Bye Week Terps Football Awards

It's Maryland's second bye week, the Terps have no football media opportunities this week, so what better time to hand out a few Terrapin Times bye week awards with the final three games staring the 6-3 (3-2 Big Ten) Terps in the face coming off the dramatic win at Happy Valley.

It's Maryland's second bye week, the Terps have no football media opportunities this week, so what better time to hand out a few Terrapin Times bye week awards with the final three games staring the 6-3 (3-2 Big Ten) Terps in the face coming off the dramatic win at Happy Valley.

1. TT's 'Stepping out of Character' Award: This one has to go to the Terps' headman himself, as Randy Edsall has opened up in ways unthinkable of late.

First, there have been his welcoming Thursday Fireside Chats (complete with visuals of said Fireside), where he has opened up personally the most in four years at College Park, talking of family (both his and his football one), at the Gossett Football Team House. Who knows, S'mores could be next.

Secondly, who could have imagined a Randy Edsall team not shaking captains hands during pregame? For all that he has preached and walked and talked about character and principal and sportsmanship and young men, well the display at Beaver Stadium (in his Pennsylvania homecoming), goes against all grain in the "Edsall World." Obviously, there's no way he knew it was coming, as he probably would have self-combusted beforehand there on the field. And he's embarrassed over it, and has apologized. But three years ago? Heck, Edsall would have suspended all three players a game himself, not just the league, not to mention have them run a few steps at Byrd Stadium.

But if it was that emotion that helped spark the win Nov. 1 over border nemesis Penn State, and light the flame anew in the lopsided series, well Terp Nation may not be losing too much sleep over it, nor the Edsall Doctrine harmed too much.

And shoot, Brad Craddock mussing Edsal’s hair in the postgame ESPN interview on the field at Penn State? And Edsall smiling about it? Randy, we didn’t know you had it in you. It's been mostly a monotone voice coming out of Gossett, both his and the program's, but Penn State week offered up the most spontaneity of the Edsall era, hands down.

2. TT's 'Wow, Where Did that Come From?' Award: Everyone knew Terps junior kicker Brad Craddock was a worker and very motivated student-athlete. But who knew, with his combined work on-campus (he hasn't been home to Australia in seemingly forever) and off-site with Super Bowl kicker Matt Stover, he would be such a finished product having arrived as a raw punter three years ago from Down Under.

Craddock has nailed his last 20 consecutive field goals (including a 57-yarder), he is 14-for-14 this season including the game winner at PSU Nov. 1, he is the nation's hottest kicker and he is on schedule to graduate this winter.

Craddock has become the Terps' most consistent scoring weapon in this season of offensive struggles, and Randy Edsall feels his range, if the wind conditions are right, is 60 yards after coming into the season at 55 yards. He still needs to add more leg strength for kickoffs, which need more distance, and then he may be about perfect. He can also punt in a pinch if the Terps need it, and his drop-kicks are famous at Terps' practices.

Craddock's parents arrived a few weeks ago from Australia for their 10-week annual stay, his father having accrued a career's worth of leave time, which unfortunately will be up after this current trip.

But what Randy Edsall beams most about these days is Craddock's mentoring of fellow teammates, something the head man told players to seek out during the first bye week. Craddock is the model of preparation and diligence, and it certainly is paying off these days. It seems yesterday Craddock was shanking kicks against N.C. State and hearing the boo-birds for it yet now he is the poster boy of the program.

3. TT's 'Guy We Have Heard Has Developed the Most on Scout Team of Late': For all the angst the quarterback position has endured of late, from six-year senior C.J. Brown's star-crossed season to gunslinger backup Caleb Rowe's injured knee, out of the shadows we've heard that the player that has made the most strides in the last month is redshirt freshman quarterback Shane Cockerille.

Well, talk about another guy who makes for a lot of message board fodder: Will he ever be a high-major quarterback? Will he stay at quarterback or move to linebacker? Where does he fit in the Terps quarterback hierarchy? Will he be only a runner, like back in the day at Gilman?

Well, the light is starting to come on for the scrappy lefty. Last month Randy Edsall said as much, while he said they have packages ready for Cockerille if there are more injuries. Meanwhile, Cockerille, in speaking to some of his old coaches, is starting to make more plays, read defenses better and beginning to show improved throwing mechanics at practices. He has the arm; it just needs to be fine-tuned with a higher release, along with work on his steps.

For one of the most asked-about signal callers of recent Terps vintage, and given Maryland's depth and health issues at the position, well, it's welcoming news his progress of late.

4. TT's 'Rookie of the Year' Award: You know, you could go a few ways on this, but our lean is towards freshman outside linebacker Jesse Aniebonam.

The recent landscape is littered with former Good Counsel (Olney, Md.) four-star talents that have flamed out at Maryland (see Mike Madaras, Caleb Porzel, etc), among other schools, but not Aniebonam.

