Football, or any sport, would not bring excitement to millions of people each year if it wasn’t for the fans. Yet, when it came to determining the best players in the country, the fans were mostly left out of the selection process – until now. The Premier Player Trophy is an award presented to the athlete the fans voted as the best player in NCAA college football, basketball, baseball, softball and hockey. A poll is released at the beginning of the college sports season with 20 of the best players for fans to follow. In mid October to early November, up to five more great performing players may be added to the poll while nonperformers are deleted from the poll. Fans then have until the last conference championship game to vote the Premier Player of the season.
2010 Ryan Mallett
Quarterback, Arkansas Razorbacks
The first Arkansas quarterback to be named preseason first-team All-SEC by the SEC coaches, Mallett came off an injury to start all 12 games and completed an Arkansas single-season record 242 passes on 364 attempts for 3,592 yards and 30 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions.
He currently leads the SEC and ranks fifth in the NCAA with 299.3 passing yards per game, and his 30 passing touchdowns lead the conference and are tied for seventh in the country. His Razorbacks' average of 295.5 yards of total offense per game ranks second in the SEC and 13th in the nation.
Big Tex as he is called by some, has thrown for 1,691 yards and 12 TDs against ranked oppenents this season to lead the SEC and rank second in the country in both categories. His 163.90 passer rating against ranked opponents is second in the conference and eighth in the NCAA. Is second in the NCAA with 30 completions of 30 or more yards, and his 63 since 2009 are the most in the NCAA. He leads the SEC and ranks second in the NCAA with 93 completions of 15 or more yards and his conference-leading total of 35 completions of 25+ yards is tied for fifth in the nation.
2011 Case Keenum
Quarterback, Houston Cougars
We are always uplifted by the comeback stories of sports. I would say Keenum fits the mold perfectly.
into his sixth year of eligibility due to his two ACL injuries, many were unsure how Keenum would perform. To say he dazzled would be an understatement.
He rewrote the book, the record book that is. From total offense, to passing yards, to passing touchdowns, to career completions, Keenum broke them all and sealed his place in college football history.
Keenum led his team to an 11-0 start to the season, which is the best start in Houston history. His gunslinger mentality and great arm led Houston to the top passing offense and scoring offense in college football as he became the first player in college football history to pass for 5,000 yards in three different seasons.
While Keenum’s eligibility may be up at season’s end, his presence and legend will live on long after. After all, we all love a good comeback story. The guy who came back from an almost career ending injury to rewrite college football history, has a nice ring to it.
2012 Jarvis Jones
Defensive End, Georgia Bulldogs
When you look up the word explosive in the dictionary you might just find a picture of Jarvis Jones there looking back at you. Now imagine that face is bearing down on you with 4.6 speed and a desire to monster your quarterback. That is what it felt like to be a lineman facing Georgia this year.
Statistically, Jones had a season for the ages. His 77 tackles don't jump off of the page, but that is offset by his pure ability to wreck opposition drives coming off of the edge with 22.5 tackles for a loss and 12.5 sacks. That means at least three times a game he was in the opposition backfield taking matters into his own hands and destroying both quarterbacks and running backs with reckless abandon.
In a sport where collision and chaos is paramount, Jones excels in both. He had seven forced fumbles in 2012, most caused by his jaw dropping ability to deliver a crushing blow at the end of a play. Simply put Jones is that difference maker that comes around a program once every 15 to 20 years.
A big game player who often saved his best for when it mattered most, Jones put up all those numbers while missing two games with injury. Though the NFL now beckons he has left a lasting impression on the SEC.
2013 Jameis Winston
Quarterback, Florida State Seminoles
As a highly touted football and baseball recruit, Jameis Winston had his pick of colleges. After leading the Seminoles to an undefeated ACC regular season and the cusp of the national title game, the fans in Tallahassee are ecstatic he chose Florida State.
He had one of the most sensational debuts in the history of college football when he completed 25 of 27 passes with four touchdowns, plus another rushing, against Pittsburgh. He built on this with a performance of sheer domination in the 'Noles season defining road win at Clemson as he silenced Death Valley with a 444 yards while accounting for four more TDs.
In a season of amazing stats, the most amazing is probably Winston's ridiculous 69% completion percentage, a number unheard of from a redshirt freshman in a power conference. He had 35 TD passes in the regular season and did so despite being pulled at, or just after, halftime in a number of games which Florida State was dominating.
The best compliment you can pay Winston is that he is as NFL ready as any QB in college football, a scary thought for the ACC as he returns to school next year stronger, faster and smarter.
2014 Marcus Mariota
Quarterback, Oregon Ducks
This season has been a dominating one for Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. He has accounted for four or more touchdowns in over three fourths of the Ducks games and he leads the nation in a slew of stats from passing efficiency to yards per attempt. He also surpassed 4,000 of total offense, doing so in the Civil War with Oregon State, only the second time in which an Oregon player ever accomplished that feat. Oh, he was the first player to do so also last fall.
