These are my awards and my choices to win the awards for the 2010 season. It was the year of the return of quarterback mobility in Lincoln, dependability in the running back position, new offensive weapons and bright spots on defense. So here are BRR(yan)'s post season awards:
Offensive MVP – Rex Burkhead
At the start of the season this award was definitely going to go in the direction of Taylor Martinez, but to me the MVP award must go to people down the stretch who are indispensible. After the injury to Martinez there was a need to lean on the running backs of Roy Helu and Burkhead. Helu got a little banged up at Texas A&M, but from the injury of Martinez in Missouri there has been Burkhead. Burkhead stepped up into a role of not just running back but also into the wildcat and quarterback to some extent. If you don't enjoy watching Burkhead run then you don't know what you are watching. He puts in work every play.
Defensive MVP – Lavonte David
David was actually my pick in the Scout.com all-Big 12 picks for Defensive MVP. Yes, Nebraska wouldn't have been quite the team they were without players like Prince Amukamara, Eric Hagg, Dejon Gomes and Alfonzo Dennard in the secondary. All of them together as a unit are my favorite group of defensive backs ever at Nebraska. But, injuries to Sean Fisher and Will Compton before the start of the season force fed David into action. Where would have Nebraska been without the player he was all season long at linebacker? David was the leading tackler with 145, 14 tackles for loss and six sacks. He also had 10 passes broken up and seven quarterback hurries.
Most improved on offense – Kyler Reed
2009 was a season that Reed could take and see that he needed to get stronger physically and mentally. I think that there was a stretch of three games in a row where Reed had to be helped off of the field after getting one catch. This year though Reed was the perfect compliment to the offense and really provided that inside receiver threat that Nebraska doesn't have from the tight end position. Put a safety or a linebacker on Reed and you will have a mismatch. Reed was the third leading receiver on the team with 20 averaging over 18 yards per catch and led the team in touchdowns with seven.
Most improved on defense – Cameron Meredith
Meredith was one of those players that along the defensive line which included Jared Crick, Pierre Allen and Baker Steinkuhler got overlooked a little, but if you really sit down and watch Meredith play the game you see a motor that never stops. Plus, I don't think that anyone ever gets a good enough picture of the pains and injuries that players push through, but the thing about shoulder injuries is that they just don't go away and typically require surgery. Meredith pushed through the pain though to finish fourth on the team in total tackles with 60, eight tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 10 quarterback hurries and one pass broken up.
Best burn of a redshirt – Ciante Evans
In a must win game this season against Missouri Evans stepped up when Dennard went down with a concussion. Evans to me last year was a long, rangy player but from his film his senior year looked more like a safety prospect than a cornerback. He was in a lot of zone, but definitely had some quickness. Against Missouri Evans finished with four tackles, but will be remembered for coming up big on a goal line stop against Blaine Gabbert and also a big pass broken up in the end zone. Evans time on the field as a whole this season doesn't earn this award. However, without beating Missouri the Huskers don't make it to the Big 12 Championship game.
Worst burn of a redshirt – tie, Andrew Rodriguez and Quincy Enunwa
I can't say Rodriguez and not Enunwa. Both of them are senseless to me when it comes to the lack of playing time the two saw throughout the season. I know that later in the season you'd see Rodriguez enter the game and when you saw him he showed a lot of promise. He looked like a guy that Nebraska could have used more to supplement an obviously hurt Keith Williams. On Enunwa he is listed as seeing time in nine games, but they should put an asterisk next to that because he also only finished with one catch for 10 yards. Out of the freshman class these were the two I was most impressed with physically and it's not a surprise that they both played, it is however a surprise how little they played.
What do we know going into next season?
By the time the end of the season came around the words that came to mind when it came to summing up the season was style versus substance. Nebraska's dependency on the big scoring plays in the early part of the year is things that the offense can not be built around; they are just something that you hope happen. Down the stretch of the season you really got a sense for what I would call "gamers". It's those guys that week in and week out through healthy times and times when they are just flat out beat up are out there. Names like Helu, Burkhead, Mike Caputo, Keith Williams and others come to mind. Its guys like those that a team never has enough. A pendulum has to swing in Lincoln when it comes back to ballers on the team and less style and distraction. Nebraska needs to get back to that blue collar work ethic that it seems to identify so much with the people of the state when it comes to the makeup of the personnel on this team.
What is the biggest question going into next season?
The biggest questions to me start in the defensive secondary and replacing guys like Amukamara, Hagg and Gomes and if Dennard returns to Lincoln or jumps to the NFL? It looks like Evans is the heir apparent to replace Prince at one of the cornerback positions, but I am hard pressed to say who could occupy the other spot. Dijon Washington? Lazarri Middleton? Antonio Bell? The nickel/peso spot is also going to be an interesting spot to see what it looks like in the Big 10 where there aren't as many spread offenses and also does Nebraska have a player like Hagg to play it if they continue to run it? The guy that I think looks most like Gomes though isn't on campus yet and that's Daimion Stafford. I remember watching Gomes tape two years ago and being really, really impressed and I got that same feeling about seeing Stafford's film. It's also a vote of reassurance to see a late push from the likes of USC for Stafford.