August 20, 2009

Hawkeyes in the running for awards

While the start of the regular season is still a couple of weeks away, the preseason honors for the Hawkeyes keep rolling in. This week, three Hawkeyes found out that they are on the "watch list" for annual post season awards, bringing the total number of Hawkeyes on watch lists to eight. The regular season will determine if the Iowa players are contenders or pretenders for the awards, but we take a look at where they stand heading into the season.

One thing to keep in mind is that that watch lists for the various awards are simply guesses and generally done to get some publicity for the awards as college football returns the radar of most sports fans. It's feel good stuff that gives all of us something to talk about and feel good about as the season draws closer.

But, it sure beats the alternative and Iowa has never had six different players on the watch list for eight awards, so we are in some uncharted waters in that regard. Like I said, it's nice, but the proof will come starting on September 5th.

Which Iowa players have the best shot at being a finalist and potentially holding up a trophy in the middle of December? Based on the list of contenders for each award, no Iowa player would be considered a favorite heading into the season, but that could change with a successful season. Remember back in 2002, Brad Banks wasn't on anyone's post season award radar heading into the season.

Here is a quick look at some of the awards and the chances for each Iowa player heading into the season.

THE OUTLAND TROPHY

The Outland Trophy has been presented since 1946 and the Hawkeyes have a pretty strong history with the award, which is officially handed out in January by the Greater Omaha Sports Committee. Iowa has had three past winners of the Outland Trophy: Calvin Jones in 1955, Alex Karras in 1957, and Robert Gallery in 2003.

This year, Bryan Bulaga is one of 40 names on the watch list of the award which goes to the countries best interior lineman (offense or defense) as voted on by the Football Writers Association of America. Other Big Ten players on the watch list include: Jon Asamoah (IL), Jared Odrick (PSU), and Stefen Wisniewski (PSU). The other national contenders for the award heading into the season include: Terrance Cody (Alabama), Gerald McCoy (Oklahoma), Ndamukong Suh (Nebraska), and Russell Okung (Oklahoma State).

THE EARLY READ: Going to be a tough road for Bulaga simply because he is going to go up against some high profile guys who play at highly rated schools. Like it or not, that's the way many awards are handed out.

THE LOMBARDI AWARD

The Lombardi Award is the other honor for an offensive or defensive lineman (or linebacker who plays on the line) and has been presented since 1970 by the Houston Rotary Club. Once again, Bulaga is on the early watch list for the award, which is presented in early December in Houston.

The Lombardi Award isn't shy about putting players on their watch list before the season. This year 135 college players appear on their watch list, representing 79 teams and 11 conferences. Heck, six guys from Oklahoma are on the list, including their tight end. On October 12th, they will cut the list to 12 players and then a final four will be announced on November 11th.

THE EARLY READ: Pretty much the same cast of main characters, with a few more added in since the Lombardi includes some linebackers and tight ends in their watch list. Keep in mind, since they started handing out this award, a tight end has never won it and a linebacker has taken home the award just six times, so expect this to go to a true lineman.

THE BEDNARIK AWARD

The Bednarik Award is has been around since 1995 and is presented annually to the best defensive player in college football by the Maxwell Football Club. A Penn State player has won the award four times in its short history. In fact, the Big Ten has really owned this award with seven overall winners.
Iowa's Pat Angerer hopes to make that eight this year as he has been added to their watch list.

The early watch list contains 56 other names, so the field is pretty wide open. Since the award goes to the best defensive player, it includes linemen, linebackers, and defensive backs. Thus far the award has gone to linebackers 11 times, which would be good news for Angerer and the other linebackers. Penn State has three players on the watch list, including Sean Lee, Jared Odrick, and Navorro Bowman. Other Big Ten players on the list include: Brandon Graham (Michigan), Greg Jones (Michigan State), Jamie Kirlew (Indiana), and Corey Wootton (Northwestern).

THE EARLY READ: This will be a tough one for Angerer simply because the award considers players from every defensive position.

