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Baker Mayfield cleans up at Home Depot College Football Awards

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Thursday night was a veritable smorgasbord of awards as ESPN shone a bright spotlight on a who’s who of the 2017 college football season.

At the 27th annual Home Depot College Football Awards show, originating again this year from the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, more than a dozen awards were handed out on the night. Arguably the highlight of the night — outside of the awarding of the Disney Spirit Award that for some reason made the room extremely dusty — was the announcement of the winner of the prestigious Walter Camp Player of the Year honor, and that came in the “pregame” show.

Last year’s winner, Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, was seeking to become just the fourth two-time winner of the award, joining USC’s O.J. Simpson, 1967-68; Ohio State’s Archie Griffin, 1974-75; and Texas’ Colt McCoy, 2008-09.  It wasn’t to be, however, as Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield became the fourth Sooner and first since Josh Heupel in 2000 to win the acclaimed honor.

Mayfield wasn’t done there, however, as he also took home the equally prestigious Maxwell Award, which dates back to 1937 and goes to the top player in college football, as well as the Davey O’Brien Award, given out annually to the nation’s best quarterback since 1981.  Just as he wasn’t done after he won the Camp Award, he’s likely not done collecting hardware as he’s the overwhelming favorite to take home the Heisman Trophy Saturday night.

Some additional tidbits — and one must-watch video — from the night before getting on to the full roster of winners:

  • Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick became the third player to win the Bednarik and Thorpe Awards in the same year, joining Michigan’s Charles Woodson and LSU’s Patrick Peterson.
  • Houston’s Ed Oliver became the first defensive player (Pitt’s Aaron Donald) to win the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top interior lineman since 2013 and just the sixth in the last 24 years.  All six of those players were defensive tackles; the last nose tackle to win the honor was Arizona’s Rob Waldrop in 1993.
  • Ohio State has won the last two Rimington Awards for nation’s best center — Billy Price this season, Pat Elflein last year.
  • Auburn’s Daniel Carlson was a three-time finalist for the Lou Groza Award, and ends his collegiate career as a three-time non-winner as Matt Gay of Utah took home the honor for the nation’s top kicker.  Gay is the third straight kicker from the Pac-12 — Arizona State’s Zane Gonzalez last season, UCLA’s Ka’imi Fairbairn in 2015 — to win the Groza.  The junior, who walked on to the team in summer camp this year before earning a scholarship in October, is the first Ute to win the award.
  • Four consecutive Australians have won the Ray Guy Award for the nation’s best punter.  Texas’ Michael Dickson is the latest, joining Utah’s Tom Hackett in 2014 and 2015 and Utah’s Mitch Wishnowsky in 2016.  Wishnowsky nearly made it four in a row for the Utes as he was a finalist for this year’s award.
  • With James Washington‘s win, Oklahoma State has now claimed three Biletnikoff Awards, the most of any school since it was first presented in 1994.  Just two Cowboys won those awards, though, as Justin Blackmon became the only player to win twice when he grabbed back-to-back Biletnikoffs in 2010-11.

Below are all the awards that were presented on the evening, with the full acknowledgment that a couple of the winners have previously been announced.

(Winners are in bold, listed along with the rest of the finalists)

WALTER CAMP PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Saquon Barkley, Penn State (Jr.)
Lamar Jackson, Louisville (Jr.)
Bryce Love, Stanford (Jr.)
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma (Sr.)
Rashaad Penny, San Diego State (Sr.)

MAXWELL AWARD
(Player of the Year)
Saquon Barkley, Penn State (Jr.)
Bryce Love, Stanford (Jr.)
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma (Sr.)

CHUCK BEDNARIK AWARD
(Defensive Player of the Year)
Bradley Chubb, NC State (Sr.)
Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama (Jr.)
Roquan Smith, Georgia (Jr. )

FRED BILETNIKOFF AWARD
(Outstanding Receiver)
Michael Gallup, Colorado State (Sr.)
David Sills V, West Virginia (Jr.)
James Washington, Oklahoma State (Sr.)

LOU GROZA AWARD
(Outstanding Placekicker)
Daniel Carlson, Auburn (Sr.)
Dominik Eberle, Utah State (So.)
Matt Gay, Utah (Jr.)

RAY GUY AWARD
(Punter of the Year)
Michael Dickson, Texas (Jr.)
JK Scott, Alabama (Sr.)
Mitch Wishnowsky, Utah (Jr.)

DAVEY O’BRIEN AWARD
(Best Quarterback)
J.T. Barrett, Ohio State (Sr.)
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma (Sr.)
Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State (Sr.)

OUTLAND TROPHY
(Most Outstanding Interior Lineman)
Orlando Brown, Oklahoma (Jr.)
Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame (Sr.)
Ed Oliver, Houston (So.)

JIM THORPE AWARD
(Best Defensive Back)
DeShon Elliott, Texas (Jr.)
Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama (Jr.)
Josh Jackson, Iowa (Jr.)

DOAK WALKER AWARD
(Best Running Back)
Saquon Barkley, Penn State (Jr.)
Bryce Love, Stanford (Jr.)
Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin (Fr.)

JOHN MACKEY AWARD
(Best Tight End)
Mark Andrews, Oklahoma (Jr.)
Troy Fumagalli, Wisconsin (Sr.)
Mike Gesicki, Penn State (Sr.)

RIMINGTON TROPHY
(Best center)
Bradley Bozeman, Alabama (Sr.)
Will Clapp, LSU (Jr.)
Billy Price, Ohio State (Sr.)

