By: Cole Mantell (@lightningdragon)
Welcome to the midway point of Season 19! We’ve seen upsets, heartbreakers, and more. Just four weeks in, and already we have an idea of who has performed under the lights and who needs to perform to get a shot at the playoffs. While we’ve talked about on-field award nominees before, as we reach the midway point of the regular season let’s take a look at three nominees who are contending for each major award this season. By “major award”, we are using the definition listed under “Yearly Awards” on the website. In addition, in cases where players are candidates for multiple awards, I will only list them once but will indicate in their blurbs what other awards they are contending for. So without further ado, let’s get into our expanded list of midseason award candidates this season. Awards are listed in order of prestige, going from off-field to on-field awards.
Fan of the Year
Cait9 won this award last season and is a presumptive favorite for the award this season. With a frequent presence in both chat and live streams, she is hoping to become just the second multiple-award winner of this award (Moses King is the other) and the first back-to-back winner. In addition, she is contending to get WVU their second Fan of the Year award win and the school’s first major award in back-to-back accomplishments. Even if she does not win the award this season, a nomination would put her on the vaunted Hall of Fame track for league member, a huge accomplishment in of itself.
DrakeOG has been a frequent nominee for this award, leading his Illinois locker room to become one of the best in the CFSL week in and week out. While we will talk about his on-field performance later in this article, his contributions off the field for Illinois have been one of the largest pieces of the turnaround into contender status for the Fighting Illini. While the school has quite a few nominations, Illinois is still looking for its first major individual award winner. This could be the season for the Fighting Illini to get some major recognition.
409Kay has been waiting for a major award nomination for some time. His first season at the returning USC has been off to a good start, and this seems like the year he has broken through in chat and the live streams to get consideration for this award. USC returning with him at the helm of that locker room is what will make his candidacy for this award. As this is USC’s first season back after an extended absence, this would be the first major award for a USC player since Thrasher Banes won Offensive Player of the Year in Season 10.
Broadcaster of the Year
Ryan Moreland is looking to create the next broadcasting dynasty in the CFSL, having won this award in both Seasons 17 and 18. With how the voting usually goes in this award, and how streaky it can be, he is the presumptive favorite until proven otherwise. He’s an excellent presence in the booth and always a pleasure to listen to. While Ryan Moreland the QB has retired, Ryan Moreland the broadcaster still has plenty of seasons left to keep the awards coming in.
Nathan Murphy is both a broadcast partner and friend to Ryan. He’s also got two Broadcaster of the Year awards in his pocket (splitting the vote with Cole Mantell Seasons 14 and 15) but is still looking for the sole award win here. He’s got the broadcasting chops to do it. For regulars outside of Mike Peters, no active broadcaster has more broadcasts. He’s got a good chance every year for this award, and this might be the year he can break through.
David Ware is most well known for his experience in the AD chair, but he’s another veteran broadcaster and one who has been appearing much more often in the past few seasons. A strong finish to the season should get him a nomination here, and he is still looking for his first win of this award.
Illinois is our likely leader for this award which is one of the hardest to predict midseason. It’s a big reason why I didn’t include this award last season in this same article. But if I am going to predict a team that is a frontrunner right now, I will follow closely with history and go with teams with guys and gals who are likely Fan of the Year nominees as well. Illinois has multiple Fan of the Year candidates, has a great story in their recent turnaround, and heads into midseason undefeated. It’s an awesome story for the league and their locker room is one of the best. This should be an award with close voting, but Illinois is my pick for the betting favorite in mid-season.
USC is in a very similar position to Illinois in regards to this award, with the big difference being obviously that USC is a recent returnee to the CFSL while Illinois has some history now. However, a great locker room presence and an awesome recruiting class have led to success on and off the field. It is not unheard of for a new expansion team to be nominated for this award, especially for a bigger brand that comes with the excitement USC does. They’ll have to show out the last few weeks to get the nomination, but a playoff appearance will do wonders for the chances of the Trojan locker room for this award.
Texas is following a similar model to Oklahoma State’s Team Spirit wins in Seasons 15 and 16 where they were a top team with a large following in and out of the locker room. The Week 4 loss to Miami hurts in the on-field portion, but assuming there are no more large hiccups Texas is a team that will always contend with this award. If Texas can put together a big run this postseason with the locker room powering said run off the field, this team will have a great shot at winning Texas’ first Team Spirit award since Season 5.
