The Doak Walker Award, given annually to the nation’s top running back, is named for the legendary SMU tailback Ewell Doak Walker, Jr. The award requires more than most in that one of the prerequisites for winning the award is that the player must be in good academic standing as well as on track to graduation. While the NCAA makes sometimes hollow allusions to the “student-athlete,” the Doak Walker Award walks the proverbial walk.
The full list of requirements is:
- Candidate plays predominantly at the running back position and has made extraordinary contributions to his team.
- Candidate is enrolled in a degree program, is in good academic standing and is on schedule to graduate.
- Candidate holds a record of good citizenship within and beyond the athletic sphere.
- Candidate has demonstrated a record of leadership.
- Candidate exhibits the characteristics of sportsmanship and fair play associated with Doak Walker.
This year, Ohio State has nominated Jordan Hall as their representative on the watchlist, even though Hall is injured and may miss up to two games to start the season, though the prognosis appears to be leaning in his direction. Should Hall make it back to the field for a full slate of games, there is little doubt that he could be among the finalists for the award. He certainly will be one of the main focuses of the Urban Meyer offense, lending to “extraordinary contributions to [the] team.”
However, Hall has some serious powerhouse competition, mostly within his own conference. The preseason favorite to take home the trophy has to be Montee Ball of Wisconsin. With Trent Richardson off to the Brownies, it’s Ball’s hardware to lose. Only way I forsee that happening is through injury, and although The Empire has no love lost for Bert Bielema, we never wish ill on any player. We want to face everyone at their highest level.
But there will be others making noise around the Big Six, including another two from within the B1G. Rex Burkhead of Nebraska and Fitzgerald Toussaint of TTUN could definitely make some waves, assuming each plays a full 12 games. Both come into the Horseshoe this season so each will be running against 106,000 linebackers not including the three on the field, assuming they make it past Hungry Hungry Hankins.
But it’s a recent conference defector that could shoot up the watchlists now that he’s in a offense-heavy conference all the way across the country. Lane Kiffin has added to his already ample stable of tailbacks in sunny Southern California in Penn State transfer Silas Redd. That’s not including the watchlister he already had in Senior Curtis McNeal. That offense will be nigh unstoppable in the Pac-12 and should top everyone’s preseason championship poll.
If we look down south, from where last year’s winner hailed from, we see possibly two viable candidates for the award. Marcus Lattimore of South Carolina and Knile Davis of Arkansas look to be the frontrunners from the Southeastern Conference, though neither will figure to put up as many raw yards as Ball or even Kenjon Barner of Oregon.
Yet should Jordan Hall manage to break completely out and have a monster year that everyone desperately wants from him, he could join Eddie George, 1995 as the only Ohio State Buckeyes to win the award. It would be a testament to Meyer’s tutelage of Hall as well as the more than adequate coaching of Stan Drayton and Mickey Marotti if Hall were able to come off a preseason injury to win the award in convincing fashion as we all know he is capable of doing.
But it is now that Ohio State has an offense that is tailormade for him and his quarterback to rack up unheard of yardage against some seriously stout BigTen defenses (Illinois notwithstanding). Yet we at The Empire don’t think he’ll manage enough to dethrone the prohibitive favorite from running all over cheese covered corn fields to Dallas to accept his trophy.
- Montee Ball
- Kenjon Barner
- Jordan Hall
- Silas Redd
- Rex Burkhead