Top 15 Candidates For 2013 Walter Camp Award

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Walter Camp Award Candidates

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Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier this month, the Walter Camp Football Foundation announced the 50 candidates to win their award given to the most outstanding college football player. Last year, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Teo was bestowed the honor.

Past winners of the award include O.J. Simpson (1967 and 1968), Archie Griffin (1974 and 1975), Tony Dorsett (1976), Herschel Walker (1982), Barry Sanders (1988), Larry Fitzgerald (2003), Cam Newton (2010) and Andrew Luck (2011).

Often times, you see either a quarterback or a running receive the award. Very rarely will a defensive player, like Desmond Howard in 1991, or a wide receiver, like Fitzgerald in 2003, win the award. This year's list is primarily dominated by the quarterback position as there are 19 of them.

This year, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel headlines a list of candidates that includes Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron, Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller and South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.

In this year's class, there are 37 schools represented. Alabama has the most candidates with four.

In this slideshow, I’ll break down the top-15 candidates to win the award this year. I’ll start with No. 15 and then work my way down to the player who I believe will earn the honor.

Let me tell you folks, there is a lot of talent on this year's candidate list and if I were to update this slideshow halfway through the season, I can almost guarantee that some names would move up, some would fall down, there would be new names and some players wouldn’t be on it at all.

Brian Skinnell is a writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter and add him to your network on Google.

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15 - Amari Cooper - WR - Alabama

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Last season, Amari Cooper had 59 receptions for 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns in his first season. Four times last season did he eclipse the 100-yard receiving mark in a single game. He ranked 36 in the FBS in receiving yards while averaging just over 16 yards per catch. Look for Cooper and another player to be named on this list to find the rhythm and become one of the more dominant tandems in college football.

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14 - Taylor Martinez - QB - Nebraska

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Last season, Taylor Martinez led Nebraska to the Capital One Bowl against Georgia. This season, his final season at Nebraska, the 2012 First Team All-Big Ten quarterback will be looking for more. He threw for 2,871 yards and 23 touchdowns last season to go along with 1,019 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns. If he wants to work his way up this list, he’ll need to protect the football as he threw 12 interceptions last season.

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13 - Teddy Bridgewater - QB - Louisville

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Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports

Even though he is currently at No. 13 on this list, Teddy Bridgewater could find himself high on most Walter Camp watch-lists by seasons end. The junior quarterback threw for over 3,700 yards last season with 27 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. Bridgewater is expected have an even bigger season this year and could find his way onto the Heisman dark-horse list.

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12 - Marcus Mariota - QB - Oregon

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Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

It should be interesting to see how he’ll fare with a new head coach, but look for Marcus Mariota to have another exciting season quarterbacking the Oregon Ducks offense. Under now Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly, Mariota thrived in the fast-paced and movement-filled offense. He threw for over 2,600 yards and rushed for another 752 yards. The sophomore quarterback also threw for 32 touchdowns while rushing for another five.

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11 - Sammy Watkins - WR - Clemson

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Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Despite missing three games last season, Sammy Watkins finished with 57 receptions for 708 yards and three touchdowns. In 2011, he had over 1,200 yards receiving with 12 touchdowns. The combination of Watkins-Tajh Boyd should help Clemson reach a high-ranked bowl game and should move both players up on watch lists. It will be their third season working together.

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10 - Jordan Lynch - QB - Northern Illinois

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Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

If you haven’t gotten yourself acquainted with Jordan Lynch yet, I suggest you do so before the season starts. Last year, he broke four NCAA records in his first season as the Northern Illinois Huskies starting quarterback. As well as lead the Huskies to a surprising Orange Bowl berth, he threw for 3,138 yards and 25 touchdowns. Don’t underestimate him to be just a pocket passer. Lynch also ran for 1,815 yards and 19 touchdowns.

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9 - Tajh Boyd - QB - Clemson

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Daniel Shirey-USA Today Sports

As his senior year is upon him, Tajh Boyd is set to prove to South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney that he isn’t afraid of him. In two seasons as the full-time starter, Boyd has thrown for over 3,800 yards in both seasons and the senior quarterback has the weapons to do the same for a third time. Last season he ranked in the top 10 in the FBS in passing yards and Boyd is a versatile quarterback that can get out and make some moves in open space.

