The Purple Wildcat Awards

The first annual Northwestern football awards...

Offensive Player of the Year

Nick Medline: Tony Jones
Steven Goldstein: Tony Jones

Well, ideally, we might be writing "Venric Mark" or "Kain Colter." Still, Tony Jones cemented himself as an essential member of this receiving corps. Despite missing time with an injury, the redshirt junior led Northwestern with 55 catches. He had an 185-yard outing against Syracuse and an eight-catch game against Minnesota — two of his signature efforts. Although Christian Jones had a phenomenal end to the season, Tony's consistency and comfort in the screen pass game stood out.

Defensive Player of the Year

Nick Medline: Tyler Scott
Steven Goldstein: Chi Chi Ariguzo

Scott finished his season with second-team All-Big Ten honors — a fitting sendoff for one of Northwestern's best players. The senior led NU with 10 tackles for loss and six sacks, adding two interceptions and six pass deflections to round out his impressive stat line. Ariguzo, meanwhile, continued his emergence as an elite playmaker for NU's defense. The junior was second on the team with 106 tackles and tied for the lead with four interceptions. These two players in particular keyed the improved defensive effort this year.

Individual Game of the Year

Nick Medline: Rashad Lawrence vs. Ohio State
Steven Goldstein: Rashad Lawrence vs. Ohio State

This one lingered, with Christian Jones' game against Illinois a close second. In the critical GameDay matchup, Rashad Lawrence gave the passing another dimension. His vertical success left him with eight catches and 149 yards, as the Wildcats nearly defeated a team that should play for the national championship. Lawrence had some flashes in his senior season; this game reminded us of his original potential. He finished the year with 463 receiving yards and this lasting gem.

Most Improved Player

Nick Medline: Collin Ellis
Steven Goldstein: Matthew Harris

In spring, Ellis and Drew Smith competed for the third starter's role. What originally looked like even competition turned into one guy's stunning development. Ellis had an extremely productive season, which included two pick-sixes in the season opener at Cal and 78 tackles. The true freshman Harris quickly mastered the playbook. At first, he was a physically impressive and improving corner. Then, he earned the starting spot over Dwight White, and played well for the rest of the season. He'll be in another interesting cornerback competition next season because of Daniel Jones' return.

Scout Team MVP

Nick Medline: Jayme Taylor
Steven Goldstein: Andrew Scanlan

I think Taylor might have more natural talent than Dan Vitale. He's a phenomenal prospect – likely underrated by our scouting service – and should light up defenses from the superback position. I'd be interested to see whether he matures enough to compete with Dan Vitale for reps. Scanlan, on the other hand, showed impressive rapport with Matt Alviti throughout the season. That will bode well, perhaps by next year, as Alviti earns playing time. Scanlan also contributed to the special teams unit this year.

Coach of the Year

Nick Medline: Randy Bates
Steven Goldstein: Randy Bates

Northwestern's linebacker coach helped to develop a formidable starting unit this season. Ellis, Ariguzo and senior middle man Damien Proby all looked excellent for much of the season. Aside from the Wisconsin loss – which was understandable – they played with tenacity and chemistry. More impressive, they were sharp in defending the passing game — with several interceptions to their name. Watch for Jaylen Prater's development this offseason; chances are, Bates can help him along as well.

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