There’s no real way to know how recruits will pan out at the next level. Can’t-miss prospects sometimes never make an impact, and walk-ons become Heisman Trophy winners.
But for the purposes of this post, we’ll comb through the 24 members of Nebraska’s 2018 recruiting class and offer predictions for which prospects have the best chance at competing for various college football awards.
This would please Nebraska fans for a variety of reasons, but perhaps most importantly, it almost certainly would mean the Huskers are having plenty of success as a team. Since Charles Woodson took home the hardware after the 1997 season, all of the Heisman winners have played either quarterback or running back.
Those positions command attention. They have the ball in their hands the most. All eyes are on them every play. It also just so happens that two of the three top-rated prospects in Nebraska’s 2018 recruiting class are a quarterback in Adrian Martinez and a running back in Maurice Washington.
Martinez can make plays with both his legs and his arm. If he can stuff the stats in both ways in Lincoln, that will capture the attention of the voters. Nebraska also will be sure to give Washington the ball in a multitude of ways — hand-offs, swing passes, pitches, screens — and let him make plays with the ball in his hands.
Both prospects have the chance to start as underclassmen. By the time they reach their junior or season seasons, and everything begins clicking, either Washington or Martinez (perhaps even both?) could be primed for truly special campaigns that could result in a trip to New York the second week of December.
Doak Walker Award (nation’s top running back)
Possible winner: Washington
If Washington can pull off a hypothetical season, such as the one described in the previous section, then logic would dictate he’d be in the conversation for the Doak Walker Award. Since 2008, three backs from Big Ten West schools (Shonn Greene at Iowa in 2008, Montee Ball at Wisconsin in 2012 and Melvin Gordon at Wisconsin in 2014) have won the award, tied for the most among conferences in that span (the Pac-12 also has three winners).
Will Washington continue the tradition for Big Ten West running backs?
Davey O’Brien Award (nation’s top quarterback)
Possible winner: Martinez
You can bet that if Martinez is in the conversation for a Heisman, he also would be in the running for the Davey O’Brien. The only Nebraska quarterback to take home this trophy is Eric Crouch, who won it in 2001.
Jim Thorpe Award (nation’s top defensive back)
Possible winner: Cam’ron Jones
The staff identified Cam’ron Jones as its top target at safety. That effort paid off, and the Huskers landed the 4-star prospect. The Huskers expect big things from Jones, and he’ll have a chance to contribute immediately. Jones is rangy, can make plays on the ball that can lead to turnovers, and won’t hesitate to come up to the line of scrimmage and stop the run. With a combination of turnovers and tackles, teams across the conference and country will have to account for him in their game plans.
Jones has a chance of making a special teams impact — in the return game, to be exact — so keep an eye out for him there as well.
Dick Butkus Award (nation’s top linebacker)
Possible winner: Will Honas
What a story this would be. The former junior college standout has a solid chance of starting at inside linebacker his first season. He was the top JUCO inside linebacker for a reason.
Honas will have only two seasons to put himself in contention, but he is enrolled early, which will help him. If the new scheme puts him in a position to make plays and rack up tackles, expect him to start receiving some attention.
Linebacker play will be key for the Huskers as they try to repair the defense. If Nebraska improves defensively, it won’t only help the team, it will help individuals such as Honas.
Paul Hornung Award (nation’s most versatile player)
Possible winner: Miles Jones
This is a bit of a wild-card prediction, since the award has only existed since 2010. Past winners include Odell Beckham Jr., Christian McCaffrey, Jabrill Peppers and Saquon Barkley. Miles Jones will be used in multiple ways in the Huskers offense. If successful, that can put him into consideration for this award. He’s another candidate to play early, giving him the chance to develop in the offense.
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