This offseason has been anything but normal thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, and though college football’s leaders are still trying to determine if, when, and how a season is to be played, we have one bit of offseason tradition we can cling to in these uncertain times.
It’s preseason award watch list time.
In the coming days, the different awarding organizations will be announcing their watch lists, and this will be the place to keep track of all the Huskers that show up on those lists. It will be continuously updated to reflect new names as organizations release their lists.
Lott IMPACT Trophy – Thursday, June 4
Senior Husker defensive back Dicaprio Bootle was one of nine Big Ten players on the initial 42-man list and one of only 13 defensive backs. The full list can be found here. The award is given annually to "the best college football defender in both character and performance" by the Pacific Club Impact Foundation.
Bootle finished the 2019 season with 31 tackles, six pass breakups and one forced fumble to his credit. For his career, Bootle has 21 pass break-ups and 85 tackles.
Bednarik Award – Monday, July 13
This award, presented by the Maxwell Football Club, is given annually to college football’s defensive player of the year. Ndamukong Suh, in 2009, is the only Husker to win the award. The 2020 watch list featured 90 names, none of them Huskers. You can view the list here.
Davey O’Brien Award – Tuesday, July 14
After appearing on the 2019 watch list for both the Davey O’Brien and the Maxwell awards, Husker quarterback Adrian Martinez was absent from the 30-man list announced by the Davey O’Brien Foundation. Ohio State’s Justin Fields, Minnesota’s Tanner Morgan, Penn State’s Sean Clifford, and Wisconsin’s Jack Coan represented the Big Ten. The full list can be found here.
The award is presented annually to the nation's best quarterback. Eric Crouch is the only other Husker to win the award since its inception in 1981. Sixteen semifinalists will be named on Nov. 10, with the list being trimmed to three finalists on Nov. 24. The 2020 Davey O’Brien Award winner will be unveiled live on ESPN during The Home Depot College Football Awards on Dec. 10.
Doak Walker Award – Wednesday, July 15
Senior running back Dedrick Mills was one of 75 FBS runners and 10 Big Ten runners (from eight teams, Penn State and Iowa each had two names) selected for the preseason list, which can be found here.
Mills, a senior from Waycross, Georgia, led the 2019 Huskers with 745 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns, earning honorable-mention All-Big Ten accolades from both the coaches and media. He finished eighth in rushing and touchdowns in Big Ten play in 2019, but his breakout didn’t come until later in the season.
This is the second time Mills has been on the preseason Doak Walker list, as he was also on it following his freshman year at Georgia Tech. The award is presented to the nation's premier running back by the PwC SMU Athletic Forum, and since its inception in 1990, no Husker running back has ever won it.
Semifinalists for the award will be named in November, followed soon after by three finalists. The winner will be announced in December.
Biletnikoff Award – Thursday, July 16
JD Spielman made this preseason watch list two years in a row. But with his departure from Lincoln, the Huskers had no one on the 2020 watch list.
Fifty-five players were selected, including eight from the Big Ten. The full list can be found here. Sophomore wideout Wan’Dale Robinson was notably absent.
The award is presented to the nation's outstanding college receiver by the Tallahassee Quarterback Club Foundation.
John Mackey Award – Friday, July 17
Make it three in a row for Husker tight end Jack Stoll.
Random and otherwise meaningless bit of Husker trivia: in 2019, Stoll became the first Husker tight end to have his name appear on the preseason watch list in back to back seasons since Kyler Reed in 2011 and 2012.
Stoll, who has started the last 24 games at tight end for the Huskers, had 25 catches for 234 yards and a touchdown in 2019. He enters his senior campaign with 54 catches for 568 yards and seven scores. Stoll was one of 36 players on the preseason watch list and one of eight from the Big Ten. The full list can be found here.
The award is presented to the nation's most outstanding tight end by the Friends of John Mackey.
Butkus Award – Monday, July 20
The award is presented to the nation's best linebacker by the Butkus Foundation. Nebraska did not have a representative on the 51-man list, which can be found here. The Big Ten had nine linebackers on the list from seven different teams.
Jim Thorpe Award – Monday, July 20
Presented to the nation's best defensive back by the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame. The full 2020 watch list can be found here. It featured 49 players total, six from the Big Ten. Nebraska did not have a player on it.
The field will be narrowed to 10-15 semifinalists on the first Monday of November, with three finalists selected the Monday before Thanksgiving.
Bronko Nagurski Trophy – Tuesday, July 21
Given to the national defensive player of the year by the Football Writers Association of America, the Nagurski Trophy released its 2020 watch list, complete with 98 names, 10 of which came from the Big Ten. None of them were Huskers.
Outland Trophy – Tuesday, July 21
The Outland Trophy’s 2020 watch list featured 85 players, 12 of them from the Big Ten. The award is given annually to the nation’s best interior lineman. Both offensive and defensive players are eligible. Nebraska did not have a representative.
