Sunday, December 03, 2006

Award Tour | by Pat

It's entering award season and slowly the various national awards are starting to trickle out. We'll continue to update the awards as they are named, but here's a quick update on some of the bigger award candidates.

First up is tight end John Carlson who was named a First Team Academic All-American. Carlson, despite missing nearly three games due to injury, put up some of the best numbers in the nation, and, more importantly, paired that with a 3.59 cumulative GPA. By winning the award, Carlson has become the first Academic All-American for Notre Dame in 13 years. The last to win the award was center Tim Ruddy back in 1993. Carlson is a member of the Academic Honors program at ND and posted a 3.8 GPA last spring. I really can't believe it's been 13 years and I'm really happy that Carlson was honored like this. Fantastic job, John.

Hoping to add to this honor, Carlson has also been named a finalist for the Mackey Award, given annually to the nation's top tight end. Along with Carlson are finalists Zach Miller of Arizona State and Matt Spaeth of Minnesota. It will be interesting to see who wins the award. Miller and Spaeth were the best offensive weapons on their respective teams while Carlson was not meaning that defenses could tend to focus on them a bit more. Then again, Carlson not only missed nearly three games due to injury out-performed the other finalists statistically as the following table shows.

John Carlson9466214
Zach Miller1141420310.238.2
Matt Spaeth1147564412.051.3

Somewhat interestingly, Zach Miller, the pre-season favorite for this award, did not win a Tight End of the Week award from the Mackey Award sponsers while Carlson (MSU game) and Spaeth did (Iowa game). Still, I expect the fact that Carlson could return for another year might work against him in the mind of the voters.

Whoever wins, that Carlson was even named a finalist in his first year as a starter is pretty impressive stuff. Not only that, but with Fasano being named a finalist last year as well, Coach Bernie Parmalee has certainly and deservedly added some pretty impressive notes to his resume. Getting two players to be named a finalist for player of the year at their position in your first two years coaching the position is quite an accomplishment.

Brady Quinn won one of the first major awards of the season by being named the 2006 winner of the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award. The award, which is given to the nation's Top Senior quarterback claims to be based on "character, citizenship, scholastic achievement, leadership qualities and athletic accomplishments", was started in 1987 and Quinn is ND's 2nd winner after Tony Rice took home the award in 1989.

Beating out finalists Troy Smith of Ohio State, Drew Stanton of MSU, Kevin Kolb of Houston, and John Beck of BYU, Quinn joins a list of some pretty good QBs who have won the award.

The other major quarterback award is the Davey O'Brien award and Quinn is currently a finalist for that award along with Troy Smith of Ohio State and Colt Brennan of Hawaii. In addition to QB only awards, Quinn is a finalist for the Maxwell and Walter Camp awards, both College Player of the Year awards.

For the second consecutive season, Jeff Samardzija has been named a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award for the nation's best wide receiver.. Here's a look at his production and that of the other two finalists, Jarrett Dillard of Rice and Calvin Johnson of Georgia Tech.

Jarrett Dillard
Calvin Johnson
Jeff Samardzija

I have to think that Calvin Johnson has this award locked up. Dillard is the clear winner if you go by stats, but he plays for Rice and, more importantly, is only a sophomore. Johnson on the other hand will likely be a Top 5 draft pick and has had to put up with Reggie Ball as his quarterback. There's a small chance Samardzija will win, but I'm not holding my breath. Still, it's a honor for Samardzija to be nominated (for the 2nd year in a row) and ND's next QB will surely miss not having him around as a target.

The Biletnikoff, as well as a majority of the rest of the major college football awards, will be given away on ESPN this Thursday at 7pm (ET) as part of the College Football Awards Show. Win or lose, I suspect Charlie and the finalists will be in attendance so it might be fun to check out.