The waiting, the boredom and the seemingly endless offseason is almost over now. The clearest signals yet have arrived, as college football watch lists are starting to pop up every day as training camps get set to open across the country. To embrace this part of the calendar, Lettermen Row is looking at the awards as Ohio State players are tabbed as projected candidates and handicapping the chances of that hardware being displaying in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. First up: The Maxwell Award.
What is it: College player of the year
Who is up for it: Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa and running back J.K. Dobbins
Bosa credentials: Coming into the season, there is perhaps no defensive player in the country with better name recognition than Bosa. He’s been every bit as good as advertised when he decided to follow his older brother Joey to Ohio State, continuing the family’s rich tradition and now setting himself up as a potential No. 1 overall draft pick next spring. The reigning Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year is almost certainly going to add to his personal trophy collection this season before jumping to the NFL.
Dobbins credentials: A breakout sensation for the Buckeyes last year, Dobbins now has even higher expectations as he prepares for an encore performance this season. The Texas native set a school record for rushing yards by a freshman last season with 1,403 to go with his 8 touchdowns, and Dobbins should be getting the football even more often as the Ohio State offense transitions away from the J.T. Barrett Era. If Dobbins takes an expected step forward as a sophomore, look out.
Chances of a Bosa win: The Maxwell Award has honored defensive players in the past, including a recent win for linebacker Manti Te’o in 2012. That opening is at least wider than the one for the Heisman Trophy, another that is supposed to honor the nation’s best player but somehow always winds up going to somebody on offense. If Bosa winds up playing like the top prospect for next year’s NFL Draft, he should be a viable candidate for this trophy. So, let’s call Bosa a legitimate finalist to win.
Chances of a Dobbins win: There is no disputing the talent Dobbins brings to the position, and his numbers should get a boost this season without Barrett around to eat into his rushing attempts. But there are a couple complicating factors in his bid for individual awards this season, starting with sharing the workload with Mike Weber. The Buckeyes are blessed with depth in the backfield, but that might wind up keeping either from truly standing out on the national stage — which shouldn’t bother a couple guys who could use that arrangement to stay fresh and compete for a championship. The other factor might be the rise of Dwayne Haskins, which could make him a potential candidate for awards like this down the stretch as well. For Dobbins, then, it might be wiser to play it safe and consider him as a semifinalist.