Posts Tagged ‘M&GB Awards’

The 2nd Annual Maize and Go Blue Awards

Monday, December 24th, 2012


In keeping with our Christmas Eve tradition, it’s time to take a look back at the Michigan football season that was and release our annual M&GB Awards.

Team 133 came in with high expectations, fresh off a resurgent 11-2 season and a Sugar Bowl victory. For the first time in years Michigan opened the season with a highly anticipated primetime game against Alabama, but it was quickly evident that still wasn’t quite “back.” After wins over Air Force and UMass, Michigan turned the ball over six times against Notre Dame, who no one thought at the time would wind up in the BCS National Championship game. Romps of Purdue and Illinois proceded a last second win over Michigan State. A Denard injury doomed the Wolverines against Nebraska the following week, but Devin Gardner stepped up to lead Michigan to wins over Minnesota, Northwestern, and Iowa. In the final game, Michigan held its own through the first half but was shut down in the second, falling to Ohio State to end the regular season at 8-4.

To most, the season was considered a disappointment, but a look back at preseason expectations shows that most thought Michigan was a 9-3 or 8-4 team. There’s still one game left to play on New Years Day, but let’s take some time to honor the players, coaches, plays, and moments that made 2012 the season it was.

Click here to revisit last year’s awards.

Harmon Player of the Year | Denard Robinson

(Ann Arbor News)

This was a tough one because there were really two deserving candidates. If Denard had been fully healthy all season, there probably wouldn’t have been much question of his worthiness as player of the year. He ended up missing two and a half games and returned in a limited role against Iowa and Ohio State. But it was what he did in the first eight games of the season that earned him the award.

Including his production in the final two games, Denard completed 53.6 percent of his passes for 1,319 yards and nine touchdowns. He also  led the team with 1,166 rushing yards and seven touchdowns, averaging 7.6 yards per carry.

Christ put it best, saying, “In a year when the Michigan offense was let down by the lack of production from anyone at the running back position, Denard picked up the slack. Without Robinson’s rushing attack early in the season, Michigan likely would have lost a couple more games.”

It can be argued that Denard’s five turnovers cost Michigan a chance to beat Notre Dame, but no one beat the Irish all season and despite Devin Gardner’s late season success, Michigan didn’t have a better quarterback option at the time.

Denard will go down in Michigan history as one of the all-time greats. He blew by Chad Henne’s total yards record and Antwaan Randle-El’s Big Ten quarterback rushing yards record, and will finish in the top 10 in Michigan history in pretty much every rushing and passing category.

“It’s hard to pick against a guy that misses 3.5 games and still records nearly 2,500 total yards and 16 touchdowns,” said Sam. “He was the heart and soul of this team for the past two seasons and will certainly be missed despite the emergence of Devin Gardner at quarterback.”

Votes: 3
Others Receiving Votes: Jordan Kovacs (2), Devin Gardner (1)

Chappuis Offensive Player of the Year | Denard Robinson & Devin Gardner (tie)

While Denard was our overall player of the year for the second straight season, he shares the offensive player of the year award with the man who took over for him under center when he was injured, Devin Gardner. Gardner began the season at receiver and made the move back to quarterback, his natural position, the week following Denard’s injury, and he started the final four games.

“Gardner selflessly moved to WR when the coaches asked him. The he made the move back to QB when he was needed,” said Josh. “He did not get targeted much as a receiver but he never complained and just did what needed to be done. His comeback to the QB position helped put Michigan in the Outback bowl, and were it not for some questionable playcalling in the second half of the OSU game it could have been a BCS bowl.”

Gardner completed 63.3 percent of his passes for 1,005 yards, eight touchdowns and just four interceptions. He also caught 16 passes for 266 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for seven more touchdowns.

As for Denard, his impact on the offense was greater throughout the entire season, giving the team a running threat when a consistent output from the running backs never materialized.

“Gardner played well during the games he started at quarterback and provided a respectable threat at receiver, but he didn’t have the impact that Robinson did for this offense,” said Chris.

Votes: 3 each
Others Receiving Votes: None

Schulz Defensive Player of the Year  | Jake Ryan

Jake Ryan led Michigan in tackles, tackles for loss, sacks, and forced fumbles

Two years ago the linebacker corps was a glaring weakness on Michigan’s defense. Enter Jake Ryan. He broke out as a redshirt freshman last season, starting 11 games and recording 37 tackles and three sacks. This year, he got even better, leading the team with 84 tackles (53 solo), 14.5 for loss, and four forced fumbles, and tying for the team lead with four sacks.

To put that in perspective, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o, who finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting, had just 52 solo tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, and 1.5 sacks.

“He [Ryan] seemed to be all over the field every time the defense was on the field,” said Chris. “More than doubled his total tackles from last season and was a thorn in the side of every offensive coordinator.”

He recorded double-digit tackles three times, including 11 against Air Force and Illinois, and 10 against Michigan State. In that Illinois game, he also had 3.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, and a forced fumble.

Ryan earned All-Big Ten second team honors by the media and honorable mention honors by the coaches, and prior to the Air Force game was given the honor of wearing Bennie Oosterbaan’s No. 47 Legends jersey.

Votes: 5
Others Receiving Votes: Jordan Kovacs (1)

Yost Coach of the Year | Greg Mattison

Greg Mattison has done wonders for the Michigan defense

For the second straight year, Michigan’s defense was a very good one. It led the nation in pass defense for most of the season, finishing second to Nebraska following the final week. It ranked 16th nationally in points allowed, giving up just 18.8 per game.

In Week 1, Michigan let Alabama’s offense move the ball at will, scoring 41 points. In Week 2, the Wolverines had trouble stopping Air Force’s triple option. It looked like we were in for a long season defensively. But six of the next seven opponents scored 13 points or fewer, and Michigan closed the year holding Ohio State’s high-powered offense to just 26 – 11 below their season average.

