Georgia’s Davis wins 76th Outland Trophy

DALLAS – Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis was named the recipient of the 76th Outland Trophy on Thursday night during The Home Depot College Football Awards on ESPN. The Outland Trophy is awarded annually to the nation’s best college interior lineman on offense or defense and Davis is the second Georgia lineman to earn the award.

Davis will be honored as the recipient of the 2021 Outland Trophy on Wed., Jan. 12 in Omaha at a dinner hosted by the Greater Omaha Sports Committee and sponsored by Werner Enterprises.

A 6-6, 340-pound senior from Charlotte, N.C., Davis was selected by the All-America Committee of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) from three finalists that also included N.C. State offensive tackle Ikem Ekwonu and Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum. Davis is the third Outland Trophy winner from the defensive side of the ball in last five seasons, following defensive tackles Ed Oliver of Houston in 2017 and Quinnen Williams of Alabama in 2018.

Each of the Bulldogs’ Outland Trophy prior honorees have been defensive tackles. Georgia’s lone winner was Bill Stanfill in 1968 and defensive tackle Andrew Thomas was a semifinalist in 2019.

Davis is a commanding presence in the middle of the Georgia defensive line, constantly double-teamed while closing interior running lanes between the ends. His presence taking away the defensive middle was a key in the Bulldogs leading the nation in scoring defense giving up only 9.5 points per game as the only program in single-digits and 5.5 points ahead of the next best unit. Georgia was also second in total defense (254.3 yards per game), third in rushing defense (81.7 ypg) and third in passing defense (172.6 ypg).

During Georgia’s 12-0 start and consensus No. 1 ranking for the bulk of the 2021 season, Davis posted 24 tackles, including 3.5 tackles for loss and two sacks and even included a short rushing touchdown. He had four tackles in Georgia’s loss to Alabama in last week’s SEC Championship Game, giving him 28 total tackles for the season.

Davis was also a finalist for the FWAA’s Bronko Nagurski Trophy and is a finalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award, both recognizing the national defensive player of the year.

The Bulldogs, seeded third, take on No. 2 Michigan in the College Football Playoff Semifinals on Dec. 31 in the Capital One Orange Bowl in Miami Gardens, Fla.

The Outland Trophy is the third-oldest major college football award behind the Heisman Trophy and Maxwell Award. Created in 1946 when Dr. John Outland presented the FWAA with a financial contribution to initiate the award, the Outland Trophy has been given to the best interior lineman in college football ever since. Dr. Outland, an All-American at the University of Pennsylvania in the late 1890s, eventually took up practice in Kansas City, Mo. An avid outdoorsman, Dr. Outland believed linemen did not get the credit they deserved and wanted an award to recognize them.

The Outland Trophy is a member of the National College Football Awards Association (NCFAA), which encompasses the most prestigious awards in college football. Founded in 1997, the NCFAA and its 24 awards now boast over 800 recipients, dating to 1935. Visit ncfaa.org to learn more about our story.

Founded in 1941, the Football Writers Association of America consists of journalists, broadcasters, publicists, photographers and key executives in all areas of college football. The FWAA works to govern media access and gameday operations while presenting awards and honors, including an annual All-America team. For more information about the FWAA and its programs and initiatives, contact Executive Director Steve Richardson at 214-870-6516 or tiger@fwaa.com.
Related links:
Preseason Watch List | Semifinalists
All-time Outland Trophy winners, candidates
• Download 75th Anniversary Outland Trophy logo: Primary (.jpg) | Dark background (.jpg) | Illustrator (.ai)

FWAA names finalists for 2021 Outland Trophy

OMAHA, Neb. — The top defensive tackle on the nation’s current top-ranked team, a standout center from a program with separate finalists in consecutive years and the top lineman on a contender for the Atlantic Coast Conference title are the three finalists for the 2021 Outland Trophy, as selected by the Football Writers Association of America.

Jordan Davis, the persistent force clogging the middle of Georgia’s defensive line, Tyler Linderbaum of Iowa, regarded nationally as the country’s top center this season, and Ikem “Ikey” Ekwonu of N.C. State, an offensive tackle and one of the top run blockers in the country, are this season’s superior linemen.

The 2021 Outland Trophy is awarded annually to the nation’s best college interior lineman on offense or defense. The All-America Committee of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) selected the three finalists from among the six semifinalists announced last week.

The recipient of the 2021 Outland Trophy will be announced on The Home Depot College Football Awards, live on ESPN on Dec. 9 at 7 p.m. ET. The official presentation to the winner will be made at the Outland Trophy Awards Dinner sponsored by Werner Enterprises and produced by the Greater Omaha Sports Committee in Omaha, Neb., on Jan. 12, 2022.

Of note is that the three schools represented by the finalists have a combined six Outland Trophy winners in their past. Each of the three finalists will also be a member of the FWAA First-Team All-America team.

Here is a closer look at each of the finalists:

Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia (#99, 6-6, 340, Sr., Charlotte, N.C.): Simply put, Davis is the most dominant defensive tackle in college football for top-ranked Georgia (11-0). The Bulldogs own the nation’s second-best total defense giving up 236.3 yards per game and with Davis anchoring the interior line own the nation’s second-best rushing defense (77.2 ypg). Georgia is the national scoring defense leader (7.5 ppg) by more than a touchdown above second-place and has not given up more than 17 points in any game. Nobody has been able to run on Davis. Georgia has an Outland Trophy tradition on the defensive front. The Bulldogs’ lone Outland Trophy winner was also a defensive tackle, Bill Stanfill, in 1968 and boasted defensive tackle Andrew Thomas as a semifinalist in 2019. Defensive tackles have won two of the last four Outland Trophies: Quinnen Williams of Alabama in 2018 and Ed Oliver of Houston in 2017.