Coming out of August camp he was the most promising rookie among the 2014 class, and so far his debut, one of just a small handful of Terps to burn their shirts this season, has been impressive. He's played in all nine games, has 12 tackles, 1.0 tackles for a loss and a half-sack, while generating loads of pressure on the edge in hurrying quarterbacks to make their throws.

Maryland has developed quite an outside edge presence now with the likes of the "two Yanniks/Yannicks," and Aniebonam is a fixture for the future cutting his teeth. And to think a year ago he suffered a scary head/neck injury, which for a time had some around him wondering if he would return to the field of play.

The 6-foot-3, 240-pound Terps rookie is certainly looking the part and acting the part, being mentored by Ngakoue, just like he was Cudjoe-Virgil, as the mantle is passed.

5. TT's 'Walking Wounded' Award: In this, another season that injuries have ravaged the Terrapin roster (see Alvin Hill, Andrew Isaacs, Quinton Jefferson, Caleb Rowe, Taivon Jacobs), you have to give it up to junior receiver Stefon Diggs.

Maryland's closest thing to a consistent threat on the unit, and team's greatest playmaker still, Diggs overcame a choppy start (well, many receivers would have considering the Terps' anemic passing game) to emerge as the team's leading pass-catcher with 52 grabs for 654 yards, while catching balls in 27 consecutive games now. He also has a team-high five receiving touchdowns.

But along the way he has been dinged and banged-up across his body, including on special teams where he leads the Big Ten in kick returns at 25.2 yards per return.

Maryland quarterbacks haven't always thrown the most catchable balls this year, Diggs and others have been hung out more than a few times, and the former Good Counsel star has taken body blows that would send lesser competitors to the sidelines for good. On the play he stretched out at Penn State for the goal line, he absorbed a vicious shot to the mid-section, yet still returned to play to aid the victory. After not catching a ball in the first half, he finished with a team-best six catches for 53 yards as triggerman C.J. Brown finally get on track late with his accuracy.

Now, for a guy some have questioned at times in the past, not so much for his toughness but maybe more his "want-to" to stick his nose in the pile/fray and be a physical blocker, well, Stefon Diggs has come through in a big way. And the hope is he is a speedy healer during the bye week as his mid-section recovers after a scary moment last weekend.

On a team that doesn't have many emotional leaders -- in fact very few -- Diggs has been a spark, though he let those emotions get the best of him pregame at PSU and will sit a game's suspension for it. But he gets our "Tough Guy" award no doubt.

Diggs has grown ten-fold as a person and player since arriving at College Park, almost a complete 180, which Edsall and the Terps can take pride in.

6. TT's 'Old Head' Award: He just keeps getting better with time.

Terps senior defensive end Andre Monroe, with another sack at Penn State Nov. 1, finds himself peaking again at just the right time.

Last year the undersized leverage master finished strong, tallying a team-leading 9.5 sacks on the season. But this time around, in his final go-round, the sage veteran of the Terps' front three already has a team-leading 6.5 sacks this season. And he has come up big in two of the biggest contests so far, Ohio State and Penn State, with double-digit sacks versus the Buckeyes and a significant one late against PSU.

Monroe now has 22 quarterback takedowns for his career, third all-time at UMD, while he has a team-best 34.5 tackles for a loss.

His first few years at Maryland he was either injured or a backup moving around to all three spots. But now Monroe has found a permanent home and niche as Maryland's best pass-rusher up front, timely indeed given opposite starting end Quinton Jefferson was lost early in the season to knee surgery.

Monroe, grizzled beard and all, looks the part of veteran both on and off the field. And he has led a mostly blue-collar Terps' front three (him, Darius Kilgo and Keith Bowers) without a ton of hoopla and fanfare this season.

7. TT's 'Still Expecting More Club' nominees: It's not all roses in College Park, as our top 5 list of Terps that need to step it up -- what with Game 10 upon them and the postseason in sight -- is led by sixth-year quarterback C.J. Brown.

Brown, who has taken Terps fans and teammates on weekly rollercoasters this season, fortunately caught fire late through the air against Penn State in the fourth quarter to help pull out victory.

But his seemingly lack of confidence, pocket feel and ability to read defenses has come and gone all season. His feet have yet to look calm, while he is not feeling pressure well and sliding in the pocket to get his feet set. Most troubling of all are his accuracy issues, which have been acute to say the least.

Opponents have taken away the zone read, much of the Terps screen game, and are loading the box and blitzing, daring the wobbly senior to beat them through the air, which he has rarely done this season. Iowa was his best moment, when he was locked in to what the defense was giving, and was his most opportunistic in the zone read. Brown has been more emotionally flat than in past years, though he's hardly a 'rah-rah' guy to begin with. But if the Terps are going to win a few more games this season, it's got to start with their gunslinger finally putting two good halves of football together, and finding a groove, so Maryland can finally muster an offensive identity.

Behind Brown, our top 5 rounds out as running back Brandon Ross, receiver Deon Long, free safety Anthony Nixon and receiver Amba Etta-Tawo, all of whom need to step up the production.

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