“Mattison doesn’t have a ton of talent on the defensive side of the ball but continues to turn out amazing results,” said Sam.

Despite losing two key defensive linemen in Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen to graduation, and top cornerback Blake Countess to a season-ending injury in Week 1, Mattison’s defense allowed just 19 more total points than it did last season (pre-bowl game).

“Continues to improve the defense year after year,” said Chris. “A Michigan pass defense which finished near the bottom of the NCAA for multiple years prior to his arrival now finished the 2012 season ranked No. 2. Mattison’s schemes keep offenses guessing all game.”

Votes: 5
Others Receiving Votes: Brady Hoke (1)

Little Brown Jug Game of the Year | Last second field goal to beat Michigan State

Brendan Gibbons hit the game-winning field goal to beat MSU (Detroit News)

After four straight losses to bitter in-state rival Michigan State, the Wolverines desperately needed to pull one out in any way possible. MSU entered just 4-3 and Michigan 4-2, and the game wasn’t even aired nationally, but the result was a good one.

Michigan didn’t score a touchdown, but Brendan Gibbons and Matt Wile combined for four field goals, the last of which was the game-winner with five seconds remaining. Gibbons connected on all three attempts from 24 yards, 21 yards, and the game-winning 38-yarder, while Wile hit a 48-yarder.

In all reality, it wasn’t that great of a game with neither offense able to do much, but that’s just how a Michigan-Michigan State game should be. It appeared as if the Spartans were going to steal a fifth straight after converting a fake punt in the fourth quarter and turning it into a field goal to take a 10-9 lead. On Michigan’s ensuing possession, Denard ran for 44 yards to put Michigan in scoring position, but a holding call negated the run and Michigan was forced to punt with just over three minutes remaining. After forcing a punt, Denard led the Wolverines into field goal range and Gibbons finished it.

It wasn’t pretty, and Michigan State finished the season just 6-6, but it snapped the streak that loomed over the state of Michigan.

“Losing to Sparty three years in a row was painful,” said Josh. “Being able to exorcise that demon and help send them to one of their worst seasons in recent memory is priceless.”

Votes: 4
Others Receiving Votes: Overtime win over Northwestern (2)

Howard Play of the Year | Roy Roundtree’s circus catch against Northwestern

Roundtree's circus catch saved Michigan from a sure loss (Ann Arbor News)

When Devin Gardner was picked off with three minutes remaining, Michigan’s hopes of beating Northwestern were all but gone. The Wildcats needed just to run out the clock. But Michigan forced a punt and took possession at its own 38 with just 18 seconds and no time outs left.

Gardner heaved the ball downfield and Roy Roundtree went up with the defender, tipped the ball in the air, fell to his knees reached back behind his body, and pulled it in as he fell to the ground. The 53-yards play put Michigan inside the 10-yard line and allowed the Wolverines to send Brendan Gibbons in to tie the game with a field goal, sending it into overtime where Michigan pulled it out.

It was one of the most improbable plays you will ever see, and at the time, it kept Michigan alive for the Big Ten Legends Division title.

“Amazing throw. Amazing catch. Enough said,” said Matt.

Roundtree also had the play of the year last season with his game-winning catch to beat Notre Dame in the Under the Lights game. Pretty fitting for the guy who donned Desmond Howard’s No. 21 Legends jersey for two seasons.

Votes: 4
Others Receiving Votes: Denard’s 63-yard touchdown run at the end of the first half against Ohio State (2)

Biakabutuka Performance of the Year | Denard’s 101% of Michigan’s offense vs Air Force

Denard scored four touchdowns against Air Force (Detroit Free Press)

After getting drubbed by Alabama in primetime in the season opener, Michigan returned home to face an Air Force team that is always up for a good fight. Michigan couldn’t afford to start the season 0-2, and with a defense that was struggling to stop the Falcons’ triple-option, the Wolverines needed a huge offensive performance. And Denard provided it.

The senior passed for 208 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 218 yards and two more touchdowns, accounting for 101 percent of Michigan’s total offense. Michigan needed all the production Denard could provide as Fitz Toussaint gained just seven yards on eight carries. The reality is without an outstanding performance from Denard, Michigan likely would have lost this one.

“I think that 426 yards speaks pretty much for itself,” said Katie. “But then again its just Denard, we’ve come to expect the exceptional.”

Votes: 4
Others Receiving Votes: Devin Gardner’s six TDs vs Iowa (1), Jake Ryan’s 11 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 1 FF vs Illinois (1)

Friedman Quarterback of the Year | Denard Robinson & Devin Gardner (tie)

Devin Gardner and Denard Robinson share our QB award (Ann Arbor News)

Just like the offensive player of the year award, Denard and Devin Gardner are co-winners. Denard started the first eight games of the season, led Michigan in rushing, pretty much single-handedly beat Air Force (as mentioned above), and continued his ascent up the Michigan record books. Gardner started the final four, leading Michigan to three wins and completed a higher percentage of his passes than Denard did.

While the duo wasn’t able to lead Michigan to a win over Ohio State at season’s end, the silver lining of Denard’s injury is that it gave Gardner valuable starting experience that will pay off next season when he’s the full-time starter.

“Were it not for Garnder’s performances in the last four weeks of the season Michigan might not be heading to a New Year’s day bowl game,” said Josh. “After playing receiver up until that point he stepped in and seamlessly took over the offense with poise and confidence.”

Chris wasn’t ready to give the award to Gardner, however. “Gardner can win this award next season once he plays all season at the position,” he said.

