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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.)

LSU lands commitment from nation’s No. 1 cornerback

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LSU rarely loses a player it wants out of Louisiana. Now add in that said player isn’t just from Louisiana, but lives in Baton Rouge. Now add in that he’s regarded as the No. 1 player at his position. Yeah, this kid was never going anywhere else.

Derek Stingley, Jr., committed to LSU on Wednesday, beating out Texas and Florida.

Rivals ranks Stingley as the No. 1 corner and No. 1 overall player in its 2019 rankings. Stingley stands as the No. 1 corner and the No. 8 overall player on the 247Sports ratings. ESPN is more bullish on Stingley, slotting him as just the No. 3 cornerback and the No. 67 overall player. (247Sports lists Lewis Center, Ohio, defensive end Zach Harrison as its No. 1 overall player, while ESPN favors Westlake Village, Calif., defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux.)

Stingley was previously committed to LSU, but de-committed to take his time and make an informed decision. All that information led him to the exact same conclusion.

“There are a lot of reasons I love LSU, but the main thing is coach Corey Raymond. We have built a strong relationship over a long period of time. We have really gotten to know each other. I am relaxed around him, we can talk about anything and I know he will be there for me at any time. Our connection is what really pushed LSU to the top,” he told Rivals. “This commitment is completely different. I took my time. I put more time into it and really looked at other schools. I got caught up in the hype before and I did not know anything about recruiting or other schools. I know all I need to know now and LSU is the school for me. I am done now and I will not visit any other schools.”

LSU’s 13-man class is rated No. 10 nationally in the 247Sports Composite rankings.

Vanderbilt transfer DL Rutger Reitmaier receives all-clear from NCAA

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Vanderbilt got some good news Wednesday when the NCAA approved transfer Rutger Reitmaier to compete this fall.

The Nashville native signed with Oregon out of high school in 2017 but did not compete for the Ducks. He left the team after spring practice, sat out the 2017 season and enrolled at Vanderbilt in January.

“Adding Rutger to our roster is huge,” head coach Derek Mason told Vanderbilt’s official site. “He adds depth, athleticism and will be a key piece for us. I’m excited about what an impactful player he is, and it’s great to add another quality player from Nashville.”

A 4-star recruit, Reitmaier was recruited by the likes of Tennessee, Ole Miss and South Carolina, but favored Vanderbilt when leaving Oregon.

“Vanderbilt was the first school I considered after deciding to leave Oregon,” he said. “It was one of my top-three schools during my initial recruitment in high school. Defense wins championships, so having a head coach like Coach Mason with that background was attractive for me. I’m excited to get going.”

 

Northwestern announces slew of schedule changes, including future home-and-homes with Tulane and Rice

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Northwestern claims they have the best home schedule in the country for the upcoming 2018 season and they have a pretty good case with Duke, Akron, Michigan, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Notre Dame all coming to Ryan Field. Based on the latest moves on their future schedules however, that good run of big names doesn’t quite continue.

The school announced a slew of new games in the coming years on Wednesday, including a pair of home-and-homes with AAC and CUSA opponents. First up is a date with Tulane in Evanston on Sept. 12, 2020, followed by a return game in New Orleans on Aug. 30, 2025. As a result of that first game against the Green Wave, the Wildcats had to move their previously scheduled contest against Central Michigan from Sept. 12 to Sept. 19 in 2020 (also at home).

Another school in the South was also added to the NU docket with a second home-and-home series with Rice way out in the future. The pair will play in Houston on Sept. 8, 2029, while the return game at Ryan Field is set for Sept. 6… 2031. Yeah, 2031. The two teams will also meet in 2024 and 2025.

A single home game against FCS power South Dakota State was also announced by Northwestern and will be played on Sept. 12, 2026.

The moves mean the Wildcats’ non-conference slate is pretty much set in 2019 (at Stanford, vs. UNLV and UMass), 2022 (vs. Duke, Miami (OH) and Southern Illinois) and 2024 (vs. Duke, Miami (OH) and Rice). The games announced Wednesday fill in some of the holes left in other years but outside of the trip to the Farm next season and a home-and-home with Colorado in 2026/27, there’s not a ton to write home about.

At least Northwestern will always have that 2018 home schedule to point to.

NCAA data shows number of graduate transfers in football nearly doubled last year

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The biggest issue the NCAA is tackling at the moment is an easy one to pick out: transfers. Coaches have chimed in about potential changes and new rules have been enacted but even as we approach the Media Days portion of the calendar next month, transfer talk has been one of the hot topics across all major sports at the collegiate level.

Perhaps that interest is one reason why the NCAA released a new study this week looking into the numbers of one particular category of players: graduate transfers. While the number of actual graduate transfers remains relatively low (about 1% of the total number of student-athletes), the number itself continues to skyrocket year-by-year as more and more players take advantage of rules that allow them to graduate and play immediately at their next school.

According to the NCAA, that number of grad transfers is five times bigger in 2017 than it was in 2011 for men’s sports alone and football in particular saw the number of players moving around nearly double from 117 total in 2016 to 211 the following season. The rates are higher in men’s basketball but the overall number is naturally much bigger in football given the vastly bigger roster size.

Data for 2018 was naturally not made available since we’re just in the middle of the year but a similar increase wouldn’t be too surprising to see given the number of big names that have made headlines prior to the upcoming season. That includes players like Michigan’s Wilton Speight (to UCLA), Cal’s Tre Watson (to Texas), Notre Dame’s Jay Hayes (to Georgia) and Alabama’s Brandon Kennedy (to Tennessee) all among those taking the grad transfer route. It seems like nearly every week we see one or two players announce their intentions to take a similar path.

While we might not have 400+ players listed as graduate transfers in football when 2018 comes to a close, it certainly doesn’t appear that this trend will be slowing down anytime soon and the coaches that are complaining about this brand of “free agency” in college football will just have to get used to the new reality of player movement in light of a number of new NCAA reforms on the subject.