Friday Night Writes -- Saturday-Style

A Weekly Commentary on the State of Rutgers Football. This week: Part 1 was a detailed Rutgers Report Card while this installment takes a look at the top moments, achievers and achievements of 2006.

The Best of 2006

Here are some of the best things that you saw in 2006

Plays of the Year

#1 - Jeremy Ito's 28 yard field goal to defeat Louisville.

#2 - Ray Rice's 63 yard career-long run to put the game away against Pittsburgh.

#3 - Mike Teel's 26 yard completion to Brian Leonard in the 4th quarter against Louisville to keep the go-ahead drive alive.

#4 - Devraun Thompson's goal line smack-down at North Carolina in the season opener.

#5 - Jason McCourty's bat-down of an attempted 2-point conversion at South Florida.

Defensive Player of the Year

Nominees:

- Ramel Meekins: 64 Tackles, 24 solo, 13.5 for loss, 8 sacks, Team Co-Captain, named Defensive MVP by Rutgers.

- Devraun Thompson: 80 Tackles, 41 solo, 10.5 for loss, 4 Sacks, 2 Interceptions and clutch plays all over, Recipient of the Iron Knight Award.

- Eric Foster: 51 Tackles, 18 solo, 13.5 for loss, 6 sacks, yet more, the unquestioned heart and soul of the defense.  Co-Captain and winner of the David Bender Trophy.

The StateofRutgers.Com Defensive Player of the year is Devraun Thompson. He stands at #8 in the Knights career tackle list with 294.  In his best performance, Thompson lead the Rutgers defense with 9 tackles against Louisville, 2.5 of them for a loss, a forced fumble and an interception and 32 yard return as well as 2 sacks, including the game-ending sack.

Offensive Player of the Year

Nominees:

- Ray Rice: Fourth in the nation in rushing, 135.3 yards per game.  RU Single-Season record holder for 1,624 yards.  Recipient of the Homer Hazel Trophy, Rutgers MVP.

- Brian Leonard. All-time leading scorer in Rutgers history with 272 points.  Not the biggest statistics, but one of the most selfless and hardest working players in team history.  Team Co-captain, winner of the Draddy Trophy and the Paul Robeson award.

- The entire Offensive Line: Leonard, Rice and Teel give much of the credit to the wonderful job done by this squad.  We concur.

The StateofRutgers.Com Offensive Player of the year is a Tie between Brian Leonard and Ray Rice!  This is a classic passing of the torch.  Ray Rice is the statistical leader and we will not dispute the team's own MVP selection, for it is well deserved.  His ability to find holes, break tackles and pick up late-game yardage when we needed it the most was the key to this season.

However, much of what Ray Rice accomplished was due to the foundation set by Brian Leonard.  Many of us will cry when #23 is retired.  His selflessness, hard work and quiet leadership will be an inspiration for teams for years to come.  He may have received the Paul Robeson award for "the individual whose performance, leadership, and dedication on and off the field during his career has had the greatest impact on Rutgers Football," but maybe this is the time to rename that award to the Brian Leonard Award.

Single Game Performance of the year

Nominees:

- Ray Rice against Pitt (39 carries for 228 yards, 1 TD and a career-long 63 yard carry).

- Kenny Britt against West Virginia (10 catches for 119 yards, long of 38).

- Mike Teel against West Virginia (19 completions on 26 attempts for 278 yards, 1 TD).

- Devraun Thompson against Louisville (9 tackles, 2.5 for a loss, 1 forced fumble, 1 interception, 2 sacks).

The StateofRutgers.Com Best Single-Game Performance is by Ray Rice. The Pittsburgh defense keyed on Rice, loading the box, yet his relentless running wore them down.  When Pittsburgh was exuberant after a Fourth Quarter touchdown to pull within a field goal of tying the game, Rice put it away with a career-long 63 yard rush to crush the spirit and end Pittsburgh's resistance.

Most improved

Nominees:

- Jamaal Westerman: Leads RU in passes defended and quarterback hurries.  Second team All-Big East.

- Jason McCourty: A playmaker who will be a star in future seasons.

- Mike Teel: Improved dramatically over the course of the season.  Had a career performance against West Virginia.

- The Coaching Staff: Don Forbes' nomination is an eye-opener.  A phenomenal turn-around over the past few years.

The StateofRutgers.Com Most Improved is UP TO YOU!  Don threw a monkey-wrench into the process and there is no consensus, so please vote in the pinned poll in "The Birthplace" message board!

-- The views expressed in this editorial do not necessarily reflect those of StateOfRutgers.com.  If those views differ from yours, visit the message boards and tell everyone what you think.


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