Votes: 3 each
Others Receiving Votes: None

Heston Running Back of the Year | Denard Robinson*

Denard led Michigan with 1,166 rushing yards (Detroit Free Press)

Obviously, Denard isn’t a true running back, though he did lined up at the position several times in the final two games, but he led the Wolverines in rushing by a wide margin. His 1,166 yards more than doubled Fitz Toussaint’s 514, and he did it on just 24 more attempts.

Toussaint had a breakout season a year ago, but an offseason drunk driving arrest that left him home for the season opener set him back and he never regained his 2011 form. He averaged just 4.0 yards per carry and didn’t record a single 100-yard game. The closest he got was 92 against Northwestern.

No other back was deserving, as Thomas Rawls ranked third on the team with 242 yards and no one else had more than 100.

As has been mentioned several times above, Denard provided Michigan a running game in several games when it failed to get much production from its running backs. Without his 218-yard rushing performance against Air Force, Michigan likely would have lost.

Toussaint will have the opportunity to reemerge next year when Denard graduates and the offense shifts slightly more to a pro-style set. He will need to prove he’s not a one-hit wonder.

“I can’t get myself to vote for Toussaint even though he had more yards on the season,” said Chris. “While not as talented, at least Rawls showed more heart throughout the season. Fitz has something to prove next season. Hopefully he matures a little this offseason and spends more time doing football-related activities rather than screwing around with his “friends”.

Votes: 3
Others Receiving Votes: Fitz Toussaint (1), Thomas Rawls (1), Vincent Smith (1)

Carter Receiver of the Year | Jeremy Gallon

Jeremy Gallon led Michigan in receptions and yards (MGoBlue.com)

The pint-sized slot guy was Michigan’s most consistent receiver all season. He caught at least one pass in every game and had two 100-yard games, a 107-yard performance in Week 1 against Alabama and a 133-yard performance in Week 11 against Iowa. His production picked up when Gardner took over at quarterback, as he caught 22 passes for 366 yards in the final four games compared to 18 for 318 in the first eight.

“Tiny Gallon had 12 more catches and 131 more yards than the next highest (Roundtree) to go along with the surest hands on the team,” said Sam.

The offense was much different with Gardner under center than it was the first eight games with Denard at the helm and it would be interesting to see how the receiving production would have changed if Gardner had played quarterback all season. Gallon’s receiving pace would have put him over 1,000 yards if he had the same production in the first eight games as he did in the last four. That’s pretty impressive, especially for a guy who stands 5’8″.

“Led the team in receptions and receiving yards,” said Chris. “Provided the offense with speed on the edge, not only downfield speed.”

Votes: 3
Others Receiving Votes: Devin Funchess (1), Drew Dileo (1)

Dierdorf Offensive Lineman of the Year | Taylor Lewan

Taylor Lewan was the Big Ten's best offensive lineman and a first-team All-American (MGoBlue.com)

Everybody knew Taylor Lewan was a star before the season started, but he did nothing to diminish that throughout the year. The junior was a stalwart in an offensive line that struggled following the loss of center David Molk to graduation last year. He started all 12 games and was named the Big Ten Rimington-Pace Offensive Lineman of the Year. He also garnered All-Big Ten first team honors and Walter Camp All-American honors and figures to be a high first round selection in the 2013 NFL Draft if he leaves early as most project him to do.

In addition to protecting Denard’s blind side, he also scored his first career touchdown against Northwestern when he fell on a loose ball in the end zone, becoming the first Michigan offensive lineman since 1948 to score a touchdown.

“It’s tough to bet against a First-Team All-American at left tackle,” said Sam. “There’s a reason you don’t remember seeing Lewan all that much: his defender was almost never in the play.”

Lewan will have a chance to show just how good he is on Jan. 1 when Michigan faces South Carolina in the Outback Bowl. The Gamecocks feature perhaps the best pass rusher in college football, Jadeveon Clowney who lead the SEC with 13 sacks. He’s been virtually unblockable this year and his matchup with Lewan will be a great one to watch on New Year’s Day.

Votes: 6
Others Receiving Votes: None

Messner Defensive Lineman of the Year | William Campbell

Will Campbell was named All-Big Ten honorable mention (MGoBlue.com)

William Campbell had a good season on a defensive line that was destined to perform below last season’s numbers due to the loss of Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen. When Campbell committed to Michigan four years ago as a five-star stud, many expected him to be the next great defensive lineman. But three years of underperforming left little hope for the big guy.

The senior stepped up as a leader and earned All-Big Ten honorable mention honors by the media. He recorded his only sack of the season against Alabama and finished the year with 44 tackles, which is 30 more than his previous high of 14 last year.

“Campbell improved significantly after this season after 3 sub-par years considering his highly-touted status as a freshmen,” said Chris. “More than tripled his tackles numbers compared to 2011.”

Votes: 3
Others Receiving Votes: Craig Roh (1), Quinton Washington (1), Frank Clark (1)

Simpkins Linebacker of the Year | Jake Ryan

Jake Ryan was an All-Big Ten second team performer this season (Ann Arbor News)

Jake Ryan had a very good redshirt sophomore campaign and positioned himself to be a dominant linebacker for the next two years. His 84 tackles (53 solo), 13.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, and four forced fumbles all led the team.

He was a constant presence in the opposing backfield and though not the quickest player, played with a reckless abandon and was a sure-handed tackler.

“The Thor/Hercules look-a-like seemed to wreak havoc on just about every quarterback and backfield this season, recording 14 tackles for loss and stopping a number of other plays dead in their tracks,” said Sam.

