SOR Staff: SOR's Post-Season Team Awards
Dec 6, 2011 | By: Random Blogger
Rutgers, predicted to finish last in the Big East for the 2011 season, ended up in a tightly-contested battle for first place. Although they finished short of their goal of a first place finish and an opportunity to represent the Big East in the BCS, they did prove to be one of the toughest teams in a league filled with parity. There were plenty of performers who went above and beyond throughout the year. Let’s take a moment to highlight those individuals in SOR Post-Season Awards.
Offensive Player of the Year: Mohamed Sanu
There was no doubt who carried the Rutgers offense this season. Coming into the 2011 campaign, junior Mohamed Sanu was lost in the shuffle with a bevy of talented receivers on the Rutgers roster. Sanu dominated this season and set the school and Big East record for catches in a season (109), destroying the previous records held by Kenny Britt at Rutgers (87 in 2008) and Pittsburgh’s Larry Fitzgerald for the Big East (94 in 2003). He also set a conference record with 16 receptions in the 38-26 victory against Ohio on Sept. 24. Through 12 games, Sanu has 1,144 yards and seven touchdowns and has registered seven 100-yard games. He should finish the season with the second-best total in Rutgers history, but Britt’s 1,371 yards in 2008 are within reach.
Defensive Player of the Year: Khaseem Greene
After a 2010 season where the Scarlet Knights finish last in total defense in the Big East, Greg Schiano made switches in the defense to increase the unit’s speed. The most successful move was Khaseem Greene from strong safety to weak-side linebacker. The junior linebacker led the team in both total and solo tackles with 127 and 67, respectively. His 127 total tackles are 50 tackles more than the team’s second leading tackler. His speed, aggressiveness and nose for the football have been the keys to his success. Greene was at his best against South Florida where he registered 17 tackles. He will likely cap an outstanding season with the Big East Defensive Player of the Year award.
Special Teams Player of the Year: Jamal Merrell
It’s insane how much Merrell was all over the ball on kick blocking this year. He could have increased his number from three to five block kicks if his teammates didn’t beat him to the ball on a couple of occasions. The key block of the season came in the 19-16 double-overtime victory at Syracuse. The Orange led 13-6 and set up for a 44-yard field goal attempt to effectively put the game out of reach with under 7 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Merrell broke free through the middle and pounced all over the Ross Krautman attempt (Marcus Cooper’s TD return was negated by a penalty). The Scarlet Knights would score the game-tying touchdown on the ensuing drive and would eventually win in the second overtime period as Merrell helped strip Antwon Bailey on the final play of the game.
Breakout Player of the Year: Quron Pratt
Coming into the 2011 season, there were many names being tossed around as possible top-flight receivers for the Rutgers football team. All Rutgers fans heard about was how Mark Harrison is going to take over after accumulating nearly 900 receiving yards in 2010 and how Brandon Coleman had been doing some extraordinary things throughout the spring and summer. We heard how Sanu was being very consistent and was hungry to regain credibility after a lackluster 2010 season. We even heard how Tim Wright was doing some positive things after returning from knee ligament damage. Ironically enough, Quron Pratt was not a name we heard much about. However, he ended up being the best complement to Mo Sanu throughout the 2011 season.
Pratt's 31 receptions were good enough for second on the team and his 323 yards receiving propelled him up to third in that category behind Sanu and Coleman. Pratt also had one touchdown on the season. It is his toughness and stone cold concentration that allows him to make plays during the biggest moments of the game. Unlike many of the aforementioned names who have better physical tangibles than Pratt, it is questionable that any of them have a heart as big as his.
Rookie of the Year: Jawan Jamison
Jamison impressed Rutgers’ coaching staff in the 2010 preseason camp before injuring his knee. The redshirt freshman endured plenty of drama during the 2011 campaign but showed why RU recruited him out of Jacksonville. Jamison broke out for 200 yards and two touchdowns in the 20-3 win over Cincinnati on Nov. 19 and finished the regular season with 766 yards and seven TDs on 204 carries (3.8 yards per rush). Jamison scored four times in the final three regular-season games.
Leaders of the Year:
Joe Martinek (Offense)
Martinek could have sulked after being moved to the fullback position after starting most of three seasons as RU’s tailback. However, that is not the route he chose to take. And who would have blamed him if he did? I mean, we are only human. But Martinek being a team-first guy, no matter what he was feeling inside, put on a smiley face, strapped the cleats on and did what has become expected of him over the years; he went out there and worked. Martinek provided sparks during key moments of RU’s season.