AD of the Year
TJ Smith (Penn State) leads another crowded field for this award as the presumptive favorite midway through Season 19. He’s returned the Nittany Lions to the CFSL, and behind QB Sean Keohane the team is a contender off the bat for the tough BIG 10. Entering the midway point of the season at 3-1, the loss to Illinois is a tough one. But even if Penn State ends up 2nd in the division, the higher seed will help for the playoffs and make Smith a favorite to win this award.
Will Stephens (Illinois) has already been mentioned a bit, but I have to include him here as well. While Stephens always has fielded competitive teams at Clemson and Illinois, this is easily his best team yet. 4-0 at midseason is no easy task to accomplish. And the Fighting Illini have beaten two potential playoff opponents in Penn State and USC to do it, not to mention tough games against Cincinnati and Oregon as well. This is maybe the toughest matchup of any team right now in the league, though Florida State might have something to say on that last point. For an AD who has put seasons upon seasons of work in, this might be a long overdue crowning of a veteran AD in this league if he keeps this pace up this season.
George Yost (Miami) is in a similar situation to Stephens in Illinois. The exception is that he is in his first season taking over for a contender in Miami. Still, 4-0 at the midpoint as mentioned is extremely tough to do. Yost has continued the tradition of winning in South Florida and has his team on a roll in a murderous ACC. He still has teams like Alabama and Florida State on the schedule, but winning both will vault him near the top of contenders for this award.
Freshman of the Year
Illinois QB Noir Royal has been the star of the show as Illinois has been one of the best teams in the CFSL this season. Among freshman QBs, no one has a better QB Rating through four weeks. With 13 passing TDs and only 1 INT, he has been a force in the air in Illinois’ explosive offense. Royal is looking to be the 6th QB in a row to win this award, and the first-ever Illinois player to win this award.
Texas CB Percy King is in a two-way race right now with Elijah Pence for the best defensive freshman player in the CFSL. Both have 4 interceptions, with King having a few more tackles and flashier plays midway through the season. While it is rare for a defensive player to win this award, King and Pence both are making strong cases. King would be the first-ever Cornerback to win the award, the first defensive player to win the award since Bo Diddle in Season 10, and the first Texas player to win the award since Vito Pipino in Season 8.
Florida State CB Elijah Pence is right behind King at the time of writing for this award as well. As a freshman, he is already an on-field leader for a defense that keeps on producing elite talent. Pence and King will continue to be the storyline to watch for this award, especially if Royal falls back and there is no consensus top freshman QB. This should be the best chance for a defensive player to win this award for a while in that scenario. Pence would again be the first defensive player to win this award since Bo Diddle in Season 10. He would be the second player to win this award for Florida State after Zeus Claydon won the award last season. Pence winning would mark the first time a school has back-to-back winners of this award.
Most Outstanding Senior
Miami QB Sam Dobbins is the clear leader so far for this award among Quarterbacks. Unlike Freshman of the Year, it is much rarer for a QB to win this award. However, Dobbins has been a top QB in the league overall this season and enters the second half of the season with a 192.2 QB Rating. He’ll be in contention for Offensive Player of the Year as well. Dobbins would be the second Miami player to win this award, after Blaze Gunner in Season 9. He also is looking to be as mentioned the first QB to win this award since Leo Asiata in Season 8.
Penn State MLB Kirby Sierra is an underrated candidate for multiple awards this season. This includes Defensive Player of the Year, but he will have to remain hot and get some more tackles to push his candidacy up that far among stiff competition. Meanwhile, for this award, he is near the top of the pack among seniors in both tackles and TFLs entering midseason. An All-American last season, Sierra would represent the first major on-field award winner of any kind for Penn State here. He’d also be the first defensive player to win this award since Les McAdoo in Season 16 and the first-ever linebacker to win this award.
Notre Dame DT Brett Brazelton has a narrow lead in sacks in the CFSL, and that is what will earn him nominations if he keeps that pace up. He doesn’t have the nominations or prior name recognition of some other guys, but he has been the best player on Notre Dame’s defense so far this season. If he keeps that up, and Notre Dame can win some late-season games, you’ll see Brazelton a more than a few award nomination lists. Brazelton would be the third Notre Dame player to win this award, after Duane Sammons in Season 15 and Leo Asiata in Season 8. He’d also be the first defensive tackle to win this award since Isaac Frost in Season 14.
