With the college football season coming to a close, we here at Mountain West Connection (AKA just me) decided to form a Committee of One (also me) to develop an end-of-season awards list.
One thing to keep in mind: many players were very carefully considered for each of these awards. The Committee’s picks are definitely not the thoughts and opinions of a 19-year-old college student and should be treated as such.
Let’s get into it.
Comeback Player of the Year: Josh Allen – Wyoming, QB
This is a no-brainer.
Wyoming, as we’ve chronicled, was very not-good last year, and a lot of that was in part to a non-dynamic or game-changing quarterback. The Cowboys were forced to lean heavily on Brian Hill, making them pretty one-dimensional and predictable.
He added a ton of value to the team at the quarterback position. Since 2013 (Brett Smith’s last season), Cowboys quarterbacks have averaged 2,305 yards, 15 touchdowns, and almost ten interceptions.
Allen threw 209-373 for 3,203 yards, 28 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. To say he provided a breath of fresh air would be an understatement.
Allen led his Wyoming team to the Mountain West Championship, the first time the Cowboys were in a conference championship game since 1996. He also led them to the Poinsettia Bowl, the Pokes first bowl since 2011.
Offensive Player of the Year: Jeremy McNichols – Boise State, RB
There might be some people expecting to see Donnel Pumphrey here. Don’t you worry your little heads. Pumphrey was pretty good, but McNichols was as well. The Committee has decided to award it to McNichols.
Boise State fielded a very good team this year. McNichols was a large part of that success. He lived up to his nickname of The Weapon by being the Broncos’ most versatile offense player.
McNichols rushed for 1,709 and 23 touchdowns. He also caught 37 passes for 474 yards and another four touchdowns. His 27 rushing and receiving touchdowns are the most in the Mountain West and second in the nation behind only Anthony Wales from Western Kentucky.
McNichols was such an offensive threat that he, a running back, was BSU’s third leading receiver. He was also responsible for 13 points per game. For reference, Connecticut averaged 14.8 points per game. McNichols, by himself, nearly accounted for as many points per game as an entire team.
Defensive Player of the Year: Damontae Kazee, San Diego State DB
This one was hard. There were two very good defensive players in the Mountain West: Weston Steelhammer and Kazee. The Committee felt that both of their accomplishments were worthy of recognition. Normally, a tie goes to whoever has the best name, and even that’s a toss-up.
However, the Committee felt that Kazee’s performance in the Mountain West Championship Game pushed his case over the top, so we’re giving him the nod.
Kazee finished the year with seven interceptions, tied for most in the Mountain West with Steelhammer and third in the country with Colorado’s Tedric Thompson and Ohio State’s Malik Hooker. He returned those seven picks for 154 yards, an average of 22.3 yards.
Kazee also added 63 tackles to his resume in 2016.
My Dude Award: Cooper Rothe – Wyoming, K
I’m borrowing (stealing) this award from fellow MWCConnection writer Connor Farrell. Sorry, Connor (I’m not sorry).
This award was originally developed for MLB prospects. It was designed for the guys who weren’t top-10 or even top-30 in the farm system.
In Connor’s words, “the My Dude award is for the guy you don’t think anyone is talking about yet but you believe in. It’s subjective; it can be based off gut feeling and it doesn’t require much justification. My Dudes, more than anyone other awards, are the people’s own…My Dude nominees are for risks. You’re taking a chance on a guy who maybe nobody else is and saying, ‘This guy, this guy right here ... he’s my dude.’ Take a chance on your dude. Don’t play it safe and worry about what people will think, just pick your dude.”
I’m slightly altering this for football purposes. The My Dude will go to guys who contributed behind the shadows of a good team, a great guy on a bad team, or a guy who showed a lot of promise for the future.
With that in mind, the My Dude goes to Cooper Rothe, Wyoming’s freshman kicker.
“What?” you might be saying. “You’re giving this to a freshman kicker??”
“Yes,” I answer confidently. “Cooper Rothe is my dude.”
In 2015, Wyoming kickers were atrocious. There were five kickers on the roster, but I could only find stats on one of them: Tristan Bailey. Bailey made two field goals out of eight attempts. He made 28 of 31 extra point attempts.
Rothe, on the other hand, has been a godsend for the Cowboys. He’s made 13 of his 20 field goal attempts. On paper, that doesn’t sound good; but even a competent kicker can give a coach the chance to go for that fourth down on the 30 yard line.
He’s also been automatic with extra points, nailing all 64 of his attempts, which are the most in the Mountain West and eleventh in the nation. Only one other kicker, Tulsa’s Redford Jones, has attempted as many extra points as Cooper while making all of them.
Rothe’s just a freshman, but he’s only going to get better and better.
Most Valuable Player: Donnel Pumphrey – San Diego State, RB
There he is.
Pumphrey sent himself out in style in 2016. Not only did he break Ron Dayne’s FBS rushing record, but he was also one of two backs to rush for more than 2,000 yards this year (D’Onta Foreman was the other).
Now, you can argue that his stats have been padded a bit by virtue of playing in the weaker West Division, but you can’t deny that he was a force to be reckoned with.
Pumphrey averaged 152.4 yards per game, the best in the Mountain West and second in the country behind Foreman.
2016 was the Year of the Running Back with McNichols, Pumphrey, and Brian Hill leading the way, but Pumphrey was the best of all of them.
As such, Donnel Pumphrey is the Committee’s MVP.
Inevitably, there’ll be some discussion about the Committee’s picks. Let us (me) know which ones you agree or disagree with the most! Let us (me) know who Your Dude is. There are no wrong answers when it comes to Your Dude, and we’d love to hear them.
See you next time.