Top 5 Davey O'Brien Award Candidates

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CFB Award Predictions: Top 5 Davey O'Brien Award Candidates

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  1. CJ Stroud, Ohio State

There will not be a more prolific offense in college football than the Ohio State Buckeyes. CJ Stroud is an elite quarterback, but the situation around him elevates him to be the betting favorite to win the Heisman Trophy. Head coach Ryan Day has proven himself as a passing game guru. Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Marvin Harrison Jr, and Treveyon Henderson lead the best supporting cast in the country. Those weapons paired with a hyper-efficient quarterback like Stroud (186 rating in 2021, second best in FBS) make the Buckeye offense unstoppable. Stroud is sure to have massive numbers on a national championship contender which is the perfect recipe for awards season success.

Joshua A. Bickel / USA TODAY NETWORK

  1. Bryce Young, Alabama

The 2021 Heisman winner is back with a reloaded Alabama offense. The Crimson Tide lost their top two receivers Jameson Williams and John Metchie to the NFL but added transfer Jermaine Burton and Tyler Harrell. They also brought in Georgia Tech transfer Jahmyr Gibbs at running back who projects as an electric pass catcher out of the backfield. It will be difficult to replicate his 4,872-yard, 47-touchdown 2021 season (each second in the FBS), but Young should not miss a beat with his new receiving corps. If he can continue to produce at a top-five level and position the Tide as national title favorites, Young could become the first two-time Davey O’Brien winner in the award’s 40-year history.

  1. Caleb Williams, USC

Caleb Williams following Lincoln Riley from the Oklahoma Sooners to the USC Trojans was by far the biggest quarterback storyline of the off-season. The former five-star recruit emerged onto the scene in the Sooners’ comeback win in the Red River Rivalry and never looked back. There were some ups and downs as expected with a freshman signal caller, but the ups were very, very promising. Look no further than the Texas Tech game where he threw for over 400 yards and six touchdowns. The Trojans are stocked up with weapons, adding Williams’ Oklahoma teammate Mario Williams and reigning Biletnikoff Award winner Jordan Addison in the transfer portal. USC has expectations to compete for the college football playoff and make an unprecedented one-year turnaround. That is only possible if Williams has an elite season. Lincoln Riley has produced two of the last five Davey O’Brien winners and Williams has more than enough talent to add his name to that list.

  1. Tyler Van Dyke, Miami

Tyler Van Dyke took the reins in week four of 2021 for the Miami Hurricanes and demonstrated superstar ability. He was one of the best deep ball passers in the nation with the third highest average passing yards per completion and the second highest PFF big-time throw rate in the Power Five. The Hurricanes retain eight starters on the offensive side of the ball including four offensive linemen, wide receiver Key’Shawn Smith, and star tight end Will Mallory. The team also added a pair of electric playmakers from the transfer portal in former Clemson wideout Frank Ladson Jr and Ole Miss running back Henry Parrish Jr. Miami’s biggest addition on offense comes in the form of 2021 Broyles Award winner Josh Gattis joining Mario Cristobal’s coaching staff as the new offensive coordinator. Gattis leaned on the run game during his stint at Michigan, but he’s actually spent most of his career as a passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach. Gattis is going to play to the strengths of his roster, and the Hurricanes are built to feast through their air attack. Van Dyke is a likely breakout candidate that can vault himself to being a potential top-ten NFL draft pick with a strong season. That kind of leap in addition to a return to glory for “The U” would make him an appealing awards candidate.

  1. Hendon Hooker, Tennessee

Kenny Pickett surprised many when he led the Pittsburgh Panthers to an 11-win season, was a Davey O’Brien Award finalist, and became a first-round NFL draft choice. I think Tennessee Volunteer Hendon Hooker could have a similar season. He was very efficient in 2021 but did not have the volume stats to be seen as a legit awards contender. That could change in year two with Josh Heupel’s offense that relies on big plays. Hooker’s number one target Cedric Tillman also returns, and the two make up one of the best tandems in college football. Some believe that the Volunteers are sleeper contenders in the SEC and a potential 10-win team, and that is entirely contingent on Hooker’s play. While I’m not quite that high on Tennessee, I do believe that Hooker will elevate this team to its best season since the peak of the Butch Jones era (back-to-back nine-win seasons in 2015-16). If that happens Hooker will be very much in the race for awards like the Davey O’Brien.

Honorable Mentions:

Quinn Ewers, Texas

Clayton Tune, Houston

Grayson McCall, Coastal Carolina

Jake Haener, Fresno State

Will Levis, Kentucky



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