College News & Analysis

2023 PFF College Football Awards: LSU's Jayden Daniels claims the Heisman Trophy

2TA4YGM LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels (5) celebrates after a touchdown pass during an NCAA college football game against Texas A&M, Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023, in Baton Rouge, La.. (Matt Patterson via AP)

• Jayden Daniels takes home the Heisman: The LSU quarterback wins the coveted stiff-arm trophy after leading all FBS quarterbacks in PFF grade (94.7) this season.

• Laiatu Latu is the Defensive Player of the Year: The UCLA edge defender wins both the Nagurski Trophy and Bednarik Award after earning a 95.3 grade this season.

• Kalen DeBoer wins coach of the year: The Washington head coach led the Huskies to the College Football Playoff and a perfect 13-0 record.

Estimated Reading Time: 9 minutes

December is all about trophies in college football. Conference championships have already been decided, so teams now turn their attention to bowl games and, for a select four, a national title.

It’s also the time for individuals to take home some hardware. After unveiling PFF’s All-American team, here are PFF's winners of 23 of college football’s biggest awards. This list was voted on by 17 of PFF’s top college football analysts and data collectors.

Heisman Trophy/Maxwell Award (Best Player)

Winner: QB Jayden Daniels, LSU Tigers

  • QB Bo Nix, Oregon Ducks
  • QB Michael Penix Jr., Washington Huskies
  • QB Jalen Milroe, Alabama Crimson Tide

Daniels paced all quarterbacks in overall grade (94.7) and rushing grade (92.4) while coming in second for passing grade (91.9). He also led all FBS signal-callers in passing touchdowns (40), yards per attempt (11.5), passer rating (143.7) and rushing yards (1,250) while commanding the nation’s most efficient offense in EPA per play. Three losses be damned, he’s your Heisman Trophy winner.

Highest-Graded Seasons by FBS Quarterbacks in PFF College Era (Since 2014)
Name School Season Grade
Mac Jones Alabama 2020 95.8
Zach Wilson BYU 2020 95.4
Joe Burrow LSU 2019 94.9
Jayden Daniels LSU 2023 94.7
Kyler Murray Oklahoma 2018 94.6

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

Winner: EDGE Laiatu Latu, UCLA Bruins

  • DI T’Vondre Sweat, Texas Longhorns
  • LB Edgerrin Cooper, Texas A&M Aggies

Latu has the best comeback story in college football. While at Washington, he missed the 2020 and 2021 seasons after being forced to medically retire with a neck injury. He then transferred to UCLA and was the highest-graded player in college football this season (95.3). His 21.9% pressure rate led all FBS edge defenders, and his 24.2% pass-rush win rate led the Power Five at the position.

Highest-Graded Seasons by FBS Edge Defenders in PFF College Era (Since 2014)
Name School Season Grade
Chase Young Ohio State 2019 96.0
Laiatu Latu UCLA 2023 95.3
Aidan Hutchinson Michigan 2021 94.5

Davey O’Brien Award (Best Quarterback)

Winner: QB Jayden Daniels, LSU Tigers

  • QB Bo Nix, Oregon Ducks
  • QB Michael Penix Jr., Washington Huskies

Doak Walker Award (Best Running Back)

Winner: RB Ollie Gordon II, Oklahoma State Cowboys

  • RB Audric Estime, Notre Dame Fighting Irish
  • RB Omarion Hampton, North Carolina Tar Heels

Gordon led the nation with 1,614 yards this season while placing second with 20 rushing touchdowns and third with 953 yards after contact. Making those numbers even more impressive is the fact that the true sophomore recorded 19 total carries in the first three games and Oklahoma State finished just 98th in the nation with a 55.4 team run-blocking grade.

