Clemson Football: Numerous Tigers Getting Recognition for National Awards
With their current 8-0 record and No. 5 ranking in the BCS, the 2011 Clemson Tigers have plenty to be excited about. Not only are they undefeated after eight games for the first time since 2000, they are in prime position to advance to the ACC Championship Game for the second time in three years if they can continue their winning ways.
You always hear the clichés about how team success is much more important that individual accolades. While this is certainly true, individual awards have a tendency to boost team accomplishments.
This maxim holds true with this year's Tigers in much the same way.
Never in my nearly two decades of following the Clemson Tigers football team have I witnessed a team garnering this level of attention for their individual accomplishments. Throughout the first eight weeks of the season, as many as three coaches and seven players have received national recognition for their performance.
It all starts with the coaching staff.
Head coach Dabo Swinney went from being much maligned with questionable job security to a front-runner for National Coach of the Year by numerous services including the Bear Bryant National Coach of Year Award, Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Award and numerous others.
Swinney's assistant coaches have also received national distinctions.
First-year offensive coordinator Chad Morris was honored as the nation's top coordinator by Rivals.com after the Tigers beat Florida State in Week 4, while also being considered the top offensive coordinator in the nation for the past three weeks according to Rivals.com.
Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele also got in on the action when Rivals.com named him National Coordinator of the Week following Clemson's 23-3 drubbing of Virginia Tech on the road at Lane Stadium. Rivals also considers him among the top 20 defensive coaches in the nation, despite returning only five starters from last year's defensive unit.
As far as the on-field talent goes, first year starting quarterback Tajh Boyd has been a critical component to the success of the Clemson offense this season. As a result of his stellar play, he is currently ranked as the seventh-best quarterback in the nation by Rivals.
Additionally, Boyd was named the Manning Award National Quarterback of the Week as the nation's top quarterback an incredible four times this season. He's also on the watch list for the Manning Player of the Year Award and a semifinalist for the Davey O'Brien Award for the nation's top quarterback.
Further enhancing his résumé is the amount of Heisman hype he has been receiving in recent weeks.
Boyd ranks fourth in this week's ESPN Heisman poll, second by The Sporting News, sixth according to HeismanPundit.com and can typically be found at least in the top ten by other national media services.
Yet another highly regarded cog in the powerful Clemson offense is junior tight end Dwayne Allen.
In addition to being considered the nation's top tight end by CBS Sports and Rivals, Allen was named the John Mackey tight end of the week after his performance in Clemson's 38-24 victory over Auburn. He is currently on the watch list for the annual John Mackey Award and was also named to the mid-season All-America team by both ESPN and CBS Sports.
If these players weren't impressive enough, super freshman Sammy Watkins has received a plethora of national recognition as well.
He has been named mid-season freshman of the year by Heisman Pundit, national freshman of the week by Rivals.com three times and Rivals.com national player of the week after his record-breaking performance against Maryland.
He's also been honored as the second team kick returner on the Sports Illustrated mid-season All America team. He is currently considered by Rivals.com to be the third-best wide receiver in the nation, despite being only a true freshman.
Switching over to the defensive side of the ball, defensive lineman Andre Branch, Kourtnei Brown and Brandon Thompson have also gotten their fair share of national attention.
Nose guard Brandon Thompson was also honored as a mid-season All-American by CBS Sports and Phil Steele. ESPN NFL draft guru Todd McShay currently has Thompson tabbed as the 13th-best NFL prospect in the nation at any position.
Reserve defensive end Kourtnei Brown was recently named National Defensive Player of the Week by the Football Writers Association, Walter Camp Foundation and the College Football Performance Awards. The College Football Performance Awards also named him National Defensive Lineman of the Week.
Even the Tigers' kickers have managed to get in on the action.
Clemson punter Dawson Zimmerman has been nominated as one of the 10 semifinalists for the Lowe's Senior Class Award.
I'm sure we would all agree that team success comes first and foremost, but it sure is nice to see all of these individual players and coaches being recognized at the national level.
As long as these coaches continue to prepare the players and coach to the best of their abilities, and the players continue to perform at the level they have over the past eight weeks, this really could turn out to be the magical season we're all wanting.
Next stop, Georgia Tech. Go get 'em boys!
We'll either be screaming for you in downtown Atlanta at Bobby Dodd Stadium or for those that can't make the trip, they'll be screaming at their televisions.
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