Recognition for Notre Dame's offensive explosion continues to flow in as a trio of Notre Dame players have all been named finalists for three of the more presitgious college football post-season awards. Brady Quinn was named as one of three finalists for the Davey O'Brien award which is awarded to the nation's best quarterback. Jeff Samardzija was named a Biletnikoff Award finalist for the nation's best wide receiver and Anthony Fasano was named finalist for the Mackey Award as one of the best three tight ends in the country. All three with be invited to the Home Depot College Football Awards Show, set to air live on ESPN on December 8th from 7-9pm, where the winners will be announced. Until that day, fans can vote for their choice here.
Brady Quinn's finalist nomination isn't entirely surprising given his Heisman darkhorse status, but it is still a nice honor for the junior QB. The interesting thing is that Quinn wasn't even listed as one of the 33 pre-season nominees even though he was listed as a pre-season nominee before his sophomore year in 2004. His competition for the award is USC quarterback Matt Leinart and Texas quarterback Vince Young. Stats wise Quinn is right there with the Rose Bowl bound QBs with each player one game away from finishing their regular season.
|Quarterback ||Games ||Comp. % ||Yards ||TDs ||INTs ||Rating ||Misc. |
|Matt Leinart ||11 ||66.38 ||3217 ||24 ||7 ||161.9||#1 ranked offense, 38-1 as starter |
|Brady Quinn ||10 ||64.85||3201 ||29 ||5 ||161.5 ||Only first season in new system |
|Vince Young ||10 ||63.52||2414 ||22 ||8 ||169.8 ||774 yards & 8 TDs rushing |
Of course, the award is supposed to incorporate more than just statistics. The official site describes the nominees as being judged on:
- Quarterback skills/athletic ability
- Being a team player
One of Quinn's favorite targets, Jeff Samardzija pulled off the somewhat surprising leap to finalist for the Biletnikoff Award. I say surprising because there are a number of highly publicized receivers who had good years and still didn't make the list and Samardzija wasn't a pre-season nominee. Still, Samardzija has earned this honor with a breakout season that should put Quinn to Samardzija on near equal billing with Huarte to Snow. Here's the breakdown of the three finalists; Samardzija, Mike Hass of Oregon State, and Dwanye Jarrett of USC.
|Wide Receiver ||Games ||Catches ||Yards ||TDs ||Yds/Catch ||Yds/Game ||Misc. |
|Mike Hass ||11 ||90 ||1532 ||6 ||17.02 ||139.27||1st 3-time Pac-10 1,000 WR |
|Dwayne Jarrett ||11 ||75||1070 ||14 ||14.27 ||99.90 ||Tied for national lead in TDs |
|Jeff Samardzija ||10 ||63||999 ||13 ||15.86 ||97.27 ||TD catch in 9 games |
I'd have to say that Hass is the likely favorite, especially since he is the only senior on this list and lacks the surrounding offensive talent that benefit Samardzija and Jarrett. But like Quinn with the O'Brien award, Samardzija has set himself up nicely for next year as an odds on favorite. For those interested, the selection committee has many media crossovers with the selection committe for the O'Brien award.
What is interesting is that with still one game left, Maurice Stovall has an outside shot at surpassing Samardzija in nearly every category. I'm sure by the time you're reading this that the game is over (greetings from the past!) and Samardzija is still ahead of Stovall, but I wanted to highlight just how close Stovall and Samardzija are statistically. Of course, the key difference in my mind is that Samardzija started the season hot and made big catches in every game. While Stovall can match Samardzija circus catch for circus catch, Stovall still collected 7 of his 10 touchdown receptions against Navy and BYU while Samardzija scored on everyone save Navy. That type of consistency, along with the quick start, is key to garnering media attention. It's a shame Stovall won't get quite the same recognition for what has been a fabulous season, but I suspect that his reward will come on April 23rd.
Last but not least, Anthony Fasano has made it to the final round of the Mackey Award. Unlike Quinn and Samardzija, Fasano was actually a pre-season nominee for this award. But like Quinn and Samardzija, it might be hard for Fasano to win the award this year. His competion comes from fellow finalists Vernon Davis of Maryland and Marcedes Lewis of UCLA, and both seem to have the edge in term of noticable offensive output. Here's a look at the reception stats for each candidate.
|Tight End ||Games ||Catches ||Yards ||TDs ||Yds/Catch ||Yds/Game ||Misc. |
|Vernon Davis ||10 ||43 ||763 ||5 ||17.74 ||76.30||2-time TE of the Week |
|Anthony Fasano ||10 ||42||545 ||2 ||12.97 ||54.50 ||Superb run blocker |
|Marcedes Lewis ||10 ||55||711 ||10 ||12.93 ||71.10 ||Helping UCLA to 9-1 record |
From the look of things, Fasano falls way short. But while Fasano is used as both a blocker and receiver, it seems that Davis and Lewis are more on the receiver side of things. The fact that both lead their team in receptions serves as solid evidence. And while such accomplishments are impressive, there is still more to being a tight end than out-running linebackers. Fasano has contributed devestating blocking this year to the point that Weis has mentioned that very few NFL tight ends combine pass catching and blocking skills as seamlessly as Fasano. Just ask Purdue's Ray Edwards who had a rough day even getting near Quinn and Walker due to Fasano's blocking. I'm also convinced that Fasano also leads the nation in times getting completely airbone while tackled. Whether he's diving for extra yards, somersaulting into a first down, or jumping over a hapless defender in one of this season's most memorable plays, he is always looking for that extra yard. Vernon Davis may win the award, but I'd argue that Fasano has been as productive and key to his team's success as any tight end in the country.