Jason Kersey named Steve Ellis/FWAA Beat Writer of the Year

Jason Kersey

Jason Kersey

Former Oklahoman reporter Jason Kersey has been named the Steve Ellis/FWAA Beat Writer of the Year for the 2015 football season, when he was covering the Oklahoma Sooners for the newspaper.

Kersey, almost 30 and now a writer for SEC Country and covering the Arkansas Razorbacks, is the sixth annual winner of this award. He will be honored during the FWAA’s Annual Awards Breakfast on Jan. 9 in Tampa, Fla., at the media hotel for the CFP National Championship Game.

“I am genuinely stunned and overwhelmed,” Kersey said. “I want to thank the committee for this unbelievable honor. It means more to me than I can adequately express. I want to thank Ryan Aber (an FWAA member), who was my cohort on the OU beat. He was as perfect a beat partner as anyone working in this job could ever hope to have.

“Also, thanks to my dad for instilling in me a passionate love for sports. Thanks to my mom for how irrationally proud she is of any accomplishments, be it massive or minuscule. And a special thank you to my wife, Annie. This job can be tough on spouses, and Annie not only puts up with it but also encourages and supports me because she knows how much it means to me.”

For the first time, the FWAA Beat Writer of the Year Award will be known as the Steve Ellis/FWAA Beat Writer of the Year Award.  The late Ellis was a standout beat writer who covered Florida State football for the Tallahassee Democrat for a number of years.

Previous winners of this prestigious FWAA award: Doug Lesmerises (Cleveland Plain Dealer), Mark Blaudschun (Boston Globe), Steve Wieberg (USA Today), Jon Wilner (San Jose Mercury News), Tim May (Columbus Dispatch) and Chris Dufresne (Los Angeles Times).

“Jason was instrumental to The Oklahoman’s Sports section’s success in print and digitally,” said Mike Sherman, sports editor of the Tampa Bay Times and former sports editor of The Oklahoman. “He worked his way through various roles in our department, capitalizing on every opportunity to build skills, relationships and his capacity for great storytelling. His reporting broke news and ground.”

In his nomination folder, one fellow writer said: “Jason’s work during the 2015 season perfectly paralleled the play of the team he covered. Oklahoma was at the top of its game, and so was Jason. His versatility shines through on a daily basis, as he reports the good, the bad and the ugly.”

Kersey gave Sherman an assist for his award-winning coverage.

“Mike Sherman is the best sports editor in the country,” Kersey said. “He hired me as a part-timer when I was just an awkward, 19-year-old college sophomore. Throughout our almost decade-long working relationship, he always believed I could do better. I miss working for Mike Sherman every single day because he flat-out makes writers better.

“When I was little, I thought I would someday be a quarterback. I didn’t have the arm, so I tried wide receiver,” Kersey added. “And when I found my speed and athleticism lacking, I decided writing might be my ticket to a career involving football.”

KERSEY BIO

Jason Kersey joined The Oklahoman’s staff in November 2006 and worked as a part-time results clerk, a page designer/copy editor and a high school sports and recruiting reporter before spending four years on the OU football beat.

His work covering the Sooners twice resulted in national recognition as a top-10 beat writer from the Associated Press Sports Editors, as well as top-10 APSE honors for features, breaking news and multimedia. Jason has also won awards from the Tulsa Press Club and Society of Professional Journalists. During his time covering Oklahoma, Jason chronicled the Sooners’ monumental 2014 Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama, the rise of quarterback Baker Mayfield and OU’s run to the 2015 College Football Playoff.

His work at The Oklahoman also included extensive coverage of the racist fraternity video that shocked the entire country and spurred social change on OU’s campus; exclusive reporting on a Title IX sexual assault investigation involving a football player; and the Joe Mixon saga.

Jason left The Oklahoman in May 2016 to join Cox Media Group’s new venture, SEC Country, as its Arkansas beat writer. He is wrapping up his first season covering Bret Bielema and the Razorbacks.

