Big 12: Jahvid Best
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Other Big 12 running backs to make the list include 2008 conference rushing leader Kendall Hunter of Oklahoma State, Baron Batch of Texas Tech, Roy Helu Jr. of Nebraska, Jake Sharp of Kansas and Cyrus Gray of Texas A&M. They were nominated to the 44-member watch list by their respective schools.
All of the backs appear to have earned their honor though strong performances last season. But Gray rushed for the fewest yards of all but two backs on the watch list with 363 yards in 2008. Additionally, he's expected to face a strong challenge from freshman Christine Michael to keep his job as the Aggies' starting tailback.
Meanwhile, a couple of deserving Big 12 backs who outproduced Gray in 2008 were left off. Missouri's Derrick Washington, who rushed for 1,036 yards, isn't on this list. And neither is Jay Finley, who led Baylor with 865 rushing yards.
The watch list was announced by the SMU Athletic Forum. The award recogonizes the nation's premier running back for his accomplishments on the field, achievement in the classroom and citizenship in the community.
The Doak Walker Award is the only major collegiate football award that requires all candidates to be in good academic standing and on schedule to graduate within one year of other students of the same classification.
Big 12 athletes have won the award four times since the conference was formed. Winners include Texas Tech's Byron Hanspard in 1996, Ricky Williams of Texas in 1997 and 1998 and Texas' Cedric Benson in 2004.
Also, Byron "Bam" Morris of Texas Tech in 1993 and Rashaan Salaam of Colorado in 1994 have won the Doak Walker Award since it was inaugurated in 1990.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
The folks at HeismanPundit.com have earned credibility over the years as one of the deepest websites for breaking down college football's top individual awards.
Heisman Pundit.com has already released its first watch list for the 2009 season. Colt McCoy of Texas is listed as its early leader. But what is really eye-opening about its early pick is that the defending Heisman Trophy winner isn't even listed as the top quarterback in his state on that list.
The website lists Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford at No. 10 at its initial poll. McCoy is followed by Tim Tebow of Florida, Jahvid Best of California, Terrelle Pryor of Ohio State and Daryll Clark of Penn State at fifth. Oklahoma State's Zac Robinson is ranked at ninth, in front of Bradford at 10th.
In its explanation, Heisman Pundit notes that Bradford's lack of a returning offensive line is the major reason it is discounting his chances. The Sooners will be breaking in four new starting offensive linemen.
If Bradford skids that far in the repeat balloting next season, his would be the worst repeat showing for a defending winner since Roger Staubach claimed the Heisman Trophy in 1963 and failed to place in the top five in the following season.
It will be interesting to see how Bradford fares next season. He will be playing behind an inexperienced line and throwing to a new set of receivers.
But I'm thinking he is returning with confidence about his team's chances, or else he wouldn't have opted to return for another season of college football.