Football banquet: Grothe, Selvie are MVPs
USF had its annual football banquet Saturday night at Busch Gardens, and the most memorable part of the ceremonies every year is the video of interviews with the departing seniors, reminiscing about the friendships built over five years at USF and all that they were able to accomplish. It's a great video presentation, with the outstanding musical score from HBO's "Band of Brothers" in the background. Almost a month after the season, this was a proud group of seniors, basically the last ones to span back to USF's days in Conference USA. Lots of awards given out, with some surprising winners, so I'll run them down for you ...
Rookie of the Year: I'd imagine your first thought would be running back Mike Ford, or perhaps redshirt freshman Carlton Mitchell, who emerged as a real playmaker at receiver. The winner, however, is guard Zach Hermann, the redshirt freshman from East Lake who quietly started every game and graded out at over 80 percent for the season. No arguments here. ...
Overachiever Award: This is also a freshman award, given for work ethic in strength and conditioning. Again, the instinct is to go with a big guy like offensive lineman Sampson Genus, but the winner is far less heralded: Mike McGowan, who shifted from tight end to guard this fall. Impressive, in that he was originally tagged as a grayshirt, where he would just be starting classes this month, so it's strong that he's made a good impression in his first semester in the program.
Golden Bull Award: For top scout-team contributor. Aston Samuels was one of two honored last year and he made a nice splash, so it's a promising award. This year's winners? Fullback Mike Padilla and defensive tackle Kenneth Luberice. Padilla won the Green & Gold Pride Award last year.
Scholar-Athlete Award: Again, two honored, and it goes to receiver Marcus Edwards and quarterback Grant Gregory. Both guys are team-first, always say and do the right things. Not surprised at all.
Green & Gold Pride Award: For the walk-on who best represents USF football's work ethic and leadership. Went to long-snapper Eric Setser -- there's a great clip of him running down and recovering a muffed punt 26 yards downfield in the Rutgers game. If I had to pick the next walk-on to earn a scholarship, I think I'd pick Setser, who's had the long-snap job for two seasons and has done well.
Lee Roy Selmon Award: For courage, perseverance and determination. Goes to linebacker Brouce Mompremier, who played so well last season you forgot he was a first-year starter. I'm going to miss Rich Rachel being out on the field as a position coach -- the former cornerbacks coach presented this award and introduced Mompremier as being "from the 305," one of the better lines of the night. Rachel's a Hialeah grad, Mompremier from Miami Edison.
First Teamer Award: Leadership, character, mental toughness, high academic standards. Goes to linebacker Tyrone McKenzie, who was a tackling machine, just as he was at Iowa State last year. Here's a prediction for 2008: McKenzie will break his own school record for tackles in a season, and he'll do it before the bowl game this time around. He wants to be on the field in the nickel package this fall, which means an extra two or three tackles a game, I figure.
Coaches Award: A new award, recognizing a player who makes "a substantive yet unrecognized contribution, a person whose bravery is unknown or unacknowledged." Well-earned by guard Matt Huners, who made a remarkably quick comeback from a major knee injury, tearing three ligaments in his knee in the spring game and making it back six months later. Huners graded out at 86 percent this fall, the highest of any Bulls offensive lineman. As I wrote a few weeks back, the plan is for him to start at guard and slide Ryan Schmidt over to left tackle this spring.
Outstanding Defensive Front Seven Award: One of the biggest applauses of the night was for linebacker Ben Moffitt, who couldn't be at the banquet because he was busy on the winning team at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., where he was credited with two tackles. Dan McCarney said Moffitt was one of the best leaders he's coached in 37 years of college football. That's high praise. Watching Moffitt's interceptions this season, you're reminded of what great hands he has. Some great instinctive catches in those highlights.
Outstanding Offensive Lineman: To hard-working center Jake Griffin, another constant on the line this season. Mike Simmonds had a good line, saying how the inscription on USF's Papajohns.com Bowl rings says 24-7 for the score against East Carolina, but it also reminds them to work hard 24-7. Then again, I imagine the inscription "56-21" would do that pretty well also ...
Outstanding Special Teams Player: If you think about where Delbert Alvarado was two weeks into the season, it makes his year all the more impressive. Consistent on his field goals in the second half of the season, outstanding on punts and even filled in kickoffs when necessary.
Offensive Playmaker of the Year: The coaches vote on all the awards except the MVPs, and they chose quarterback Matt Grothe -- hard to argue with his production, both running and throwing. His highlights included his touchdown pass to Taurus Johnson in the bowl game -- you remember the final score, of course, but there was another amazing play that was textbook Grothe.
Defensive Playmaker of the Year: I sat there wondering how they'd choose between cornerbacks Mike Jenkins and Trae Williams, who both made so many huge plays this season, with safety Nate Allen not far behind. They took the easy route, giving it to both Jenkins and Williams, again, very well-deserved. Williams already looks like an NFL draft pick in a nice suit; Jenkins couldn't make it to the banquet as he prepares for the NFL Combine workouts, but his helmet-flying hit against Cincinnati drew the biggest cheers of the night. They're going to miss those two this fall ...
Offensive MVP: The players vote on this one, and they too chose Grothe. They should put his season highlights on Youtube -- so many great scrambles and throws from early in the season, and that wild 80-yard touchdown run to open the second half against Pittsburgh. He's got his regular old haircut back, by the way, making you wonder if we've seen the last of the Grohawk.
Defensive MVP: Went to defensive end George Selvie. Coaches can't say enough about his work ethic, how it's there every day. I think the single most impressive highlight from this season is the play Selvie made against Central Florida, getting such an amazing jump off the snap that he could hack at the UCF quarterback and force a fumble before he could even get the ball to running back Kevin Smith.
Anyway, that's that. Oh, and receiver Hugh Smith went in the 46th round of the AAFL draft to Team Michigan today. We'll try to get some recruiting updates in Sunday night ...