College News & Analysis

2022 PFF Midseason College Football Awards: Alabama's Bryce Young, Michigan's Blake Corum among the winners

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

Alabama quarterback Bryce Young: Despite the loss to Tennessee, he’s still PFF’s midseason pick to win the Heisman Trophy.

Cincinnati linebacker Ivan Pace Jr.: He’s PFF’s Defensive Player of the Year so far this season.

Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel: After leading the Volunteers to a magical start, he’s PFF’s Coach of the Year at this point.

Estimated Reading Time: 10 mins

Now at the halfway point of the 2022 college football season, we’re beginning to get a sense of how award races are shaping up.

After going over our midseason All-American list, here is how we’d give out 18 of the biggest trophies if the season ended today.

Heisman Trophy/Maxwell Award (Player of the Year)

Winner: Bryce Young (QB, Alabama Crimson Tide)

Finalists: Hendon Hooker (QB, Tennessee Volunteers), C.J. Stroud (QB, Ohio State Buckeyes)

Despite Alabama's loss to Tennessee in Week 7, Bryce Young is still the best player in college football. 

This isn’t a knock on Hendon Hooker or C.J. Stroud. They’ve both been outstanding this season. However, they are getting substantially more help than Young in terms of receiving talent and scheme. No quarterback in college football has done more with the hand they've been dealt than Young. 

Bryce Young Has Done More With Less
Player PFF grade (FBS QB Rank) Team receiving grade (FBS Rank) % of throws to receiver with step or more of separation % of throws to first read
Bryce Young 92.8 (1st) 71.7 (50th) 57.5% 44.1%
Hendon Hooker 89.7 (T-13th) 76.1 (T-27th) 70.8% 60.8%
C.J. Stroud 86.3 (19th) 90.1 (1st) 87.4% 73%

The only player to win the Heisman twice was Archie Griffin in 1974 and 1975. If Young keeps on this pace, he’d be our pick to join the former Ohio State great.

Davey O’Brien Award (Best Quarterback)

Winner: Bryce Young (QB, Alabama Crimson Tide)

Finalists: Hendon Hooker (QB, Tennessee Volunteers), C.J. Stroud (QB, Ohio State Buckeyes)

Doak Walker Award (Best Running Back)

Winner: Blake Corum (RB, Michigan Wolverines)

Finalists: Bijan Robinson (RB, Texas Longhorns), Chase Brown (RB, Illinois Fighting Illini)

Blake Corum has emerged as a legitimate Heisman candidate this season. He leads all FBS running backs in grade (92.6), rushing touchdowns (13) and rushing first downs (57). Corum is also not afraid to stick his nose in pass protection, with his 86.5 pass-blocking grade ranking second-best in college football.

Biletnikoff Award (Best Receiver)

Winner: Marvin Harrison Jr. (WR, Ohio State Buckeyes)

Finalists: Trey Palmer (WR, Nebraska Cornhuskers), Emeka Egbuka (WR, Ohio State Buckeyes)

Ohio State is missing its three best receivers from a year ago in Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave, who were taken in the top 15 of the 2022 NFL Draft, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who has played in just two games due to a hamstring injury.

Despite this, the Buckeyes still have the best receiving corps in the country thanks to a couple of sophomores in Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka.

The son of Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison, junior is picking up where his father left off. Harrison has an 86.5 grade so far this season, second-best among Power Five receivers. His nine receiving touchdowns are also tied for second-most in the country. He’s done this while lining up primarily outside, meaning he gets far fewer free releases than Palmer or Egbuka.

Player School % of snaps lined out wide % of snaps against press-coverage
Marvin Harrison Jr. Ohio State 84.9% 48%
Emeka Egbuka Ohio State 44.1% 26.5%
Trey Palmer Nebraska 24.4% 10.3%

John Mackey Award (Best Tight End)

Winner: Michael Mayer (TE, Notre Dame Fighting Irish)

Finalists: Dalton Kincaid (TE, Utah Utes), Brock Bowers (TE, Georgia Bulldogs)

Michael Mayer has dominated in South Bend since his true freshman season in 2020. He has an 87.4 receiving grade in that span, third among active FBS tight ends.