Lou Groza Award – Wednesday, July 22
This award is given annually to the top kicker in football. Nebraska did not have a representative among the 30 players selected, as the Huskers will have a new kicker in 2020. You can see the full list here.
Ray Guy Award – Wednesday, July 22
Nineteen players made their way onto the 2020 Ray Guy watch list, an award given annually to the country’s top punter. Nebraska did not have a representative. The full list can be found here.
Paul Hornung Award – Thursday, July 23
Given annually to college football’s most versatile player, the Hornung Award has somewhat grown in its scope of late. In a spread-out game, versatility is a premium. The award, presented by the Louisville Sports Commission, named 50 players to its 2020 watch list, six of them from the Big Ten.
Husker sophomore wideout Wan’Dale Robinson was among those selected. Robinson hails from Frankfort, Kentucky, and he was the high school winner of the award as a senior in 2018 playing for Western Hills. One of Robinson’s stated goals for his four years at Nebraska is winning the collegiate award. He was one of four finalists in 2019.
He caught 40 balls for 443 yards and two scores, while rushing for 340 yards and three more touchdowns. Robinson caught the most passes and totaled the most receiving yards by any true freshman in program history. He ranked second on the team in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, while ranking third in carries, rushing yards, and rushing touchdowns. Thanks to his additional role on special teams as the primary kickoff returner, Robinson totaled 1,029 all-purpose yards as a true freshman, which ranked second on the team to JD Spielman’s 1,038. It was the third-highest total ever by a Husker true freshman.
Wuerffel Trophy – Thursday, July 23
Ben Stille earned a spot on the 2020 Wuerffel Award watch list. He was one of 114 players selected. The full list can be found here.
The award is given annually to the player who best combines community service, academic, and athletic performance. Known as “College Football’s Premier Award for Community Service,” it is designed to honor college football players who serve others, celebrate their positive impact on society, and inspire greater service in the world. Semifinalists for the award will be announced on Nov. 3 and finalists will be announced on Nov. 23.
Stille, a senior who won a Big Ten Sportsmanship Award in 2019, has a laundry list of accolades at Nebraska. He was named to the Academic All-District 7 team in 2019, the Academic All-Big Ten teams each of the last three years, and he’s been on Nebraska’s scholar-athlete honor roll for the Fall 2016, 2018, and 2019 semesters and the Spring 2017 and 2019 semesters. He’s a four-time member of both the Brook Berringer and Tom Osborne Citizenship teams. Stille’s been a regular starter on the football field, but the Ashland native has been a role model off it.
Maxwell Award – Friday, July 24
This is given annually to the best player in college football, one of several “Player of the Year” awards that isn’t position-specific. The 2020 watch list featured 90 names, 39 of them quarterbacks. Husker junior Adrian Martinez was one of them.
Martinez, who was also named to the Maxwell Award watch list in 2019, has started each of his first two seasons at Nebraska. As a sophomore in 2019, he threw for 1,956 yards and 10 TDs, while also rushing for 626 yards and seven scores. He ranked third in the Big Ten in total offense per game (258.2). But Martinez’s efficiency dipped from his freshman year, with his completion rate sitting at 59% (64% in 2018) and his interceptions rising from seven to nine.
But Martinez remains the odds-on favorite to be the Huskers’ starter whenever it opens the 2020 campaign. In his first two seasons, Martinez has tied or set 11 marks, including NU’s career record for games with at least 400 yards of total offense (four). He is one of just four active FBS quarterbacks with at least 4,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards in his career, while his 277.5 yards per game ranks fourth among active FBS quarterbacks. He already ranks seventh in school history in passing yards and fifth in total offense.
Only four Huskers have ever won the Maxwell Award: Mike Rozier (1983), Tommie Frazier (1995), Eric Crouch (2001) and Ndamukong Suh (2009).
Given annually to the best coach in the country. Husker head coach Scott Frost was not on the list, which can be found here. The presenting body did say in early September that coaches from conferences competing into December would not be eligible to receive the award, as it will be presented before their seasons conclude.
Given annually to the nation’s top quarterback. This award, presented by the Allstate Sugar Bowl, does factor in a player’s bowl performance. Nebraska did not have a player on the preseason watch list, which can be found here.
Rimington Trophy – TBD
Nebraska center Cameron Jurgens is on the Rimington Trophy watch list. The award is given to the nation’s top center and named after Nebraska legend Dave Rimington. Jurgens is one of eight Big Ten centers on a list that features 90 names overall.
A converted high school tight end, Jurgens made history in last year’s season-opener against South Alabama, becoming the first Husker freshman (true or redshirt) to start a game at center since the NCAA restored freshmen eligibility in 1972. A third-year sophomore this year, Jurgens is in line to once again be the man in the middle of the Nebraska offensive line. He started every game for NU last year.
Walter Camp Award
Most outstanding player. TB