This year’s Dudley Award will either mark a new chapter for the award, or a return to form.
The honor is given annually to the best college football player in Virginia, as voted on by a panel of media members from around the commonwealth. Because of the pandemic, some teams played a spring season, delaying the traditional December presentation of the award.
This year’s ceremony will air Saturday on WTVR 6 (CBS) and online at WTVR.com at 7 p.m.
The three finalists for the award are Liberty quarterback Malik Willis, Virginia Tech running back Khalil Herbert and VMI quarterback Reece Udinski.
Liberty and VMI have never produced a Dudley winner. Virginia Tech, which had a near-lock on winning the award in the early 2000s, hasn’t produced a Dudley winner since 2011, when running back David Wilson took home the prize.
Saturday night’s presentation will include the annual awards given by the Touchdown Club of Richmond, including the state coach of the year honor and the Wells Fargo Advisors Humanitarian Award.
The Lanier Award, given to the state’s best small-college player, will also be given out. Because of the unique nature of the season, there will not be finalists announced for the Lanier Award.
Of the three Dudley finalists, only VMI’s Udinski played a spring season.
The Keydets produced one of the most memorable seasons in school history, clinching their first conference title since 1977 and their first ever berth in the FCS playoffs.
Udinski was a key cog in VMI’s early success, playing through a knee injury to complete a dramatic overtime victory over Samford. He is VMI’s all-time leading passer, with 7,862 yards.
Down the road in Blacksburg, Herbert led the nation with 1,791 all-purpose yards this season, including a Tech record 357 yards against Duke in October.
He picked up 1,182 of those yards rushing, and was named third-team all-ACC as a running back. Herbert finished second in the conference with 7.68 yards per carry.
But it was the Flames who had the state’s most wins this season, and their nominee had a big hand in that.
Willis, a dual-threat quarterback who transferred to Liberty from Auburn, scored 20 passing touchdowns and 10 rushing touchdowns during the regular season, and after adding three in the bowl game, he holds the Liberty records for touchdowns in a season (33) and rushing yards in a season (855).
He led Liberty to a 10-1 record in the shortened season, ending with a dramatic bowl victory over Coastal Carolina.
In the air, he finished with 2,260 yards and a passer rating of 156.2, completing 64.2% of his throws.
Two other players received votes from the panel but were not named finalists: JMU defensive lineman Mike Greene, and Virginia linebacker Charles Snowden.