The 2016 season is fast approaching, which means it’s time to start previewing players who could be in the discussion for college football’s most prestigious awards when the season is all said and done.
The preseason watch list for the Doak Walker Award (given to the nation’s best running back) was revealed on Thursday and plenty of Big Ten players made the list.
Here’s a look at the Big Ten players who were named to the Doak Walker Award preseason watch list, along with a preview of what to expect from them this season.
Saquon Barkley, Penn State: Barkley finished fourth in the Big Ten in rushing last season as a freshman with 1,076 yards. He should be in store for a better sophomore year with an improved offensive line blocking for him. Barkley was also named to the Maxwell Award watch list.
Shannon Brooks, Minnesota: Brooks was the leading rusher of Minnesota’s dynamic duo in the backfield, along with Rodney Smith. Brooks rushed for 709 yards and seven touchdowns on 38 fewer carries than Smith. Brooks is a talented runner who possesses plenty of upside entering his second season with the Golden Gophers.
Corey Clement, Wisconsin: Clement’s 2015 season didn’t go nearly as well as expected. He rushed for 949 yards in 2014 as Melvin Gordon’s backup, but suffered a sports hernia injury during Wisconsin’s season opener and only rushed for 221 yards in 2015. Clement will be a pivotal part of the Badgers offense, which hopes to regain its powerful ground game. Expectations are high for Clement and he was nominated to the Maxwell Award watch list.
LeShaun Daniels, Iowa: Daniels quietly rushed for 646 yards and eight touchdowns for the Hawkeyes while primarily serving as Jordan Canzeri’s understudy. Daniels thrived in the two opportunities he had as a starter in Canzeri’s absence, rushing for a combined 273 yards and five touchdowns in two games as the lead back.
Markell Jones, Purdue: Jones is another really talented runner who doesn’t get much recognition. He finished eighth in the Big Ten with 875 rushing yards as a freshman and also scored 10 touchdowns. He will be the focal point of the Boilermakers offense as a sophomore.
Terrell Newby, Nebraska: Newby finished 10th in the Big Ten in rushing last season with 765 yards. Nebraska’s offense receives a lot of hype because of its potentially explosive aerial attack, but Newby shouldn’t be forgotten about either. He actually caught 24 passes out of the backfield as a junior.
Devine Redding, Indiana: Redding was one of two 1,000-yard rushers for the Hoosiers last season. Redding now has the lion’s share of the carries after Jordan Howard opted to go to the NFL. Redding finished fifth in the Big Ten for 1,012 yards and scored nine touchdowns last season. There’s a decent chance Redding leads the Big Ten in rushing as Indiana’s bell cow back.
De’Veon Smith, Michigan: Smith ran for 753 yards and six touchdowns last season in a very solid junior campaign. He should play a prominent role in Michigan’s offense as a senior. Smith is an underrated talent and could reach 1,000 yards this season.
Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Illinois: Vaughn played admirably as a freshman and actually led the Illini in rushing yards last season. Vaughn rushed for 723 yards and six touchdowns while spending the bulk of the season as Josh Ferguson’s backup. Ferguson is now off to the NFL, which means Vaughn should have an opportunity to hit the 1,000-yard milestone as an experienced sophomore.