Biletnikoff Award (Best Receiver)

Winner: WR Malik Nabers, LSU Tigers

  • WR Rome Odunze, Washington Huskies
  • WR Marvin Harrison Jr., Ohio State Buckeyes

Nabers was the highest-graded receiver (93.0) in the country this season. He led the nation with 1,545 receiving yards, and his 3.81 yards per route run paced all Power Five receivers. LSU became the second school ever to produce both the highest-graded quarterback and wide receiver in a season, joining Alabama in 2020 when the Crimson Tide had Mac Jones and DeVonta Smith.

John Mackey Award (Best Tight End)

Winner: TE Brock Bowers, Georgia Bulldogs

  • TE Ben Sinnott, Kansas State Wildcats
  • TE Cade Stover, Ohio State Buckeyes

Even though Bowers missed three games with an ankle injury, he still led all FBS tight ends in yards after the catch (486), receiving yards after contact (249) and forced missed tackles (18). This is his third time in three years as a PFF All-American, setting up a strong argument for the junior to be considered the best tight end in college football history.

Outland Trophy (Best Interior Lineman)

Winner: OT Joe Alt, Notre Dame Fighting Irish

  • DI T’Vondre Sweat, Texas Longhorns
  • C Jackson Powers-Johnson, Oregon Ducks

For the second year in a row, Alt finished as the highest-graded tackle in the country. His 91.0 grade this season was 4.5 points better than the next-closest FBS tackle. The junior ranked second among all tackles in both pass-blocking (92.2) and run-blocking (86.9) grades this season.

Rotary Lombardi Award (Best Lineman)

Winner: EDGE Laiatu Latu, UCLA Bruins

  • OT Joe Alt, Notre Dame Fighting Irish
  • DI T’Vondre Sweat, Texas Longhorns

Rimington Award (Best Center)

Winner: C Jackson Powers-Johnson, Oregon Ducks

  • C Sedrick Van Pran, Georgia Bulldogs
  • C Drake Nugent, Michigan Wolverines

Not only did Powers-Johnson lead all FBS centers in overall grade (83.2), but he also paced them all in pass-blocking (91.3) and run-blocking (83.1) grades. On 471 pass-blocking snaps, the junior surrendered only one pressure for a nation-leading 0.2% pressure rate allowed.

Ted Hendricks Award (Best Defensive End)

Winner: EDGE Laiatu Latu, UCLA Bruins

  • EDGE Bralen Trice, Washington Huskies
  • EDGE Chop Robinson, Penn State Nittany Lions

Butkus Award (Best Linebacker)

Winner: LB Edgerrin Cooper, Texas A&M Aggies

  • LB Payton Wilson, NC State Wolfpack
  • LB Edefuan Ulofoshio, Washington Huskies

Cooper was the most valuable linebacker this season, according to PFF's wins above average metric, and led all FBS linebackers in PFF grade (91.7). He was the only linebacker to record 85.0-plus grades as a run defender, pass-rusher and coverage defender.

Jim Thorpe Award (Best Defensive Back)

Winner: S Tyler Nubin, Minnesota Golden Gophers

  • CB Kool-Aid McKinstry, Alabama Crimson Tide
  • CB Sebastian Castro, Iowa Hawkeyes

Nubin's 90.3 grade paced all FBS safeties this season. On 19 targets into his coverage this season, he snagged as many interceptions (five) as he allowed catches. His 17.5 passer rating allowed led all safeties, as well.

Paul Hornung Award (Most Versatile Player)

Winner: CB/WR Travis Hunter, Colorado Buffaloes

  • S/RB Sione Vaki, Utah Utes
  • DI/RB Jelani Stafford, UConn Huskies

A true two-way star, Hunter generated a 78.8 receiving grade that ranked eighth among Pac-12 receivers, while his 74.8 coverage grade placed ninth among the conference's cornerbacks. The sophomore’s three interceptions tied for second in the Pac-12, and his 721 receiving yards was a top-15 mark in the conference. In total, Hunter played a massive 1,044 snaps despite missing three games due to injury.

