TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The offseason watch lists mention nearly every returning player at the position to build publicity for the award in what has become an annual punch line.
Alabama, like many schools, placed a laundry list of guys on various watch list. Here’s a look at some of Alabama’s players with legitimate shots to win national awards.
Safety Eddie Jackson: Thorpe Award
Jackson, who also was named to the watch lists for the Bednarik Award and Bronko Nagurski Trophy, earned a spot on the first-team All-SEC by the conference coaches and the Associated Press following a strong 2015 season.
Jackson led Alabama with six interceptions, including two he returned for touchdowns. He forced and recovered one fumble to go with his 46 tackles. Jackson totaled 230 return yards on his interceptions, shattering the previous Crimson Tide all-time record of 163 that was set in 1952. Jackson finished the 2015 season as the SEC leader in interceptions and tied for seventh in the national ranks.
There’s no reason to think that Jackson couldn’t better his overall play in his final year at Alabama. If he wins the award, Jackson would be the first Alabama player to take home the trophy since Antonio Langham in 1993.
Punter JK Scott: Ray Guy Award
Scott, a two-year starter for the Crimson Tide, produced the best season for a punter in Alabama football history as a true freshman and followed that with a solid sophomore campaign in 2015. He earned first-team All-America honors from Sporting News.
Scott holds a career average of 45.9 yards per punt on 125 career kicks. Scott has dropped 56 career punts inside the 20-yard line with 44 going 50 yards or more. As a freshman in 2014, he led the nation in punting at 48.0 yards per kick and net punting at 44.7 yard per boot.
Scott was a finalist for the Ray Guy Award as a true freshman in 2014.
Wide receiver Calvin Ridley: Biletnikoff Award
A freshman All-American in 2015, Ridley set Alabama freshman records with 89 receptions for 1,045 yards in 2015, eclipsing the previous mark of 1,000 held by Amari Cooper (2012). His 89 receptions were also an SEC freshman record and the second most in FBS history by a true freshman. Ridley was selected to the Sporting News and SEC All-Freshman teams, and was also chosen to the second-team All-SEC by the Associated Press following his first collegiate season.
Ridley saw 17 of his catches go for 15-plus yards, including five of his seven scores which came on plays of 30 yards or more. He also had a team-leading 44 receptions for a first down or scores and recorded five or more catches in nine of his 11 starts and 11 games overall.
Ridley would become just the second Biletnikoff winner in Alabama history (Amari Cooper, 2014).
Offensive tackle Cam Robinson: Outland Trophy
This is a big year for Robinson as he could bolt for the NFL if he has another strong season.
Robinson, the first true freshman to start at left tackle for Alabama since Andre Smith in 2006, started all 29 games during his two years in Tuscaloosa. He earned first-team freshman All-America honors in 2014 and was named to the first-team All-SEC by both the conference coaches and the Associated Press last season. Robinson finished his sophomore season as one of two returning starters on the Tide’s offensive line. Robinson had 46 knockdown blocks that ranked third on the team.
Three Crimson Tide players have won the award previously including offensive tackles Barrett Jones (2011), Andre Smith (2008) and Chris Samuels (1999). Last season, A’Shawn Robinson was a finalist for the award.
Tight end O.J. Howard: Mackey Award
If Alabama can figure out how to consistently involve Howard in the offense, there’s no reason he can’t be the best tight end in the country.
Howard broke out in the national championship game, earning Offensive MVP honors against Clemson in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. In the title game, he caught five catches for a career-high and national championship game high 208 yards and two touchdowns against the Tigers. All five of his catches converted first downs and went for 15-plus yards with a career-long 63-yard reception in the fourth quarter.
His total receiving yards against the Tigers were an Alabama bowl record by any receiver. Howard wrapped up his junior season with 38 catches for 602 yards and a team-high 15.8 yards per catch average.
Last season, 24 of Howard’s catches converted first downs for the Tide with nine going for 20 yards or more.