Votes: 4
Others Receiving Votes: Kenny Demens (2)

Woodson Defensive Back of the Year | Jordan Kovacs

Jordan Kovacs was an All-Big Ten second team selection (Detroit News)

When last year’s top defensive back, Blake Countess, went down for the year with a torn ACL in the season opener, it looked as if Michigan’s secondary was in trouble. But after being torched by Alabama, it finished the season as the nation’s second-best pass defense, allowing just 155 yards per game through the air. The leader of the secondary was unquestionably senior Jordan Kovacs.

Everybody knows his story by now, from walk-on to four-year starter and team captain. His numbers were slightly down this season compared to the previous three, but he wasn’t asked to help in run support as much as he was when Michigan’s linebackers weren’t as good. He finished the year with 65 tackles, five for loss, and two sacks.

“Kovacs was never going to be a special athlete and he’s usually good for at least one play a game that makes you shake your head in disgust, but he has a knack for the ball and is the ultimate team player,” said Sam.

Votes: 4
Others Receiving Votes: Raymon Taylor (1), Thomas Gordon (1)

Hamilton Special Teams Player of the Year | Brendan Gibbons & Dennis Norfleet (tie)

Dennis Norfleet averaged over 23 yards per kick return (Detroit Free Press)

Brendan Gibbons tied for this award last year as well, that time with returnman Jeremy Gallon. This time, he shares it with freshman Dennis Norfleet. The speedy all-purpose guy averaged 23.4 yards per kick return, and while he never took one to the house, he always seemed capable of doing so, which is something we haven’t seen in a few years. He also returned a punt 42 yards against Illinois.

“Averaged over 23 yards per kick return and provided the offense with good starting field position,” said Chris. Very explosive. Should also be the team’s primary punt returner in 2013 and see time as an all-purpose back/receiver on offense.”

Gibbons became Mr. Steady this season, connecting on 14 of 16 attempts, including the aforementioned game-winner against Michigan State with five seconds remaining and the game-tying field goal against Northwestern in the final seconds. He has made quite a progression since his freshman season in which he was relieved of his duties.

He moved into a tie for sixth in Michigan field goal history and with a solid senior year in 2013 should make it as high as fourth.

“Will Hagerup had quite a bounce-back year punting the ball, but no one was better on special teams than Gibbons, who nailed 14 of his 16 FG tries and all 44 extra points,” said Sam.

Votes: 3 each
Others Receiving Votes: None

Hart Newcomer of the Year | Devin Funchess

Devin Funchess led Michigan in touchdown receptions (Getty Images)

Devin Funchess stepped into a position of need and became an instant offensive weapon for Denard in the passing game. In just his second career game, he caught four passes for 106 yards and a touchdown against Air Force. He added another touchdown a week later against UMass and finished the season with five. He seemed to be underutilized in Michigan’s offense as his 6’5″, 229-pound frame caused mismatches for opposing linebackers, but he lacked in pass protection, which kept him off the field more than he should have been.

Still, five touchdowns from a true freshman tight end leaves a lot to be excited about for next season and beyond, especially as Michigan moves away from the spread offense and begins to use tight ends more.

“Funchess was certainly a revelation to me,” said Sam. “I knew he had some talent and I knew he was supposed to be a good athlete, but the way he started the year as an undersized freshman tight end was completely unexpected. His huge hands might as well have stick ‘em on them, because he rarely drops anything. He’s a good bet to be the best tight end in Michigan history if he continues at a solid pace.”

Votes: 6
Others Receiving Votes: None

Schembechler ‘Those Who Stay’ Senior of the Year | Denard Robinson

Denard will be remembered as one of the all-time Michigan greats (Detroit Free Press)

Denard epitomizes the Michigan Man. He came to Michigan under Rich Rodriguez, the only major college coach that would recruit him as a quarterback, and thrived in his system for two years. When Rodriguez was fired and Brady Hoke hired, Denard could have chosen to look elsewhere for a system that would better suit his abilities. But he stuck it out at Michigan and became a leader. Four years of climbing the record books took a sad turn of events when he injured his elbow against Nebraska and was forced to miss two and a half games, but he will always be remembered as one of the all-time greats to ever don the winged helmet.

“Denard Robinson will go down as one of the greatest Wolverines of all-time,” said Josh. “Say what you will about his passing ability, the kid can flat out play and is a tremendous leader. Michigan would not have made a bowl game in 2010 were it not for Denard. Michigan would not have made and won the Sugar Bowl last year were it not for Denard. And Michigan would not have been in the position they are in now were it not for Denard. He has meant so much to this team and he will be sorely missed but always remembered.”

“The first play of his career at Michigan he fumbled the snap and then ran it 37 yards for a touchdown,” said Katie. “I’d say that’s about how I would sum things up.”

Votes: 6
Others Receiving Votes: None

Harris Most Improved Player of the Year | Devin Gardner

Devin Gardner improved immensely from 2011 (Getty Images)

Entering the season, the coaching staff felt that Russell Bellomy was capable of backing up Denard, so they moved Devin Gardner to receiver full-time. He caught touchdowns in his first three games and finished the season with four. But when Denard went down with an elbow injury against Nebraska and Bellomy couldn’t get the job done in relief, Gardner was moved back to quarterback for the remainder of the season.

In four games, Gardner completed 63.3 percent of his passes for 1,005 yards, eight touchdowns, and just four interceptions. He also ran for seven touchdowns in those games. He looked poised and confident behind center and gave Michigan a passing attack that it hadn’t seen in the first eight games.

Last season, Gardner played some in relief of Denard, but never looked comfortable running the offense, and it was clear who the starter was. This season, entering the bowl game, many feel that Gardner is the better quarterback. Perhaps most importantly, he eased concerns about the quarterback position heading into next season.

