Three finalists for Outland Trophy named

ffaw_redesignOMAHA — Three finalists for the 2015 Outland Trophy — two offensive linemen and one defensive tackle — were announced on Tuesday afternoon on The Home Depot College Football Awards Nomination Special on ESPNU.

The Football Writers Association of America, in a vote of its 2015 All-America Committee, has determined the following three finalists for the award, in alphabetical order: Baylor offensive tackle Spencer Drango, Stanford offensive guard Joshua Garnett and Alabama defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson.

The winner of the 70th Outland Trophy, awarded to the best interior lineman in college football on offense or defense, will be revealed Thurs., Dec. 10 on ESPN on The Home Depot College Football Awards. For the first time the show will originate from the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta from 7 to 9 p.m. ET.

outland trophy bwHere is a look at the three finalists:

Spencer Drango, OT, Baylor (6-6, 320, Sr., Cedar Park, Texas): Drango has a team-high 45 career starts (23 consecutive) for the powerful Bears’ offensive line. He is also a William V. Campbell Trophy finalist (top academic player). He is in his fourth season as a starting left tackle for an offense that is on pace to break an FBS record for total yards gained per game and is close to the all-time scoring record in points per game. The Bears’ offense is No. 1 in scoring and yards gained per game in the FBS in 2015. Drango is grading out at 93 percent and has 36 knockdowns. The veteran Baylor offensive line has allowed just 12 sacks in 10 games.

Joshua Garnett, G, Stanford (6-5, 321, Sr., Puyallup, Wash.): A dominant run blocker for the Cardinal, which has scored 30 or more points in each of its past 10 games. He has started 26 straight games for Stanford, which has rushed for at least 100 yards in 45 of its last 48 games. Garnett, a team captain, is a great finisher of blocks and through 11 games had 82 pancakes. He has helped Stanford win the time of possession battle in 15 of its last 17 games with his consistent play. Stanford is 15th in the FBS in rushing offense and 21st in scoring.

A’Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama (6-4, 312, Jr., Fort Worth, Texas): A talented defender on the Crimson Tide’s line who has been one of the Alabama coaches’ defensive players of the game five times this season. He set the tone in the Crimson Tide’s recent 31-6 victory at Mississippi State with a career-high 2.5 sacks and leads the team with eight quarterback hurries to go with a career-high 36 tackles. He has seven tackles for 23 yards in losses this season and has broken up two passes, recovered a fumble and blocked a kick. Alabama is tied for third in scoring defense and is third in total defense in the FBS.

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Writer recalls an unseen side of Mizzou coach Gary Pinkel

As Missouri coach Gary Pinkel prepares to coach his last game at Faurot Field, Dave Matter of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch relates a story about Pinkel he has kept to himself for 15 years, when Pinkel, usually aloof the media, showed a side Matter didn’t suspect he had, offering his support in a moment of tragedy, after Matter’s boss at the Columbia Daily Tribune was murdered in the newspaper’s parking lot. CLICK HERE to read Matter’s column.

Dufresne leaving LA Times

2013 FWAA President Chris Dufresne

2013 FWAA President Chris Dufresne

All the news that’s fit to print — in 140 characters.  Chris Dufresne, president of the Football Writers Association of America in 2013, announced on Twitter this week that he is leaving the Los Angeles Times.

“News that will thrill some, sadden others: Buyout application accepted today from L.A. Times. Sorry, 140 characters can’t wrap up 40 years.”

Dufresne, a long-time national football and basketball reporter, started at the paper when he was 18 years old. His departure will come within the next couple of months.

Finalists for Bronko Nagurski Trophy announced

ffaw_redesignDALLAS — Five finalists for the 2015 Bronko Nagurski Trophy were announced on Thursday by the Football Writers Association of America and the Charlotte Touchdown Club.

Vying for the honor of National Defensive Player of the Year are, in alphabetical order: Duke safety Jeremy Cash, Clemson end Shaq Lawson, Temple linebacker Tyler Matakevich, Penn State end Carl Nassib and Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland.

