Which Ducks are in the national spotlight?
Heading into any new sports year, one thing that we all love to do is make predictions.
Who will win the big games, where will each team rank and who will bring home each individual award by the end of the 2012 college football season?
College football is full of prestigious recognitions, and the Oregon Ducks have plenty of players worth noting at this point in the preseason.
As we anxiously await the start of the season, here is a look at which Ducks are receiving attention, and the most coveted awards for which they’ll be competing throughout the 2012 year:
Award: Maxwell Award
The Maxwell Award is given to the country’s best college football player, and Kenjon Barner has been added to the watch list for the prestigious award.
Barner, who has been a backup to LaMichael James thus far in his Oregon career, could be set for a breakout season.
Rushing for 11 touchdowns and nearly 1,000 yards behind LaMichael James last season, Barner could step into the starting spot and show the nation that he deserves to be considered one of the best that the game has to offer.
Barner is also up for the Doak Walker Award, which is given to the nation’s top running back each season.
Award: Heisman Trophy
The Heisman Trophy is awarded to college football’s most outstanding player, and if Oregon fans learned anything from De’Anthony Thomas’ freshman campaign, it’s that the Black Mamba is flat-out outstanding.
At just 5’9”, 173 pounds, the all-purpose player can make a difference in the running, receiving and kick-returning game, all while putting together a highlight-reel worthy performance week in and week out.
The Oregon Ducks have never had a Heisman winner, but Thomas gives the program a legitimate chance of changing that in the next two seasons.
Thomas is also being considered for the Maxwell Award and the Walter Camp Award, which is given to the Player of the Year through the Walter Camp Football Foundation.
Award: Outland Trophy
The Outland Trophy is given each season to the nation’s best interior lineman, and Carson York has been one of the most crucial pieces on the Ducks’ offensive line in recent history.
York could very well prove to be one of the best at his position this season, but a gruesome knee injury from last year’s Rose Bowl could prove to slow him down.
York is also up for the Rotary Lombardi Trophy, which is given to the nation’s top lineman or linebacker.
Award: Bednarik Award
The Bednarik Award is given to college football’s defensive player of the year by the Maxwell Football Club, and Dion Jordan is one of nine Pac-12 players to be added to the preseason watch list.
The list has 65 original candidates, so the competition will be stiff, but Jordan could make a name for himself in his senior season.
At 6’7”, 241 pounds, Jordan was an All-Pac-12 First Team member last year with a team-leading 13.0 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks.
Jordan is also up for the Rotary Lombardi Award and the Bronko Nagurski Award, which is given to the top defensive player in college football as decided by the Football Writers Association of America.
Award: Bednarik Award
John Boyett has led the Oregon Ducks in tackles two of the last three seasons and will provide senior leadership on the defensive side of the ball next year.
He is a gritty defender who is coming off a career high 17 tackles in last season’s Rose Bowl.
Boyett is also up for the Bronko Nagurski award and the Jim Thorpe Award, which is given to the nation’s top defensive back.
Award: Rotary Lombardi Trophy
Michael Clay was the Ducks’ second-leading tackler last season and has a chance to take home the Rotary Lombardi Trophy in 2013.
Another senior on the Oregon defense, Clay will bring experience and leadership to the team next season.
Players have been put on the watch list based on a number of critera, including: All-American honors last season, All-Conference First Team last season and All-American or First Team All-Conference projection for 2012.
Award: Rimington Trophy
The Rimmington Trophy is awarded to the nation’s best center, and as just a sophomore, Hroniss Grasu has had his name added to the preseason watch list.
Grasu started 14 games at center last year, and was part of an offensive group that was third in the country in scoring and fifth in rushing.
As just a sophomore, Grasu will be going up against more experienced players for the prize, but if he can remain healthy and productive on the line, he could make a run at the award by the time his career at Oregon comes to an end.
Award: Ray Guy Award
The Ray Guy award is given each season to the nation’s top punter, and Jackson Rice will make a serious run at claiming the award next year.
His talent isn’t always on display in Eugene, as Oregon’s offense does a tremendous job of keeping him off the field.
That being said, when he gets his chance, he shows opponents just how valuable he is.
His 45.9 yards per kick last season led the Pac-12—and was sixth in the nation—but having only punted the ball 48 times, he didn’t qualify for the individual acknowledgement.
The Ray Guy Award is given based on net average, percentage of punts inside 20 yards and percentage of punts not returned.
Jackson will be a four-year starter in 2012, and he should be able to make a mark on each of the awards benchmarks no matter how often he sees the field next season.