The 2008 Jakeys
Eat your heart out, Heisman!
The best movies get Oscars, the best TV shows get Emmys, and the best Columbia football players get Jakeys.
Thus begins a new tradition.
I know the annual team dinner is a week from today where the official school awardees will be named. But I'd like to throw in some of my own awards if I could.
I'll start my categories and my own nominees. Please feel free to nominate whomever you like in any category in the comments section and I'll consider a more complete list during the week.
Here we go:
FRESHMAN/ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Owen Fraser, DT
Fraser burst onto the scene right in week one and seemed to be the one biggest reason why the Lions shut down the run so much more effectively this year... especially up the middle. His imposing size and surprising speed were a joy to watch.
Kalasi Huggins, CB
Got the opening day start and proved no one could really get separation from him on passing routes. Sometimes he covered receivers TOO close, not even realizing the pass was on its way. Was named Ivy League Rookie of the Week after the week two loss at Towson.
A.J. Maddox, CB/Special Teams
The speedy corner got plenty of playing time, filling in when Huggins was injured in the middle part of the season and alternating with him at other points. On special teams, he burned down the field time after time, especially on punt coverages. May be the fastest man on the team.
SOPHOMORE OF THE YEAR
Alex Gross, LB
The 2007 Ivy League Rookie of the Year got even better in year 2, leading the Ivies in tackles and making his presence felt all over the field. Gross was a big reason most teams were shut down when trying to take things to the outside against the Lions.
Adam Mehrer, S
Led the team in interceptions and made sure teams throwing away from Andy Shalback couldn't relax.
Ian Quirk, OG
The sophomore broke into the starting lineup and helped bolster Columbia's much-improved offensive line. The Lions truly missed him when he was too banged up to play the final two games.
Zack Kourouma, RB
Showed his speed as a runner and a receiver in a number of games, especially at Towson and Harvard. Finished the year with two TD's and a hefty 7.6 yards per carry on an admittedly paltry 11 carries. Seems like he has a great shot at being a starting tailback in 2009.
Calvin Otis, CB
Had an outstanding year as the starting corner. His pickoff in the second half against Cornell set up the Lions' go-ahead score.
Mike Stephens, WR
Broke into the starting lineup and made an immediate impact. Finished first on the team in receiving yards and made a nice catch for a TD versus Towson. Did a decent job returning punts before being replaced by Austin Knowlin, including breaking off a 53-yarder against Lafayette. His crushing fumble against Princeton was a heart-breaker, but he bounced back nicely with courage. Hes becoming a fan favorite.
JUNIOR OF THE YEAR
Lou Miller, DE
This junior had an explosive season, going from just 26 tackles as a sophomore to 68 in 2008. His 19.5 tackles for a loss led the Ivies, and he was also the league leader with eight sacks. In 2007, he had only four TFL's and one sack.
Austin Knowlin, WR/Special Teams
Still the most explosive player on the team despite seeing his receiving stats crash hard from last year. Scored four receiving TD's and two more on a pair of 76-yard punt returns on back-to-back weeks. Also made some great moves as a rusher on afew reverses and direct snaps. Was a key part of both Columbia wins, with a receiving TD versus Dartmouth and a back-breaking punt return for a score against Cornell.
M.A. Olawale, QB
Coaches finally set him loose at the end of the Dartmouth game and he won the game with a brilliant drive capped off by a 10-yard TD run. Ran all over Cornell in the week 9 win at Wien Stadium as well. In the season finale, he became the first Lion rusher to gain 100 yards or more since Jordan Davis did it in week 3 of 2007. His 70-yard run in that Brown game was the longest rush from scrimmage for any Ivy player in 2008. We still don't know the extent of his injury from that game, but he certainly has a lot of time to recover.
Evan Sanford, C
Starting at center for the first time, Sanford did a great job controlling the middle and opening up holes. With the graduations of senior Ralph DeBernado and Mike Brune from the O-line, Sanford will probably be the leader of that crucial unit next year.
Taylor Joseph, WR/LS
Often-overlooked player who just keeps doing whatever his teams asks of him. Had another solid year as a receiver with 30 catches for 365 yards, Also was forced into emergency duty as the long snapper due to another player's injury and did improve as the season went along.
Andy Shalbrack, S
The elder statesman of a young secondary thrived in his leadership role in 2008. Shut down a number of opposing passing attacks in his area and made two key interceptions in Columbia's two wins.
SENIOR OF THE YEAR
Drew Quinn, LB
After an injury-plagued 2007 season, Quinn burst back onto the scene and went from 62 tackles, (with just 1.5 TFL's), to 88 stops with 5 TFL's. He also had a interception return for a TD and two forced fumbles.
Mike Brune, OL
Generally seen by opposing teams as the best Lion offensive lineman on a team that improved by leaps and bounds in total rushing yards gained, (627 on 2007 to 1,397 in 2008), and went from 28 sacks allowed in 2007 to just 16 allowed in 2008.
Ralph DeBernardo, OL
Also battled injuries and gained back enough weight to start all 10 games on the line. Moved to guard in the final two games to accommodate an injury to Quirk and the resulting reshuffle.
Had a really solid year as a field goal kicker, nailing 9 of 11 attempts, including a 47-yarder that was the longest successful FG in the Ivies in 2008. Still looked good as a punter as well. He also had his best season on kickoffs. He will be sorely missed next season.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER
Started getting into a groove as a runner and as a receiver. Scored key TD's in both Columbia wins. Had a huge first half against Penn, keeping Columbia in the game.
2008 TEAM MVP