College News & Analysis

2022 PFF College Football Awards: Michigan RB Blake Corum takes home the Heisman

Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA; Michigan Wolverines running back Blake Corum (2) rushes in the first half against the Illinois Fighting Illini at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan running back Blake Corum: Despite not being one of the four finalists, the junior is PFF’s pick to win the Heisman Trophy after one of the highest-graded seasons in the PFF college era.

USC quarterback Caleb Williams: The sophomore is our pick to win the Davey O’Brien Award as college football’s best quarterback.

Cincinnati linebacker Ivan Pace Jr.: The senior is PFF’s pick to win the Bednarik Award as the best defensive player in the country.

Estimated Reading Time: 8 mins

In college football, December is all about trophies. For teams, it’s a time to finish off their seasons with either a conference championship and/or a bowl game victory. At the individual level, it’s also a time for players to be recognized for their outstanding seasons.

Let’s focus on the latter with the 2022 College Football Awards show taking place on Thursday. Here’s who PFF would give the 20 biggest trophies to.

Heisman Trophy/Maxwell Award (Player of the Year)

Winner: RB Blake Corum, Michigan Wolverines

Blake Corum certainly isn’t a popular pick for college football’s most distinguished individual award. In fact, he’s not even one of the four Heisman finalists. However, he’s been the best player in college football this season, and it’s not particularly close. 

Corum’s 95.9 grade isn’t only the highest among all players in the country, it’s one of the best we’ve ever seen from a Power Five player. 

Highest-graded seasons by a Power Five player in PFF College era (Since 2014)
Name Position School Year PFF Grade
Kyle Pitts Tight End Florida 2020 96.0
Chase Young Edge Defender Ohio State 2019 96.0
Quinnen Williams Interior Defensive Lineman Alabama 2018 96.0
Blake Corum Running Back Michigan 2022 95.9

Corum is also the most valuable non-quarterback in the nation, according to PFF’s wins above average metric. He won’t be playing in the College Football Playoff after suffering a season-ending knee injury.

However, if the Heisman is truly for “the most outstanding player,” then Blake Corum deserves to win it.

Davey O’Brien Award (Best Quarterback)

Winner: QB Caleb Williams, USC Trojans

The Heisman Trophy will likely go to USC quarterback Caleb Williams, who’s currently (-2500) to win the award, per BetMGM.

Williams has been the third-most valuable quarterback in the country this season, according to PFF’s wins above average metric. The sophomore is also tied for the national lead in passing touchdowns (37).

Doak Walker Award (Best Running Back)

Winner: RB Blake Corum, Michigan Wolverines

Biletnikoff Award (Best Receiver)

Winner: WR Marvin Harrison Jr., Ohio State Buckeyes

Marvin Harrison Jr. showed glimpses of his Hall of Fame father this season. The sophomore was the highest-graded receiver (90.5) in college football this season. Harrison was simply unguardable one on one. His 807 receiving yards against single coverage led the nation. 

John Mackey Award (Best Tight End)

Winner: TE Michael Mayer, Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Michael Mayer is a top-15 prospect on PFF’s 2023 NFL Draft big board because he’s the most well-rounded tight end in the country.

The junior leads all tight ends in overall grade (92.5) and ranks second in receiving grade (91.6) and run-blocking grade (82.1). He also leads all tight ends in receiving touchdowns, contested catches and yards per route run. 

Outland Trophy (Best Interior Lineman)

Winner: OT Joe Alt, Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Joe Alt looks like the best offensive tackle prospect since Penei Sewell, and he can’t even declare for the draft until 2024.

The true sophomore’s 90.8 run-blocking grade is the highest among FBS offensive tackles this season. He also has a 99.3 pass-blocking efficiency score, the second-highest mark among tackles. 

Rimington Award (Best Center)

Winner: C John Michael Schmitz, Minnesota Golden Gophers

John Michael Schmitz’s 92.4 grade is more than two points higher than the next-closest center, while his 92.6 run-blocking grade is three points higher. The sixth-year senior’s 12 big-time blocks leads all FBS centers this season. 

Chuck Bednarik Award/Bronko Nagurski Trophy (Best Defensive Player)

Winner: LB Ivan Pace Jr., Cincinnati Bearcats

Cincinnati fieldsthe two highest-graded defenders in the country this season between interior defensive lineman Dontay Corleone and linebacker Ivan Pace Jr. Corleone’s 93.9 grade edges out Pace’s 93.1 figure, but Pace gets the nod here since he’s played 500 more snaps.

After dominating at Miami (OH), Pace transferred to Cincinnati and continued his elite play. The senior's 44 pressures lead all linebackers in college football. He also has 90.0-plus grades as both a pass-rusher and run-defender, the only linebacker in the nation to accomplish that feat. 

Ted Hendricks Award (Best Defensive End)

Winner: EDGE Will Anderson Jr., Alabama Crimson Tide

As a true freshman in 2020, Will Anderson Jr. led the nation with 60 pressures. As a sophomore in 2021, he repeated the feat with 82 pressures.

