By: Cole Mantell (@lightningdragon)
At midseason, now is a good time to look back on the first half and see which players are off to a hot start. Each conference has its standouts, and many of the names you’ll see in this four-article series will be contenders for the end-of-year awards. As for the method of the madness, the format for these midseason awards is as follows.
First, we use the same All-American set that is used for the real awards at the end of the season. That is shown below:
Second, except for the returner position, each player will be only eligible for one category. And thirdly, because I want to highlight every team, I am challenging myself to have at least one player from each team for these awards. Remember, the end-of-season All-Americans are for the entire CFSL, not by conference. So the point of this exercise isn’t to declare anything with only half the season over. It’s to highlight who has been playing well and who might be considered once the season is over and voting begins. Each position group will be highlighted in each article as well.
After taking a look at the ACC, we now move to the BIG 10. The conference is similar to the ACC with two undefeated teams at midseason. However, while the ACC has seen much more passing, there is a lot more balance in the BIG 10, at least so far. Let’s take a look and see which players are making an impact so far in the conference.
Sean Keohane – Penn State
This one is pretty cut and dry, with apologies to Noir Royal. While Royal and Keohane have similar amounts of pass attempts, Keohane is better in all major stats except for interceptions and sacks taken. While Royal having only one interception so far is impressive, Keohane’s 4 more passing touchdowns and 5% better completion percentage give him the slight edge. Still, both QBs are playing awesome, and both are contenders for major awards at the end of the season if they stay on track.
Others Considered – Noir Royal, Greg Cooksey
Josiah Henry – Illinois
RaQ Rhodes – Michigan
While Henry once again leads the way, the competition is much closer this season in the BIG 10. RaQ Rhodes is only 50 yards behind him and just two rushing touchdowns behind as well. Chase McDougal is even closer in rushing yards but just misses this list due to only having 2 rushing TDs right now. The BIG 10 argues that it might be the most balanced rushing conference in the CFSL this season.
Others Considered – Chase McDougal
Jessica Stephens – Illinois
Jamarcus Simpson III – USC
Gavin Lussier – Oregon
Blake Xander Martel – Michigan
Just because the BIG 10 can run, doesn’t mean it can’t pass as well. The question for this group was where to draw the line on how important pure receiving yards were compared to receiving touchdowns. Stephens, Simpson, and Lussier all made this list via receiving yards. Blake Xander Martel gets in because he is tied for the league lead in receiving touchdowns right now. A bunch more guys are right behind these four. This might be the BIG 10’s most talented position group right now.
Others Considered – Isaac Blevins, Emanuel Anoai, Roger Blackwell, Lincoln Martin, Kyle Claxon Demelo Washington
Deebo Thomas – Washington
This is a two-way race between Thomas and Illinois TE Thomas Banks. Both have nearly identical stats, down to being with 25 receiving yards of each other and 1 reception. Thomas inches ahead here, but keep an eye on this race as the season finishes. Hunter Scheuren also looms in the background as well.
Others Considered – Thomas Banks, Hunter Scheuren, Laphonso Wick, Cassian Eichenberg
Caylee Alaina – Penn State
Brayden Freeman – Michigan
Autrie Fendall – Oregon
Tyleek Tyree – Penn State
Alaina and Tyree headline this list for Penn State. An underrated part of their hot start has been contributions from their defense, especially those two. Freeman for Michigan is right behind Alaina in TFLs while Autrie Fendall has been the star of the Oregon defensive line in the first half. Those four round out a well-balanced group in terms of skill and style of play. There were multiple guys right behind these four as well, and they may be able to jump into the conversation as the season finishes.
Others Considered – Jacob Hammer, Perry Harrison, Lane Thomas
Kirby Sierra – Penn State
Gaff Hudson – Oregon
Colt Lawrence – USC
Seth Berlin – Ohio State
This list starts with Kirby Sierra. Sierra once again is one of the best tacklers in the country and has been a star throughout his career, now finishing at Penn State. Behind him is an open competition for 2nd. Hudson and Lawrence are 2nd and 3rd, respectively, when it comes to tackles in the Big 10 for LBs. Seth Berlin, with his two interceptions, is right now the best pass-defense linebacker in the Big 10, giving him the first nod for Ohio State on this list.
Others Considered – Zeus Banks, Axel Holgerson, Joe Mac
Billy Jude – Ohio State
Daemon Ike – Michigan
Mekhi Vazquez – Penn State
A cornerback is known for their interceptions. For Billy Jude, much like Kirby Sierra for the linebackers, he certainly got the message. Tied for 1st in the CFSL right now with 4 interceptions, Jude is the king of the BIG 10 CBs, for now at least. There was a logjam behind him with two interceptions, but Ike and Vazquez make the list with their great play off the ball as well as with it here.
Others Considered – Adrian Sampson, Jordan Holt, Bill Bass, Garrett Pemberton
Drew Caleb – Oregon
Cam Thomas – Washington
Bryce Strawn – Michigan
Drew Caleb has been a tackling machine for Oregon. While in theory, you don’t want your safety getting the most tackles, Caleb has been all over the field for the Ducks. Whether at the line, blitzing, or even in coverage, Caleb is a star in the making for Oregon. Cam Thomas for the rival Huskies also has been strong for their defense one state over. Bryce Strawn is a veteran of the CFSL now and has a track record of excellence including this season in the backfield for the Wolverines.
Others Considered – Benny Trill, Mark McNally, Payson Parker
Daemon Ike – Michigan
In the ACC, it was a safety who got nominated for two All-Conference nominations. In the BIG 10, it’s a cornerback. Daemon Ike has always been a great CB. But this season, his special teams work has taken him to another level. He leads the CFSL with 788 kick return yards at the end of Week 4. He also has 199 punt return yards to boot. Not to mention he also has a kick return touchdown to his name already as well. Ike was an All-American CB in Season 16. If he keeps this up, he’ll likely get two more of those awards in his senior season for the Wolverines.
Others Considered – Aloysius Jefferies, Elliott Manning, Christopher Gentry