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8 - Jake Matthews - OT - Texas A&M

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Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve had a number of quarterbacks on our countdown already, but what about the boys that keep them standing upright? Well, Jake Matthews is pretty good at doing just that. A relative of Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews, Jake started as a true-freshman for the Aggies and as a junior was given All-American honors. If another star Aggie is going to have any success this season, he’ll need the help of Matthews to make it happen.

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7 - DeAnthony Thomas - RB - Oregon

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Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

De’Anthony Thomas is easily one of the most electrifying players in college football. Much like his quarterback, Marcus Mariota, it will be interesting to see how the new coach affects his play on the field. The talent will still be there, but will it be used properly?

Last season, Thomas rushed for 701 yards and 11 touchdowns. Prior to the season, he was placed on the Walter Camp Award, Maxwell Award and Paul Hornung Award lists. In terms of just plain-old versatility, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a player more versatile than Thomas.

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6 - A.J. McCarron - QB - Alabama

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A.J. McCarron may be the best quarterback in this year's draft class. The Crimson Tide’s quarterback always remains calm under pressure and never ceases to lead Alabama to victory. In 2012, he threw for 2,933 yards and 30 touchdowns with just three interceptions. After leading Alabama to a National Championship victory, he was also given All-SEC honors and was a Third-Team All-American.

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5 - Taylor Lewan - OT - Michigan

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Taylor Lewan is likely the best offensive lineman in the 2014 NFL Draft class. The senior Michigan Wolverine is also on three other award watch lists this fall. As he enters his fourth season as the starter, the offensive tackle looks to add to his collection of trophies that currently consists of the Big Ten Rimington-Pace Offensive Lineman of the Year award. On top of that, he was also an All-Big Ten first-team selection. He’s big, he’s mean and he’s nasty in the trenches.

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4 - Marqise Lee - WR - USC

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Marqise Lee is likely the best wide receiver in the NCAA. Last season, he finished second in the FBS in receiving yards with 1,721 and 14 touchdowns. The reigning Biletnikoff Award winner, given to the nations top wide receiver, he is the USC Trojans offensive focal point and is a mismatch against any defensive back. Look for him to make his way onto the Heisman watch-list, as well.

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3 - Braxton Miller - QB - Ohio State

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Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The fit seems to be about right between the Ohio State Buckeye’s head coach Urban Meyer and quarterback Braxton Miller. Last season, Miller finished fifth in the Heisman voting and was also a finalist for the Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award given to the FBS’ top quarterback. He threw for 2,039 yards and 15 touchdowns while rushing for 1,271 yards and 13 touchdowns en route to leading the Buckeye’s to a perfect 12-0 record. With another season of experience under his belt, look for Miller to blow those numbers away and finish much higher up on the final Heisman voting and to contend for the Walter Camp Award.

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2 - Jadeveon Clowney - DE - South Carolina

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When it comes to freak athletes, Jadeveon Clowney is the freakiest of them all. Last season, he finished with 50 tackles, 13 sacks and 21 tackles for loss. He was named the AT&T All-America Player of the Year and was awarded the Hendricks Award as the nation’s top defensive end. If you’re in the SEC and not a Gamecock’s fan or player, Clowney likely gives you nightmares. Look for him and one other special player to battle it out to see who is the best player in all of college football.

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1 - Johnny Manziel - QB - Texas A&M

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The reigning Heisman Trophy winner certainly has high expectations heading into the season. After the offseason that Johnny Manziel has had, I’m sure he’s ready to hit those expectations head on and blow them all away. As a freshman, he threw for 3,706 yards and 26 touchdowns and rushed for 1,410 yards and 21 touchdowns. If there’s a list for player of the year in the NCAA, he’s on it and at the top. Look for Manziel to dominate the SEC this fall on his way to possibly a second-straight Heisman Trophy and his first ever Walter Camp Award.

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