For a second consecutive season, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson will be heading to Fort Worth in February to be recognized as recipient of the Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award.
Watson, a junior who has led the third-ranked Tigers to a 12-1 record and a berth in the College Football Playoff, was named the 2016 O’Brien honoree Thursday night at The Home Depot College Football Awards show in Atlanta. Watson, who has won more games over the past two seasons than any starting quarterback in college football (26), ranks sixth nationally in passing yards (3,914), fifth in touchdown passes (37) and ninth in completion percentage (67.6) among FBS players this season.
Watson, the 2015 O’Brien recipient, becomes the first quarterback since Oklahoma’s Jason White (2003-04) to win the award in consecutive seasons. He edged two fellow finalists, Louisville’s Lamar Jackson and Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, in balloting by members of the O’Brien selection committee.
Watson will be honored Feb. 20, 2017 at a dinner ceremony at the Fort Worth Club. The chance to be recognized as college football’s top quarterback for a second consecutive season resonated with Watson, who also is a finalist for the 2016 Heisman Trophy.
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During Thursday’s telecast on ESPN, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said Watson is “everything that you could possibly want in a quarterback, a teammate and the leader of your team.”
Watson, who will complete his bachelor’s degree later this month, said the key to this season was “just really maintaining” the confidence and level of play he established a year ago for a second consecutive season under the glare of the national spotlight.
“It’s exciting to hear my name and know I really did this, best quarterback in the country,” Watson said.
Watson, who is eligible to enter the 2017 NFL Draft, has fashioned a 26-2 record as Clemson’s staring quarterback over the past two seasons. The Tigers lost to Alabama, 45-40, in last year’s championship game of the College Football Playoff. Clemson is the No. 2 seed in this year’s CFP bracket and will face third-seed Ohio State (11-1) in a Dec. 31 semifinal matchup in the Fiesta Bowl.
Among the three O’Brien finalists, Watson had the most passing yards this season and is the only one to lead his team to a playoff berth. He finished the regular season ranked No. 8 among FBS players in total offense (341.8 yards per game) and No. 7 in most points responsible for per game (20.2).
Jackson finished second nationally in total offense (410.7 yards per game) and had more rushing yards (1,538) and rushing TDs (21) than any FBS quarterback. Mayfield, who led OU to a 10-2 record and a Big 12 championship, led the nation in passing efficiency (197.8 rating) and completion percentage (71.2). All three O’Brien finalists are finalists for the Heisman Trophy, to be presented Saturday in New York.
Watson is the fourth quarterback to repeat as an O’Brien honoree, joining White, Florida’s Danny Wuerffel (1995-96) and Brigham Young’s Ty Detmer (1990-91).
College award winners
- Wuerffel Trophy (community service): Trevor Knight, Texas A&M
- Doak Walker (running back): D’Onta Foreman, Texas
- Jim Thorpe (defensive back): Adoree’ Jackson, USC
- Rimington (center): Pat Elflein, Ohio State
- Outland (interior lineman): Cam Robinson, Alabama
- Maxwell (player of the year): Lamar Jackson, Louisville
- John Mackey (tight end): Jake Butt, Michigan
- Ray Guy (punter): Mitch Wishnowsky, Utah
- Lou Groza (place-kicker): Zane Gonzalez, Arizona State
- Biletnikoff (wide receiver): Dede Westbrook, Oklahoma
- Chuck Bednarik (defensive player): Jonathan Allen, Alabama