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CFB Awards 2016: Breakout Performer of the Year

We look back at 2016 with our RealSport Awards series in College Football - Here are our choices for Breakout Performers of the Year!

The 2016 College Football Season wrapped up on Monday Night with Clemson knocking off Alabama in the National Championship. It marked the end of a roller coaster season that produced just as much drama as always, featured countless jaw-dropping plays and moments and gave us all a chance to watch and celebrate the stars of the sport.

Coming into the season there were a number of players who were singled out as the stars to watch and the players who would be considered among the top of the sport come the end of the year. Some of those played out, some of those didn’t and some players shocked the whole College Football landscape by bursting onto the scene at various points during the season.

To celebrate another great year of College Football, here at RealSport we voted on a number of awards, including the Breakout Performer of the Year. So who did we decide deserved that honor?  Keep a look out for the rest of the award winners articles over the next few days.

Sam Darnold, RS Freshman, QB, USC

The USC Trojans started the season pretty poorly with losses against Alabama and Stanford and their one win coming against Utah State. In those games, Max Browne was the Trojans starting QB. Following the Stanford game, RS Freshman Sam Darnold took control of the offense and they won 9 straight games including a win over the equally hot Penn State Nittany Lions in the Rose Bowl.


With Browne starting, USC managed just 833 total yards and 474 passing yards, which is 277.7 yards per game and 158 passing yards per game. What’s more they only managed 26 points per game. With Darnold as the starter they went 9-1 and managed 5336 total yards (533.6 per game) and 3086 passing yards (308.6 per game). That’s 255.9 total yards a game more and 148.6 passing yards a game more. They also scored 36.9 points per game.


Darnold was the key cog in this USC team that is now one of the most intimidating teams in FBS and no one could’ve predicted his success.

D’Onta Foreman, Junior, RB, Texas

Foreman and Darnold actually finished tied 1st in our votes, but Darnold had more 1st place votes to finish ahead of Foreman.

The junior absolutely made the most of his opportunities this year. Over the course of his freshman and sophomore season he got just 110 carries and gained 754 yards and 5 touchdowns, this year though he virtually tripled his numbers. He had 323 carries for 2028 yards and 15 touchdowns and was the nation’s leading rusher. This earned him the Doak Walker Award.


Coming off this huge season he has declared for the NFL Draft so we won’t being seeing him run all over the Big-12 anymore, but he definitely left his mark with his huge breakout this year.

Also Receiving Votes

Alabama true freshman Jalen Hurts finished third following his great first season under center in Tuscaloosa. Though he wasn’t quite as strong over the last few games he helped the team to a 14-1 record and a National Championship appearance.

Houston freshman d-lineman Ed Oliver came forth as he joined Hurts in making an immediate impact during his freshman season. He was an integral part of a Houston defense that finished 10th in the FBS in total yards given up and allowed just 22.6 points per game.  Oliver was one of the national leaders in tackles for loss, with a massive 22.5 on the year.

The fifth and final player from our votes was Ohio State redshirt sophomore safety Malik Hooker. Hooker was a unanimous All-American this year as he earned seven interceptions, three of which were pick-6’s. He went from being a backup to being the best safety in the country, at least in terms of being the center fielder. He, like D’Onta Foreman will be in the NFL next season but he was a joy to watch dominate for the year that he did.

Also receiving votes: Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech.  Tegray Scales, Indiana.  John Ross, Washington.  Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State.  Damien Harris, Alabama.  Justin Herbert, Oregon.  Hunter Dimick, Utah.  Isaiah Jones, East Carolina.

Who do you think was the best Breakout Performer this year? Let us know in the comments!

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Remy Cabache

Lifetime sports fan. I have written with RealSport since the NFL section started and I have also written for my own blog, EbonyBird.com and I have had several articles published in local newspapers covering my local (American) football team.

CFB Awards 2016: Breakout Performer of the Year

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