A Noble, Okla., native, Jason graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2009. He lives in Fayetteville, Ark., with his wife Annie and dog Buster.

Five semifinalists for Outland Trophy named

outland trophy bwDALLAS  — Five semifinalists for the Outland Trophy were named on Wednesday night by the Football Writers Association of America and were featured during a reception in Omaha, Neb., where the trophy presentation banquet for the 71st Outland Trophy winner will be held in January.

The five semifinalists — all offensive linemen — in alphabetical order, are: Pat Elflein, Ohio State; Cody O’Connell, Washington State; Ethan Pocic, LSU;  Cam Robinson, Alabama, and Connor Williams, Texas.

Elflein is a 6-3, 300-pound senior, who previously played guard, but is a center this season for the nation’s second-ranked team. O’Connell is a behemoth 6-8, 351-pound junior guard who helps trigger Washington State’s high-octane offense which ranks second in the country in passing with quarterback Luke Falk. Pocic, a 6-7, 302-pound senior center, anchors the line for LSU’s potent rushing game, which is led by Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice. Robinson, a 6-foot-6, 310-pound junior, is the top offensive tackle on the No. 1-ranked team in college football that produces 492.2 offensive yards a game. Williams, a 6-6, 288-pound sophomore tackle at Texas, blocks for the leading rusher in the FBS in yards per game, D’Onta Foreman.

The five semifinalists will be whittled down to three finalists and announced on Tuesday during The Home Depot College Football Awards Nomination Special, starting at 3 p.m. (Eastern Time) on ESPNU. The winner of the 2016 Outland Trophy, will be announced Dec. 8 on The Home Depot College Football Awards on ESPN, the main show beginning at 7 p.m. (Eastern Time) from the National Football Foundation’s College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta.

The Outland Trophy is named after the late John Outland, an All-America lineman at the University of Pennsylvania in the late 1800s, is the third-oldest player award in major college football behind the Heisman Trophy and Maxwell Award. It has been awarded to the best interior lineman in college football on offense or defense since 1946 when Notre Dame’s George Connor was named the recipient.

For the 20th consecutive year, the presentation of the Outland Trophy will occur in Omaha, on Jan. 11, 2017 at a banquet sponsored by the Greater Omaha Sports Committee. At the same banquet, Oklahoma offensive lineman Greg Roberts, will receive an Outland Trophy. Roberts was the 1978 winner of the award before trophies were handed out by the FWAA. His Oklahoma coach, the legendary Barry Switzer, will receive the third annual Tom Osborne Legacy Award during the evening.

The Outland Trophy is a member of the National College Football Awards Association (NCFAA). The NCFAA encompasses the most prestigious awards in college football. The 22 awards boast about 700 years of tradition-selection excellence.

The Football Writers Association of America, a non-profit organization founded in 1941, consists of more than 1,300 men and women who cover college football. The membership includes journalists, broadcasters and publicists, as well as key executives in all the areas that involve the game. The FWAA works to govern areas that include game-day operations, major awards and its annual All-America team. For more information about the FWAA and its award programs, contact Steve Richardson at tiger@fwaa.com or call 214-870-6516.

The Greater Omaha Sports Committee, founded in 1977, is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, consisting of more than 900 men and women from the City of Omaha, the State of Nebraska and others. The membership serves to communicate, develop, initiate and promote sports activities in the Greater Omaha sports area. In addition to the Outland Trophy Award Dinner, the Greater Omaha Sports Committee promotes high school, college, and professional sports in the Greater Omaha area and the Midwest.

Outland, Nagurski Award watch lists featured on ESPNU tonight

Pre-season watch lists for the FWAA’s two premier awards, the Outland Trophy and the Bronko Nagurski Award are being featured tonight on the Home Deport College Football Awards Preview Show, beginning at 8:30 p.m. EDT Friday  on ESPNU.

The Outland and Nagurski are among nine college football awards to be previewed on the show.

