OMAHA, Neb. — Eight semifinalists for the 2018 Outland Trophy – including two pairs of teammates – were announced Wednesday by the Greater Omaha Sports Committee and the Football Writers Association of America. The eight semifinalists are players from six schools at five different positions representing five different conferences.
The 2018 Outland Trophy, presented by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID), is awarded annually to the nation’s best college interior lineman on offense or defense. NFID is presenting the trophy to help increase awareness about the importance of annual flu prevention. Getting vaccinated each year is your best line of defense against the flu.
University of Wisconsin All-American Joe Thomas, the 2006 Outland Trophy winner who retired earlier this year after a stellar 11-year career with NFL’s Cleveland Browns, is serving as the Outland Trophy #FightFlu ambassador on behalf of NFID. Thomas has been an avid supporter of annual flu vaccination and is making media appearances on behalf of the #FightFlu public awareness campaign to remind everyone 6 months and older to get an annual flu vaccine.
The field for the 2018 Outland Trophy is as follows, listed in alphabetical order: North Carolina State center Garrett Bradbury, Wisconsin guard Michael Deiter, Clemson offensive tackle Mitch Hyatt, Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver, Oklahoma guard Ben Powers, Clemson defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, Alabama offensive tackle Jonah Williams and Alabama nose guard Quinnen Williams.
The eight semifinalists will be pared to three finalists next week and announced on Nov. 20. The recipient of the 73rd Outland Trophy will be announced during ESPN’s The Home Depot College Football Awards on Dec. 6, live from the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta. The official presentation to the winner will be made at the Outland Trophy Awards Dinner produced by the Greater Omaha Sports Committee on Jan. 9, 2019.
Here is a closer look at each of the semifinalists:
Garrett Bradbury, C, North Carolina State (6-3, 300, Gr., Charlotte, N.C.): A three-year starter on the line, the team co-captain has played all but four snaps for the Wolfpack this season. In 679 snaps he has not allowed a sack and has only allowed two pressures on 348 pass attempts. His protection has helped place Ryan Finley on the cusp to become N.C. State’s only quarterback to pass for 3,000-plus yards in three different seasons. Has led the blocking for an offense averaging 31.4 points and 453.0 yards per game. Earned his degree last year in business supply operations management.
Michael Deiter, G, Wisconsin (6-6, 321, Sr., Curtice, Ohio): A mainstay on the Badgers’ offensive front – he has started all 51 games of his career – that is currently paving the way for the nation’s leading rusher and the sixth-best ground attack. Jonathan Taylor (1,548 yards, 154.8 per game) is the fourth Wisconsin back to record back-to-back 1,500-yard rushing seasons and is 25 yards ahead by average to the nation’s second-leading. Deiter (DEE-ter) should make his school-record 52nd career start Saturday at Purdue – 21 have come at left guard, 16 at center and 14 at left tackle.
Mitch Hyatt, OT, Clemson (6-5, 310, Jr., Suwanee, Ga.): The Tigers’ left tackle is helping produce offensive numbers in record territory. The unbeaten Tigers are one of five schools with three active 1,000-yard career rushers on its current roster (Hyatt has been up front for all three), and Clemson is ninth in the nation in total offense at 526.6 yards per game, which is currently 10th in school history. Hyatt, the Outland Trophy Offensive Player of the Month for October, already owns Clemson’s career record for snaps from scrimmage (3,420) and will break another record with a 53rd career start Saturday against Duke.
Ed Oliver, DT, Houston (6-3, 290, Jr., Houston, Texas): The 2017 Outland Trophy winner was the first sophomore to ever win the Outland Trophy and earned FWAA First-Team All-America honors last year. He was an FWAA Freshman All-America in 2016 as well. Despite missing three games and constant double and triple teams, Oliver leads all defensive linemen nationally with an average of 7.29 tackles per game. Oliver’s 1.93 tackles for loss per game is third nationally, and he has a career average of 1.64 tackles for loss per game. His final home game is Thursday against Tulane, as he has already declared to enter the 2019 NFL Draft.
Ben Powers, G, Oklahoma (6-4, 314, Sr., Wichita, Kan.): The Sooners’ left guard is the leader of a line that is currently powering the nation’s top offense in yards per game (577.1) and yards per play (8.91). The 8.91 yards per play is on an NCAA-record pace above Hawaii’s 8.6 from 2006. Oklahoma is the nation’s only team this year with at least 30 rushing touchdowns (31) and at least 30 passing TDs (33), and the Sooners have rushed for at least 300 yards and passed for at least 300 a school-record four times already this year, and in three straight games.
Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson (6-4, 300, Gr., Springfield, Mass.): A standout player for the unbeaten Tigers, even as part of a defensive line featuring four returning All-Americans. Wilkins was an FWAA First-Team All-America selection in 2016. He has 10.5 tackles for loss, second on the team, to go with three sacks and 40 tackles (29 solo) for the season. Clemson was No. 1 nationally in tackles for loss in the first two of Wilkins’ three prior seasons in the middle and was No. 6 last year. His 13.5 stops behind the line have resulted in 67 yards of losses. Wilkins will play in his 54th career game Saturday against Duke. Wilkins graduated in 2017 with a degree in communications in only two-and-a-half years.
Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama (6-5, 301, Jr., Folsom, Calif.): The left tackle for the unbeaten Crimson Tide continues to pace the nation’s No. 5 but arguably most-feared offense. Williams was the Outland Trophy Offensive Player of the Month for September after grading out above 90 percent for the month. The junior has started all 39 games in his career and had perhaps his best game against LSU when Alabama averaged 7.6 yards per rush and gained 576 yards against a then-Top-10 defense and allowed only one sack on a season-high 42 pass attempts. Alabama only yields 0.67 sacks per game, fourth nationally.
Quinnen Williams, NG, Alabama (6-4, 295, So., Birmingham, Ala.): The upstart sophomore leads unbeaten Alabama with 14.0 tackles for loss for minus-58 yards and is tied for 11th in the SEC with 5.0 sacks. He too posted a career game against LSU, tallying career highs in tackles (10) and sacks (2.5) and tying a career high in tackles for loss (3.5). Williams clogs the middle and allows those around him to create havoc – Alabama has had at least 10 tackles for loss in five of 10 games and in three straight. The Crimson Tide’s 36 sacks (3.60 per game) are both tied for No. 3 nationally.
The Outland Trophy 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 24 awards now boast over 800 recipients, dating to 1935. Visit ncfaa.org to learn more about our story.
About the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases
Founded in 1973, the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to educating the public and healthcare professionals about the burden, causes, prevention, and treatment of infectious diseases across the lifespan. Visit nfid.org for more information.
About the Football Writers Association of America
Founded in 1941, the non-profit Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) consists of more than 1,300 members, including journalists, broadcasters, publicists and key executives in all areas of college football. Led by current President Stefanie Loh of the Seattle Times, longtime Executive Director Steve Richardson, and a board of veteran journalists, the association continues to grow and work to help college football prosper at all levels. Visit footballwriters.com for more information about the FWAA and its award programs.
On the web
@NFIDvaccines, @OutlandTrophy, @TheFWAA, @JoeThomas73, #FightFlu