Members of the Doak Walker Award committee have cast their votes. And if preseason predictions hold true, Wisconsin should produce yet another memorable 1-2 running back combination.
Both James White and Melvin Gordon were announced Thursday as Doak Walker Award candidates. The award, won by Wisconsin’s Montee Ball last year, is presented annually to the nation’s top running back.
White and Gordon were among 63 players named to the watch list but were the only teammates among Big Ten programs. Other Big Ten players nominated are: Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah, Ohio State’s Carlos Hyde, Northwestern’s Venric Mark, Iowa’s Mark Weisman and Penn State’s Zach Zwinak.
Nine programs including Wisconsin had two running backs on the list: BYU, TCU, Kent State, Arkansas, Arizona State, Georgia, Louisville and Baylor.
This marks the third consecutive season in which White has been named to the preseason list. He and Ball both made the watch list in 2011 and 2012.
White, a senior from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., begins his season as the nation’s second-leading rusher among active running backs with 2,571 career yards despite making only two starts in his first three seasons. He earned Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors after rushing for 1,052 yards before falling behind Ball on the Badgers’ depth chart. Ball went on to be a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2011 and the Doak Walker Award winner in 2012.
Last season, White still rushed for 806 yards on 6.4 yards per carry and scored 12 touchdowns. He also ran for 119 yards and scored four touchdowns during Wisconsin’s 70-31 victory against Nebraska in the Big Ten championship game.
Gordon, a redshirt sophomore from Kenosha, Wis., played in all 14 games last season and rushed for 621 yards on an astounding 10.0 yards per carry with three touchdowns. For his career, Gordon is averaging 8.8 yards per carry. He ran for a career-high 216 yards and on just nine carries and scored a touchdown against Nebraska in the Big Ten title game.
The Doak Walker Award list will be trimmed to semifinalists on Nov. 14, and finalists will be announced Nov. 25. The committee, which consists of former NFL All-Pro and college All-America running backs and media members, will cast a second vote beginning Dec. 2 to determine the winner.
The recipient of the 2013 Doak Walker Award will be announced live on ESPN’s Home Depot College Football Awards on Dec. 12. The Doak Walker Award presentation banquet will be held in Dallas, Texas, in February 2014.
The award, in its 24th year, is named for SMU’s three-time All-America running back Doak Walker. It is the only major collegiate 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.
White already is on the watch list for the Maxwell Award, given to the college football player of the year. The Doak Walker recognition represents Gordon’s first preseason watch list inclusion.
Other Wisconsin players on 2013 award watch lists:
• Lott IMPACT Trophy (defensive player of the year): Chris Borland • Hornung Award (most versatile): Jared Abbrederis • Bednarik (defensive player of the year): Chris Borland • John Mackey Award (best tight end): Jacob Pedersen • Bronco Nagurski Trophy (defensive player of the year): Chris Borland • Outland Trophy (best interior lineman): Ryan Groy • Lombardi Award (college lineman of the year): Chris Borland and Ryan Groy • Butkus Award (best linebacker): Chris Borland • Biletnikoff Award (best receiver): Jared Abbrederis