July 8, 2011
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – It’s been a long time since several Florida State football players have been considered for this many national awards in a single season for their on-field performance.
The odds of picking up some hardware are vastly improving in 2011.
The National College Football Awards Association (NCFAA, www.ncfaa.org) is in the process of releasing the preseason `Watch Lists’ for 15 major college awards this month, and with one week of releases completed, Jimbo Fisher’s 2011 Seminoles are very well represented.
Seven Seminoles – Brandon Jenkins, EJ Manuel, Greg Reid and Xavier Rhodes – appear on the watch lists for five different awards. That’s a high percentage, indicative of the growth the program has made in 18 months under Fisher’s watch.
Bradham, Jenkins and Rhodes, in fact, made the initial lists for two of the nation’s top defensive awards – the Bednarik and Nagurski.
A senior linebacker, Bradham is one of four `Noles to make the Bednarik Award list of 65 preseason candidates for the trophy presented to the nation’s most outstanding defensive player by the Maxwell Football club. He is also one of 82 players named to the list of Nagurski candidates, who are also contending for the nation’s most outstanding defensive player award presented by the Charlotte Touchdown Club. Entering his third year as a starter, the Crawfordville, Fla. native has led the team in tackles each of the last two seasons. In 2010 he set new career-highs for tackles (98), passes defended (5) and sacks (5), while matching his previous best in tackles for loss (5.5).
Jenkins, a redshirt junior defensive end, burst on the scene last year with one of the top seasons in FSU football history. With 13.5 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss, the Tallahassee native ranked third and tied for fourth, respectively, in the two categories. His tackles for loss were the third-most in Seminole history, while his sack total tied for the fifth-best season. Not surprisingly, the 2010 first-team All-ACC selection, is a consensus preseason All-American candidate.
The same is true for Rhodes, a sophomore cornerback from Miami, who claimed ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year honors in 2010. A 14-game starter, he was a consensus Freshman All-American after recording 12 pass break-ups and four interceptions, which was good for a share of the team lead. A second-team All-ACC selection, Rhodes registered 58 tackles (49 solo), two sacks, 3.5 tackles for loss and recovered two fumbles for the 10-4 Seminoles.
Fellow cornerback Greg Reid also made the watch list for the Bednarik Award after compiling a season full of big plays. A first-year starter as a sophomore in 2010, Reid led the `Noles with 14 pass break-ups, forced three fumbles and swiped three interceptions. An honorable mention All-ACC selection, he also registered a career-high 65 tackles, including three tackles for loss. A Valdosta, Ga. native, Reid capped his season by claiming Chick-fil-A Bowl Defensive MVP honors at the Georgia Dome after forcing two fumbles, breaking up four passes and registering five tackles in FSU’s 27-16 win over South Carolina.
Florida State defenders aren’t the only ones being noticed.
Redshirt junior quarterback EJ Manuel, who has posted a 4-2 record as a starter over the past two seasons, is one of 66 players initially identified as a candidate for the prestigious Maxwell Award. The award goes to the nation’s most outstanding all-around player and is presented by the Maxwell Football Club. Manuel, who takes over the reins from Christian Ponder, passed for 861 yards and ran for 170 more in 10 games during the 2010 season. The Virginia Beach, Va. native led the Seminoles to a pivotal regular season win over Clemson and threw for a career-high 288 yards against Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship game, while starting in Ponder’s absence. His game management and mobility were instrumental in directing the `Noles past South Carolina in the Chick-fil-A Bowl after Ponder suffered a first half injury. Manuel secured the 27-16 victory with a 7-yard touchdown pass to Taiwan Easterling with 6:22 remaining.
Senior offensive tackle Andrew Datko enters his final year as a fourth-season starting left tackle for the Seminoles. The former Freshman All-American from Weston, Fla. has anchored that spot with precision pass blocking, while developing into an outstanding edge blocker, worthy of candidacy for the Outland Award, presented to the nation’s most outstanding interior lineman by the Football Writers Association of America. Despite missing three games due to injury in 2010, Datko posted the Seminoles’ second-highest grade among linemen at 87 percent, trailing only Rodney Hudson, who was an Outland Trophy finalist. He relinquished only one sack, was penalized just three times and had only five missed assignments in 691 snaps.
Dustin Hopkins was a semifinalist for the 2010 Lou Groza Award, presented to the nation’s most outstanding place-kicker by the Palm Beach County Sports Commission. Not surprisingly, he was one of 30 players selected to the Groza Watch List in 2011. A junior from Houston, Texas, he converted 22 of 28 field goal attempts and led the Atlantic Coast Conference with 119 points, which was also the third highest scoring season in FSU history. He enters the year working on a streak of 86 consecutive successful point-after conversions. Hopkins’ sophomore campaign was highlighted by his 55-yard field goal to beat Clemson as time expired, and capped by his 14-point performance in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, when he matched an FSU bowl record with four field goals.
The NCFAA will continue to release its preseason awards watch list next week, beginning Monday with the Jim Thorpe Award, followed by the Rotary Lombardi Award (Tuesday), Rimington Award (Wednesday), Butkus Award (Thursday) and both the Davey O’Brien and Doak Walker Awards on Friday.