THE LOTT TROPHY

This is a relatively new award on the college football scene. The Lott Award, named after Ronnie Lott, has been award since 2004 and is presented to the college football defensive IMPACT Player of the Year. IMPACT meaning: Integrity, Maturity, Performance, Academics, Community, and Tenacity. The award is about performance, but also about character and is handed out annually at the Pacific Club in Newport Beach, CA in December.

Angerer is up for this award as well and again, the competition is going to be stiff simply because it includes all the defensive positions. At this stage, 42 players, along with Angerer are on their watch list.

A Big Ten player won this award for the first time last year when Ohio State's James Laurinaitis picked up the honor. Four other Big Ten players are on the watch list including Kurt Coleman from Ohio State, Sean Lee from Penn State, Greg Jones from Michigan State, and Corey Wooton from Northwestern.

THE EARLY READ: Basically a repeat for Pat Angerer. Very stiff competition from around the country at all positions, including his conference.

JIM THORPE AWARD

Named for one of the all time great all around athletes, The Thorpe Award is presented annually to the countries best defensive back. This year, Amari Spievey has been added to the early watch list, along with 30 other college players. In November, a committee will narrow the field to 10 to 12 players and then selects three finalists just before Thanksgiving.

The Thorpe Award has been around since 1986 and is award by the Jim Thorpe Association in Oklahoma. A Big Ten player has won this award five times, including a four year run from 1997 to 2000. Last year, Ohio State's Malcolm Jenkins won the award and Amari Speivey hopes to make it two in a row this year. Kurt Coleman from Ohio State is the only other Big Ten player currently on the watch list.

THE EARLY READ: My guess is that Speivey probably won't get tested a whole lot this year, especially early, and that could hurt his numbers. Plus, guys like Eric Berry from Tennessee and Taylor Mays from USC seem to get all the pub and are probably the early favorites.

RAY GUY AWARD

Since 2000, the Ray Guy Award has been given to college football's top punter by the Greater Augusta Sports Council. The award isn't just about the player with the best punting average. Other factors, including teamwork skills. Wisconsin's Kevin Stemke won the inaugural award back in 2000 and B.J. Sander from Ohio State earned it in 2003.

Iowa punter Ryan Donahue is up for the award in 2009 along with eight other punters. Obviously a pretty small pool on the watch list thus far, but five of the nine were semi-finalists last year.

THE EARLY READ: At this stage, this might be Iowa's best shot at a post season award simply based on the numbers. With only eight other punters currently under consideration, Donahue stands a good shot at being a finalists this year. His toughest competition might come from Zolton Mesko from Michigan.

THE MANNING AWARD

Like the Lott Trophy, this honor has been around since 2004 and is named after the Manning family (Archie, Peyton, and Eli) and his awarded by the Sugar Bowl Committee to honor the top quarterback in college football each year. Obviously not a long history and thus far the Big Ten has come up empty for this award.

Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi is one of 38 signal callers who made the initial watch list heading into the season. Other Big Ten quarterbacks on the list include Darryll Clark (Penn State), Adam Weber (Minnesota), Juice Williams (Illinois), and Terrelle Pryor (Ohio State). Iowa State's Austin Arnaud is also on the watch list.

THE EARLY READ: Let's be honest here, if Tim Tebow, Colt McCoy, or Sam Bradford don't win this award this year then it will be a huge surprise. Someone could emerge this year to surprise at quarterback, but those three will most likely battle for this honor.

THE MACKEY AWARD

Since 2001, the Nassau County Sports Commission has award the Mackey Award to the top tight end in college football. In 2002, Iowa's Dallas Clark won the Mackey Award, so there is a little Hawkeye history with the award already in place.

There are 30 college players on the watch list, including Tony Moeaki. This isn't a real strong year for tight ends, so Moeaki does have a shot at moving up the list. That being said, there are some strong names already being considered including Jermaine Gresham from Oklahoma, Dennis Pitta from BYU, and DJ Williams from Arkansas.

THE EARLY READ: If Moeaki has the type of season that I think most Iowa fans believe he can have this year, then he has a real opportunity to be a finalist for the award. But, everyone will be chasing Gresham for this award.


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