PFF’s No. 2 prospect in the 2023 Draft had a “down” season this year, tying for fourth in the FBS with 58 pressures. However, Anderson’s 13 sacks led the nation and his 85.9 run-defense grade was the third-highest for Power Five edge defenders.

Butkus Award (Best Linebacker)

Winner: LB Ivan Pace Jr., Cincinnati Bearcats

Jim Thorpe Award (Best Defensive Back)

Winner: CB Devon Witherspoon, Illinois Fighting Illini

Devon Witherspoon locked down his side of the field for the Fighting Illini this season. His 91.8 coverage grade is the highest in the Power Five among cornerbacks.

The junior’s 24.6 passer rating when targeted is the lowest in the nation at the position. He also has 19 combined interceptions and forced incompletions, more than any other defender in the Power Five. 

Paul Hornung Award (Most Versatile Player)

Winner: CB/PR Kool-Aid McKinstry, Alabama Crimson Tide

Like Witherspoon, McKinstry is a lock-down cornerback. His 15 forced incompletions ties him for third in the country. The sophomore has also surrendered an open target on only 23.9% of his coverage snaps, the third-lowest rate in the Power Five at the position.

What makes McKinstry so versatile is his work on special teams. His 317 punt return yards are the second-most in the country.

Lou Groza Award (Best Placekicker)

Winner: K Joshua Karty, Stanford Cardinal

Joshua Karty was automatic for the Cardinal this season. The junior made all 18 of his field goal attempts. The next-closest perfect kicker attempted just 10 field goals.

Even more impressively, 13 of his makes came from 40-plus yards, the most in the country. 

Ray Guy Award (Best Punter)

Winner: P Tory Taylor, Iowa Hawkeyes

Iowa’s offense was the Power Five’s least efficient in terms of expected added points per play. Because of that, Tory Taylor received a lot of work. The junior’s 75 punts were tied for the most in the Power Five. Thirty-six of those punts landed inside the 20-yard line, the most in the FBS. 

Shaun Alexander Freshman of the Year Award (Best Freshman)

Winner: RB Quinshon Judkins, Ole Miss Rebels

Quinshon Judkins was only a three-star recruit entering this season, and now he’s one of the best running backs in the country, regardless of class.

The true freshman’s 88.2 grade is higher than any other freshman in the country. His 86 rushing first downs/touchdowns trail only Minnesota’s Mohamed Ibrahim and Michigan’s Blake Corum among FBS players.

Burlsworth Trophy (Player who started career as a walk-on)

Winner: QB Stetson Bennett, Georgia Bulldogs

Stetson Bennett left high school with only two FBS offers: Georgia Southern and Middle Tennessee. He instead decided to walk on at Georgia and is now a Heisman finalist six years later.

The sixth-year senior’s 22 big-time throws are tied for eighth-most among Power Five quarterbacks. With Georgia ranked first heading into the playoff, he can also become the first quarterback to win multiple national championships since Alabama’s A.J. McCarron did so a decade ago.

Joe Moore Award (Offensive Line of the Year)

Winner: USC Trojans

USC quarterback Caleb Williams is the favorite to win the Heisman largely because of how much time his offensive line gives him. Williams’ average time to throw is 3.26 seconds, the highest figure in the country.

Even with Williams holding the ball that long, the Trojans’ offensive line has allowed a knockdown (sack or hit) on just 1.9% of its pass-blocking snaps, the second-lowest rate in the country. USC’s offensive line is also the lone unit in the country with 85.0-plus pass-blocking and run-blocking grades. 

Home Depot Award (Coach of the Year)

Winner: HC Sonny Dykes, TCU Horned Frogs

TCU wasn’t even one of the 47 schools that received a vote in the preseason AP poll. After an undefeated regular season, the Horned Frogs are now ranked third and heading to their first playoff in program history.

And, unbelievably, this was Sonny Dykes' first year as head coach. After a successful tenure at SMU, Dykes took over a TCU program that hadn’t been to a bowl game in four years. Now, the Horned Frogs will try to win their first national championship since 1938.

Frank Broyles Award (Assistant Coach of the Year)

Winner: OC Kenny Dillingham, Oregon Ducks

Kenny Dillingham is a bit of a coaching prodigy. He’s already been an offensive coordinator at Memphis, Auburn, Florida State and Oregon at only 32 years old. Under Dillingham, the Ducks have averaged 0.238 expected points added per play this season, the fourth-best mark in the country.

Highest EPA per play in college football this season
School EPA per play
USC 0.277
Tennessee 0.264
Washington 0.260
UCLA 0.235
Oregon 0.221

After an excellent first season as Oregon’s offensive coordinator, Dillingham was hired by his alma mater, Arizona State, to be its new head coach. He’s now the youngest head coach in the Power Five.

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