The Maxwell Award Watch List for the 2017 season was released today, and the Big 12 is well represented. Eighty-five players from FBS programs were included on the list for the award that is annually given to the FBS player of the year. Quarterback Lamar Jackson from Louisville hauled in the award for the 2016 season and is on the list for this year’s campaign.
The SEC leads all Power 5 conferences with 21 players included in the July list, while the Big 12 is second with 12 players. Each of the remaining Power 5 conferences have 11 representatives. This represents a strong showing for the Big 12. The players to watch are as follows:
- Connor Williams – Texas, OL
- Shane Buechele – Texas, QB
- Chris Warren III – Texas, RB
- Baker Mayfield – Oklahoma, QB
- Orlando Brown – Oklahoma, OL
- Justin Crawford – West Virginia, RB
- Will Grier – West Virginia, QB
- Mason Rudolph – Oklahoma State, QB
- James Washington – Oklahoma State, WR
- Kyle Hicks – TCU, RB
- Jesse Ertz – Kansas State, QB
- Jacob Park – Iowa State, QB
Notice a trend? Six of the twelve representatives are quarterbacks. Sixty percent of the league’s quarterbacks are pre-season candidates for Player of the Year in college football. The SEC also boasts six of their fourteen quarterbacks as representatives on the watch list.
It goes without saying that the Big 12 is strong at the quarterback position this year. Mayfield and Rudolph are legitimate contenders who could be finalists for the Maxwell Award. Ertz and Beuchele are coming off of strong years and lead teams that have the potential to break through to the top tier of the Big 12 standings. The surprise entries are Will Grier and Jacob Park.
Grier is coming off of his self-induced set back while at Florida, but has a yet unproven reputation as a difference maker at the position. From a skill set standpoint, he is an upgrade from the very effective Skylar Howard and this honor indicates there are reasons to believe the hype. This is great news for West Virginia who struggles to gain the respect ten win seasons should garner.
Park plays at Iowa State, thus making his presence on the watch list even more surprising. Many pre-season quarterback rankings have him slotted in the 8-10 range, if he is even included. He shared time with Joel Lanning in 2016 until the final four contests where he was the primary signal caller. His performance in those games has been overlooked, but apparently not by the creators of the watch list.
Like Grier, Park was highly touted out of high school as an Elite 11 finalist. He possesses one of the Big 12’s best arms and is second only to Mike Gundy in hair style. It remains to be seen if he can build his skill set from his 2016 performance, but he is deserving of the mention and position among the top quarterbacks in the conference.
Players can play their way on or off of the list throughout the season, but at the very least, the Big 12 stacks up well and has gained a foothold on the national stage for their offensive potential.