So, to kill time, we're going to be going down and giving out awards to the best and brightest of NU sports. I have a bunch planned out, but more in the true spirit of the site, I have a bunch which are in no way planned out and well I'm just making them up as we go along deal with it. Some of them will be specific sports-centric, some of them will be general, some of them will reward actual good play, some of them will reward general awesomeness, and some of them will probably reward Luka Mirkovic's facemask. Most will be basketball- or football-centric, some both, some neither. Like everything else on this site, it's a people's choice award.
Today, we look at FRESHMEEEEEEEEEN. The pledges of NU sports: so frequently resigned to redshirting, or even when not, often riding the bench, waiting for a chance to shine. When it comes to the Cats, I feel this year was more freshman-centric than most: in football, Fitz really let freshmen loose offensively, burning six redshirts, five at offensive skill positions and eventually finishing the season with freshman starters at quarterback and running back due to an injury to Dan Persa and nobody that wasn't a freshman playing well at running back. Defensively, that wasn't really the case - only a few freshmen played sparingly with only Tyler Scott cracking the lineup regularly as a backup defensive lineman and Damien Proby playing as a backup linebacker as well.
For this trophy, we'll see a two-part bracket: the winner of this matchup, consisting of six football freshmen, will take on JerShon Cobb at a date to be named later for the right to win the inaugural freshman of the year award here at SOP. Although technically this is the football ROY, so, there's that for them to hang on their mantles. (I s'pose Cobb is the default basketball winner after being the only freshman on the team.) Redshirts and true freshmen are both under consideration.
I know you can vote right here, but, jump it anyway because I wrote stuff.
Presented in alphabetical order so you knows I ain't pickin faves. I left Adonis Smith, Rashad Lawrence and Tony Jones off because they didn't really do as much as I remembered - I definitely overstated Jones' by the fact that he caught a 45-yard touchdown on his very first play from scrimmage, and Adonis Smith's because he's faster than Mike Trumpy and that often made me excited about him playing running back.
Kain Colter: Gave NU first trip to house of Kain against Wrigley where, after 10 weeks of hiding in true freshman anonymity, we all simultaneously WTF who is #14?-ed (well, actually, I astutely was aware of who he was but whatevs, I totally wasn't expecting him to actually play.) Was unimpressive, failing to attempt a pass and only mustering ten yards on the ground. Same against Wisconsin - he managed to go 0-for-3 with a pick, good for a -66.67 passer rating. It appeared he was a quarterback of the "Hey, I'm Pat Fitzgerald, and there's one quarterback who I bring in every once in a while as if they plan on throwing the ball but in fact they're only going to run but I somehow expect you not to figure this out" department. Unsurprisingly, was of that department. Leveraged his speed into putting up 105 yards on the ground - only NU's third 100-yard rushing performance of the season - in the TicketCity Bowl, led the team when nothing clicked offensively, and also caught a 32-yard pass from Jeremy Ebert. Was the reason NU was close in first place. Could be a dangerous option who could be able to make a difference down the line with his speed, even if his throwing ability doesn't pan out, perhaps from the Andrew Brewer book of former QB's.
Venric Mark: Fast. Fast fast fast. Special teams guru, doing little on the offensive side of things besides fumbling an end-around. Doubled NU's yards-off-punt-returns. Provided the only bright spot in the Bielema Enema loss to Wisconsin by returning NU's first kickoff for touchdown in ages. (However, this quick return only gave Wisconsin more time to score.) Almost completely stopped being an option in passing game as year progressed, but remained a role in option running attack.
Mike Trumpy: Was slow. Was maligned due to slowness. Proved despite slowness he was easily NU's best option at running back. Yards after contact expert, short-yardage-ish guy, randomly managed to give NU first 100-yard performance since Tyrell Sutton against Indiana. Had hilarious to watch 80-yard run against Illinois. Gave NU actual answer to question "hey, who is our starting running back?" for first time also since Tyrell Sutton. Got hurt just in time to make that question relevant again before the Wisconsin game and TicketCity Bowl. Managed to lead NU in running for the season despite being a running back, a feat previously thought impossible. Probs the starter next year. Never ran backwards, not even once.
Evan Watkins: Slayed pussy nightly.
Brandon Wiliams: Punted, which will probably answer whether you will vote for him now. Dramatically changed NU's punting game, catapulting NU from 11th in the Big Ten in average and net punting to 2nd in net yardage. Held opponents to .7 yards returned per punt, twice as good as the next best of 1.5 in the Big Ten. Was not Stefan Demos. Did not kick field goals. Only punted because that is what punters are supposed to do on real football teams.
My vote: Mike Trumpy. He came from, well, nowhere to be NU's first sign of a competent running game in nearly two seasons.