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Michigan State’s Kenneth Walker III named Doak Walker Award semifinalist, Jayden Reed named finalist for Paul Hornung Award

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NCAA Football: Western Kentucky at Michigan State Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Kenneth Walker III Named Doak Walker Award Semifinalist

Once again, the list of national awards candidates has begun to narrow and prominently features Michigan State Spartans junior running back Kenneth Walker III. On Wednesday, it was announced that Walker is a semifinalist for the Doak Walker Award.

The Doak Walker Award dates back to 1990 and is bestowed upon the top running back each year. Eight Big Ten running backs have won the award nine times, with Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor having won it twice. Wisconsin is also the only program to have multiple running backs win the award, with four winning it a total of five times combined. No running back from Michigan State has ever won the Doak Walker Award.

Overall, Walker is one of the top college football players in the country, let alone just at running back. He is listed as the top Heisman Trophy contender by The Athletic, was named a first-team midseason All-American as voted on by The Associated Press, CBS Sports, ESPN.com, The Athletic and The Sporting News, is a semifinalist for the Walter Camp Player of the Year award, and the Maxwell Award Semifinalist List.

Walker’s 147.3 yards per game currently lead the FBS in rushing, and he has been in the lead for all but one week of the season. Walker’s 1,473 yards leads the FBS in total rushing yards (Editor’s note: After playing on Wednesday, Central Michigan’s Lew Nichols III now leads the nation with 1,516 rushing yards. Walker has a chance to regain the lead with 44 rushing yards on Saturday), as does his 17 rushing touchdowns, 1,068 yards after contact, 19 total 20-plus yard carries and 40 total 10-plus yard carries. This season he has had two 200-yard rushing outings and seven 100-yard rushing games as a Spartan.

The criteria listed for the winner includes:

  • Candidate plays predominantly at the running back position and has made extraordinary contributions to his team.
  • Candidate is enrolled in a degree program, is in good academic standing and is on schedule to graduate.
  • Candidate holds a record of good citizenship within and beyond the athletic sphere.
  • Candidate has demonstrated a record of leadership.

The full 2021 semifinalists lists includes one other Big Ten running back

  • Tyler Allgeier, BYU
  • Tyler Badie, Missouri
  • Breece Hall, Iowa State
  • TreVeyon Henderson, Ohio State
  • Sincere McCormick, UTSA
  • Bijan Robinson, Texas
  • Abram Smith, Baylor
  • Sean Tucker, Syracuse
  • Deuce Vaughn, Kansas State
  • Kenneth Walker III, Michigan State

Jayden Reed Named Paul Hornung Award Finalist

Redshirt junior wide receiver/returner Jayden Reed also earned a spot on a national finalist list yesterday. Reed was named one of five finalists for the Paul Hornung Award, given each year since 2010 to the nation’s most versatile player, as decided by the Louisville Sports Commission.

Reed currently ranks third in the Big Ten and 13th in FBS for all-purpose yards with 138.8 yards per game, third and 26th, respectively, in yards per catch with 18.4, and fifth and 32nd, respectively, in receiving yards with 82.9 yards per game. He leads the Spartans in receiving with 45 receptions for 829 yards and seven touchdowns.

Reed’s punt return average statistics, unfortunately, don’t qualify for the NCAA leaders list right now, as he needs more than his 1.2 returns per game to have it count. However, if it did, he would rank tied for first in country with 21.3 average yards, having returned 10 for 213 total yards. Reed is also tied for first in the country with two punt returns for a touchdown, including his 62-yard return against Nebraska and 88-yard return versus Western Kentucky.

Reed was named a second-team midseason All-American by The Athletic as an all-purpose player, a first-team midseason All-American by CBS Sports as an all-purpose player and first-team midseason All-American by The Sporting News as a returner.

The selection committee is comprised of 17-people and also includes an 18th vote given to online votes cast by fans. Fans can cast a vote here. Criteria for the award includes:

  • Playing multiple positions on offense and/or multiple positions on defense
  • Playing a significant role on special teams
  • Performing as a two-way player who starts either on offense or defense and is used on the other side of the ball in some capacity
  • Making a significant impact during big games and elevating the team’s performance through leadership displayed by excelling in multiple roles

If he were to win it, Reed would be just the fourth Big Ten player to win the award, and the first Spartan. Prior Big Ten winners include Jabrill Peppers (2016), Saquon Barkley (2017) and Rondale Moore (2018).

The five players named to the finalist list include:

  • Jayden Reed, Michigan State
  • Blake Corum, Michigan
  • Justin Hall, Ball State
  • Marcus Jones, Houston
  • Kyren Williams, Notre Dame

Additionally, Michigan State offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Jay Johnson has been nominated for the Broyles Award, given annually to the top assistant coach in college football.