Alabama Football News
football Edit

Alabama looks to dominate awards lists again in 2020

Alabama receiver Jaylen Waddle is one the Crimson Tide's award hopefuls in 2020 (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Alabama receiver Jaylen Waddle is one the Crimson Tide's award hopefuls in 2020 (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

Surprise, surprise Alabama Crimson Tide players took up 20 spots on the major preseason award watch lists for offensive and defensive players.

Over the last five years, the Crimson Tide has typically placed 18.4 guys on those watch lists on average.

So it’s obvious this group has the usual talent and the respect of the country, but does recent history tell us anything about how Alabama might finish when it’s time to hand out the awards themselves?

Mike Farrell Q&A

Crimson Tide Nuggets

Mims changes commitment date

Maxwell (Best player)

2020 Watch list:
Jaylen Waddle
Najee Harris
DeVonta Smith

Recent Winners:
Tua Tagovailoa (2018)
Derrick Henry (2015)

Takeaway: The Maxwell favors quarterbacks about as much as the Heisman Trophy. Six non-quarterbacks have finished inside the top three since Henry won it in 2015 while only four non-quarterbacks placed that well on Heisman ballots. None of the six were receivers.

Maxwell voters seem to favor Alabama to some degree. They gave the award to Tagovailoa in 2018 and AJ McCarron 2013 when the Heisman voters selected Kyler Murray and Jameis Winston, respectively. However, Maxwell voters picked former Texas quarterback Colt McCoy over Mark Ingram in 2009.

Bednarik (Best defender)

2020 Watch list:
Dylan Moses
Patrick Surtain

Recent winners:
Minkah Fitzpatrick (2017)
Jonathan Allen (2016)

Other recent finalists:
Quinnen Williams (2018)
Reggie Ragland (2015)

Takeaway: Last season snapped a four-year streak of Alabama finalists for the prestigious award. Just another thing that might have been different had Moses been able to suit up.

The Crimson Tide’s recent dominance (two winners and two finalists) over the last five years is made more remarkable by the fact that Clemson is the only other program to have two finalists and neither of them won.


  Biletnikoff (WR)  

2020 Watch list:
DeVonta Smith
Jaylen Waddle

Recent Winners:
Jerry Jeudy (2018)

Takeaways: Jeudy lacked some of the raw totals other recent winners had. He caught 59 passes for 1,103 yards and 12 scores when he won. The other four recent winners averaged 72.5 receptions, 1,437 yards and three of them hauled in at least 16 touchdowns.

Smith recorded 65 receptions, 1,200 yards and 13 touchdowns in the regular season last year. So that’s pretty close to the territory he or Waddle likely need to be in this season.

Bronko Nagurski (best defender)

2020 Watch list:
Dylan Moses
Patrick Surtain
LaBryan Ray

Recent winners:
Jonathan Allen (2016)

Other finalists:
Quinnen Williams (2018)
Minkah Fitzpatrick (2017)
Reuben Foster (2016)
Reggie Ragland (2015)

Takeaway: As with the Bednarik, it’s easy to imagine Alabama’s streak of finalists remaining intact if Moses plays in 2019. The only other noteworthy difference between the two lists is that even though Fitzpatrick didn’t win this in 2017, Alabama did place an extra player on the 2016 finalist list when Foster qualified alongside eventual winner Jonathan Allen.

Doak Walker (RB)

2020 Watch list:
Najee Harris

Recent Winners:
Derrick Henry (2015)

Takeaways: All of the last five winners recorded more than 1,900 rushing yards, averaged at least 6.3 yards per carry and scored 15-plus touchdowns. Four of them touched the ball at least 288 times.

Even I don’t expect Harris to get that workload so efficiency will be key if Harris is going to make a strong case. Last season he finished the regular season with 1,088 rushing yards, 18 total touchdowns all while averaging 5.88 yards per carry.

His work in the passing game should give him his best chance to stand out. He caught 27 passes for 304 yards and seven of his scores. Wisconsin back Jonathan Taylor caught 24 passes last year for 209 yards and five touchdowns. None of the other recent winners topped 100 yards receiving or scored a touchdown through the air.

Former Alabama running back Derrick Henry is the last Doak Award winner to also claim the Heisman Trophy (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images).
Former Alabama running back Derrick Henry is the last Doak Award winner to also claim the Heisman Trophy (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images).

Outland (Interior Lineman)

2020 Watch list:
Alex Leatherwood
Landon Dickerson
LaBryan Ray
Deonte Brown

Recent Winners:
Quinnen Williams (2018)
Cam Robinson (2016)

Recent Finalists:
Jonah Williams (2018)
A’Shawn Robinson (2015)

Takeaway: Alabama placed four guys on the preseason watch list for the first time since 2015, but this time three of those guys line up on offense. This watch list just provides further confirmation that this will likely be a very stout Alabama offensive line. That collective unit could be in for some recognition when award season rolls around.

Quinnen Williams is the only defensive player to ever win the award in the program’s history so one of those three guys should be the Crimson Tide’s best bet. Alex Leatherwood seems like the early favorite. It’s no coincidence that he, Jonah Williams and Cam Robinson are the only three to appear on the watch list more than once during this stretch.

Butkus (LB)

2020 Watch list:
Dylan Moses
Shane Lee

Recent Winners:
Reuben Foster (2016)

Other finalists:
Reggie Ragland (2015)

Takeaways: For the first time since 2017, Alabama doesn’t have at least three defenders on the watch list. Moses’ third-consecutive appearance on the preseason list is noteworthy, but I think many agree his college career likely would have ended months ago if not for his preseason injury.

Davey O'Brien (QB)

2020 Watch list:
Mac Jones

Recent finalists:
Tua Tagovailoa (2018)

Takeaway: The last three Davey O’Brien winners also hoisted the Heisman Trophy. Jones’ odds were 25-1 to win the Heisman back in June. He has the weapons around him to succeed and he did complete 71.4 percent of his passes for 1,172 yards and 13 touchdowns with two interceptions over his four starts.

Still, it’s tough to imagine Jones cementing himself as the best quarterback in the country without a full offseason with the team. If Tagovailoa couldn’t win the Davey O’Brien in 2018 then I don’t see a true path for Jones this season. Even if Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State’s Justin Fields don’t get it done, someone else will emerge.


Jim Thorpe (DB)

2020 Watch list:
Patrick Surtain

Recent winners:
Minkah Fitzpatrick (2017)

Takeaways: Fitzpatrick recorded 52 tackles, 33 solo tackles, six tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, one interception and one forced fumble when he won.Those numbers hardly speak to Fitzpatrick’s impact on that defense, but it’s a start.

Surtain finished the regular season last year with 35 tackles, 29 solo tackles, one tackle for loss, two interceptions and three forced fumbles. He certainly seems to have the talent, but Surtain still has quite the leap to make if he’s going to put himself in the conversation to follow Fitzpatrick’s footsteps and bring this award home to Tuscaloosa.


Mackey (TE)

2020 Watch list:
Carl Tucker

Finalists:
OJ Howard (2016)

Takeaway: Good tight ends do a lot more than catch, but let’s be honest and recognize the flashy ones tend to win the awards more often than not.

Howard only had 37 receptions for 445 yards and two scores when he fell short. Michigan tight end Jake Butts caught 43 passes for 518 yards and four touchdowns when he won that season. The three winners since then all recorded more than 45 receptions, 700 yards receiving and at least six touchdowns.

Tucker’s best season at North Carolina came in 2018 when he caught 16 passes for 265 yards and two toucchdowns.