Finalists for Steve Spurrier First-Year Coach Award and Freshman Player of the Year Announced

Gainesville, Fla. (December 19, 2022) –  Announcing the finalists for the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) Steve Spurrier First-Year Coach Award and Freshman Player of the Year presented by Chris Doering Mortgage

The First-Year Coach Award goes to the best coach in his first year at a school.

“This year there were a lot of potentials for the first-year coach, which was exciting to see,” said Coach Steve Spurrier. “It really came down to the final week of play to narrow the field to these finalists.”

Finalists for First-Year Coach:

Kalen DeBoer, Washington: DeBoer led Washington to a 10-2 season, a vast improvement from the program’s 4-8 finish last season. The Huskies tied for second place in the Pac-12, scoring impressive consecutive victories over Oregon State and Oregon as part of a six-game winning streak to end the regular season. DeBoer, who already has the most wins by a first-year head coach in school history, will shoot for his 11th against Texas in the Valero Alamo Bowl.  

Sonny Dykes, TCU: Dykes helped the Horned Frogs improve from 5-7 to 12-1 in his first season, leading them to their first College Football Playoff appearance. It was the program’s first 12-0 regular season since 2009, when it was still in the Mountain West Conference. Dykes is the third first-year head coach to make the CFP but can become the first to make its championship game with a Vrbo Fiesta Bowl win over Michigan.

Lincoln Riley, USC: Riley led USC to an 11-2 record after taking over a program that went 4-8 in 2021 and had not seen a double-digit-win season since 2017. Riley, who won the FWAA First-Year Coach of the Year award in 2018 while at Oklahoma, was a conference title win away from taking the Trojans to their first College Football Playoff appearance. USC will try to earn its first 12-win season since 2008 with a Goodyear Cotton Bowl win over Tulane.

Previous winners of the First Year Coach of the Year Award:

2002 Tyrone Willingham, Notre Dame

2003 Steve Kragthorpe, Tulsa

2004 Mike Price, UTEP

2005 Steve Spurrier, South Carolina

2006 Chris Petersen, Boise State

2007 Jeff Jagodzinski, Boston College

2008 Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech

2009 Chip Kelly, Oregon

2010 Jimbo Fisher, Florida State

2011 Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia

2012 Urban Meyer, Ohio State

2013 Gus Malzahn, Auburn

2014 Bryan Harsin, Boise State

2015 Tom Herman, Houston

2016 Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech; Clay Helton, USC

2017 Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma

2018 Josh Heupel, UCF

2019 Ryan Day, Ohio State 

2020 Karl Dorrell, Colorado

2021 Josh Heupel, Tennessee / Shane Beamer, South Carolina (Co-winners)

Finalists for Freshman Player of the Year:

RB Quinshon Judkins, Ole Miss: Judkins exploded onto the scene for Ole Miss, setting single-season school records in rushing yards (1,476) and touchdowns (16). He led the SEC in both categories, earning him SEC Freshman of the Year honors. A 141-yard rushing game against Texas Tech in the TaxAct Texas Bowl would be good enough to pass Herschel Walker for the most rushing yards by an SEC freshman.

Drake Maye, North Carolina: The ACC’s Player of the Year, Offensive Player of the Year, and Offensive Rookie of the Year was nothing short of electric. Maye’s 35 passing touchdowns were the second-most by an ACC freshman in history. The redshirt freshman will look to add to his conference-leading 4,115 passing yards and 42 total touchdowns against Oregon in the San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl.

LB Harold Perkins Jr., LSU: Perkins displayed blazing speed and ferocious pass rush ability all season, playing a massive part in an LSU defense that guided the Tigers to winning the daunting SEC West. The true freshman’s eight sacks led the Tigers and were good for the third-most in the SEC. Perkins will look to feast against Purdue’s prolific pass attack in the Cheez-It Citrus Bowl.

RB Nicholas Singleton, Penn State: Singleton’s 1,336 all-purpose yards and 12 total touchdowns earned him Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors. The true freshman flexed his versatility, complementing his running talents with prowess in the receiving and kick return game. The freshman needs just 59 rushing yards against Utah in the Rose Bowl to complete a 1,000-yard season on the ground.

Previous winners of the Freshman of the Year Award:

2018 Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson

2019 Kenny Gainwell, RB, Memphis

2020 Will Anderson, LB, Alabama

2021 Brock Bowers, TE, Georgia

“We have an amazing group of freshmen, each have been vital parts of their teams successes” said Doering about the finalists.  “The contributions of these guys in their first year made an immediate impact which speaks to the talent level and their coach’s ability to identify their potential and put them in positions to be successful.”

Winners will be announced mid-January after the conclusion of post-season play.  Spurrier and former player ESPN College Football Analyst Chris Doering, will present the awards at a reception planned for February 20, 2023 at Spurrier’s Gridiron Grille in Gainesville, Fla., an event that will also include presentation of the inaugural Steve Spurrier Legend Coach Award presented by Chris Doering Mortgage to Coach Bob Stoops for his stellar coaching career at Oklahoma (191-48) from 1999-2016.  Last year’s event was attended by both winning coaches, Coach Spurrier, Chris Doering, FWAA’s Mike Griffith, many other notable Gator and NFL greats, dignitaries from all three schools, members of the media and event sponsors.

For more information on attending or sponsoring the February 2023 reception, which will include presentation of both awards, please contact Tricia Garzon of the JAG Agency at (352) 214-2331.


Chris Doering Mortgage, based in Gainesville, FL, was established in April 2007 as a residential lending company providing mortgage products including conventional, FHA, USDA and VA loans. The branch is a division of – 3940 NW 16th Blvd., Suite A, Gainesville, FL 32605 – NMLS 70168/1937321. FHA Lender ID 2631500094. For more information, visit  CFB Analyst Chris Doering, former player for Coach Spurrier both in college and professionally, serves as the branch manager.          


Founded in 1941, the Football Writers Association of America consists of journalists, broadcasters, publicists, photographers and key executives in all areas of college football. The FWAA works to govern media access and gameday operations while presenting awards and honors, including an annual All-America team. For more information about the FWAA and its programs and initiatives, contact Executive Director Steve Richardson at (214) 870-6516 or