It’s that time of year again when all the preseason awards and rankings come out. And despite having a sub par season a year ago, a few Gators made the watch lists for some of college footballs greatest awards. Quarterback Jeff Driskel was named to the Maxwell Award Watch List, while defensive end Dante Fowler and Vernon Hargreaves were named to the Bednarik Watch List. The Maxwell Award is handed out the college football’s top player and the Bednarik Award goes to the nation’s best defensive player.
Driskel will look to rebound from a season where he broke his leg during the Tennessee game and missed the rest of the season. Before he went down, Driskel struggled to produce, throwing for only 477 yards, two touchdowns, and three interceptions. He showed some promise during the 2012 season when he started 12 games, including 11 at QB. Over his career, Driskel’s thrown for 2,271 yards, 14 TDs, and 10 INTs while completing nearly 63 percent of his passes. He’s been very effective on the ground, rushing for 469 yards at 6.9 yards per rush and five touchdowns. Coming out of high school, Driskel was the top-rated quarterback recruit and won the Maxwell Football Club National High School Player of the Year. Now, he’s named to the Maxwell Watch List for college football, and will have to beat out some stiff competition, including FSU’s QB Jameis Winston, former Florida-now NC State QB Jacoby Brissett, former Gators commit and South Carolina Gamecock RB Mike Davis, and Kurt Roper‘s former weapon at wide receiver, Duke’s Jamison Crowder.
One of the most consistent defensive players last season, Fowler is quickly being considered one of Florida’s best players and a top pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. Last season, Fowler has played in every single game of his Florida career, including 13 starts. He led the Gators with 10.5 tackles-for-loss en route to being named Second Team All-SEC. The previous year, Fowler was named First Team SEC All-Freshman. Over his career at UF, he’s racked up 80 tackles including 18.5 TFL, six sacks with three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
Coming off an impressive freshman season, Hargreaves might just be the best player on Florida roster. He started out his Gators career with an interception in his first two games. He ended the season 38 tackles, three INTs, and 11 passes defended while becoming the best player in Florida’s secondary. Hargreaves play on the field earned him First Team All-SEC and Freshman All-SEC by every outlet that votes. He was named an AP Third Team All-American and the National Defensive Freshman of the Year by College Football News. He’ll be looked upon this season to lead a young secondary that has been the Gators strongest unit since Will Muschamp took over four years ago.
Although Fowler and Hargreaves face a tough draw as well, they still have to be in the top half of the 76 names announced. With consistently great seasons, much like their previous years, they could both end up being Bednarik semifinalists at the very least. Driskel could be a dark horse for the Maxwell and definitely won’t be a favorite. But in Roper’s new offense, look for Driskel to thrive and turn some heads if he can limit the turnovers. All-in-all, I’d say Fowler likely has the best chance of taking away some hardware.
The semifinalists for both the Maxwell and Bednarik Awards are released November 3rd and the three finalists announced November 24th. Both awards will be handed out at the College Football Awards Show on December 11th.