Ikem Ekwonu, OT, North Carolina State (#79, 6-4, 320, So., Charlotte, N.C.): Ekwonu has been ranked as the top run blocker in college football by Pro Football Focus and has more than 50 pancake blocks and 17 knockdowns.for the Wolfpack (8-3). He has earned the ACC Offensive Line Player of the Week twice this season. Protecting quarterback Devin Leary at left tackle, Ekwonu and N.C. State are 19th nationally in passing offense at 292.2 yards per game, fifth in the ACC and 11th among Power 5 schools. Leary is tied for 14th nationally in passing yards at 289.6 ypg. “He’s.nasty. He’s athletic. He’s big,” said Tim Hasselbeck of the ACC Network. Bruce Feldman of The Athletic calls him the most feared lineman in the ACC. “Ridiculous strength levels, athleticism and will to finish,” said Jordan Reid of ESPN. Ekwonu is N.C. State’s first Outland Trophy finalist. Jim Ritcher, a center, won N.C. State’s only previous Outland Trophy in 1979 before finalists were designated. Garrett Bradbury, a center, was a semifinalist in 2018. Offensive tackles have won the last two Outland Trophys: Alex Leatherwood of Alabama (2020) and Penei Sewell of Oregon (2019).

Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa (#65, 6-3, 290, Jr., Solon, Iowa): Linderbaum is one of the dominant linemen at his position for the Hawkeyes (9-2). He was the Second Team FWAA All-America center a year ago. The junior has started all 32 career games after playing on the defensive line as a true freshman. He moved to the offensive line following the 2018 regular season, and this season has a 94.8 offensive grade among centers by PFF, the best for a center since 2014. Iowa’s run game has improved, as Tyler Goodson became Iowa’s first 1,000-yard-season rusher since 2017 with a 132-yard output last week.
The Hawkeyes have four Outland Trophy winners in their past, most recently offensive tackle Brandon Scherff in 2014, who is also the Big Ten’s last Outland winner. Offensive tackle Robert Gallery (2003), tackle Alex Karras (1957) and guard Calvin Jones (1955) are other winners. Iowa offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs was a semifinalist in 2019. The last center to win the Outland came in 2005 from the Big Ten, Greg Eslinger of Minnesota.

The Outland Trophy is the third-oldest major college football award behind the Heisman Trophy and Maxwell Award. Created in 1946 when Dr. John Outland presented the FWAA with a financial contribution to initiate the award, the Outland Trophy has been given to the best interior lineman in college football ever since. Dr. Outland, an All-American at the University of Pennsylvania in the late 1890s, eventually took up practice in Kansas City, Mo. An avid outdoorsman, Dr. Outland believed linemen did not get the credit they deserved and wanted an award to recognize them.

The Outland Trophy is a member of the National College Football Awards Association (NCFAA), which encompasses the most prestigious awards in college football. Founded in 1997, the NCFAA and its 24 awards now boast over 800 recipients, dating to 1935. Visit ncfaa.org to learn more about our story.

Founded in 1941, the Football Writers Association of America consists of journalists, broadcasters, publicists, photographers and key executives in all areas of college football. The FWAA works to govern media access and gameday operations while presenting awards and honors, including an annual All-America team. For more information about the FWAA and its programs and initiatives, contact Executive Director Steve Richardson at 214-870-6516 or tiger@fwaa.com.

Related links:
• Preseason Watch List | Semifinalists | Finalists
• All-time Outland Trophy winners, candidates
• Download 75th Anniversary Outland Trophy logo: Primary (.jpg) | Dark background (.jpg) | Illustrator (.ai)

Six linemen named semifinalists for 2021 Outland Trophy

OMAHA – Six semifinalists for the 2021 Outland Trophy – five offensive linemen and one defensive tackle – were announced Wednesday by the Greater Omaha Sports Committee. The semifinalists come from six schools at three different positions representing three different conferences.

The 2021 Outland Trophy is awarded annually to the nation’s best college interior lineman on offense or defense. The All-America Committee of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) selected the semifinalists from nominations by the entire membership.

The field for the 2021 Outland Trophy is as follows: defensive tackle Jordan Davis of Georgia, offensive tackle Ikem Ekwonu of North Carolina State, offensive tackle Darian Kinnard of Kentucky, center Tyler Linderbaum of Iowa, offensive tackle Evan Neal of Alabama and offensive tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere of Ohio State.

All six schools represented by the semifinalists have a previous winner and combine for 17 all-time Outland Trophy winners.

The FWAA began naming semifinalists for the Outland Trophy in the 2013 season. These six semifinalists will be pared to three finalists on Tues., Nov. 23 and the recipient of the 2021 Outland Trophy will be announced on The Home Depot College Football Awards, live on ESPN on Thurs., Dec. 9. The official presentation to the winner will be made at the Outland Trophy Awards Dinner sponsored by Werner Enterprises and produced by the Greater Omaha Sports Committee in Omaha, Neb., on Jan. 12, 2022.

Here is a closer look at each of the semifinalists:

Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia (#99, 6-6, 340, Sr., Charlotte, N.C.): The only defensive player among the six semifinalists, Davis is the most dominant defensive tackle in college football for top-ranked Georgia (10-0). The Bulldogs own the nation’s second-best total defense giving up 247 yards per game and with Davis anchoring the interior line own the nation’s second-best rushing defense (78.1 ypg). Georgia is the national scoring defense leader (7.6 ppg) by more than a touchdown and has not given up more than 17 points in any game. Nobody has been able to run on Davis. Georgia has an Outland Trophy tradition on the defensive front. Now with Davis, the Bulldogs have had two defensive tackle semifinalists in the past three seasons along with Andrew Thomas in 2019. The Bulldogs’ lone Outland Trophy winner was also a defensive tackle, Bill Stanfill, in 1968.

