Thursday, October 1, 2009

Pitta's March toward the Mackey Award

Prior to the season, several Cougars were named to national award watch lists. A quick start to the season focused that lens on Max Hall in particular, who came in a consensus third, fourth, or fifth in Heisman forecasts by national pundits through the second week of the season. However now that we are entering week 5, it seems that Dennis Pitta has the only legitimate shot at a national award this year, but with his two primary competitors out for the season (Arizona’s Rob Gronkowski and Oklahoma’s Jermaine Gresham) he may very well be the frontrunner for the John Mackey Award given to the “best collegiate tight end” each year by the Nassau County Sports Commission. It is still very early, but here is how the competition breaks out so far, and the players to keep your eye on:

These are upperclassmen playing on winning teams that were nominated to the preseason watch list and are in the top 10 in receiving yards per game.

Player, Class, School              G   Rec   Yds  TD   rec/g  yds/rec  yds/g
Dennis Pitta, Sr, BYU             4    21    256    1     5.25   12.2       64.0
Jamie McCoy, Sr, Tx A&M      3    13    169    0     4.33   13.0      56.3
Ed Dickson, Sr, Oregon          4    15    206    3     3.75   13.7      51.5
Cody Slate, Sr, Marshall         4    17    201    2     4.25   11.8      50.3
Garrett Graham, Sr, Wis        4    16    200    4     4.00    12.5     50.0

Dennis Pitta leads the nation in tight end receptions, while Garrett Graham leads in touchdowns by a tight end. Dennis Pitta and Cody Slate were were consensus top 5 tight ends in preseason fantasy football rankings (along with Gresham, Gronkowski, and Arkansas’ DJ Williams), with Garret Graham usually showing up in the top 10. Cody Slate and Ed Dickson were named 2009 Mackey Player of the Week for week 1 and week 4 respectively. Dennis Pitta was twice named Mackey Player of the Week in 2008.

These are nominees on the preseason watch list that are either playing on teams with losing records or are underclassmen, as well as un-nominated players that are in the top 10 in yards per game or receptions.

Player, Class, School          G    Rec Yds  TD rec/g   yds/rec  yds/g
Erik Highsmith, Fr, N Car   3    16   279   2    5.33   17.4      93.0
Jason Harmon, Sr, Fl Atl     3    16   197   0    5.33   12.3      65.7
Riar Geer, Sr, Colorado      4    21   232   1    5.25   11.0      58.0
Kyle Rudolph, So, ND          4    17   214   2    4.25   12.6      53.5
Aaron Hernandez, Jr, Fla    4    15   198   2    3.75   13.2      49.5

Erik Highsmith is only a freshman and is the backup to the injured Zack Pianalto (Jr, North Carolina, who was named the Mackey Player of the Week in week two) and leads the nation in receiving yards by a tight end, yards/reception, and yards per game, all while only playing in three games. Jason Harmon was not nominated in the preseason but is second in the country in yards per game. Riar Greer is tied with Dennis Pitta for most receptions, but plays on team with a losing record. Kyle Rudolph was nominated preseason, and named Mackey Player of the Week in week three, but is only a sophomore. Aaron Henandez was also nominated preseason, but is just outside the top 10 in receiving yard per game at number 11.

These are players that were nominated to the preseason watch list and are ranked in the top 25 in receiving yards per game.

Player, Class, School               Rec  Yds   TD   rec/g   yds/rec  yds/g
Tony Moeaki, Sr, Iowa          2    11     87     1    5.50      7.9      43.5
Anthony McCoy, Sr, USC       4     7     160     0    1.75     22.9     40.0
Weslye Saunders, Jr, S Car   4    14    156     0    3.50     11.1     39.0
Dorin Dickerson, Sr, Pitt       4    17    155     4    4.25      9.1      38.8
Jeffery Anderson, Jr, UAB     5    12    179     3    2.40    14.9      35.8

Because they already have somewhat of a spotlight on them by virtue of being named in the pre-season, with a couple of big games and/or special seasons for their respective teams, these players could move into contender status.

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