Handing Out Awards To The 2013 Penn State Football Team
It was an up and down season that included low points such as the blowout road loss in Columbus and high points like upset victories over ranked opponents in Michigan and Wisconsin. In the end, the Nittany Lions finished 7-5 and posted another winning record under Bill O’Brien’s leadership in the sanction era. Let’s take a look back at the season and hand out five awards to some of the more outstanding players on the team in 2013 (including several to players that will be back next year).
Most Valuable Player — Allen Robinson
His touchdown total went down, but everything else went up for the third-year receiver as he was by far and away Penn State’s most reliable player on the field week after week. Robinson hauled in 97 receptions on the season, surpassing 100 receiving yards in eight games and catching a pass of 40 or mare yards in eight as well.
With a freshman quarterback leading the offense, he provided a trustworthy target for Christian Hackenberg, as the young gunslinger would often throw up jump balls that the 6’3″ Robinson had no problem corralling. His most memorable moment of the season came late in the fourth quarter against Michigan, as that exact scenario happened and a Robinson catch put the Nittany Lions in position for an easy score to force overtime in what will certainly go down as a classic.
As for the “most valuable” label, there is little doubt that this team would not have finished with a winning record without Allen Robinson on the roster. He accounted for almost half of Hackenberg’s completions and was a focal of the offense. Robinson is by far the most talented player on the team in terms of athletic ability. With a significant drop-off in the talent level of Penn State’s receivers after Robinson, it would be difficult to imagine the team winning seven games without him. Indeed, Robinson might be the best thing Rob Bolden ever did for Penn State. Here’s hoping, for Penn State’s sake, that he stays for his senior season (Robinson has said that he will discuss his potential NFL plans with his family in the coming weeks).
Offensive Player of the Year — Allen Robinson
Scroll up, read the three paragraphs above again, watch the video below, and then continue on to the remainder of the awards.
Defensive Player of the Year — DaQuan Jones
I had a hard time coming up with a player for this award — it’s probably the only category that doesn’t have a consensus — mainly because there was not a single standout defensive player on the entire team. There was no Michael Mauti, Jordan Hill, or Gerald Hodges like last year, just a collection of durable position players. Mike Hull and Glenn Carson were serviceable but unspectacular at linebacker. Jordan Lucas was great at cornerback… in the second half of the season. C.J. Olaniyan was the team’s best pass-rusher and one of the better performers on the defensive live, registering 5 sacks and 49 tackles.
And then there’s DaQuan Jones, the senior defensive tackle out of Johnson City, NY who anchored the line. Jones wasn’t a monster playmaker. But the fact of the matter is that Jones could be trusted to stop the run and get into the backfield on a weekly basis.
Jones had three sacks, good for third on the team, and led the defense with 11.5 tackles for a loss, dominating opposing linemen and downing running backs behind the line of scrimmage often. He finished fifth on the team with 56 tackles.
Freshman of the Year — Christian Hackenberg
This one was, of course, a no-brainer. As a true freshmen, Hackenberg had one of the best seasons that a quarterback has ever had in Penn State history. His numbers on the season don’t say it all, but they do say plenty. Hackenberg finished his freshman campaign with 2,955 yards, 20 touchdowns, and 231 completions. He led the Nittany Lions to two overtime wins and was 38th in the nation in passing yards, averaging 259.2 a game.
Hackenberg’s best game of the season came in the last game of the season as he threw for four touchdowns against the No. 15 Wisconsin Badgers to ruin any chance of the conference rivals playing in a BCS bowl game. Just as was the case with Robinson, Hackenberg’s most memorable moment of the season was the long completion against Michigan that made the SportsCenter Top 10. Not only was he the team’s best freshman, but Hackenberg is also an easy runner-up for both Most Valuable Player and Offensive Player of the Year.
Breakout Player of the Year — Jordan Lucas
In the early going of the season, Lucas looked to be one of the weakest if the not the single weakest player on the Penn State defense. Along with fellow young cornerback Trevor Williams, he was routinely getting burned by opposing receivers and blowing coverage in zone schemes. It seemed as though the game was just moving for Lucas and he was struggling to keep up with the pace of the college game.
By the midpoint of the season, Lucas had turned a new leaf. “Jordan Lucas is one of the better football players on our team,” Bill O’Brien said back then. “He brings a competitive toughness to our football team that I really like.”
Lucas studied under Stephon Morris and it shows as he has transformed into a confident cornerback. Other players on the team say that Lucas is one of the vocal leaders on defense, rare from such a young player. He finished the season with a team-leading three interceptions and a team-leading 13 pass breakups. Lucas was third on the defense with 65 tackles. He went from being a weakness to one of the defense’s largest strengths over the course of the season, and for that Lucas earns the final award.