Ikem Ekwonu, OT, North Carolina State (#79, 6-4, 320, So., Charlotte, N.C.): Ekwonu has been ranked as the top run blocker in college football by Pro Football Focus and has more than 56 pancake blocks and 18 knockdowns for the Wolfpack (7-3). He has earned the ACC Offensive Line Player of the Week twice this season. Protecting quarterback Devin Leary at left tackle, Ekwonu and N.C. State are 19th nationally in passing offense at 291.1 yards per game, fifth in the ACC and 11th among Power 5 schools. Leary is 14th nationally in passing yards at 288.3 ypg. “He’s nasty. He’s athletic. He’s big,” said Tim Hasselbeck of the ACC Network. Bruce Feldman of The Athletic calls him the most feared lineman in the ACC. “Ridiculous strength levels, athleticism and will to finish,” said Jordan Reid of ESPN. N.C. State now has two semifinalists within the past four seasons, including center Garrett Bradbury from 2018. The Wolfpack’s lone Outland Trophy winner was at center, Jim Ritcher, in 1979.

Darian Kinnard, OT, Kentucky (#70, 6-5, 338, Sr., Knoxville, Tenn.): One of the top offensive linemen in the Southeastern Conference for a much-improved offense from a year ago. Kinnard has started at right tackle in the past 36 games for Kentucky (7-3) since the end of the 2018 season. The Wildcats’ resurgence this season is built around its run game, which boasts its 10th all-time 1,000-yard rusher in a season in Chrstiopher Rodriguez Jr., who led the SEC in rushing for the first half of the season and is currently second at 1,032 yards with six touchdowns. Kentucky, which has clinched second place in the SEC East, is tied for sixth in the SEC in rushing at 186.3 ypg. Kinnard is Kentucky’s first Outland semifinalist. Offensive tackle Bob Gain won the fifth Outland Trophy in 1950.

Tyler Linderbaum, C, Iowa (#65, 6-3, 290, Jr., Solon, Iowa): Linderbaum is one of the dominant linemen at his position for the Hawkeyes (8-2). He was the Second Team FWAA All-America center a year ago. The junior has started all 31 career games after playing on the defensive line as a true freshman. He moved to the offensive line following the 2018 regular season, and this season has a 94.8 offensive grade among centers by PFF, the best for a center since 2014. Iowa’s run game has improved, as Tyler Goodson needs 187 rushing yards in the final two games to become Iowa’s first 1,000-yard-season rusher since 2017. Iowa has now had a semifinalist in two of the last three seasons along with offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs in 2019. The Hawkeyes have four Outland Trophy winners in their past, most recently offensive tackle Brandon Scherff in 2014, who is also the Big Ten’s last Outland winner. Offensive tackle Robert Gallery (2003), tackle Alex Karras (1957) and guard Calvin Jones (1955) are other winners. The last center to win the Outland came in 2005 from the Big Ten, Greg Eslinger of Minnesota.

Evan Neal, OT, Alabama (#73, 6-7, 350, Jr., Okeechobee, Fla.): Slimmed down to 350 pounds to increase mobility, Neal has gained explosive speed and great reach. The FWAA Freshman All-America selection as a true freshman in 2019 settled in at left tackle this season after playing all along the offensive line previously for second-ranked Alabama (9-1), which is in the top 10 in offense in scoring offense (3rd, 44.6 ppg), total offense (10th, 484.7 ypg) and passing offense (11th, 322.6 ypg). Neal’s protection has helped quarterback Bryce Young to 302.5 passing yards per game, 13th nationally. The Crimson Tide claim last year’s Outland Trophy winner, offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood, and three of the last five winners from both sides of the ball. Quinnen Williams, a defensive tackle, won in 2018, and offensive tackle Cam Robinson won the 2016 award. Five of the Tide’s six winners have been offensive tackles. Alabama’s six Outland winners are second-most all-time to Nebraska’s nine.

Nicholas Petit-Frere, OT, Ohio State (#78, 6-5, 315, Jr., Tampa, Fla.): Regarded as the top offensive lineman on a Buckeyes front considered one of the nation’s best. He has built up his weight as his playing time increased, now weighing 315 pounds without losing his nimbleness for Ohio State (9-1). Petit-Frere started 18 of his 31 career games for the Buckeyes, who this season are tops in the nation in scoring offense (46.3 ppg), total offense (550.4 ) and sixth in passing offense (353.6 ypg). The line has provided big holes for explosive gains – running back TreVeyon Henderson is tied for third nationally in runs of 40 yards or more with six and has eight runs of 30-plus yards. Petit-Frere is the Buckeyes’ first Outland semifinalist since center Billy Price in 2017. Ohio State has four Outland winners in its past, started off by guard Jim Parker in 1956. Middle guard Jim Stillwagon (1970) and offensive tackles John Hicks (1973) and Orlando Pace (1996) have won it since.

The Outland Trophy is the third-oldest major college football award behind the Heisman Trophy and Maxwell Award. Created in 1946 when Dr. John Outland presented the FWAA with a financial contribution to initiate the award, the Outland Trophy has been given to the best interior lineman in college football ever since. Dr. Outland, an All-American at the University of Pennsylvania in the late 1890s, eventually took up practice in Kansas City, Mo. An avid outdoorsman, Dr. Outland believed linemen did not get the credit they deserved and wanted an award to recognize them.

The Outland Trophy is a member of the National College Football Awards Association (NCFAA), which encompasses the most prestigious awards in college football. Founded in 1997, the NCFAA and its 24 awards now boast over 800 recipients, dating to 1935. Visit ncfaa.org to learn more about our story.

Founded in 1941, the Football Writers Association of America consists of journalists, broadcasters, publicists, photographers and key executives in all areas of college football. The FWAA works to govern media access and gameday operations while presenting awards and honors, including an annual All-America team. For more information about the FWAA and its programs and initiatives, contact Executive Director Steve Richardson at 214-870-6516 or tiger@fwaa.com.

