NCF Nation: Doak Walker Award
Oregon State's Jacquizz Rodgers and Oregon's LaMichael James both ranked in the top-20 in the nation in rushing last season and have been put on various preseason All-America teams. Two other returning running backs -- Washington's Chris Polk and California's Shane Vereen -- rushed for more than 950 yards. Arizona's Nic Grigsby eclipsed 1,000 yards in 2008.
If you were to have that argument, you might want to start with the Doak Walker Award, which is given annually to the nation's best running back and includes only Rodgers on its initial watch list.
Feel free to be stunned.
There are 49 players on that watch list. James rushed for 1,546 yards last season as a redshirt freshman. Only four players on the watch list rushed for more.
This doesn't seem to be a case of "East Coast bias" -- Stanford's Toby Gerhart won the award last season. It does seem to be a case of not knowing what's happening on the West Coast.
I called the Doak Walker Award's home office and left a message looking for a bit of clarity on the oversights. Will let you know when I get a call back.
Obviously, once the Doak Walker folks are clued in that they missed a candidate -- James -- who's without question among the top four or five best running backs in the country, as well as three other backs who have better resumes than 20 or so of their selected players, they will adjust their list.
Semifinalists will be selected Nov. 10, and finalists will be announced on Nov. 22. The 2010 recipient will be announced live on ESPN on The Home Depot ESPNU College Football Awards on Dec. 9.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Shonn Greene is used to seeing the wide eyes and the dropped jaws as he recounts his amazing evolution from college football exile to national award candidate.
The story never gets old, even for the man telling it.
"I'm just as surprised as they are," Greene said. "You would think I wouldn't be. Everybody knows about it, so everybody's kind of surprised. It's a great journey."
|Mark Cunningham/Getty Images|
|Shonn Greene is a finalist for the Doak Walker Award.|
Greene's journey, which in a sense began inside a warehouse at McGregors Furniture last year, ends tonight in Orlando, Fla., at the College Football Awards Show (ESPN, 8 p.m. ET). Though the Iowa junior running back didn't get an invitation to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony, he's the favorite to win the Doak Walker Award tonight. Michigan State's Javon Ringer and Georgia's Knowshon Moreno are the other Doak Walker finalists.
As he waited at Chicago's O'Hare Airport for his flight to Orlando on Wednesday morning, Greene was asked if he ever envisioned himself in this situation a year ago.
"Absolutely not," he said. "It's a good feeling."
After academic issues forced him out of football last season, Greene returned this fall and produced one of the greatest seasons in Iowa football history. He eclipsed 100 rushing yards in all 12 regular-season games, finished second nationally in rushing average (144.1 ypg) and broke Tavian Banks' single-season team rushing record with 1,729 yards.
Numbers like those merit a Heisman invite most seasons, but Iowa's slow start and a national spotlight consumed with quarterbacks kept Greene somewhat under the radar. He should get his due tonight as the nation's best running back.
"It would mean a lot," Greene said of the Doak Walker Award. "There are a lot of running backs this year doing well. Just to be up there with those guys will be an honor."
Greene admits the speed of the game initially caught him off guard after returning to the field this fall after a year away. He had trained hard in the summer with strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle but got fatigued following the Hawkeyes' first two games.
What came next shocked Greene. He continued to get stronger as the season progressed and elevated his production despite increased awareness from opposing defenses. Greene had his two top rushing games -- 217 yards, 4 touchdowns against Wisconsin and 211 yards, 2 touchdowns against Purdue -- in the second half of the year.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
The Big Ten's dominance at the running back position this season is reflected on the list of semifinalists for the Doak Walker award.
Iowa junior Shonn Greene, Michigan State senior Javon Ringer and Penn State sophomore Evan Royster all were selected to the list of 10 semifinalists. The Big Ten had the most entries, and the Big East and SEC were the only other conferences with more than one semifinalist. Had Ohio State's Chris "Beanie" Wells been healthy all season, he might have made the list as well.
Ringer and Greene rank second and third nationally in rushing average, while Royster comes 20th.
Here's the full list of semifinalists: