Postseason Superlatives

The regular season is complete and Rutgers football is bowl bound yet again. Practices for the New Era Pinstripe Bowl begin Saturday, which allows to hand out its post-season awards.

Team MVP -- RB Paul James – James only played in eight games, but he made them count. Rutgers was not the same team after losing James to a lower leg injury, and he was not 100 percent when he made his return to the field. James rose the ranks from walk-on to starter after his explosive coming out party against Fresno State in the season opener. Moving into a run-heavy Big Ten conference, James is one of the brightest spots returning to the 2014 Rutgers roster. Honorable Mentions: WR Leonte Carroo.

Offensive Player of the Year -- RB Paul James – See Team MVP. Looking at the stats, James was on pace for a Ray Rice type rushing season before he went down with an injury in the victory over Arkansas. James Still has a shot at joining Rice and Jawan Jamison in the 1,000-yard club with a big bowl game. James led Rutgers in rushing with 833 yards, nine touchdowns and 5.7 yards per carry. Honorable Mentions: Carroo, TE Tyler Kroft.

Defensive Player of the Year -- MLB Steve Longa – The talented red-shirt freshman is the closest thing on the 2013 roster to what Khaseem Greene did as a senior. Longa quickly emerged as a defensive general and tackle machine. His 111 tackles lead the program by a large margin, and his value in pass rush has him second in TFLs (7.5) and second in sacks (three). Longa fell short of All-AAC honors with some stars at the linebacker position elsewhere and the overall struggles of the Rutgers defense. If Rutgers can develop someone else at middle linebacker, Longa might help even more next year back at the weak side. Longa is the first Rutgers MIKE to hit triple digits in tackles since Gary Brackett. Honorable Mention: DT Darius Hamilton.

Most Improved Player -- TE Tyler Kroft – Coming to Rutgers as essentially a slow receiver, Kroft put himself to work in the weight room and in the film room, emerging as a 240-pound playmaker. Kroft had to add weight and improve blocking technique before getting the chance for real on-field action. The transformation took shape in 2013, where the red-shirt sophomore led Rutgers in receiving. Kroft earned first-team All-AAC honors thanks to 40 catches, 530 yards and four touchdowns. Honorable Mentions: LT Keith Lumpkin, James, Carroo, OLB Quentin Gause.

True Freshman of the Year -- CB Anthony Cioffi – The youth movement at Rutgers led to some downs during the year, but gave Flood hope for the future of the program. Cioffi is the perfect example. Going from a small Group 1 school, there were growing pains. Cioffi was inconsistent in coverage, and will have a hard time shaking the "truck stick" moment against UCF. Cioffi became a starting cornerback after Nadir Barnwell's suspension, and he did not look back. Cioffi also did the little things. He was one of the best gunners on the roster, and involved in 33 percent of fumbles taken away by the Rutgers defense. He also blocked a punt. Whether his future is at cornerback or safety, Cioffi is off to a solid start at his home-state school. Honorable Mentions: RB Justin Goodwin, KR Janarion Grant.

Comeback Player of the Year -- DE David Milewski – What Milewski is doing as a fourth-year player is nothing short of inspiring after three torn ACLs. Instead of going the medical retirement route, Milewski remained vigilant and finished as one of the most productive linemen on the roster. Milewski not only brings on-field production with 17 tackles, two sacks and two fumble recovers, but he is a locker room leader.

Best Position Change -- Ruhann Peele to two-way player – Peele breathed life into a defensive secondary on the verge of collapse when accepting a temporary move to cornerback. The transition was tough when given more responsibilities, but the move helped Rutgers become bowl eligible. Peele rose to starting status after three weeks as a cornerback, and was electric in the win over Temple with an interception, forced fumble and fumble recovery. Honorable Mentions: Mera to DE, Longa to MLB.

Commit Rutgers could use this season -- CB Kam Lott – Really any cornerback will do here. Rutgers lost half of its options at cornerback, and had to get extreme simply to have enough bodies available. Rutgers gets a burst of talent in the defensive secondary going into the Big Ten with the additions of Lott, Dre Boggs, Waynedriko Smith and more.

Senior Award -- QB Chas Dodd – Every program has a senior that is an example of playing his best football, and doing things the right way. That is Dodd for the Scarlet Knights. Dodd never quit after losing multiple quarterback battles to quarterback Gary Nova. He stuck it out, and the reward was his return as a starter. Dodd helped send Rutgers to the Pinstripe Bowl with his play against USF, and will make his second career bowl-game start at Yankee Stadium. Honorable Mentions: -- WR Quron Pratt, P Nick Marsh.

Play of the Year -- The Leonte Play – Pick any of the three that won games for Rutgers. On fourth and long, Nova looked to Carroo down the right sideline and connected for game winners against Arkansas, SMU and Temple. If not for this play, Rutgers would have called it an end to the season after beating USF. Honorable Mentions: Goodwin's triple OT run against SMU, Grant's first career touch goes for 100 yards against Fresno state.

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