The Bloguin network has a number of talented bloggers, and we all got together to vote for some post-season awards. We voted on a number of categories, including the Bloguin Heisman Poll, which we have been voting on weekly throughout the season. The overall awards can be seen on Bloguin’s college football blog, Crystal Ball Run. Here is the direct link to the overall awards. LSU was very well represented, moreso than they were on my ballot. Maybe I was trying too hard to not be a homer, but I tried to be as objective as possible. One last note: I totally whiffed on the Comeback Player of the Year Award. I totally forgot that Case Keenum was injured last year. He would have been my choice. Too late now.
Below are my submissions. Fire away…
1. Robert Griffin III QB Baylor – With another outstanding performance, this time against in-state power Texas, Griffin only added to the many reasons that he’s the most outstanding football player in the nation in my eyes. His passing numbers rival those of other candidates such as Luck and Barkley, but he also adds 644 rushing yards and nine touchdowns on the ground. He means everything to his Baylor team, which has enjoyed their best season in at least 25 years.
2. Montee Ball RB Wisconsin – I went back and forth between Ball and Trent Richardson in this spot, but Ball ultimately won out. He has more yards (2,015 combined rushing and receiving) and more touchdowns (38) than Richardson. His Wisconsin team won the Big-10, and Ball epitomized the identity of Wisconsin’s tough running game. He gave that team their identity and was the key to everything that Russell Wilson and the offense wanted to accomplish. I’d probably rather have Richardson on my team but at the end of the day, Ball had a better season and deserves this spot more than Trent.
3. Tyrann Mathieu DB LSU – No player, outside of perhaps Griffin, had more game-changing plays in big games than Mathieu. Considering he plays defense, that’s quite the accomplishment. While the nation waited for Andrew Luck to have a “Heisman moment” against Oregon, he faltered. The same could be said for Trent Richardson against LSU who, while playing a strong game, failed to do anything truly noteworthy. Meanwhile, Tryann Mathieu had about a half dozen of these moments, always on the biggest stage and always when his team needed them the most. His two punt returns for touchdowns the last two weeks completely changed the momentum of those games against Arkansas and Georgia, both ranked in the Top-12. Simply put, Mathieu is the best play maker in the nation.
Coach of the Year
1. Les Miles LSU – Perhaps I’m being a bit of a homer, but I give Les the slight edge here. The combination of how GOOD his LSU team has been and the distractions he has had to deal with earn him this honor. His starting quarterback is suspended for the first four games. His offensive coordinator is diagnosed with Parkinson’s just two short weeks before the season starts. Multiple other suspensions from key players take place. The starting quarterback returns and must be carefully worked back into the mix. Les handled all of these issues well, and the team did not miss a beat. They did not lose focus for a single week, and they played outstanding football every single game. And you know what? He did it without any crazy trick plays, 4th downs, or gimmicks. Les knew he had a very good, well prepared team, and he kept things simple.
2. Bill Snyder Kansas State – Snyder came out of retirement three years ago to resurrect the Kansas State program that he had built into a national power. Mission accomplished. Without the talent of most teams on his schedule and without the gun slinging quarterback that most good teams in the Big-12 seem to have, Snyder put together a team of guys that put on the hard had and go to work. His team started 7-0 before losing two games. At that point, reality set in and it seemed like the feel-good story was over. But the most impressive part of Snyder’s coaching job this season was to re-group his team and win the last three games, including a win in Austin. Kansas State finished 10-2 and deserved a BCS bowl bid, but are instead heading to the Cotton Bowl.
3. Brady Hoke Michigan – Hoke brought stability to a Michigan program that was absolutely starving for it. He went back to basics and brought a legitimate defense back to Ann Arbor. After being atrocious on D for three years, this year’s squad ranked 18th nationally in total defense. That is the biggest reason why the Wolverines are headed to the Sugar Bowl. Really, they’re just one upset loss at Iowa away from being in the national championship conversation. Many questioned Hoke when he was hired. It seemed that Michigan reached to get him, just because they wanted a “Michigan Man”, but the early returns look good.
Offensive Player of the Year
1. Robert Griffin III QB Baylor – I like Griffin here for the same reason I liked him for the Heisman. He was the best player in the nation in 2011. Ridiculous passing numbers combined with a solid rushing threat and making a ton of big plays.
2. Montee Ball RB Wisconsin – Ball scored 38 touchdowns, so it’s pretty tough to not consider him right in the mix for the offensive player of the year. He also leads the nation in rushing yards (total) with 1,759 and is a big reason why Wisconsin is headed to the Rose Bowl.
3. Trent Richardson RB Alabama – Richardson is probably the BEST running back in the nation, even though Ball had a better season. But with 1,583 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns, Richardson was not too shabby either. He is the toughest guy in the nation to tackle.
Defensive Player of the Year
1. Whitney Mercilus DE Illinois – Mercilus has been an absolute terror for the Illini in 2011 and even though his team is not making headlines, he still deserves the limelight. 14.5 sacks, 19.5 tackles for loss and NINE forced fumbles put Mercilus at the top of my list. These awards shouldn’t always be about playing on TV and in huge games. Mercilus deserves it.