Click here to see the Outland watch list.

Click here to see the Nagurski watch list.

Pre-season conference media days on tap

The following dates and locations for 2016 football media days have been set:

SEC:  July 11-14,  Hoover, AL (Hyatt Regency-Wynfrey)

BIG 12:  July 18-19. Dallas (Omni Hotel)

ATLANTIC COAST:  July 21-22, Charlotte, NC (Westin Hotel)

BIG TEN: July 25-26, Chicago (Hyatt Regency McCormick Place)

AMERICAN:  Aug. 1-2, Newport, RI (Hyatt Regency)

CONFERENCE USA:  July 25-26, Irving, TX (C-USA Offices/Las Colinas Marriott)

MOUNTAIN WEST: July 26-27, Las Vegas, NV  (Cosmopolitan)

SUN BELT: July 25, New Orleans (Mercedes-Benz Superdome/Omni Riverfront Hotel)

PAC-12:  July 14-15, Hollywood, CA (Loews Hollywood Hotel)

MID-AMERICAN:  July 28, Detroit (Ford Field)

ACN Bronko Nagurski Report — Sept. 24

broko logosSince 1995, the Football Writers Association of America and the Charlotte Touchdown Club have partnered to bring you the Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner each year.  The Best Defensive Player in the entire country is announced at the Westin Hotel in downtown Charlotte each December before sellout crowds, with this year’s 21st  straight banquet, sponsored by ACN and slated for Dec. 7. Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn will deliver the keynote speech.

Five finalists for the award, named after the legendary Minnesota Gopher and Chicago Bears lineman, will  appear on stage before the winner is announced by 2015 FWAA President Lee Barfknecht of the Omaha World-Herald. During the evening, the winner of the Bronko Nagurski Legends Award, sponsored by East Coast Railways, will also be feted–Ohio State linebacker Randy Gradishar (1971-73).

Arizona’s junior linebacker  Scooby Wright III will attempt to become only the second player to win back-to-back Nagurski Trophies after Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald in 1995 and 1996. Wright is just the second sophomore to win the award after Ohio State linebacker James Laurinatis in 2006.

The weekly ACN Bronko Report will bring to you updates on what is happening on the defensive side of the ball during the 2015 season, top matchups and also provide links to stories on Bronko Nagurski Alumni and occasional feature stories about current top defensive players who might wind up in Charlotte the first week of December

MATCHUP OF THE WEEK

Texas A&M vs. Arkansas at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas:  In this Southeastern Conference opener for both teams, the Aggie defense will try to keep the Razorbacks’ season on a downward spiral. Arkansas, considered a threat in the SEC West, has lost consecutive games to Toledo and Texas Tech and now faces its third “T” team in a row.  Texas A&M’s defense is one of the best in the country. The Aggies lead the FBS in sacks with 15 (80 yards in losses) through three games. Ends Myles Garrett (5.5 sacks for 27 yards in losses) and Dasehon Hall (4 sacks for 20 yards in losses) are the ring leaders.  Arkansas ranks 28th in the country in passing at 305.3 yards a game and 35th in total offense at 476.3 yards a game, but those numbers will be challenged by the Aggie defense.

BRONKO NAGURSKI BANQUET NEWS

 Adam Zucker Selected Master of Ceremonies

RANDY GRADISHAR NAMED CHARLOTTE TOUCHDOWN CLUB’s 2015 BRONKO NAGURSKI LEGENDS AWARD RECIPIENT

Gus Malzahn named keynote speaker for 2015 Bronko Nagurski Awards Banquet

Bronko Nagurski Awards Banquet Reservation Form

AutoNation FWAA DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF WEEK No. 3

Michigan State safety RJ Williamson scored a touchdown on a fumble return and had an interception on a late Air Force drive, providing two of the Spartans’ multiple big plays that helped them move to 3-0 on the season with a 35-21 win. His third career touchdown return helped him earn him the AutoNation FWAA Defensive Player of the Week honor for games of the weekend of Sept. 19.