Lou Groza Award (Best Placekicker)

Winner: K Joshua Karty, Stanford Cardinal

  • K Andres Borregales, Miami (FL) Hurricanes
  • K Graham Nicholson, Miami (OH) RedHawks

Karty’s 95.0 grade this season led all kickers by nearly three points. He converted 11 of his 14 field goal attempts from outside of 40 yards, tied for the most in the country. He also nailed all 21 of his extra-point attempts this season.

Ray Guy Award (Best Punter)

Winner: P James Burnip, Alabama Crimson Tide

  • P Tory Taylor, Iowa Hawkeyes
  • P Matthew Hayball, Vanderbilt Commodores

Burnip’s 90.4 grade this season paced all FBS punters. His average hang time of 4.42 seconds led the nation, as well.

Johnny “The Jet” Rodgers Award (Best Return Specialist)

Winner: WR Zachariah Branch, USC Trojans

  • WR Xavier Worthy, Texas Longhorns
  • WR Brashard Smith, Miami (FL) Hurricanes

Branch is electric. The true freshman was the only player in the country with a kick-return touchdown and a punt-return touchdown this season.

Shaun Alexander Freshman of the Year Award (Best Freshman)

Winner: S Caleb Downs, Alabama Crimson Tide

  • S Dillon Thieneman, Purdue Boilermakers
  • S Khalil Barnes, Clemson Tigers

Downs joined Alabama as the highest-rated safety recruit since Derwin James in 2018 and immediately showed why. The true freshman’s 13 coverage stops tied for fifth among Power Five safeties.

Burlsworth Trophy (Best player who started their career as a walk-on)

Winner: LB Edefuan Ulofoshio, Washington Huskies

  • RB Cody Schrader, Missouri Tigers
  • WR Drake Stoops, Oklahoma Sooners

After beginning his career as a walk-on, Ulofoshio was named an honorable-mention All-American in 2020. He then missed 14 of Washington’s 25 games over the following two seasons due to various injuries.

Ulofoshio was the third-most valuable linebacker in the nation this year, according to PFF’s wins above average metric. The senior’s 91.0 coverage grade tied for second at the position.

Joe Moore Award (Best Offensive Line)

Winner: Oregon State Beavers

  • Georgia Bulldogs
  • Oregon Ducks

Oregon State’s offensive line led the nation with an 85.6 grade this season. The Beavers' 93.2 run-blocking grade was more than six points higher than the next-closest FBS school. The leader of that unit was right tackle Taliese Fuaga, whose 86.5 grade ranked second among FBS offensive tackles.

Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year (Best Coach)

Winner: Kalen DeBoer, Washington Huskies

  • Kalen DeBoer, Washington Huskies
  • Mike Norvell, Florida State Seminoles
  • Nick Saban, Alabama Crimson Tide
  • Steve Sarkisian, Texas Longhorns
  • David Braun, Northwestern Wildcats

In DeBoer's second year as Washington’s head coach, the Huskies finished 13-0 while winning a loaded Pac-12 conference and making their first College Football Playoff appearance since 2016. Washington enters the playoff as the No. 2 seed despite starting the year at No. 10.

DeBoer has now gone 24-2 during his two seasons in Seattle despite Washington finishing 4-8 in the year before he arrived.

Frank Broyles Award (Best Assistant Coach)

Winner: OC Sherrone Moore, Michigan Wolverines

  • OC Mike Denbrock, LSU Tigers
  • OC Jeff Lebby, Oklahoma Sooners
  • OC Will Stein, Oregon Ducks
  • DC Jesse Minter, Michigan Wolverines

Under Moore, Michigan’s offense finished eighth in the nation in expected points added per play this season. However, his work as the Wolverines’ interim head coach earns him this honor.

Michigan went a perfect 6-0 while head coach Jim Harbaugh was suspended this year, including wins over then-No. 10 Penn State and then-No. 2 Ohio State.

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