Related links:
• Preseason Watch List | Semifinalists | Finalists
• All-time Outland Trophy winners, candidates
• Download 75th Anniversary Outland Trophy logo: Primary (.jpg) | Dark background (.jpg) | Illustrator (.ai)

Outland Trophy history: Offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood, Alabama, 2020 recipient

This is the 15th and last in a series on Outland Trophy winners from 2006 to 2020. From 1946 to 2005, Outland Trophy winners were profiled in a book by Gene Duffey, Sixty Years of the Outland Trophy. We have now caught up with the last 15 winners.

(Leatherwood was selected 17th overall in the 2021 NFL Draft by the Las Vegas Raiders. He is playing his rookie season in the NFL this fall.)     

By Gene Duffey, Author

In the 2009 movie, The Blind Side, based on Mississippi left tackle Michael Oher, his position is featured, praised and even glorified, as long as you don’t have to play it. It’s the left tackle who must protect the blind side of a right-handed quarterback in the pocket.

Logically, Alabama’s Alex Leatherwood, who helped the Crimson Tide win the 2020 national championship, played left tackle and won the 75th Outland Trophy.

Coaches knew the importance of the position long before fans did. The movie opened with a replay of Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann being crushed from behind by a blitzing linebacker — from The Blind Side.

You better have a good left tackle if you want your quarterback to be able to walk by the fourth quarter.   

Every offensive line needs an anchor, and that anchor is usually the left tackle,” Alabama’s offensive line coach Kyle Flood (at the time) told the audience at Omaha’s Outland Trophy dinner in a video.

“That guy is the security blanket for the offensive line coach, and the entire offensive line. What you don’t see about (Leatherwood) is his consistent preparation, all the reps he takes in practice and the great example he sets for all the young guys on the team.”

Leatherwood offered a simple explanation for his work ethic in practice. “I was trying to be the best player I can be,” he said.

Flood ran the offensive line at Alabama during Leatherwood’s junior and senior seasons, then followed Steve Sarkisian to Texas in January 2021 to become offensive coordinator for the Longhorns.

Alabama’s offense did more than score points. The Tide steamrolled their opponents in 2020. They averaged 48.5 points a game, second best in the country.  

More…

Outland Trophy history: Offensive tackle Penei Sewell, Oregon, 2019 recipient

This is the 14th in a series on Outland Trophy winners from 2006 to 2020. From 1946 to 2005, Outland Trophy winners were profiled in a book by Gene Duffey, Sixty Years of the Outland Trophy. We are catching up with the last 15 winners.

(Offensive tackle Penei Sewell was the first Outland Trophy winner from Oregon and also the initial recipient from American Samoa, a U.S. Territory. He was selected seventh overall by the Detroit Lions in the 2021 NFL Draft and is playing his first year of professional football this fall.)  

By Gene Duffey, Author

American Samoa is a small group of islands in the South Pacific,

4,800 miles southwest of Los Angeles. The population is 55,000, scattered around 75 square miles.

It’s also the birthplace of Penei Sewell, the steamroller offensive tackle who won the Outland Trophy at Oregon in 2019.

There are more links with American Samoa and American college football than you would think.

Jack Thompson, an excellent quarterback at Washington State in the 1970s was nicknamed the “Throwin’ Samoan.” Thompson, also born in American Samoa, set the NCAA record for career passing yards in 1978 before college football turned into a pass-first, run-last game.

Two of Sewell’s uncles played in the NFL. Richard Brown, a linebacker at San Diego State, spent 10 years in the NFL with the Rams, Chargers, Browns and Vikings. Isaac Sopoaga, a defensive tackle at Hawaii, lasted 12 years in the NFL, mostly with the 49ers.

Penei’s father, Gabe, was an assistant high school coach in American Samoa. 

Between Sewell’s size and lineage, he was destined to become a football player — a really good football player.

When Penei was about 5, he remembers former USC safety Troy Polamalu and several of his Pittsburgh Steeler teammates coming to American Samoa to put on a summer camp. A typical kid, Penei, too young to participate, spent most of the time running around, watching the older kids go through the drills at the camp. He became hooked on football.

 “I think that left a lasting impression on Penei and all my sons,” Gabe Sewell told the Salt Lake City Deseret News years later.

Gabriel, the oldest of Gabe’s four sons, walked on at Nevada and played defensive back and linebacker. His senior year, in 2019, he finished fourth on the team in tackles.

Nephi, the second son, played defensive back at Utah. He appeared in three games as a freshman in 2019. Noah, two years younger than Penei, followed him to Oregon and played linebacker.

More…

Outland Trophy history: Defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, Alabama, 2018 recipient

This is the 13th in a series of stories on Outland Trophy winners from 2006 to 2020.  From 1946 to 2005, the first 60 Outland Trophy winners were profiled in the book 60 Years of the Outland Trophy by Gene Duffey. In celebration of the Outland Trophy’s 75th Anniversary we are catching up with the last 15 recipients.

(Alabama defensive lineman Quinnen Williams was selected No. 3 overall by the New York Jets in the 2019 NFL Draft. He played 13 games as a rookie, making 28 tackles, registering 2.5 sacks and collecting a sack. Last season with the Jets, Williams made 55 total tackles (32 unassisted). He had 7.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.)   

By Gene Duffey, Author

It is a short hop down Interstate 59 from Birmingham to Tuscaloosa, Alabama–just 57 miles southwest to the exit at McFarland Boulevard. Although almost neighbors, that distance meant worlds apart to a young Quinnen Williams.

The promising defensive lineman from Birmingham’s Wenonah High School took official visits to Auburn and Mississippi. He committed to Auburn.

Then, Alabama’s Nick Saban called with a scholarship. The King of college football was offering the keys to the castle. Talk about an offer too good to refuse.

Williams, who would go on to claim the Outland Trophy at Alabama in 2018, was a quiet kid, unusual for a position where ferocity is considered a key ingredient.