The winner will be announced Dec. 7 and presented the Bronko Nagurski Trophy at a gala banquet sponsored by ACN at the Westin Hotel in Charlotte, N.C. Auburn coach Gus Malzahn will give the keynote address. This year’s banquet marks the 21st anniversary of the event being held in Charlotte.

broko logosIn addition, the FWAA and Charlotte Touchdown Club will hand out the Bronko Nagurski Legends Award presented by Florida East Coast Railway. This year’s recipient is Ohio State linebacker Randy Gradishar, a member of the 1973 FWAA All-America team and a College Football Hall of Famer and former All-Pro for the Denver Broncos.

The award is named after the legendary Bronko Nagurski, who dominated college football at the University of Minnesota as a bruising fullback and defensive tackle from 1927-29. He could have been an All-American at any position and was the best player wherever the coaches put him.

Nagurski led Minnesota to the Big Ten title in 1927 and a three-year record of 18-4-2. He went on to lead the fabled Chicago Bears to three NFL titles. During one game at Wrigley Field, he once broke a defensive player’s shoulder, knocked another out and ran into a brick wall and actually cracked it after a game-winning touchdown run.

The FWAA has named a National Defensive Player of the Year since the 1993 season. Of the five schools represented among the finalists, only Clemson has had a previous winner, Da’Quan Bowers in 2010. While Alabama and Penn State have had finalists for the award before, these are first-time Bronko Nagurski finalists for both Duke and Temple. Alabama has a finalist for a fifth straight year.

A look at the five 2015 Bronko Nagurski Trophy finalists, as selected by the FWAA All-America Committee:

Jeremy Cash, S, Duke (6-2, 210, Sr., Miami, Fla.): A second-team FWAA All-America selection last season, Cash has come back strong in 2015 and is tied for third in the Atlantic Coast Conference in tackles per game at 8.8. He also is the only defensive back in the Top 100 in FBS in tackles for loss per game and is second in the country behind Penn State end Carl Nassib with 17.5 (79 yards in losses). In addition, Cash has broken up three passes, recovered one fumble, registered eight quarterback hurries and forced three fumbles. His coach David Cutcliffe says: “I don’t know if  there is a better defensive player from a production standpoint in the country.”

Shaq Lawson, E, Clemson (6-3, 270, Jr., Central, S.C.): The big-play tackler for the nation’s top-ranked team in the CFP poll, Lawson is one of the strongest players in college football and is a standout against the run. He has 16.5 tackles for loss, which is among the Top 10 in the country. He has also broken up a pass and made 12 quarterback hurries. In the victory over Notre Dame he had 3.5 tackles for loss when he was matched up against Notre Dame offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley, a clear victory for Lawson.

Tyler Matakevich, LB, Temple (6-1, 232, Sr., Stratford, Conn.): The current career leader in tackles in the FBS is on target to record more than 100 total tackles in each of his four seasons at Temple. He is the first first-team defensive All-American in school history and is the only player in the FBS to lead his team (8-2 overall) in tackles every game this season. He leads all FBS linebackers with five interceptions (47 return yards) and he has 11.5 tackles for 56 yards in losses, including four sacks for 25 yards in losses.

Carl Nassib, E, Penn State (6-7, 272, Sr., West Chester, Pa.): A former preferred walk-on at Penn State, Nassib has added weight and strength to become one of college football’s best defenders. His coach James Franklin describes him as “big, long, explosive, athletic.” Nassib leads the FBS in sacks (15.5), tackles for loss (19.5) and forced fumbles (6). He has recorded at least one sack in each game this season and has five multi-sack games in 2015. He is one forced fumble away from tying the school record.

Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama (6-2, 252, Sr., Madison, Ala.): Very active off the field in community service, Ragland, a team captain, has a team-leading 82 tackles. He has 5.5 tackles for 20 yards in losses, five pass breakups, three quarterback hurries and two forced fumbles. He has led the team in tackles in six of the Crimson Tide’s 10 games. Alabama’s defense, after giving up 43 points in a loss to Ole Miss, has been stellar as opponents have averaged just 11.8 points a game in the last seven contests, all Alabama victories.

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FWAA names semifinalists for Outland Trophy

ffaw_redesignOMAHA Six semifinalists for the 2015 Outland Trophy five offensive linemen and one defensive tackle were announced on Thursday night during a reception hosted by the Greater Omaha Sports Committee.