“When Gardner stepped on the field last year in limited playing time, he looked lost,” said Sam. “When he stepped on the field in the spring game prior to this season, he probably couldn’t have looked any worse even if he had thrown to the defense every play. Then he became a wide receiver, and did just about as well as you could hope for in a quarterback-turned-wideout. Then Denard went down and all Gardner did was lead the team to three straight huge Big Ten wins. Needless to say, I am a lot less worried about the quarterback situation for the next couple seasons.”

Votes: 3
Others Receiving Votes: William Campbell (2), Kenny Demens (1)

* Sometime this offseason we will create a whole page for the M&GB Awards that will live on the right sidebar and explain why each award is named the way it is, as well as keep a year-by-year record of the award winners.

The Inaugural Maize and Go Blue Awards

Friday, December 23rd, 2011


[Ed.: This was started right at the end of the season in hopes of getting it out before the Michigan football bust, but then I bought a new house, moved, etc, which resulted in less free time and no internet access at home for a few weeks. We apologize for the lack of content lately].

The 132nd team in Michigan football history began play in September with a new head coach and plenty of returning talent. It opened with a rain-soaked three-quarter win over Western Michigan and continued on with the first ever night game in Michigan Stadium history. It opened Big Ten play with a 58-0 route of Minnesota, then followed up with a second half comeback at Northwestern. It suffered defeat in East Lansing and Iowa City with a win over Purdue sandwiched in between, but bounced back with decisive wins over Illinois and Nebraska. And finally, it ended seven years of futility with a 40-34 win over Ohio State.

It’s hard to believe 12 games have already come and gone, but with season’s end comes awards and accolades. The All-Big Ten teams have been announced and Brady Hoke was named conference coach of the year, so we at Maize and Go Blue decided to announce our very first Maize and Go Blue Awards. Some of these will be painfully obvious and some you may disagree with, but we welcome the discussion and ultimately aim to honor the men of Team 132.

Harmon Player of the Year | Denard Robinson

Denard Robinson entered the season as a Heisman contender and almost singlehandedly beat Notre Dame in Week 2. However, his throwing mechanics seemed to tail off in the middle of the season, resulting in a number of interceptions and calls for Devin Gardner to replace him. But Robinson kept battling and delivered his best all-around performances of his career late in the season, including one of the greatest by any Michigan quarterback ever against Ohio State.

Last week, we found out that Robinson played much of the season with a staph infection on his arm and an abscess on his throwing elbow that at least in some part contributed to his midseason miscues.

He completed 133-of-237 passes for 2,056 yards, 18 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions. He also led the team in rushing with 1,163 yards (5.6 yards per carry) and 16 touchdowns. His rushing yards per game ranked 28th nationally and his total offense ranked 29th nationally. He also accounted for an average of 17 points per game, which ranked 15th in the nation, and despite his midseason passing struggles, he ranked 36th nationally in passing efficiency – just behind another preseason Heisman contender, Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones.

Votes: 2
Others Receiving Votes: Fitzgerald Toussaint (1), Mike Martin (1)

Chappuis Offensive Player of the Year | Denard Robinson

As stated above, Denard Robinson led the team rushing with 1,163 yards and 16 touchdowns, averaging 5.6 yards per carry, and completed 56 percent of his passes for 2,056 yards and 18 touchdowns. He finished 28th nationally in rushing and 36th in passing efficiency.

He also got better as the season progressed. After a fast start, and great performance against Notre Dame, he struggled against Northwestern and Michigan State. But he rebounded with three of his best performances of the season in Michigan’s final three games against Illinois, Nebraska, and Ohio State.

Robinson moved into 8th place in career completions, passing yards, and rushing yards at Michigan, 6th in career touchdown passes, 100-yard passing games, and 200-yard passing games, and 5th in rushing touchdowns. He’s also just 679 rushing yards away from Juice Williams’ Big Ten quarterback rushing record, which he should easily break next season.

Votes: 3
Others Receiving Votes: Fitzgerald Toussaint (1)

Schulz Defensive Player of the Year  | Mike Martin

Mike Martin was the rock of a Michigan defense that improved vastly in every statistical category from a year ago. Total defense ranked 18th nationally, rush defense ranked 35th, and scoring defense ranked 7th. While Martin didn’t have eye-popping numbers, he took on double-teams more often than not, freeing up the pass rush for the rest of the front seven. He was also solid in run defense, consistently clogging the middle of the line and taking away running lanes for opposing backs.

He made one of the best defensive plays of the season, fighting through the Purdue line to sack quarterback Caleb TerBush in the end zone for a safety to break a 7-7 tie. Michigan went on to score the next 27 points to put the game away.

Martin’s senior leadership and defensive tenacity was a stabilizing force for an all-around young Michigan defense. He benefited from Defensive Coordinator Greg Mattison’s experience coaching NFL defensive linemen and had the best season of his career at Michigan. He finished with 54 tackles (5.5 for loss) and three sacks.

Votes: 3
Others Receiving Votes: Jordan Kovacs (1)

Yost Coach of the Year | Brady Hoke & Greg Mattison (tie)

In his first year at the helm, Brady Hoke took an underperforming Michigan squad and guided it to a 10-2 record, falling just a few plays short of an undefeated season and a chance to play for the Big Ten championship. His display of composure on the sidelines, his hiring of top-notch coordinators, his willingness to call a gameplan with what he called ‘controlled agression’, and his beating of Ohio State make him a lock for the award.

Hoke was awarded the Schembechler-Hayes Big Ten Coach of the Year by both the coaches and the media (the media’s award is called the Dave McClain Award). It was his third conference coach of the year award in four years, having received the honor as head coach of San Diego State in 2010 and Ball State in 2008.

Many Michigan fans were skeptical of his hiring back in January, but one would be hard pressed to find a Michigan fan who hasn’t bought in at this point. In Hoke’s introductory press conference, he proclaimed that he would have walked to Ann Arbor (from California) if he had to. After nearly a year on the job, Hoke has won over players, almuni, and fans alike who would probably walk to California for him if they had to. He’s also putting the finishing touches on what will be a highly-ranked recruiting class coming to Ann Arbor next season.