 “He was in the shell a little bit (when he arrived), but he was a good football player,” said Karl Dunbar, Alabama’s defensive line coach at the time.

Quinnen wasn’t shy by nature. There was a reason for that shell. His mother, Marquischa, a first-grade teacher, died of breast cancer Aug. 10, 2010 when he was only 12. She was just 37.

Losing a mother at any age is difficult. When one is 12, it makes it even tougher.

Marquischa Williams was an Auburn fan. Quinnen’s older brother, Quincy, played linebacker at FCS Murray State and was drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars.

 “Quinnen took it the hardest,” Quincy told Ross Dellenger of Sports Illustrated about Marquishca’s passing. “He was a momma’s boy, the one with the big heart. The only person he talks to about it is me. When we do talk, I let him know every single time how proud she is looking down at us.”

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Outland Trophy history: Ed Oliver, defensive tackle, Houston, 2017 recipient

This is the 12th in a series on Outland Trophy winners from 2006 to 2020. From 1946 to 2005, Outland Trophy winners were profiled in a book by Gene Duffey, Sixty Years of the Outland Trophy. We are catching up with the last 15 winners.

(Defensive tackle Ed Oliver was selected in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft, ninth overall by the Buffalo Bills. He begins his third season with the Bills this fall. In his first two seasons Oliver has played in 32 games and started 23 of those. He has 76 total tackles in his first two seasons, 29 of those assisted and eight sacks. Oliver has forced two fumbles and deflected five passes.)   

 By Gene Duffey, Author

The University of Houston’s Ed Oliver grew up wanting to be first. So far, so good. He wasn’t the first born in his family, having to settle for being the third of four boys, but he couldn’t help that.

He wanted to be the first one remembered among the string of outstanding defensive linemen to come out of Westfield High School in Houston. Check. He wanted to be the first five-star recruit to play at the University of Houston. Check. He wanted to become the first sophomore to win the Outland Trophy. Check.

“I was the first to do a lot of things,” he said. “I was the first recruit this high to come to Houston. I take pride in being the first sophomore to win the Outland. That’s an amazing accomplishment. I could have done it as a freshman. See, I’m kind of hard on myself.”

Ed Oliver’s value system is different from most. Good is never good enough. The best can still be better.

“I do things differently,” he said. “I have a different mindset. Sometimes I get down on myself. I just want to work out and get better. The more people tell me I’m good, the more I come down on myself. Nobody could be harder on myself than me.

“Even though I might sugar coat it in front of people, it’s always in the back of my head what I did wrong. I could have done better on this play. When I watch film, I (look for) what I could have done better, not how good I am.”

Oliver began receiving extra attention from opposing offensive lines when he started on the varsity as a sophomore in high school. Double teams became a way of life.

He continued to prove himself worthy of the extra attention right away as a freshman in college. Oliver started the opening game of the 2016 season against No. 3 Oklahoma, made seven tackles, including two sacks, and helped the Cougars pull off a 33-23 upset of the Sooners.

More…

Outland Trophy history: Offensive tackle Cam Robinson, Alabama, 2016 recipient

This is the 11th in a series on Outland Trophy winners from 2006 to2020. From 1946 to 2005, Outland Trophy winners were profiled in a book by Gene Duffey, Sixty Years of the Outland Trophy. We are catching up with the last 15 winners.

(Offensive tackle Cam Robinson was selected in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft, 34th overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars. The fourth of six Alabama linemen (all since 1999) to win the Outland Trophy, Robinson has started and played in 47 games for the Jaguars since 2017.)  

By Gene Duffey, Author

Pencil spotlight in on the football player. No, not Deshaun Watson, the star of Clemson’s 35-31 victory over Alabama to win the national championship in January 2017. Check out the other player nearby, the hulking guy in white, wearing No. 74.

ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi is interviewing Watson, the Tigers quarterback and star of the evening, who won the game with a touchdown pass to Hunter Renfrow with just two seconds to play.

Suddenly, from off camera, a huge Alabama player appears. Look at the guy. It’s Cam Robinson, the Crimson Tide’s oversized left tackle. Robinson shakes hands with Watson and whispers in his ear.

“I know him fairly well,” Robinson says the next day. “We were in the same recruiting class. I just wanted to congratulate him.”

It was a class move in a tough moment for Robinson. His Alabama team had just lost a chance to win back-to-back national championships by the narrowest of margins. The pain of the defeat will stay with Robinson.

“I have a hard time getting over the losses,” he says. “I think it’s going to linger for a while.”

Robinson didn’t lose very often in his three years at Alabama. He started all 44 games of his college career and lost only four times, twice to Mississippi and twice in the national playoffs. In addition to the Clemson defeat, the other occurred to eventual champion Ohio State in the semifinals as a true freshman.

He followed a long and winding road from West Monroe, Louisiana to claiming the 2016 Outland Trophy.

His first experience with organized football began in a YMCA league at age 7. Next, he moved on to touch football and eventually tackle.

Robinson started out on the defensive side of the ball, playing linebacker and defensive end. “It was fun,” he said.

Alabama’s Cam Robinson, winner of the 2016 Outland Trophy, addresses the audience at the Outland Trophy Presentation Banquet on Jan. 11, 2017, in Omaha. Photo by C41 Photography.

He didn’t switch to offense until his freshman year at Ouachita High School in Monroe, Louisiana where he began as a left tackle. “The offensive line coach and head coach asked me to move (to offense),” said Robinson. “It was something I was willing to do.”

Robinson began high school at Ouachita, where he played for two years. He transferred to West Monroe High School for his junior year. “I always wanted to go to West Monroe,” he said.

His older sister, Charity, played basketball at Ouachita and their mother, Priscilla, did not want her children to attend different high schools. When Charity went off to McNeese State, Cam transferred to West Monroe.

Cam played a little basketball himself in high school. He played his freshman year at Ouachita and his junior year at West Monroe before giving up the sport. “I wanted to be freer to focus on what I wanted to do,” said Robinson. Translation: Concentrate on football.

