Heel Tough Blog: Which Tar Heel Semifinalist Has the Best Chance to Take Home an Award?
Many of college football’s most prestigious awards announced their watch lists on Monday and the Tar Heels four guys who are finalists for a total of five awards. Dyami Brown and Chazz Surratt both ended up on one semifinal list each, while Sam Howell and Javonte Williams remain in the running for both individual position awards and a prestigious award that is given to the best player in college football. We give you a look at which of these finalists have the best chance to take home the award as we rank them from least likely to most likely.
5. Biletnikoff Award
Finalist: Dyami Brown
Case for Brown: It has been another strong season for Brown, as he has become known as one of the nation’s top deep threats. His 932 receiving yards are currently the most in the ACC this season and tenth in all of college football. His eight receiving touchdowns also rank second in the ACC, trailing only Boston College’s Zay Flowers. He is just 68 yards and two touchdowns away from his second straight 1,000 yard, double-digit touchdown season.
Outlook: Brown has had another great season and looks well on his way to earning first team All-ACC honors, but this is a tough task. With heavy-hitters like DeVonta Smith and Kyle Pitts headlining the group of favorites, it seems highly unlikely that Brown will be able to take home the award.
4. Maxwell Award
Finalists: Sam Howell and Javonte Williams
Case for Howell: Howell has followed his phenomenal freshman season with another one of the most efficient seasons in program history. He is currently top five in the country in passing yards, passing touchdowns and total touchdowns and leads the ACC in nearly every major passing category. He has also helped put the Tar Heels on the doorstep of playing for the Orange Bowl for the first time in program history.
Case for Williams: Williams has simply had an amazing season so far this year and he has done it all while sharing with another who ranks near the top of the country in many categories, as well. He is currently 9th in the nation in yards from scrimmage this season, but the best argument for Williams is his touchdown numbers. His 16 rushing touchdowns are third in the nation while his 19 total touchdowns are second in all of college football amongst non-quarterbacks trailing only Alabama running back Najee Harris, who just overtook him in that category this past weekend.
Outlook: This award is usually one that goes hand-in-hand with the Heisman Trophy, especially in recent years where five of the last six winners of the award have also taken home college football’s most prestigious award. At the minimum, you typically have to be inside of the top three in the Heisman in the last thirty seasons, as just one winner in the thirty years didn’t finish in the top three of the Heisman voting the year they won the award. Right now, neither Howell nor Williams seem to be that high up on many Heisman ballots, so it seems highly unlikely that either will take home the award.
3. Lott IMPACT Trophy
Finalist: Chazz Surratt
Case for Surratt: Surratt hasn’t had quite the season that he did a year ago, but there is still a case for him to be the ACC Defensive Player of the Year. Surratt’s 81 total tackles rank sixth in the conference, while his 6.0 sacks are tied for eighth and tied for the most among linebackers in the conference. He has also intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble this season as he continues to show just how complete of a player he really is.
Outlook: This is an award that has been won by a conference defensive player of the year in each of the last five seasons, so that is usually a solid gage of who the finalists for the award will be. While we can’t rule it out that Surratt could be named ACC DPOY, he hasn’t been able to even duplicate the numbers that he did a year ago, but the defensive numbers around college football as a whole have suffered a bit. Still, the chances of him winning this award doesn’t seem promising at this point.
2. Davey O’Brien Award
Finalist: Sam Howell
Case for Howell: As we mentioned above, Howell has quietly had one of the more successful seasons in all of college football. He is currently top five in the country in passing yards, passing touchdowns and total touchdowns and leads the ACC in nearly every major passing category. He also possesses the top quarterback ratings in the ACC, one that ranks inside the top ten nationally.
Outlook: With the Heisman basically turning into a quarterback award in recent years, this is another award that is usually just a preview of the Heisman Trophy. Media darlings like Kyle Trask, Zach Wilson and Mac Jones will headline the favorites here and unless he has an unreal game Saturday against Miami, it just doesn’t seem that Howell is seen at the same level as those guys.
1. Doak Walker Award
Finalist: Javonte Williams
Case for Williams: There is a reason why Pro Football Focus grades Williams out as the best running back in college football this year. As we talked about above, he is currently 9th in the nation in yards from scrimmage this season and his 19 total touchdowns are second in all of college football amongst non-quarterbacks. Not only is that the case, but his 6.7 yards per carry are third amongst the award’s semifinalists and the best amongst the three running backs that have more than 16 total touchdowns.
Outlook: Not only is this the best chance that a Tar Heel has of winning an award this season, but he has a legitimate shot at taking this home. Both Najee Harris and Breece Hall have put together strong seasons of the early starters and both Mohamed Ibrahim and Jemar Jefferson have come on strong in the group of later starters. However, the best all-around case might lie with Williams at this point and it would be a shocker if he wasn’t at least named a finalist.