According to Matt, “Hoke came in post-RichRod, turned this team around, went 10-2, became BCS eligible, and beat Ohio State.”

Greg Mattison is one of those coordinators that Hoke hired and was a genius pick. In Mattison’s second stint in Ann Arbor (he coached at Michigan from 1992-96), Mattison turned a defensive unit that ranked 110th nationally in 2010 and gave up the most points in Michigan history into the nation’s 18th-ranked total defense and 7th-best scoring defense. Not once all season did an opponent score as many points as the Michigan defense averaged allowing last season. Ohio State came the closest but was still one short.

The turnaround was most impressive because it was largely the same players as last year with the addition of freshmen Jake Ryan, Desmond Morgan, and Blake Countess mixed in. That Mattison can take the same defense, add three true freshmen to the mix, and produce what he did is nothing short of miraculous. The Michigan defense is in good hands as long as Mattison is coordinating it.

Chris picked Mattison, saying “Tough call between Hoke and Mattison but I had to go with Mattison because he was more directly responsible for the greatly improved play of the defense. His blitz schemes were a nightmare for opposing coordinators and his ability to get essentially the same players as last year to play like they did was top notch.”

Votes: Hoke (2), Mattison (2)
Others Receiving Votes: None

Little Brown Jug Game of the Year | 40-34 win over Ohio State

Of all of the achievements this season – a 10-2 record, a BCS bowl game, beating Notre Dame at the last second, etc., the most satisfying for Michigan players, coaches, and fans was beating Ohio State and ending the seven-year drought. It wasn’t easy and the game had its share of twists and turns, but Michigan persevered and found a way to do what the previous seven Michigan teams could not: Beat Ohio.

The Buckeyes came in with a 6-5 record, a true freshman quarterback, and nothing to lose. The OSU offense was anemic all season, but in what would be interim head coach Luke Fickell and offensive coordinator Jim Bollman’s last game on the reigns, they turned the offense loose. Instead of pounding the ball up the middle all game, they let quarterback Braxton Miller make plays with his arm and legs.

But Michigan traded blow for blow and scored the most points of any Michigan team against Ohio State since 1946. Denard Robinson played the best game of his career, hitting 14-of-17 passes for 167 yards and three touchdowns and rushing 26 times for 170 yards and two touchdowns. It was one of the greatest performances by a quarterback against Ohio State in Michigan history.

The win ensured that another senior class would not graduate winless against Ohio State and served as a pleasing sendoff for the seniors who stayed through three head coaches and multiple coordinators.

“Streak ending statement game,” said Josh.

Votes: 4
Others Receiving Votes: None

Howard Play of the Year | Denard’s TD pass to Roundtree to beat Notre Dame

Another unanimous selection, the 16-yard touchdown pass from Denard Robinson to Roy Rountree with two seconds left to beat Notre Dame proved to be one of the greatest moments of the season.

It was the much-hyped and nationally televised Under the Lights game, the first ever night game in Michigan Stadium history. ESPN’s College Gameday broadcast live from Ann Arbor that morning and Brady Hoke needed the win to keep Michigan fans from another “here we go again” feeling.

The game itself was a candidate for game of the year and probably would have been had Michigan not ended its seven-year futility against Ohio State. It was back and forth throughout, but looked like Michigan was headed for a loss when Notre Dame answered a Michigan touchdown to take a three-point lead with 30 seconds to play. Michigan got the ball on its own 20-yard line, needing to drive 80 yards in 30 seconds to pull off a miracle. And that they did.

On the second play, Robinson found a wide open Jeremy Gallon on a wheel route for a 64-yard gain to the Notre Dame 16. One play later, Robinson floated a perfect jump ball to Roy Roundtree in the end zone. The junior receiver leaped above ND defensive back Gary Gray and hauled it in, touching a foot in bounds before falling out of bounds. Replay confirmed the catch and Michigan celebrated its third-straight win over Notre Dame.

Votes: 4
Others Receiving Votes: None

Biakabutuka Performance of the Year | Denard’s 5 TDs against Ohio State

Denard Robinson had his share of electrifying moments the past couple of seasons, even garnering Heisman talk at times the past to years. However, the major knock on the junior quarterback has been that he hasn’t played well in big games against the likes of rivals Michigan State and Ohio State. This time, in the season’s final game, he did.

Although Ohio State was limping in with a 6-5 record, it was still a rivalry game and Michigan was fighting the burden of the seven-year plague. Ohio State’s defense still had largely shut down two of the Big Ten’s best quarterbacks, Michigan State’s Kirk Cousins and Wisconsin’s Russell Wilson.

Robinson, however, was not to be stopped. He turned in one of the greatest single performances by a Michigan player against Ohio State in the history of the rivalry. He completed 14-of-17 passes for 167 yards and three touchdowns and rushed 26 times for 170 yards and two touchdowns. He became just the fourth Michigan quarterback to throw for three touchdowns in a game against Ohio State (the first since Drew Henson in 2000) and his 170 rushing yards were the third-most by any Michigan rusher against the Buckeyes (behind Tim Biakabatuka’s 313 in 1995 and Jamie Morris’ 210 in ’86).

“Big players come up big in big games,” said Chris. “Denard did not disappoint.”

Votes: 4
Others Receiving Votes: None

Friedman Quarterback of the Year | Denard Robinson

Unlike the Yost Coach of the Year award, in which two coaches very much deserved the honor, this one is painfully obvious. Even though sophomore Devin Gardner got some playing time, no one is going to name him quarterback of the year.