More…

ACN Bronko Nagurski Report — Sept. 17

broko logosSince 1995, the Football Writers Association of America and the Charlotte Touchdown Club have partnered to bring you the Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner each year.  The Best Defensive Player in the entire country is announced at the Westin Hotel in downtown Charlotte each December before sellout crowds, with this year’s 21st  straight banquet, sponsored by ACN and slated for Dec. 7. Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn will deliver the keynote speech.

Five finalists for the award, named after the legendary Minnesota Gopher and Chicago Bears lineman, will  appear on stage before the winner is announced by 2015 FWAA President Lee Barfknecht of the Omaha World-Herald. During the evening, the winner of the Bronko Nagurski Legends Award, sponsored by East Coast Railways, will also be feted–Ohio State linebacker Randy Gradishar (1971-73).

Arizona’s junior linebacker  Scooby Wright III will attempt to become only the second player to win back-to-back Nagurski Trophies after Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald in 1995 and 1996. Wright is just the second sophomore to win the award after Ohio State linebacker James Laurinatis in 2006.

The weekly ACN Bronko Report will bring to you updates on what is happening on the defensive side of the ball during the 2015 season, top matchups and also provide links to stories on Bronko Nagurski Alumni and occasional feature stories about current top defensive players who might wind up in Charlotte the first week of December

MATCHUP OF THE WEEK

This Saturday the high-scoring Ole Miss Rebels head to Alabama to face the Crimson Tide, a team Mississippi beat last season in Oxford. Mississippi has opened up by averaging 74 points (tops in FBS) in blowout home victories against Tennessee-Martin and Fresno State. Now, the Rebels, ranked 13th in the FWAA-NFF Super 16 Poll, step up in class against the second-ranked Crimson Tide, which has a solid opening-season victory over Wisconsin on a neutral field and an easy home victory over Middle Tennessee. The question will become can Alabama’s defense corral Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly, who has passed for 557 yards and six scores in the first two games? Not to be overlooked is the Ole Miss running game, which is averaging an FBS third-best 7.8 yards a rush. Alabama’s rush defense is ranked 12th in the nation, allowing only 2.42 yards a carry. Something is going to have to give. The Crimson Tide boasts three players on the Bronko Nagurski Watch List: tackle A’Shawn Robinson, end Jonathan Allen and linebacker Reggie Ragland. Mississippi has two players on the list: tackle Robert Nkemdiche and defensive back Tony Conner.

BRONKO NAGURSKI BANQUET NEWS

 Adam Zucker Selected Master of Ceremonies

RANDY GRADISHAR NAMED CHARLOTTE TOUCHDOWN CLUB’s 2015 BRONKO NAGURSKI LEGENDS AWARD RECIPIENT

Gus Malzahn named keynote speaker for 2015 Bronko Nagurski Awards Banquet

Bronko Nagurski Awards Banquet Reservation Form

AutoNation FWAA DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF WEEK 

BYU free safety Kai Nacua picked off three passes, the last of which sealed the Cougars’ second dramatic final-minute win in as many weeks, as BYU rallied to beat Boise State, 35-24.

More…

ACN Bronko Nagurski Report — Sept. 10

broko logosSince 1995, the Football Writers Association of America and the Charlotte Touchdown Club have partnered to bring you the Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner each year.  The Best Defensive Player in the entire country is announced at the Westin Hotel in downtown Charlotte each December before sellout crowds, with this year’s 21st  straight banquet, sponsored by ACN and slated for Dec. 7. Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn will deliver the keynote speech.

Five finalists for the award, named after the legendary Minnesota Gopher and Chicago Bears lineman, will  appear on stage before the winner is announced by 2015 FWAA President Lee Barfknecht of the Omaha World-Herald. During the evening, the winner of the Bronko Nagurski Legends Award, sponsored by East Coast Railways, will also be feted–Ohio State linebacker Randy Gradishar (1971-73).