Robinson was a familiar name to the coaches at West Monroe before he arrived.

“We knew him since he was a little kid,” said Jerry Arledge, an assistant coach at West Monroe during Robinson’s time there and later the head coach. “His uncles went to school here and his grandparents live about two blocks from our stadium.”

Some people were upset at the school that Robinson left behind. “There were ill feelings from the Ouachita people,” said Arledge, adding that he heard charges of tampering. That means high school football is a very big deal in the area.

Robinson already weighed 325 pounds when he arrived at West Monroe. “He was the biggest kid I’ve ever seen,” said Arledge. “The thing so impressive about Cam is he’s got the greatest feet of any big kid I’ve seen.”

Arledge had inherited some football talent from his father, Steve Foley, who played at Northeast Louisiana. Foley went on to play linebacker for seven seasons in the NFL, five with the Cincinnati Bengals and one each with the Houston Texans and San Diego Chargers.

Cam’s junior year West Monroe reached the state semifinals. The Rebels built a 48-20 lead, then lost 49-48. “I didn’t play defense (in that game),” said Robinson. But the loss still hurt.

West Monroe went 9-3 Robinson’s senior season, losing 14-0 in the second round of the state playoffs to Central High School, near Baton Rouge.

Robinson did play some defensive end in high school when he “was needed.”

In his senior year the website 24/7 Sports rated Robinson the No. 2 prospect in Louisiana behind running back Leonard Fournette, who went on to LSU and became the No. 4 pick by Jacksonville in the 2017 NFL draft.

“You had to fire him up very little,” Arledge of Robinson. “No doubt in our mind (he would be this good). When you’re that size, you’re going to be the No. 1 pick in America.”

Michigan, Auburn and Arkansas joined the hunt for the big guy.  Robinson finally narrowed his college choices to Alabama, LSU and Texas. “When I was young I was a huge LSU fan, even in high school,” he said. “When the recruiting process started it’s a different aspect.”

The winning tradition in Tuscaloosa sold him on the Crimson Tide. Alabama won the national championship in 2012, beating Notre Dame for the title, and won its first 11 games in 2013 before losing to Auburn on the infamous missed field goal return. Oklahoma then beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

Robinson committed to Alabama just before the start of his senior year at West Monroe. Naturally, there was some resentment when he announced he would be leaving the state for Alabama, instead of enrolling at LSU.

“The Tigers don’t miss many (in Louisiana),” said Arledge. “(Robinson signing with Alabama) was one of the things that got the LSU offensive line coach fired.”

 Robinson was able to graduate from high school in December and enrolled at Alabama for the spring semester.

“It was tough physically and mentally,” Robinson said of his early transition to college football. But he was glad he made the move to college one semester ahead of schedule, benefiting tremendously from spring practice.

“It helped me a lot,” he said. “I got a good grip on the playbook. Football wise, the talent level was much different.”

The left tackle position had been left open when Cyrus Kouandjio, the starter in 2013, left for the NFL. The Buffalo Bills drafted him in the second round in 2014, No. 44 overall.

Robinson handled the new challenge well enough to earn the starting left tackle spot in the spring as a true freshman.

“I was not surprised,” he said. “It was one of my goals. I came in and worked extremely hard.”

Alabama opened the 2014 season, with Robinson in the starting lineup, against West Virginia in the Georgia Dome in front of over 70,000.

“It was completely different from high school,” he said. “I think I played pretty well. I don’t think I gave up any sacks.”

Neither did Alabama. The Tide attack rolled to 538 yards of total offense and beat West Virginia, 33-23.

The Tide went 11-1 that season, losing only to Mississippi by six points in Oxford, then beat Missouri in the SEC Championship Game back in Atlanta. Ohio State stopped the Tide express in the national semifinals en route to the national championship.

Robinson and Alabama reached the summit in college football in 2015, winning the national championship with a pulsating 45-40 win over Clemson in the title game at Glendale, Arizona. “It’s the highest achievement,” said Robinson. “It was an exciting moment, overwhelming really.”

Robinson hit a bump in the road the following May. He was back home on a break before summer school started. He and Hootie Jones, a reserve safety and special teams player at Alabama who was also from Monroe, were arrested late at night in a local park for illegal possession of stolen firearms and possession of a controlled substance in Ouachita Parish.

Police officers smelled marijuana when they approached Robinson’s car. Robinson was seated in the driver’s seat.

Police spotted a handgun on Jones’ lap, who was sitting in the passenger seat. A bag of marijuana was found on the floor. A stolen handgun was also located under Robinson’s seat.

Jones and Robinson were released early the next morning on bonds. 

Prosecutors decided not to pursue the case a month later for lack of evidence.

“I used it as a learning experience,” said Robinson.

After initially suspending both players indefinitely, Alabama coach Nick Saban allowed both back on the field for the start of the season. They both completed community service.

Louisiana district attorney Jerry D. Jones expressed sympathy for the Alabama athletes. “I want to emphasize once again that the main reason I’m doing this is that I refuse to ruin the lives of two young men who have spent their adolescence and teenage years, working and sweating, while we were all in the air conditioning,” Jones told Ben Kercheval of CBS Sports.

In addition to his early success in games, Robinson continued to improve on the practice field. Attempting to block Jonathan Allen, the nation’s premier defensive tackle in 2016, made him better.

“Going against guys of that caliber has to help you,” said Robinson.

He identified the defensive ends who gave him the most trouble as Missouri’s Shane Ray, who went on to play linebacker for the Denver Broncos,  and Mississippi State’s Preston Smith, who played linebacker for  the Washington Football Team and now Green Bay.

When Ed Orgeron replaced Les Miles at coach at LSU in late September 2016, he was asked about the Tigers’ offensive line. “The one that’s the left tackle at Alabama should be here,” Orgeron said, remembering  Robinson’s roots. “So, we need to get better.”