2. Tyrann Mathieu DB LSU – So much of Mathieu’s impact came on special teams that it’s tough to give him the top spot for a defensive only award. But he was not too shabby on defense either. Mathieu was literally all over the field for LSU this year. He spent time at safety, corner and essentially played strongside linebacker acting as an extra pass rusher. He made plays wherever he was lined up. He leads LSU’s outstanding defense in tackles.
3. Jarvis Jones OLB UGA – The biggest difference between this year’s Georgia team and the disappointing ones of recent years has been defense. They’re playing some good defense between the hedges and Jones is a huge reason why. In a conference known for their defense, Jones led the SEC in both tackles for loss (19.5) and sacks (13.5).
Coordinator of the Year
1. Greg Mattison DC Michigan – The previous coaching staff at Michigan was big on offense, but the lack of defense was their undoing. Many wondered whether it was the coaching or the personnel. Greg Mattison entered the picture and proved that it was not the personnel. He went back to basics with Michigan’s defenders and his unit’s turnaround was one of the more impressive in college football.
2. Chad Morris OC Clemson – Morris came to Clemson from Tulsa, and his presence was felt immediately. Clemson’s offense ranked 88th in the nation a year ago, but they’re ranked in the Top-30 in 2011, averaging 440 yards per game. To top it off, Clemson’s offense rang up 457 yards and 38 points against a hot Virginia Tech defense in the ACC Championship Game to win the conference title.
3. John Chavis DC LSU – Yes, LSU has plenty of talent, but they did have to respond to losing three All-Americans from the 2010 team in DT Drake Nevis, LB Kelvin Sheppard, and DB Patrick Peterson. Chavis put a better defense on the field in 2011. Chavis typically runs his defense through the linebackers but when LSU found themselves short on linebackers and with an abundance of good defensive backs, Chavis changed his scheme accordingly. He put the best players on the field and gave them opportunities to make plays and be successful.
Game of the Year
1. Baylor 50 TCU 48 – The best game of this college football season was one of the very first ones, played on Friday night of opening weekend. Maybe we were all just starved to see college football again, but this game stands out as the most exciting of the season. It was our first glimpse as to just how amazing RGIII and Kendall Wright would be for Baylor this year.
2. LSU 9 Alabama 6(OT)- Many consider this an “ugly” game, but I’m not in that number. I enjoy seeing two stud defenses knock each other around for four plus quarters. This tensions and intensity in this game were off the charts. Every play mattered. Every yard counted. And every mistake was magnified. In the end, LSU made some plays when it mattered most.
3. Stanford 56 USC 48 (3 OT) – At the time, Stanford’s national championship hopes were on the line and the Cardinal ran into a touch test in the Coliseum. USC showed that it was not going to lay down, despite the fact that they were ineligible for post-season play. After Stanford QB Andrew Luck threw a pick-six, he took his team down for the tying score and Stanford then outlasted USC in three overtimes.
Freshman of the Year
1. Sammy Watkins WR Clemson – This was a no brainer. Watkins caught 77 passes for 1,153 yards and 11 touchdowns. He rushed for 229 yards. And he made a TON of big plays for the Tigers this year. Easy choice.
2. De’Anthony Thomas RB Oregon – Thomas led Oregon in receiving and compiled 1,455 all purpose yards with 13 touchdowns. He served notice that he is going to be deadly in Chip Kelly’s offense for years to come.
3. Marqise Lee WR USC – Lee’s production nearly matched that of Sammy Watkins with 73 catches, 1,143 yards and 11 touchdowns. He has been overshadowed a bit by teammate Robert Woods, but Lee’s freshman season was awfully impressive.
Comeback Player of the Year
1. Jarvis Jones OLB Georgia – After transferring from USC and rehabbing a neck injury, Jones has returned to the field in a big way, leading the SEC in tackles for loss and sacks while leading the way for Georgia to have one of the top defenses in the nation.
2. Jonas Gray RB Notre Dame – After missing time with a knee injury in 2010, Gray returned to the Irish and rushed for 791 yards and 12 touchdowns, averaging a ridiculous 6.9 yards per carry.
3. Dan Persa QB Northwestern – Persa was injured late last season but returned after a few games in 2011 to play extremely well. He completed a ridiculous 74.2% of his passes with 17 touchdowns and just seven interceptions.
Most Improved Player of the Year
1. Da’Rick Rogers WR Tennessee – After catching just 11 passes as a freshman in 2010, Rogers took the next step and exploded onto the SEC scene in 2011. Rogers proved to be one of the top receivers in the conference and is poised for even better things over the rest of his career. He caught 67 passes for 1,040 yards and nine touchdowns.
2. Jarrett Lee QB LSU – After a dreadful freshman season and then acting as primarily a backup, Lee was forced into the starting role for LSU after Jordan Jefferson was suspended. Lee stepped up in a big way, winning all nine of his starts. He completed 62 % of his passes and threw 14 touchdowns with only three interceptions. He ends the regular season as the SEC’s leader in passing efficiency, and there is no question that LSU’s perfect season could not have happened without Lee’s improvement. On a team with a lot of star power, Lee may very well be the MVP.
3. Jacory Harris QB Miami – Yes, Miami didn’t light the world on fire this year, but Harris improved his game and showed much more discipline than in recent years. Harris completed less than 55% of his passes in 2010 while throwing 15 interceptions. This year, he completed 65% while throwing 20 touchdowns and just nine interceptions.