HOME DEPOT COACH OF THE YEAR
Scott Frost, UCF

WUERFFEL TROPHY
(Community Service)
Blaise Taylor, Arkansas State (Sr.)
Courtney Love, Kentucky (Sr.)
Drue Tranquill, Notre Dame (Sr.)

Illinois lands former USC WR Josh Imatorbhebhe

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The Los Angeles-to-Champaign pipeline is alive and well.

After landing wide receiver Trevon Sidney and defensive end Oluwole Betiku, Jr., the Fighting Illini have added wide receiver Josh Imatorbhebhe, he announced Monday.

“Transitions are never easy, but the support has definitely helped lighten the load,” Imatorbhebhe, No. 17 above, wrote in an iPhone note posted to his Twitter account. “Without further ado I’m pleased to announce my commitment to…

THE University of Illinois; with a plan to get my Masters (sic) in Strategic Brand Communications.”

A former 4-star recruit in the class of 2016 out of Suwanee, Ga., Imatorbehbhe redshirted in his first year on campus, then caught just two passes in his two seasons on the active roster, with his 2018 season slowed by an ankle injury.

Imatorbehbhe will have two seasons to play immediately for the Illini.

Trevor Lawrence once again says he has no desire to skip bowl games to protect NFL stock

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The trend of college football players with the NFL coming into view has become a growing one the last few seasons, but Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence says you won’t have to worry about missing him in a postseason bowl game.

“Sitting out bowl games and stuff, that’ll never be me,” Lawrence said in an interview with ESPN. “You won’t have to worry about writing those stories.”

This quote is nothing new from Lawrence. In March, Lawrence stressed a similar stance with regard to sitting out of college football bowl games to protect NFL draft stock.

From The Athletic‘s Grace Raynor in March:

Asked specifically if he would consider sitting out in an effort to protect his health for an NFL future, the Georgia native answered with two resounding “No’s.” That’s not in the cards, he says.

“Everyone’s talking about that, but I don’t really care about that,” Lawrence said Monday evening in his first public interview since the College Football Playoff.

“It’s definitely not coming from me, all that stuff, so (I’ll) just kind of ignore it. Just keep working.

Of course, there is something that needs to be pointed out here. A large majority of the players choosing to skip bowl games aren’t playing in the College Football Playoff and a national championship. While New Years Six bowl games are high in prestige even if not in the playoff rotation, they simply are not the same as playing in the playoff with a national title in sight.

Lawrence has played for and won the national championship in his freshman season and probably has two more seasons that could see Clemson continue to compete for a playoff spot. If Clemson is in the playoff the next two (or three years), the chances Lawrence skips a bowl game are reduced significantly.

Maybe Lawrence is just confident in Clemson’s ability to make the playoff the next couple of seasons. He’s not wrong though, right?

Syracuse seeing spike in football season ticket sales

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Dino Babers had Syracuse enjoying a 10-win season for the first time since 2001 last season. Fans of the Orange have had their enthusiasm for the football program rejuvenated and it shows in the season ticket sales this offseason.

According to a report from Syracuse.com, Syracuse has recorded 4,500 more season ticket sales this year than the school saw all of last year. To date, as of Friday, Syracuse has sold 6,800 season tickets for the 2019 season as the total inches closer and closet to a possible school record (8,000).

On top of the increased season ticket sales, Syracuse is also seeing a great retention rate through season ticket renewals. Syracuse has seen over 90 percent of season ticket holders renew their ticket packages for the 2019 season.

Syracuse ended the 2018 season ranked No. 15 in the final AP poll. IT is the highest Syracuse has ended a season in the AP Top 25 since the 2001 season (No. 14). Babers also ended Syracuse’s bowl drought in style by coaching Syracuse to a Camping World Victory in Syracuse’s first bowl game since 2013.

Syracuse opens the 2019 season on the road at Liberty on Aug. 31.

Auburn four-star linebacker Richard Jibunor enters transfer portal

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The transfer portal never takes a day off in college football. Auburn linebacker Richard Jibunor is one of the latest players to add his name to the list. Matt Zenitz of Al.com reported the transfer portal news, via Twitter.

Coincidentally enough, Auburn received a commitment from a four-star linebacker yesterday (Cameron Riley), but you can make your own guess as to whether those two developments were related in any way. Regardless, Auburn is still potentially about to lose a linebacker off the roster.

A player is free to make contact with any other football program looking to recruit him once his name is officially added to the NCAA’s transfer portal. But adding a name to the portal doesn’t necessarily mean this is the end of the line for Jibunor at Auburn, because a player can always take their name out of the portal and decide to stay with their current program. However, Auburn also has the option of dropping Jibunor from his scholarship now that he is in the transfer portal.

Jibunor was a four-star recruit in Auburn’s Class of 2018. As a true freshman last season, Jibunor appeared in 10 games and recorded eight tackles and two sacks. He also forced a fumble for the Tigers defense. The Athens, Georgia native chose Auburn, who seemingly had the lead in his recruiting for a while. He committed to the Tiger sin Nov. 2017 after two previous unofficial visits earlier in the 2017 season.

Jibunor will have to sit out the 2019 season if he transfers to another FBS program unless there is a waiver approval in the works with the NCAA offices. There is no suggestion at this time that is an option in play. Jibunor still has a redshirt to burn, so he will still have three years of eligibility to use beginning in 2020.