In his three years at Tuscaloosa, Robinson gained an appreciation for Saban.

“I don’t think he’s as bad as people think he is,” said Robinson. “He’s more laid back than people think.”

Robinson suffered a sprained knee one Saturday in practice his sophomore year and injured a shoulder in the fourth quarter of a win over Chattanooga in November of his junior year. But he never missed a start.

Robinson said he never thought about winning the Outland Trophy, even though he had helped the Tide average over 40 points and 477 yards of total offense per game in 2016, his junior year. Alabama’s offensive line gave up barely one sack a game.

Near the end of November Robinson was named a finalist, along with two other offensive linemen, Ohio State center Pat Elflein and Washington State guard Cody O’Connell.

In December 2016, the announcement was made at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta when Robinson became the Crimson Tide’s fourth Outland Trophy recipient. After the 2020 season, Alabama has six Outland Trophy winners, five of them offensive linemen — all since 1999.

“It was an exciting moment, overwhelming really,”‘ Robinson said. “I got up and gave my little talk. I wasn’t nervous.”

Applause, applause


More…

Outland Trophy history: Offensive guard Joshua Garnett, Stanford, 2015 recipient

This is the 10th in a series of stories on Outland Trophy winners from 2006 to 2020.  From 1946 to 2005, the first 60 Outland Trophy winners were profiled in the book 60 Years of the Outland Trophy by Gene Duffey. In celebration of the Outland Trophy’s 75th Anniversary we are catching up with the last 15 recipients.

(Guard Joshua Garnett was selected 28th overall in the 2016 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers. Garnett played in 15 games and started 11 as a rookie for the 49ers. A series of injuries starting in 2017 would basically curtail his stay with the 49ers, and he was released before the start of the 2019 regular season. Garnett retired in October 2020.)   

By Gene Duffey, Author

Some people think of Stanford, known for its fine academics and lineage of great quarterbacks, as the high and mighty of college football. But its linemen have proved they can get down and dirty when need be.

The Stanford offensive linemen nicknamed themselves the “Tunnel Union Workers” around 2008. The idea came from offensive tackle Chris Marinelli of Braintree, Massachusetts. Marinelli’s father worked construction on the Big Dig in Boston, a huge project that rerouted Interstate 93 under the city and connected Logan Airport to downtown. It took 15 years to complete and cost $14.6 billion.

“A lot of people didn’t understand it,” guard Joshua Garnett said of the nickname. “You have to bring your hardhat and earn your stripes. We took a lot of pride in that.”

“It’s a cool tradition,” added left tackle Kyle Murphy, who played next to Garnett.

Their names may not be as well-known as former Stanford quarterbacks Frankie Albert, John Brodie, Heisman Trophy winner Jim Plunkett, someone named John Elway and Andrew Luck. But Stanford’s  offensive linemen in the last decade or so have included several All-Americans … enter Chase Beeler in 2010, tackle Jonathan Martin in 2011, guard David DeCastro in 2011, guard-tackle David Yankey in 2013 and tackle Andrus Peat in 2014.

DeCastro was an Outland finalist in 2011, and Yankey was a semifinalist in 2013.

Garnett fit right in. He became Stanford’s first Outland Trophy winner in 2015. The senior from Puyallup, Wash. helped Stanford to a 12-2 record, including a Rose Bowl rout of Iowa.

Garnett’s father, Scott, played nose guard at Washington in the early 1980s.

More…

2021 Outland Trophy watch list announced

DALLAS — The Football Writers Association of America has announced the preseason watch list for the 2021 Outland Trophy, recognizing 80 returning standout interior linemen representing all 10 Division I FBS conferences and independents. The 2021 season continues a celebration of the award’s 75th anniversary and the watch list presents a talented field of players to accompany three returning FWAA All-Americans.

The recipient of the 2021 Outland Trophy will be announced on The Home Depot College Football Awards, live on ESPN in December. The official presentation to the winner will be made at the Outland Trophy Awards Dinner sponsored by Werner Enterprises and produced by the Greater Omaha Sports Committee in Omaha, Neb., on Jan. 12, 2022.

Kenyon Green, a 2020 Outland semifinalist as a first-team FWAA All-American offensive guard at Texas A&M last year, tops the list as the only first-team interior lineman to return. The Aggies, who also have defensive tackle McKinnley Jackson on the list, are one of 18 teams to have at least two players on the watch list. One other returning All-American, Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum highlights the top returning interior linemen. Linderbaum was a second-team selection a year ago.

Five schools boast three selections each, including two of last year’s College Football Playoff qualifiers in Clemson and Ohio State. Two of Clemson’s are defensive tackles, Bryan Bresee and Tyler Davis, along with offensive tackle Jordan McFadden, are touted. Ohio State’s offensive line is bolstered by tackles Thayer Munford and Nicholas Petit-Frere and its defense features tackle Haskell Garrett.

Boston College, which pairs with Clemson to give the Atlantic Coast Conference six of its national-best 14 players, has center Alec Lindstrom in between guard Zion Johnson and offensive tackle Tyler Vrabel. Oklahoma’s high-powered offense has guards Tyrese Robinson and Marquis Hayes and a third member, Perrion Winfrey at defensive tackle. Georgia is the only SEC school with a trio of players – guards Jamaree Salyer and Justin Shaffer, and defensive tackle Jordan Davis.

After the ACC, the Big Ten boasts 13 selections spread among nine different schools and the SEC has 11 total from seven schools. Defending national champion Alabama is represented by a tackle on each side of the ball, Evan Neal on offense and Phidarian Mathis on defense. Alabama offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood won the 2020 Outland Trophy before departing to the NFL as the 17th overall selection in the draft by the Las Vegas Raiders.