He found different ways to affect the game whether it be blocking, rushing for short yardage, taking a screen pass the distance or providing tutelage for some of the younger members of the team. His 27 receptions were good enough for third on the team which is remarkable when considering the wide receivers who he surpassed to achieve this feat. Although often underappreciated, “Jersey Joe” did whatever he could to help his team win and he will likely use that same toughness, team-first attitude and determination to land a job in the National Football League as a fullback. What an example to follow.
Justin Francis (Defense)
Making the move from defensive end to tackle is no easy task. End is more concerned with pressuring off the edge, while tackle makes the push at the point of attack. Also a defensive end sacrifices his body more often than a defensive end. It’s a difficult switch, but one Francis made with no complaints this season in RU’s revamped defense. The big man stepped inside and got it done, especially against option teams Army and Navy (RU held both teams to roughly 50 percent of their season averages rushing).
Francis leads Rutgers with 6.5 sacks and has recorded 60 tackles (13 tackles for loss), one interception, one fumble recovery and two blocked kicks. The defining moment of his leadership came in the UConn game, when he was carted off the field with a lacerated calf but returned to record three tackles, a pass breakup and a blocked extra point.
Redeemed Player of the Year: Art Forst
We all know Art Forst’s story. He came to Rutgers as a highly-heralded offensive line prospect out of Manasquan (N.J.) High School. He held offers from schools all across the country yet followed a path first laid by Piscataway’s (N.J.) Anthony Davis to commit to his state school. Speaking of Davis, Rutgers fans and likely RU’s staff, were spoiled by the production that the true freshman exhibited the previous year and an attempt to duplicate that rarity was made the following season. Forst was hoisted into the starting line-up in game five his freshman campaign and remained a starter throughout that season and the following season as well. However, he just never truly looked comfortable out there. Rutgers switched Forst from left guard to right guard to tackle, back to guard and eventually to blocking tight end during his third year on the banks. In fact, it was tough to even find mention of him going into his senior year. The once highly-sought-after sure to be NFL star, was an afterthought and it showed on the depth chart, where his name was nowhere to be found. Then something happened.
The 6-foot-8, 315-pounder, from somewhere, found motivation; realizing this was his final opportunity to make a contribution to the Scarlet Knights. A few games into the 2011 season, Forst received an opportunity to rewrite his legacy due to an inconsistent performance from RU’s then-starters up front. And although he started off a bit shaky, he finished the season as one of RU’s top performers on the offensive line. If you watch the tape, he can often be seen being stout at the point of attack and doing a great job trap blocking and pulling around the corner, getting to the second level. His story, although not ideal, is one of perseverance, pride and growth as not only a football player, but as a human being overall.
Position Group of the Year: The Secondary
Rutgers’ secondary had the strongest year of all the position groups. Anyone who follows the Scarlet Kngihts knew going into any said game that they could count on at least a couple huge plays being made in the secondary by Rutgers. What they didn’t know was who it was going to come from. There were many guys who rotated into the defensive back four who made plays at different points throughout the season. From Logan Ryan’s physical play (11 pass break-ups), sure tackling (60 total) and opportunistic interceptions (2), to Duron Harmon keeping things in front of him and picking off any questionable balls (5), to David Rowe providing leadership, doing a great job against the run and picking off his fair share of balls as well (3).
And let’s not forget about the job Brandon Jones did (2 INTS, 4 pass break-ups and a sack), in becoming a top-tier playmaker for the Scarlet Knights as well. Marcus Cooper forged a productive season as well, making key plays on the football due to his size and athleticism. And Wayne Warren also had a few big plays of his own, none bigger than his two sacks and one interception on the year. This group might have been as good as any secondary ever to play for the Scarlet Knights. The scariest thing about it is that, besides Rowe, everyone returns. And some of the most fluent athletes within the position group - in Rashad Knight, Gareef Glashen, Lorenzo waters and Jonathan Aiken - have yet to truly hit the field. Expect Mason Robinson to lead the group next year after returning from knee ligament damage.
Overall MVP: Coming Soon
Updated On: Dec 14, 2011 08:24 PM