The Football Writers Association of America, in a call of its 2015 All-America Committee, has determined the following six players as semifinalists for the award, in alphabetical order: Baylor offensive tackle Spencer Drango, Stanford offensive guard Joshua Garnett, Alabama center Ryan Kelly, Alabama defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson, Indiana offensive tackle Jason Spriggs and Notre Dame offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley.

outland trophy bwThe field for the Outland Trophy, which is awarded to the best interior lineman in college football on offense or defense, will be reduced to three players early next week. Those finalists will be announced the evening of Nov. 24 on ESPNU at 5 p.m. ET during The Home Depot College Football Awards Nomination Special. The winner of the 70th Outland Trophy will be revealed on Dec. 10 from 7-9 p.m. ET on ESPN on The Home Depot College Football Awards, for the first time live from the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta.

Here is a look at the semifinalists:

Spencer Drango, OT, Baylor (6-6, 320, Sr., Cedar Park, Texas): An Outland Trophy semifinalist in 2014, Drango has 44 career starts for the powerful Bears offense. He is also a William V. Campbell Trophy finalist (top academic player). The veteran Baylor offensive lineman has allowed just 11 sacks in nine games. He is in his fourth season as a starting left tackle for an offense that is currently on pace to break FBS records for scoring in a season and total yards gained per game. The Baylor offense is No. 1 in scoring and fifth in rushing this season in the FBS and Drango is the unquestioned leader on the line.

Joshua Garnett, OG, Stanford (6-5, 321, Sr., Puyallup, Wash.): A veteran guard who has been a dominant run blocker for the Cardinal, which has scored 30 points in each of its past nine games. He has started 25 straight games for Stanford, which has rushed for at least 100 yards in 44 of its last 47 games. A team captain, Garnett is a great finisher of blocks and through eight games had 64 “pancakes.” He has helped Stanford win the time of possession battle in 15 of the last 16 games with consistent line play. Stanford is 16th in the FBS in rushing offense and 22nd in scoring.

Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama (6-5, 297, Sr., West Chester, Ohio): A William V. Campbell Trophy (top academic player) semifinalist, Kelly is the leader of Alabama’s offensive line, which paves the way for Heisman Trophy candidate running back Derrick Henry. Kelly, a third-year starter at center and captain, was named the Southeastern Conference Offensive Lineman of the Week after Alabama’s 30-16 victory over LSU in which the Tide gained 250 yards rushing. In that game, Kelly graded out at 92 percent. He also was one of the Alabama coaches’ offensive players of the game against Wisconsin, Georgia, Tennessee and LSU.

A’Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama (6-4, 312, Jr., Fort Worth, Texas): A talented defender on the Crimson Tide’s line who has been one of the Alabama coaches’ defensive players of the game five times this season. He set the tone in the Crimson Tide’s 31-6 victory at Mississippi State last week with 2.5 sacks. He leads the team with eight quarterback hurries and has made a career-high 34 tackles this season, including seven tackles for 23 yards in losses. In addition, he has broken up two passes, recovered a fumble and blocked a kick.

Jason Spriggs, OT, Indiana (6-7, 305, Sr., Elkhart, Ind.): In his senior season for the Hoosiers, he has allowed just two sacks in 365 called pass plays. He has started in 44 of 45 career games and has 56 pancakes in 805 snaps this season. The Hoosiers lead the Big Ten in total offense, are second in passing offense, third in rushing offense and fourth in scoring offense.

Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame (6-5, 315, Sr., Las Vegas, Nev.): Considered a top NFL prospect for a team that is 23rd in the nation in rushing offense and 30th in scoring. Stanley has started every game this season at left tackle and has started 36 straight games overall for the Fighting Irish, whose only loss this season came at now top-ranked Clemson, 24-22.

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Omaha gearing up for Outland Trophy presentation

outland 3

You are invited!!!

Join us for the 3rd Annual Semi-Finalists Reception for this year’s Outland Award Trophy on Thursday, November 19 at 7 PM, DJ’s Dugout, 10th & Capitol Avenue, doors open at 6:00 pm.

The event is about college football –  in Omaha that will make national news! “LIVE FROM OMAHA NEBRASKA,” the Greater Omaha Sports Committee will Officially Announce the Semi-Finalists for the Outland!!