Denard Robinson followed up a stellar sophomore season with an even better junior season. While his numbers were down overall (1,163 rushing yards vs. 1,702 in 2010 and 2,056 passing yards vs. 2,570 in 2010), he developed as a quarterback and as a leader. There were times early in the season where questions arose about Denard’s progress, but by season’s end, he proved that the job is his and his alone.

He ranked 28th nationally and 5th in the Big Ten in rushing, breaking the 1,000-yard mark for the second straight season. He completed 56.1 percent of his passes for 18 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, though his TD-to-INT ratio grew as the season drew to a close. Most importantly, he turned in his best performance in leading Michigan to its first win over Ohio State in eight years, throwing for 167 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for 170 yards and two touchdowns. He became the fourth quarterback in Michigan history to throw for three touchdowns in a game against OSU – the first since Drew Henson in 2000 – and recorded the third-highest rushing total by any Michigan player against the Buckeyes.

Michigan fans should expect big things from Robinson in 2012.

Votes: 4
Others Receiving Votes: None

Heston Running Back of the Year | Fitzgerald Toussaint

It took a while for Fitzgerald Toussaint to get going, but once he did, he turned in a phenomenal season. After rushing for 80 yards and two touchdowns in the rain-soaked season opener against Western Michigan, Toussaint didn’t play against Notre Dame and carried just twice for seven yards in a mid-season loss to Michigan State. After that, however, he gained at least 120 yards in four of the remaining five games, averaging six yards per carry.

Toussaint finished sixth in the Big Ten in rushing, right behind Robinson, and 40th nationally. He also eclipsed the 1,000 mark, becoming the first Michigan running back to do so since Mike Hart.

For the season, he gained 1,011 yards and scored nine touchdowns, averaging 5.8 yards per carry and 91.9 yards per game.

Votes: 4
Others Receiving Votes: None

Carter Receiver of the Year | Junior Hemingway

With the exception of the Notre Dame and Northwestern games, Michigan didn’t put the ball in the air often. The emergence of Fitzgerald Toussaint allowed Hoke and offensive coordinator Al Borges to utilize the passing game just enough to keep the defense honest for the running game.

Junior Hemingway was a guy that Michigan fans had been waiting to break out for years, but was always hampered by injury. This season, he did so.

Hemingway emerged as the main receiving threat with his ability to stretch defenses and go up and get balls in the air. He made several great plays against Notre Dame and Northwestern, out-leaping the defensive back to give a shot in the arm to the offense. He finished the regular season with 32 receptions for 636 yards and two touchdowns.

Against Notre Dame, Hemingway had three catches for 165 yards and a touchdown and against Northwestern, he caught five passes for 124 yards. His second and only other touchdown of the year came against Ohio State, putting Michigan ahead 16-7 at the end of the first quarter.

“Hemingway gave the offense a deep threat which had been lacking over the last few seasons,” said Josh. “When he was catching the ball, his ability to stretch the field opened up windows in the defense for other receivers to run into.”

Votes: 3
Others Receiving Votes: Roy Roundtree (1)

Dierdorf Offensive Lineman of the Year | David Molk

David Molk was everything you could possibly ask for at the center position. He was the rock of the Michigan offense and a senior leader both on and off the field. He was a First-Team All-America selection and the Rimington Award winner which goes to the nation’s top center.

While many things could be pointed to for Michigan’s offensive success throughout the entire season, one of the biggest is the stability Molk provided to the offensive line. That was all the more apparent in 2009 when Molk missed eight games due to various injuries and the offense fell apart.This season, he was healthy throughout, and the offense never missed a beat.

Off the field, while Robinson could be considered the face of Michigan football, Molk was usually the voice of Michigan football, providing positive soundclips and keeping the team focused and together. He was one of the few seniors who stayed and triumphed through three head coaches and multiple coordinators. He beat Ohio State and will play in Michigan’s first BCS bowl game since the year before he arrived in Ann Arbor.

“Center is the most important player on the line,” said Chris. “Molk came through with leadership and stellar play.”

Votes: 4
Others Receiving Votes: None

Messner Defensive Lineman of the Year | Mike Martin & Ryan Van Bergen (tie)

The best position group on a vastly improved Michigan defense, and also the hardest to replace next season, was the defensive line. It was manned by a pair of senior leaders, Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen, both of which share the Messner Defensive Lineman of the Year award.

Martin was the clog in the middle of the defense that routinely took on double-teams and made it tough for opposing offenses to run the ball. Van Bergen had a knack for fighting his way through the line to pressure the opposing quarterback. Together, they formed the backbone of one of the Big Ten’s top units.

According to Josh, “While Martin was often fighting through double-teams, Van Bergen was making plays with his quick pass rushing abilities. He had five sacks, 12 tackles for loss, a forced fumble, and four pass breakups. This is another Senior who will be difficult to replace.”

Votes: Martin (2), Van Bergen (2)
Others Receiving Votes: None

Simpkins Linebacker of the Year | Jake Ryan & Kenny Demens (tie)

Last year’s linebacker corps was plagued with unsound fundamentals and poor tackling and the unit entered this season as one of the biggest question marks on the team. Obi Ezeh and Jonas Mouton were gone and many wondered who would fill their spot. Kenny Demens entered the scene last season, but no one else had stepped up. Enter Jake Ryan.

The redshirt freshman broke out to provide some much-needed playmaking ability and combined with Demens to provide stability to the linebacking corps.

He finished the season with 30 tackles, seven for loss, and also recorded two sacks and recovered two fumbles. Against San Diego State, he recorded five tackles, one for loss, and two fumble recoveries. He was named to the ESPN.com and Big Ten All-Freshman team.