Two members of last season’s FWAA Freshman All-America team, Northwestern offensive tackle Peter Skoronski and Tulsa offensive tackle Tyler Smith, are also on the watch list, which includes 26 offensive tackles, 26 guards, 16 centers and 13 defensive tackles.

2021 OUTLAND TROPHY PRESEASON WATCH LIST (80)

G Henry Bainivalu, WashingtonC Alec Lindstrom, Boston College
OT Matthew Bedford, IndianaDT Jermayne Lole, Arizona State
G Curtis Blackwell, Ball StateOT Vederian Lowe, Illinois
C Nick Brahms, AuburnOT Abe Lucas, Washington State
DT Bryan Bresee, ClemsonG Cain Madden, Notre Dame
DT C.J. Brewer, Coastal CarolinaDT Phidarian Mathis, Alabama
OT Nick Broeker, Ole MissOT Jordan McFadden, Clemson
G Logan Bruss, WisconsinC Mike Miranda, Penn State
OT Spencer Burford, UTSAOT Thayer Munford, Ohio State
C Mike Caliendo, Western MichiganOT Evan Neal, Alabama
G Trey Carter, Coastal CarolinaOT Zion Nelson, Miami
DT Will Choloh, TroyC Colin Newell, Iowa State
DT Nolan Cockrill, ArmyG Conner Olson, Minnesota
C Keegan Cryder, WyomingG Dylan Parham, Memphis
DT Jordan Davis, GeorgiaG Jarrett Patterson, Notre Dame
DT Tyler Davis, ClemsonOT Nicholas Petit-Frere, Ohio State
C Dawson Deaton, Texas TechOT Colby Ragland, UAB
G Corey Dublin, TulaneG Tyrese Robinson, Oklahoma
G Ikem Ekwonu, N.C. StateOT Walter Rouse, Stanford
C Nathan Eldridge, Oregon StateG Jamaree Salyer, Georgia
C James Empey, BYUG Cole Schneider, UCF
G Joshua Ezeudu, North CarolinaG Derek Schweiger, Iowa State
C Alex Forsyth, OregonG Justin Shaffer, Georgia
OT Jake Fuzak, BuffaloG Josh Sills, Oklahoma State
DT Haskell Garrett, Ohio StateOT Peter Skoronski, Northwestern
C Grant Gibson, N.C. StateOT Tyler Smith, Tulsa
G Shamarious Gilmore, Georgia StateOT Jack Snyder, San Jose State
OT Kenyon Green, Texas A&MG Jake Stetz, Boise State
C Bryce Harris, ToledoDT Dante Stills, West Virginia
G Marquis Hayes, OklahomaOT Jaylon Thomas, SMU
C Brock Hoffman, Virginia TechOT Zachary Thomas, San Diego State
OT Jarrett Horst, Michigan StateOT Zach Tom, Wake Forest
C Baer Hunter, App StateG O’Cyrus Torrence, Louisiana
G Ed Ingram, LSUDT Raymond Vohasek, North Carolina
DT McKinnley Jackson, Texas A&MOT Tyler Vrabel, Boston College
G Zion Johnson, Boston CollegeOT Rasheed Walker, Penn State
OT Darian Kinnard, KentuckyOT Sidney Wells, UAB
OT Jaxson Kirkland, WashingtonC Dohnovan West, Arizona State
C Doug Kramer, IllinoisOT Jarrid Williams, Miami
C Tyler Linderbaum, IowaDT Perrion Winfrey, Oklahoma

By conference: ACC 14, Big Ten 13, SEC 11, Big 12 8, Pac-12 8, Sun Belt 6, American Athletic 5, Independents 4, Mid-American 4, Mountain West 4, Conference USA 3.

By position: Offensive Tackles 27, Offensive Guards 25, Centers 16, Defensive Tackles 13.

Tackles, guards and centers are eligible for consideration; Candidates may be added or removed during the season

The Outland Trophy winner is chosen from three finalists who are a part of the annual FWAA All-America Team. The FWAA All-America Committee, after voting input from the entire membership, selects a 26-man first team and eventually the three Outland finalists. Committee members, then by individual ballot, select the winner. Only interior linemen on offense or defense are eligible for the award; ends are not eligible.

The Outland Trophy, celebrating 75 years since its founding, is the third-oldest major college football award. Created in 1946 when Dr. John Outland presented the FWAA with a financial contribution to initiate the award, the Outland Trophy has been given to the best interior lineman in college football ever since. Dr. Outland, an All-American at the University of Pennsylvania in the late 1890s, eventually took up practice in Kansas City, Mo. An avid outdoorsman, Dr. Outland believed linemen did not get the credit they deserved and wanted an award to recognize them.

The Outland Trophy is a member of the National College Football Awards Association (NCFAA), which encompasses the most prestigious awards in college football. Founded in 1997, the NCFAA and its 25 awards now boast over 800 recipients, dating to 1935. Visit ncfaa.org and @NCFAA on Twitter to learn more about the association.

The members of the NCFAA are unveiling preseason watch lists over a 10-day period this month. Sixteen of the association’s 25 awards are presenting their preseason watch list during this time as the NCFAA has spearheaded a coordinated effort to promote each award’s preseason candidates. Following is the remaining 2021 preseason watch list calendar:

Wed., July 28: Lou Groza Award/Ray Guy Award
Thu., July 29: Hornung Award/Wuerffel Trophy
Fri., July 30: Maxwell Award

Founded in 1941, the Football Writers Association of America consists of 1,300 men and women who cover college football. The membership includes journalists, broadcasters and publicists, as well as key executives in all the areas that involve the game. The FWAA works to govern areas that include game-day operations, major awards and its annual All-America team. For more information about the FWAA and its award programs, contact Steve Richardson at tiger@fwaa.com.

Related links:
• All-time Outland Trophy winners, candidates
• Download 75th Anniversary Outland Trophy logo: Primary (.jpg) | Dark background (.jpg) | Illustrator (.ai)