Mayer is the ultimate security blanket, with his 24 receiving first downs ranking third-most in the country among tight ends. He’s also been targeted on 30.6% of his routes, the second-highest rate at the position.

Outland Trophy (Best Interior Lineman)

Winner: Peter Skoronski (OT, Northwestern Wildcats)

Finalists: John Michael Schmitz (C, Minnesota Golden Gophers), O’Cyrus Torrence (OG, Florida Gators)

There isn’t a better pass-protector in the country than Peter Skoronski. His 93.0 pass-blocking grade leads all offensive linemen in college football. 

On 278 pass-blocking snaps, he’s allowed just two pressures. That 0.7% pressure rate is tied for the best in the country among tackles. Not to mention, his 80.3 run-blocking grade is the eighth-best by a Power Five tackle. If he keeps this up, he could be a top-10 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft

Rimington Award (Best Center)

Winner: John Michael Schmitz (C, Minnesota Golden Gophers)

Finalists: Brett Neilon (C, USC Trojans), Jacob Gall (C, Baylor Bears)

Nobody in college football has dominated their position like John Michael Schmitz.

The sixth-year senior sports a 92.3 overall grade so far this season, and the next-best center sits at an 84.7 mark. That 7.6-point difference is more than double the next-highest positional gap.

Biggest Positional Grading Gaps in College Football
Name School Position Grade Gap to 2nd
John Michael Schmitz Minnesota Center 92.3 7.6 points
O’CyrusTorrence Florida Offensive Guard 89.6 4.3 points
Blake Corum Michigan Running Back 92.6 1.9 points
Kaleb Holcomb Air Force Offensive Tackle 91.6 1.9 points

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

Winner: Ivan Pace Jr. (LB, Cincinnati Bearcats)

Finalists: Jer’Zhan “Johnny” Newton (DI, Illinois Fighting Illini), Will Anderson Jr. (EDGE, Alabama Crimson Tide)

After dominating at Miami (OH), Ivan Pace Jr. transferred to Cincinnati to form one of the best linebacker corps in the country with his younger brother, Deshawn Pace.

Ivan's eight sacks this season are tied for the most in the country, and one of those players he’s tied with is none other than Alabama's Will Anderson Jr. He also has 90.0-plus grades as both a pass-rusher and run-defender, the only linebacker in the country to achieve that. 

Ted Hendricks Award (Best Defensive End)

Winner: Will Anderson Jr. (EDGE, Alabama Crimson Tide)

Finalists: Derek Parish (EDGE, Houston Cougars), Jacoby Windmon (EDGE, Michigan State)

As a true freshman in 2020, Will Anderson Jr. recorded the most pressures in the country (60). And in his sophomore 2021 season, he once again led the nation in pressures (82).

He’s tied for *only* 12th this year with 27 pressures, but his eight sacks ties for the national lead. What makes him truly special is his run defense, though. His 85.8 run-defense grade is the fourth-highest among Power Five edge defenders. 

Anderson looks like a near lock to be selected in the top five of the 2023 NFL Draft.

Butkus Award (Best Linebacker)

Winner: Ivan Pace Jr. (LB, Cincinnati Bearcats)

Finalists: Jack Campbell (LB, Iowa Hawkeyes), Mikel Jones (LB, Syracuse Orange)

Jim Thorpe Award (Best Defensive Back)

Winner: Devon Witherspoon (CB, Illinois Fighting Illini)

Finalists: Clark Phillips III (CB, Utah Utes), Kalen King (CB, Penn State Nittany Lions)

What Devon Witherspoon has done in coverage this season is absurd. His 90.0 coverage grade is the highest in the nation among cornerbacks.

He’s been targeted 42(!) times so far but has only allowed 13(!!) catches. His 30.9% completion rate allowed is the third-lowest rate in the country among cornerbacks. He also has 11 forced incompletions, tied for the most in the country.

Paul Hornung Award (Most Versatile Player)

Winner: Kool-Aid McKinstry (CB, Alabama Crimson Tide)

Finalists: Devon Achane (RB, Texas A&M Aggies), Nathaniel “Tank” Dell (WR, Houston Cougars)

Kool-Aid McKinstry has emerged as Alabama’s top cornerback this season. His eight forced incompletions are tied for the fourth-most among Power Five cornerbacks. Only 15.2% of his targets have been charted as open, the sixth-lowest rate in the Power Five.