Demens led the team in tackles with 86, five for loss, and also tallied three sacks. He recorded a team-high 12 tackles against Notre Dame and also helped slow down Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller, adding eight tackles and an assisted sack.

He was an All-Big Ten Honorable Mention honoree.

“Led the team in tackles and was a force in the middle of the field,” said Chris.

Votes: Ryan (2), Demens (2)
Others Receiving Votes: None

Woodson Defensive Back of the Year | Jordan Kovacs

Over the last couple of seasons, Jordan Kovacs has become one of the team’s most popular players. The former walk-on who earned a scholarship last season did a little bit of everything on defense.

He was second on the team in tackles with 64, second on the team with eight tackles for loss, tallied four sacks, forced two fumbles, recovered one, and picked off a pass.

In the season-opening win over Western Michigan, Kovacs led the team with 10 tackles, two for loss, recorded a pair of sacks, forced a fumble, and recorded a pass breakup. For his effort, he was named the Lott IMPACT Player of the Week.

He also made one of the key defensive plays of the season when he sacked Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa on fourth down to give the ball back to Michigan and seal the win.

He was named All-Big Ten honorable mention by the media.

Votes: 2
Others Receiving Votes: Blake Countess (1), J.T. Floyd (1)

Hamilton Special Teams Player of the Year | Brendan Gibbons & Jeremy Gallon (tie)

It’s fitting that two players split the special teams player of the year award given that Michigan’s special teams was a disaster the past couple of seasons and improved immensely this year.

A year ago, Gibbons made just made just 1-of-5 field goals before being replaced by Seth Broekhuisen for the remainder of the season. The kicking game was so bad that Rich Rodriguez elected to forego kicking unless the team was within about 30 yards. This year was a drastic turnaround. Gibbons hit 10-of-14 field goals and 52-of-53 extra points.

The night-and-day difference between last season and this was on display in the fourth quarter against Ohio State. Holding onto a three-point lead with two minutes left, and facing fourth-and-goal from the OSU-26, Hoke sent Gibbons out to attempt what would be a career long. With the pressure of the seven-year plague on his back, Gibbons nailed it, pushing the lead to six, and making Ohio State have to score a touchdown to win rather than a field goal to tie.

Another sore spot for Michigan the past couple years was the return game. Aside from not getting return yards, Michigan’s returnmen had trouble catching the ball. Michigan fans held their breath every time a punt was in the air, arcing down toward a Michigan returnman. Not so this year.

Jeremy Gallon provided a solid receiver on punts and proved capable of picking up yards as well. He averaged 10.1 yards per return and his 32-yard return against Illinois set up a Michigan touchdown. He was named an All-Big Ten Special Teams third teamer by Phil Steele.

Votes: Gibbons (2), Gallon (2)
Others Receiving Votes: None

Hart Newcomer of the Year | Blake Countess

As a true freshman, Blake Countess certainly impressed. He added a playmaking cover corner to a Michigan secondary that was desperately in need of one after getting torched game-in and game-out last season. He played in 11 of the team’s 12 games (10 at cornerback) and earned a starting spot in the last five.

Countess totaled 36 tackles, one for loss, and was second on the team in pass breakups with six. Against San Diego State, he tallied seven tackles and a pass breakup, and made a fantastic touchdown-saving pass breakup against Ohio State in the season finale (pictured right).

He was named to the ESPN.com and Big Ten All-Freshman team.

“Came into a starting role and never relinquished it,” said Josh. “Played with maturity and poise beyond his true freshman status.”

Chris was also impressed, saying, “The addition of Countess to Michigan’s secondary mid-way through the season was an excellent move by the coaches. In five starts, Countess had 36 tackles, 6 PBUs, and 1 forced fumble. Not bad for a true freshmen in such a short game span. Opposing QBs had to account for him on every passing play.”

Votes: 3
Others Receiving Votes: Drew Dileo (1)

Schembechler ‘Those Who Stay’ Senior of the Year | Mike Martin

Mike Martin was a senior leader who stuck it out through three head coaches, multiple defensive coordinators and various schemes. He very easily could have departed for the NFL after his junior season rather than try to learn a new scheme, but he stuck it out and emerged better off for it. The coaching he received from former Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Greg Mattison should certainly help out his NFL Draft stock.

He routinely took on double teams, freeing up Ryan Van Bergen and Craig Roh to rush the passer, and clogged the middle of the line, making it hard for opposing running backs to find holes.

“Martin was the leader of this defense, starting in the offseason when Hoke was first hired,” said Chris. “He helped Hoke get the rest of the defense (and the team) to buy into the new coaching staff. Losing Van Bergen’s abilities off the edge will hurt too, but it’s always tough to replace a leader like Martin.”

Votes: 4
Others Receiving Votes: None

Harris Most Improved Player of the Year | Brendan Gibbons & Fitzgerald Toussaint (tie)

As noted above in the special teams player of the year award, Brendan Gibbons showed vast improvement compared to a year ago. He went from 1-for-5 last season to a dependable 10-for-14 this season. And when it mattered most, he connected on a career long 43-yarder in the fourth quarter against Ohio State. With two years of eligibility left, it looks as if Michigan will be solid at kicker at least until he graduates.

Fitz Toussaint also gets the nod because of the way he broke out in the second half of the season. He battled injuries a year ago when he got just eight carries for 87 yards all year. Of those 87, 61 came on one run. This year, he busted out for 1,011 yards on 174 carries, becoming a dependable every-down back and a perfect complement to Denard Robinson in the backfield. Like Gibbons, Toussaint is just a sophomore, ensuring two more years to continue improving and leaving Michigan with a solid running game.

“Emerged as the go-to back,” said Josh. “Gave offense a much needed added dimension to take pressure off Denard.”

Votes: Gibbons (2), Toussaint (2)
Others Receiving Votes: None