D.J. Williams is the third Tiger to be named to a preseason award watch list in as many games.
The preseason recognition just keeps rolling in for Auburn football. Senior linebacker, K.J. Britt was named to the Chuck Bednarik Award watch list on Monday and sophomore QB Bo Nix was named to the watch list Davey O’Brien Award the following day.
For the last 29 years, the Doak Walker Award has been given annually to college football’s best running back. On Wednesday, the organization released its 2020 watch list which included 76 running backs from schools across the country — one of whom was Auburn’s D.J. Williams.
Williams, a sophomore running back out of Lake Placid, Florida, is Auburn’s leading returning rusher after the transfer of Boobee Whitlow back in February. The 5-foot-10, 216-pound back impressed as a true freshman in 2019 gaining 400 rushing yards on 84 carries (4.8 yards per carry) and two touchdowns in eight games. Williams also caught five passes for 32 yards.
Considering he didn’t even crack 500 total yards and only had two total touchdowns on the season, it’s a bit surprising to see the sophomore garner such preseason praise. At the same time, with the transfer of Whitlow as well as the departure of veteran RBs Kam Martin and Malik Miller this offseason, the door is wide open for the former four-star recruit to be the feature back.
Williams will have to compete with junior Shaun Shivers, RS sophomore Harold Joiner, RS freshman Mark-Antony Richards as well as true freshman Tank Bigsby who headlined the Tigers’ 2020 recruiting class and was one of the top high school running backs in the country.
Although he didn’t put up major production last season, Williams did showcase star potential at times. When Whitlow was banged up, Williams stepped in and ran for 130 yards on 13 carries against LSU and then 93 yards on 24 carries the next week against Mississippi State.
Last year, Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor won his second-straight Doak Walker Award Other recent past winners of the award include Derrick Henry, Melvin Gordon and Bryce Love. Despite a long history of star running backs in the last three decades, no Auburn player has ever won a Doak Walker Award.