He also excels as a punt returner. He already has 319 punt return yards, 82 more than anyone else in the college football. 

Lou Groza Award (Best Placekicker)

Winner: Christopher Dunn (K, NC State Wolfpack)

Finalists: John Hoyland (K, Wyoming Cowboys), Dominic Zvada (K, Arkansas State Red Wolves)

Christopher Dunn has been automatic this season.

He’s a perfect 14-of-14 on his field goal attempts while also making all 20 of his extra points. Eight of his field goals have come from 40 yards or longer, more than any other kicker in the country.

Ray Guy Award (Best Punter)

Winner: Nik Constantinou (P, Texas A&M Aggies)

Finalists: Jack Browning (P, San Diego State Aztecs), Mason Hunt (P, Southern Miss Golden Eagles)

Last season, Nik Constantinou was the third-highest-graded punter in the country. 

He’s currently No. 1 this season with an 89.3 grade. He punts absolute bombs. His 4.35-second average hang time is the second-longest in the country. He’s also very accurate, with 13 of his 29 punts downed inside the 20-yard line. 

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

Winner: Kobie Turner (DI, Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Finalists: Stetson Bennett (QB, Georgia Bulldogs), Carlton Martial (LB, Troy Trojans)

Not only did Kobie Turner start his career as a walk-on, he started as a walk-on at an FCS school. After a stellar five years at Richmond, Turner transferred to Wake Forest and has been just as dominant, if not more. 

Turner’s 92.8 grade is the highest among all defenders this season. He’s one of only two defenders in the country with 90.0-plus grades as both a pass-rusher and run-defender (Ivan Pace Jr. being the other). 

Joe Moore Award (Offensive Line of the Year)

Winner: Arkansas Razorbacks

Finalists: Baylor Bears, Florida Gators

Arkansas has played the hardest schedule in the country, according to PFF’s power rankings.

Despite this, the Razorbacks still have the highest-graded offensive line in the Power Five. They’re one of only five schools in the country with 80.0-plus grades in both pass blocking and run blocking. The stars of that line reside on the interior in Beaux Limmer and Ricky Stromberg. Limmer is tied for the second-highest grade among Power Five guards (83.5), while Stromberg has the second-highest run-blocking grade among centers (85.0).

Home Depot Award (Coach of the Year)

Winner: Josh Heupel (HC, Tennessee Volunteers)

Finalists: Sonny Dykes (HC, TCU Horned Frogs), Lance Leipold (HC, Kansas Jayhawks)

The biggest story of the college football season has been Tennessee’s rise as a legitimate College Football Playoff contender.

The Volunteers began the season unranked, but just two months later, they sit at No. 3. That’s due to Tennessee beating four top-25 opponents, more than any other program in college football. One of those wins was against then-No. 3 Alabama in the game of the year so far. 

Josh Heupel and his offense deserve most of the credit. The Volunteers have the fifth-most expected points added per play among Power Five schools. Quarterback Hendon Hooker could become the school’s first Heisman winner, too, as he currently has the second-best Heisman odds (+600) on BetMGM.

Frank Broyles Award (Assistant Coach of the Year)

Winner: Todd Monken (OC, Georgia Bulldogs)

Finalists: Phil Parker (DC, Iowa Hawkeyes), Kenny Dillingham (OC, Oregon Ducks)

Georgia’s 2021 defense carried the school to its first national championship in 41 years. Its 94.3 team defense grade was the highest in the country. The Bulldogs had eight defenders from that unit taken in the 2022 NFL Draft, with five going in the first round. If Georgia was to repeat as champs, the offense would need to step up.

Under offensive coordinator Todd Monken, the Bulldogs have answered the call. Georgia has a 90.7 team offense grade this season, third among Power Five schools. 

Most Efficient Offenses in College Football | 2022
School EPA per play Rank among 131 FBS schools
Ohio State 0.380 1st
USC 0.305 2nd
TCU 0.264 3rd
Georgia 0.262 4th
Tennessee 0.257 5th

The Bulldogs are still the top-ranked team in the country due to the offense matching the defense’s elite status.

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