The rise for Mariota has been nothing short of meteoric. When he arrived on campus in Eugene at the beginning of the 2012 season he wasn’t even the favorite to nail down the starting job. Mariota though attacked the challenge in a way which has become something of this trademark. He swept aside all competition throughout the various camps and practices until there was no doubt he was going to be the next get Oregon quarterback.
His dynamic play is what really sets him apart as a player. Mariota has developed from a run first player who can pass, to someone who is apt to scramble with his eyes downfield, extending plays, and then hitting his game breaking receivers with pinpoint accuracy. His ability to check through his progressions while on the move makes him standout from all other quarterbacks in the collegiate game.
Mariota is also the very definition of a team leader, something he will be expected to continue next fall when he moves on to play on Sunday afternoons.
2015 Vernon Hargreaves III
Cornerback, Florida Gators
This may sound strange, but 2015 may actually have been a little boring for Vernon Hargreaves. The junior Florida cornerback came into the school highly touted and has lived up to every expectation put on him in Gainesville. The problem with being so good as a cornerback however is that the offense is so scared that they stay away from you and that is exactly what has happened to Hargreaves this season.
The best pure cornerback in college football, Hargreaves has just four interceptions on the year and just two passes defensed. This though has nothing to do with Hargreaves level of play slipping and everything to do with the other team just being afraid to challenge him. Hargreaves has such great speed (he runs a 4.44 40-yard dash) and great instincts that any time the ball is in the air on his side of the field there is a chance he will pick it off. This natural ability, plus the hours of practice and preparation he puts in each week, enables Hargreaves to effectively shut out the best weapon on the opposition offense week after week.
As the Gators have rebounded in 2015 so has Hargreaves. His level of play inspires confidence in those around him and his attitude has helped propel the Florida defense to make up for an offense that has gone missing on more than one occasion this season. Hargreaves has even improved his game this season as he has become more physical in run support and has done a better job of fighting off of blocks to make one on one tackles.
There has never been any doubting Hargreaves talent and desire to improve. He has become one of the best cornerbacks in SEC history and he will finish his junior year as one of the most coveted players in the nation if he decides to enter the NFL Draft in the spring.
2016 Deshaun Watson
Quarterback, Clemson Tigers
Deshaun Watson always looked like the kind of quarterback that could be a legacy player at Clemson. When the Tigers fell agonizingly short against Alabama at the back end of the 2015 season, Watson knew his work at the school was far from over. That is why he came back with a vengeance in 2016, leading his Tigers to a dominant, one-loss regular season record.
Watson has done a lot of winning at Clemson. The junior quarterback has been the full time starter for the Tigers for two years and in each of those seasons he led the team into the College Football Playoffs. His 2015 season was outstanding as he passed for over 4,100 yards with 35 touchdowns while rushing for over 1,100 yards with 12 more scores. This though was just a taste of what Watson would do in 2016.
Watson worked hard on his passing over the summer as he knew that to be the quarterback he was capable of being he would need to be able to trust his arm to beat defenses and not rely so much on his legs. The result was a slower than expected start to the season as Clemson, like their leader, took a little while to adjust to his new style. By the end of the year though, Watson had his offense firing on all cylinders.
His ability to overcome was especially evident in the Tigers 56-7 win against rival South Carolina on November 26. After tossing a first half interception Watson went on a tear and completed 19 passes in a row to set a new school record. It is that sort of play that cements Watson’s place as the greatest quarterback in Clemson history.
2017 Jake Fromm
Quarterback, Georgia Bulldogs
Jake Fromm has taken everything in stride in 2017. The freshman quarterback should have been over-awed when the lights shone brightest, but Fromm is a player – and a person – who is mature beyond his years.
Leading Georgia to a 12-1 record and their first SEC Championship since 2005 seemed to come remarkably easy to Fromm. The 2017 SEC Freshman of the Year threw for 2,173 yards, with 21 touchdowns and just five interceptions. It was his ability to protect the ball, making the correct decisions and rarely putting his team in a difficult spot that set Fromm apart from the Bulldogs’ quarterbacks of the previous few seasons.
Georgia is blessed with an outstanding running game, but in the biggest moments it was Fromm that took on the pressure throws, working the ball all over the field to secure Georgia’s place in the 2017 College Football Playoffs. In no situation was this more obvious than the Bulldogs revenge victory over Auburn in the SEC Championship Game.
The Bulldogs 40-17 loss to Auburn in early November had most analysts playing down any chance of a Georgia victory in the rematch. It made sense as that 23-point winning margin was one that looked impossible to overcome, but they though hadn’t counted on the talent, competitiveness, and sheer determination of the Bulldogs’ rookie quarterback.
Fromm completely outplayed more heralded Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham as the Bulldogs flipped the script and won the rematch 28-7. Fromm was a stunningly efficient 16-of-22 for almost 200 yards and two touchdowns, picking apart the Auburn defense even as their pressure mounted. It is that poise that set Fromm apart in 2017.