Save and get your group together!  Advance tickets are just $10 each.  Includes two drink tickets, hors d’oeuvres and door prizes throughout the evening.  Tickets at the door are $15 each.  Reply to this email or call our office at the Greater Omaha Sports Committee (402) 346-8003.  We will have your tickets at the reception.

outland 1The Outland Trophy Award Dinner’s emcee, Greg Sharpe, Voice of the Huskers, will also be the Master of Ceremonies at the event. The evening plans will include a number of familiar faces in the Omaha Sports Community including, Lee Barfknecht of the Omaha World-Herald, members of the Outland Trophy Award Dinner Committee, Rotary Club of Omaha-Downtown and the Greater Omaha Sports Committee.  Husker Greats will also be in attendance. The Outland Dinner Committee would like to thank our Reception Sponsors: Coca-Cola, Coors Light, and the Omaha World-Herald.

The evening will offer door prizes and chance to participate in a silent auction with exciting items, a hint of these items include: Front Row tickets to the College World Series; Pacific League AAA professional championship baseball items; KC Chiefs NFL game tickets; autographed books by Tom Shatel, Sean Callahan and Eric Crouch and other great books; Nebraska volleyball tickets; Creighton women’s & men’s nasketball tickets; Coors Light Neon.  There will be pregame — LIVE from 2 to 6 at the event — Unsportsmanlike Conduct. There will be video streaming with each of the semi-finalists for the Award.  Those recognized last year are all playing in the NFL on Sunday, except one junior who will probably make the list again this year.

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‘My All American,’ the true story of Longhorn legend Freddie Steinmark, opens in theaters on Friday Nov. 13

My All American movie poster(Editor Note:  John Bianco from the University of Texas passes this along on one of the top sports movies of the year).   

A major motion picture celebrating college football, character and competition is set for a national release this Friday, Nov. 13. “My All American” shares the inspirational true story of University of Texas football legend Freddie Steinmark, an underdog who played a critical role on Coach Darrell Royal’s 1969 National Championship team. Written and directed by Angelo Pizzo, the writer of iconic sports films “Hoosiers” and “Rudy”, the film tells the tale of one of Royal’s most beloved players who always put family, team and school first. In the end, Freddie leaned heavily on the support of his coach and teammates when faced with a life-changing challenge.

“It is an outstanding and compelling movie, true stuff,” said Steve Richardson, executive director of the Football Writers Association of America. “Sometimes you watch these kinds of movies and what is happening on the screen is not what happened in real time. This is pretty close if not right in line with history. Hollywood didn’t need to enter in, I don’t believe. Plus, I think the characters on the screen blended right into the movie. It is an excellent way to spend a couple of hours of anybody’s day.”

Crafting a realistic story was a critical element in the planning of this film. Many of Steinmark’s Longhorn teammates and the critical characters in the film were on set helping ensure that the film was authentic. Former Texas quarterback Colt McCoy served as a football consultant while his brother, Case, played Arkansas quarterback Bill Montgomery and UT All-American Jordan Shipley played Longhorn wide receiver great Cotton Speyrer in the film.

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President’s column: Look for your AutoNation FWAA All-America ballot on Nov. 9

ffaw_redesignOMAHA — It’s hard to think of three more beautiful words than “November college football.’’ As the old saying goes, the games we remember are played in November.

So when you write about, broadcast or administer these games, keep your eyes on those making the biggest plays because our process to pick the 2015 AutoNation Football Writers Association All-America team starts this week. Confidential teleconferences are set for Nov. 15 (defense, offensive linemen) and Nov. 22 (all others). First and second teams will be chosen.

FWAA 2015 President Lee Barfknecht.

FWAA 2015 President Lee Barfknecht.

Ballots from the FWAA membership (which are scheduled to be sent out on Nov. 9) will be used as a framework to build our teams. Please feel free to contact your regional representative from our All-America Committee with nominations, pertinent statistics and other intelligence to help us do the very best job possible.

Also, we need Outland Trophy nominees (centers, guards, offensive and defensive tackles but no ends).

The selection committee:

Lee Barfknecht, Omaha World-Herald (National)

Zach Barnett, Football Scoop (Conference USA)

Kirk Bohls, Austin American-Statesman (National)

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