Florida Gators’ Award Potential

Every July, college football fans let out unsubstantiated roars and, simultaneously, bemoan the seventeen college football award watch lists that come out. Some fans become overly excited that their particular team had a player on every list or that they had the most players on the media generated All-Conference teams. At the same time, droves of irate fans immediately go to their favorite message board and complain that the media and National College Football Association have absolutely no idea what they are doing, and that a monkey could probably pick a better list.

Florida Gator fans, including one’s on Gator Country, roared and bemoaned as Florida Gator players were listed for twelve of the seventeen awards. Additionally, ten players were listed as first, second, or third team All-SEC over the past three weeks.

To recap the All-SEC selections and award watch list names:

All-SEC Offense: Jon Halapio – 2nd team; Matt Jones – 3rd team; Jonotthan Harrison – 3rdTeam
All-SEC Defense: Dominique Easley – 1st team; Loucheiz Purifoy – 1st team; Marcus Roberson – 2nd team; Ronald Powell – 3rd team
All-SEC Special Teams: Kyle Christy – 1st team; Andre Debose – 3rd team; Loucheiz Purifoy – 3rd team

To recap the ‘watch list’ names”:

Rimington Trophy (Nation’s Top Center): Jonotthan Harrison, Jr.,
Paul Hornung Award (Nation’s Most Versatile Player): Trey Burton, Loucheiz Purifoy
Bednarik Award (Nation’s Best Defensive Player): Dominique Easley, Loucheiz Purifoy
Maxwell Award (Nation’s Best Offensive Player): Jeff Driskel
Ray Guy Award (Nation’s Top Punter): Kyle Christy
Bronko Nagurski (Nation’s Best Defensive Player): Dominique Easley, Loucheiz Purifoy
Outland Trophy (Nation’s Top Interior Lineman): Dominque Easley
Rotary Lombardi (Nation’s Top Lineman or Linebacker): Dominque Easley
Biletnikoff Award (Nation’s Top Wide Receiver): Quinton Dunbar
Doak Walker Award (Nation’s Top Running Back): Matt Jones

Some of those names are expected, and some of them are a bit of a surprise, but all in all, right now every player in the country is on equal footing. You are not required to be a on a ‘watch list’ to win the award, nor does the media only use the names from the pre-season list to compile the post-season list. So we will use this list as a guide for our journey to predict which Gator players could see themselves on a few post-season lists.

All-SEC Offense: It is my opinion that Jon Halapio, Matt Jones and Jonotthan Harrison will find their names on a first, second or third All-SEC team—I think the media got this one right.  I also think the Gators will see at least one more name on an All-SEC team: left guard Max Garcia. I have been bullish on Max Garcia since watching his tape of his time at Maryland, as well as, what I saw out of him at the Orange and Blue Debut. Garcia is strong, has great feet and performed extremely well against the Florida defensive line, one of the best in the country. Garcia sat out last season due to transfer policies, so his name is certainly flying under the radar. I would not be surprised to see Garcia garner an All-SEC nod this year and perhaps, have his name thrown into the hat for the Outland or Rotary Lombardi Award this season. Chances are that is more likely next year and may be a pipe dream for this season, although like I said, I am very bullish on his ability. Other candidates: Jeff Driskel, D.J. Humphries and with my outside shot pick, Quinton Dunbar.

All-SEC Defense: The obvious names are on the list—Easley and Purifoy on the first team, Roberson on the second team, and Powell on the third team. I think all of those players will make the final post-season list. I was surprised that Dante Fowler Jr.’s name did not make the list, and marginally surprised that Jon Bullard’s name did not make it. Looking into the 2013 season, a few names that I think could populate the list that the media did not select: the aforementioned Fowler and Bullard, Antonio Morrison and my dark horse candidate, Marcus Maye. Marcus Maye is a bit of a surprise candidate, but I believe that Maye has the skillset to fill in for Matt Elam in the vaunted Florida defensive backfield. Maye has consistently been praised for his ability. While he will have a bit of a learning curve, he could step up and become an All-SEC caliber safety, even if it is on the third team. Antonio Morrison takes the reigns from Jon Bostic, as he becomes the defensive quarterback with a lot of weight on his shoulders. Last season, Morrison had 26 tackles including one that knocked out Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel. Morrison plays as a headhunter with great speed and incredible diagnostic skills. Morrison is not on many watch lists, not because of lack of ability, but because of a lack of snaps last season. That being said, following Morrison’s arrest on Sunday, a minimum two game suspension will hurt his potential in 2013.

Individual Awards

I think that the Gators have a good team with a lot of great players. That being said, the whole of all of the players is greater than the sum of its parts. I think the Gators have a chance at the following awards.

Ray Guy Award: Kyle Christy was a finalist last year and is the only returning finalist for this year’s award. Christy averaged 45.8 yards per punt last year, including 27 punts inside the 20-yard line. Christy is the odds on favorite to win the award and, in my opinion, will run away with the award during his junior year campaign.

Paul Hornung Award: Depending on how much offense Loucheiz Purifoy plays this upcoming season, Purifoy has a great chance at winning this award. As arguably one of the best physical cornerbacks in college football and an incredible special teams player, Purifoy could become a three-way player and a major candidate for the award given to the nation’s most versatile player. Purifoy will likely not play as much on offense as most Gator fans think because, they have more talent that will pop-up in the summer and fall than most expect.

Honestly, I think that is it. I like Jonotthan Harrison will have a great season at center, but will not win an individual award. Trey Burton, in my opinion, will see his minutes diminish as other more natural athletes step up in their roles. Dominique Easley could have a big year inside, but there are a lot of great athletes lining up across the country in the middle that will be more disruptive. Jeff Driskel could have a big year, but likely will not put up the numbers in the Florida offense to win the Maxwell or the Davey O’Brien Award. Quinton Dunbar will have an improved season, but may not even be the best wide receiver on the team. Matt Jones will have a great campaign and could be the winner next season, or the season after, for the Doak Walker Award.

Finally, as an aside, I do have a bone to pick with the Jim Thorpe Association. The Jim Thorpe Award, which is given to the nation’s top defensive back, had zero Florida Gators on the watch list. Even though that means nothing in the grand scheme of things, I find the idea that Loucheiz Purifoy and Marcus Roberson are not among the top 50 defensive backs in the country laughable.


Previous articleAntonio Morrison arrested for barking
Next articleGator Country Intern Mailbag
Daniel Thompson
Dan Thompson is a 2010 graduate of the University Florida, graduating with a degree in Economics and a degree in Political Science. During this time at UF, Dan worked three years for the Florida Gator Football team as a recruiting ambassador. Dan dealt daily with prospects, NCAA guidelines, and coaching staff. Dan was also involved in Florida Blue Key, Student Government and Greek Life. Currently, Dan oversees the IT consulting practice of a Tampa-based company. Dan enjoys golfing, country music, bourbon, travel, oysters, and a medium-rare steak. Dan can be found on Twitter at @DK_Thompson.