Most Improved Player
Oklahoma State HB Fred Thomas came into this season as a senior. Over his prior two seasons, he had a total of 326 rushing yards. This season, through four games, he has 482 rushing yards, leading the CFSL. That’s already a huge accomplishment for him and a great way to increase a draft stock before this offseason. Unfortunately, the only knock against Thomas is the rocky start for Oklahoma State as a team this season. If he can help them win a few games on the backstretch, this award is his to lose. Thomas would be the third player to win this award from Oklahoma State, joining fellow halfback Jordan Hammer from Season 15 as well as Justin Williams from Season 9.
Florida State WR Draymond Shakur III is a contender for both this award and Most Outstanding Senior, though I believe he has a better shot at this award. Shakur has broken 1000 receiving yards once in his career as a freshman but hasn’t gotten back to those numbers since. Through four weeks at Florida State, he has 574 receiving yards and 8 receiving touchdowns. He only had 689 yards and 6 touchdowns last season for reference. Shakur would be the first winner of this award since Nathan Tetonis in Season 3 and the first WR to win this award since McKade Alber in Season 17.
Alabama WR Rocko Britt spent his first three seasons in Tuscaloosa as an FS, winning an All-American as a freshman at the position. However, he never could put a truly monster season together at the position. So for his senior season, he switched over to WR. And it has been a season to behold. After four weeks, he is 4th in the CFSL with 565 receiving yards. At this rate, he’s got a great shot at becoming one of a very exclusive club of players with an All-American on both offense and defense. Britt would be the second Alabama player to win this award, joining fellow WR Terrence Jones from Season 16.
Defensive Player of the Year
Florida OLB Jaydyn Riley is your frontrunner for this award through four weeks. Both senior CBs mentioned earlier in this article will be right behind Riley, but whoever leads the CFSL in tackles at the end of each season is almost always nominated. And Riley has 49 tackles, 2nd in the CFSL halfway through Season 19. Riley joins a cast of many Gators who’ve recently been nominated or even deserving of the award. However, only former teammate Tymundus Bell has won this award, doing so in Season 17.
Georgia OLB Cristiano Valentine has one of the better stories of any player in the CFSL currently. Having spent two seasons in Pittsburgh and then dropping down a level last season for Ohio, his career high in tackles is 72, and TFLs 11 for one season. This season, he has 47 tackles and 11 TFLs in four games, with his first career interception as well. He’s an all-around type of linebacker and similar in a lot of ways to Riley. Valentine winning this award would represent the first-ever UGA major award win as well.
Miami MLB Candace Navarro has been a force for Miami in her four seasons at the school. However, she’s only been an All-American once (Season 17). This seems like her best chance to put her name in the history books. With 37 tackles, 15 TFLs, and 4 sacks already, she faces tough competition on defense this season at multiple awards and honors. But she also is the best player on maybe the best defense in the country in Miami, and that counts for something. Navarro winning would give Miami an incredible feat. They’d have three unique winners of this award in four seasons, joining Laci White in Season 18 and George Yost in Season 16. Navarro would also be the first MLB to win this award since Chris Black in Season 11.
Offensive Player of the Year
Penn State QB Sean Keohane represents probably another of the CFSL’s best stories this season. After a freshman season at Kent State where he threw well but the team went 2-6, Keohane has transformed into a monster at the expansion Penn State this season. He’ll be in contention for Most Improved Player, but for my money, Keohane has the numbers and storyline to win this award and be the favorite for it as well at midseason. If Penn State can make the playoffs in their first season, consider him an almost lock for this award too.
Illinois HB Josiah Henry is someone you could pencil in for almost half of the awards listed here, for good reason. He’s the best HB in the CFSL right now, full stop. His 9 rushing touchdowns are two more than any other player in the CFSL. Deservedly, Henry would be the first HB to win this award since Frost Carlson in Season 6. As mentioned earlier, Henry’s winning would mark the first ever major award for Illinois in their existence.
LSU Charlie Sammons is your dark horse pick for this award. Through four weeks, he has 2164 passing yards, 20 passing touchdowns, and a 75.1% completion percentage, good enough for 5th in the CFSL in QB Rating. He has been great, but not quite world-beating yet. For him to win this award, he’ll need to keep his efficiency up and help LSU win a few more games. If he can do that, he’ll be in contention for multiple awards including this one. Sammons would be the first winner of this award for LSU since Justin Morris Jr. in Season 11.
This technically counts as a major award, though obviously out of all the awards, any person on this list would be fine only having this one. Predicting a National Champion this far out seems like a folly, especially with how many lower seeds have contended in recent seasons. Florida State, Miami, Illinois, and Michigan are the undefeated teams through four weeks. So if I had to choose the favorites, those are your betting odds favorites at midseason.