Arizona’s junior linebacker  Scooby Wright III will attempt to become only the second player to win back-to-back Nagurski Trophies after Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald in 1995 and 1996. Wright is just the second sophomore to win the award after Ohio State linebacker James Laurinatis in 2006.

The weekly ACN Bronko Report will bring to you updates on what is happening on the defensive side of the ball during the 2015 season, top matchups and also provide links to stories on Bronko Nagurski Alumni and occasional feature stories about current top defensive players who might wind up in Charlotte the first week of December

MATCHUP OF THE WEEK

Michigan State end Shilique Calhoun and the Spartan defense vs. the Oregon offense will present one of the more interesting matchups during the college season when the offensive minded Ducks and Eastern Washington transfer quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. come to East Lansing. Last season, Michigan State dropped a 46-27 decision to eventual Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota and the Ducks in Eugene.  The Spartans are fresh off a 37-24 victory at Western Michigan, in which the defense sacked the quarterback seven times for 39 yards in losses. Calhoun had one sack for minus-9 yards. Michigan State’s junior linebacker Riley Bullough had three sacks for 15 yards in losses . Adams was knocked out of Oregon’s 61-42 victory over Eastern Washington when he was hit.  He finished with 246 yards passing and a couple of touchdowns before he was hurt. He had 94 yards rushing. But he will be available against Michigan State, he says.

BRONKO NAGURSKI BANQUET NEWS

 Adam Zucker Selected Master of Ceremonies

RANDY GRADISHAR NAMED CHARLOTTE TOUCHDOWN CLUB’s 2015 BRONKO NAGURSKI LEGENDS AWARD RECIPIENT

Gus Malzahn named keynote speaker for 2015 Bronko Nagurski Awards Banquet

Bronko Nagurski Awards Banquet Reservation Form

AutoNation FWAA DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF WEEK 

West Virginia safety Karl Joseph picked off three passes and came up with four total turnovers as the Mountaineers rolled to a 44-0 season-opening win over Georgia Southern. Joseph’s domination on defense earned him the AutoNation FWAA Defensive Player of the Week honor.

More…

Pillars of the FWAA: Jim Brock (1934-2008), Cotton Bowl Athletic Association

ffaw_redesignThe Football Writers Association of America is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2015. Founded in 1941, the FWAA has served the writing profession and college football during a time when the world has changed greatly and the sport of football has along with it. In an effort to tell the stories of the members of the organization, we will publish each week a sketch on one of the FWAA’s  most important  leaders — all Bert McGrane Award winners.

The Bert McGrane Award, symbolic of the association’s Hall of Fame, is presented to an FWAA member who has performed great service to the organization and/or the writing profession. It is named after McGrane, a Des Moines, Iowa, writer who was the executive secretary of the FWAA from the early 1940s until 1973. The McGrane Award was first bestowed on an FWAA member in 1974.

For a list of all the winners go to:  http://www.sportswriters.net/fwaa/awards/mcgrane/index.html.

The following is the 18th installment of the Pillars of the FWAA series. Jim Brock was the 1989 winner of the Bert McGrane Award. Thanks to FWAA member Gene Duffey for writing and researching this sketch.

By Gene Duffey

Several reporters were attempting to gain access to the Olympic Village at the 1976 Summer Games in Montreal. Because of the massacre at the 1972 Games in Munich, security was extremely tight.

Jim "Hoss" Brock, 1989 winner of the Bert McGrane Award

Jim “Hoss” Brock, 1989 winner of the Bert McGrane Award

One of the reporters finally got hold of Jim Brock, one of the press stewards for the American delegation, who could approve entrance to the Village.

“I’m burning my feet in that direction right now, Hoss,” replied Brock. The line became the most repeated of any among the media covering the Games and Brock became as popular as U.S. boxer Sugar Ray Leonard and high jumper Dwight Stones for his unlimited cooperation.

