Heading into the 2017 college football season, WalterFootball.com will debut our projections for the nation's leaders during the fall. The All-American teams always have some surprises, and the next fall's stars could be the headline players next April for the 2018 NFL Draft. We also will project the winners of the postseason awards that are given out to the best of college football.
The Lou Groza Award is given to the best kicker in college football. Last year's winner was Arizona State's Zane Gonzalez.
Lou Groza Award Winner:
Daniel Carlson, Auburn
Carlson easily could have won the Lou Groza Award in previous year. He was 28-of-32 in 2016, including four field goals from over 50 yards away. His long for the year was 53 yards, and he connected from that distance twice. Carlson had a phenomenal season and was 4-of-7 in the 50-yard range and a perfect 6-for-6 in the 40-yard range. He was 23-for-27 (85 percent) as a sophomore in 2015, plus made all 40 of his extra points. Carlson showed his strength with a long field goal of 56 yards. As a freshman, he was 18-of-24 (75 percent). Carlson hasn't missed an extra point entering his senior year. He looks like a safe bet to take home some postseason hardware.
Lou Groza Award Runner-Up:
Eddy Pineiro, Florida
It wouldn't surprise me if Pineiro is the best kicker college football in 2017. He is very talented. Pineiro became an internet legend when video of him making a 77-yard field goal went viral. In 2016, Pineiro validated the hype and fierce recruiting war as he kicked well for the Gators, connecting on 21-of-25 with long field goals of 54, 53 and 54 yards. Pineiro hit some clutch kicks for an offense that struggled to score points. He has a ton of natural ability with a powerful, accurate leg. Pineiro could be even better now that he has a year of experience and Florida has better coaching. It wouldn't be a surprise if he ends up winning the Lou Groza Award.
Lou Groza Award Dark Horse:
Michael Badgley, Miami
In 2016, Badgley was 21-of-26 with a long of 51 yards. He hit on 83 percent of his field goals in 2015 and made all 40 of his extra point attempts. He showed some leg strength with a 57-yard field goal, but was 1-for-3 on attempts over 50 yards. Badgley made 78 percent of his field goals as a freshman in 2014, but did miss four extra points that season. Badgley kicks in a great environment and could contend to be higher on this list.
Honorable Mentions: Notre Dame's Justin Yoon, Oregon's Aidan Schneider, Kentucky's Austin MacGinnis and Kansas State's Matthew McCrane.