You couldn’t help but have a good team if you were around Jim Brock. If he had been an actor he would have been perfect for movies like “The Sting” or “Eight Men Out,” wearing a black bowler hat and handling an unlit cigar.

The name “Hoss” became Brock’s trademark. He called nearly everyone “Hoss.” He never had to worry about forgetting anyone’s name. And if the guy’s wife was along, she was usually “Darlin’ ” to Brock. Even though he knew thousands of “Hosses,” the way Brock said it made every one of them feel special.

More…

2015 Best Game Story, by Ivan Maisel

ffaw_redesignComment by the judge, Alan Cox: Good look at one of the bigger games of the season as Oregon beat seemingly unbeatable Florida State, hitting home the key plays from the game. The article gave you a feel for what happened without simply being just a complete play-by-play recap, and had a great variety of quotes from both sides. It had a great lead and was easy and enjoyable to read.

By Ivan Maisel

ESPN.com

PASADENA, Calif. – Give a game ball to the data geeks, the emotionless analysts who crunched the numbers and determined that No. 2 Oregon would beat No. 3 Florida State and advance to the College Football Playoff National Championship presented by AT&T.

Ivan Maisel

Ivan Maisel

Those of us governed by the pit of our stomachs, the ones who had seen the defending national champion Seminoles find a way to win no matter how scruffy their play, had trouble buying into the staging of Duck Dynasty at the Rose Bowl presented by Northwestern Mutual.

Yes, Oregon had a plus-20 edge in turnover margin, but Florida State had come from behind in nine of its last 11 games.

Yes, the Ducks dominated the Pac-12, winning their last eight games by an average of 25 points, but the Seminoles had won seven games by six points or fewer. They had the indomitable quarterback, Jameis Winston, who had not lost since a high school game in 2011.

When the sun no longer lit the San Gabriel Mountains and the fourth quarter of the inaugural semifinal began, Florida State would seize control.

It didn’t quite work out that way on a typically spectacular New Year’s Day in the Arroyo Seco. By the time the fourth quarter began, all Florida State had seized was up. The Seminoles’ 29-game winning streak vaporized, their composure lost somewhere amid five turnovers in six possessions in the second half, Jimbo Fisher’s squad got steamrolled by the Ducks 59-20.

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2015 Best Feature, by Pete Thamel

ffaw_redesignComment by the judge, Steve Richardson: Thoughtful, well-researched piece on UT’s Charlie Strong. This story got way below the surface and explained why Strong is the way he is. It explains his life every step of the way from his childhood to becoming the CEO of one of college football’s traditional powers.

By Pete Thamel

Sports Illustrated

Pete Thamel, Sports Illustrated

Pete Thamel, Sports Illustrated

Charlie Strong opens his eyes. It’s 4 a.m. He rises, dresses and, without caffeine, drives 20 minutes to the Texas football facility. On Mondays he runs south to downtown via Red River Street and returns on Guadalupe Street. On Tuesdays he heads through neighborhoods to the north. The routes vary each day, but the goal remains the same — shave a few seconds off his time from the week before.

He does not always succeed, but Strong still bangs out five miles at a nine-minute clip, straining to outrace some previous version of himself. He has done this for his entire career, through 14 coaching jobs at eight universities — three decades spent pushing himself forward while running in loops. And yet even when he has reached his destination, Strong cannot help but do what he has always done, so he runs just as hard.

Last winter, after going 23-3 during his final two seasons at Louisville, Strong landed what many consider the best coaching gig in the country, signing a five-year, $26 million deal at Texas. If everything is big in Texas, the task of reviving the football team is no exception. The Longhorns went 18-17 in the Big 12 under Mack Brown over the last four seasons; this year they didn’t have a player drafted by the NFL for the first time since 1937. And Strong’s hiring as the program’s first black coach carries with it a social significance that matches the breadth of his improbable journey. “Could you ever believe,” Strong confided to a friend recently, “that I ended up at Texas?”

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