Published November 28, 2011
The Missouri Valley Football Conference released its all-league team today and I was a little surprised to see just two Penguins make the first team.
Quarterback Kurt Hess and RB Jamaine Cook were the two picks -- a no-brainer for Cook, who shared the honor with offensive player of the year Shakir Bell of Indiana State , and a pleasant surprise for Hess, who shared the award with last year's offensive player of the year, UNI's Tirrell Rennie.
I thought junior center Mark Pratt was deserving, since YSU led the league in most offensive categories and he was the team's top-rated lineman.
I also felt senior DT Andrew Johnson was worthy of first team honors but YSU's 38-34 loss to Missouri State in the season finale probably cost him a spot.
Pratt and Johnson both earned second team honors, while freshman LB Teven Williams, sophomore guard Chris Elkins and freshman WR Christian Bryan earned honorable mention.
Hard to argue with any of those choices, although I felt punter Nick Liste was also deserving of at least second team.
In case you're wondering, coaches and media members share voting duties. (Me and radio play-by-play man Bob Hannon are the two YSU voters.) Unlike the Horizon League basketball team, media members cannot vote for members of the team they cover (or coach), which makes voting for the second team a bit of a chore. (I like to think that I put thought into these votes but it honestly becomes a bit of a toss-up once you get to, say, the 10th best offensive lineman.)
The conference submits a list of nominees, complete with stats and coaching rankings (best offensive lineman, second-best offensive lineman, etc.) for us to follow. Coaches only nominate players they feel are worthy of all-league honors.
So, for instance, Wolford listed Pratt as his top offensive lineman, followed by Elkins. Cook and Bryan were the only YSU finalists at their positions (as was Hess, obviously) and YSU did not have a nominee at tight end, fullback, return specialist or kicker. Wolford listed Andrew Johnson as his top defensive lineman, followed by Daniel Stewart. Teven Williams was YSU's only linebacker nominee and there were no YSU defensive back nominees. Liste was nominated as a punter.
My first team ballot looked like this:
QB: Matt Brown, Illinois State
RB: Shakir Bell, Indiana State; Jewell Hampton, Southern Illinois
FB: Brock Lough, Indiana State
WR: Tyrone Walker, Illinois State; Jermaine Saffold, Missouri State
TE: Alex Jones, Indiana State
OL: Paul Cornick, North Dakota State; Jay Teply, Northern Iowa; Bryan Boemer, Southern Illinois; Cal McCarthy, Illinois State; Austin Richard, North Dakota State
K: Tyler Sievertsen, Northern Iowa
DL: Ben Boothby, Northern Iowa; Ben Obaseki, Indiana State; Colter Boyer, North Dakota State; Eric Brunner, Illinois State
LB: L.J. Fort, Northern Iowa; Aaron Archie, Indiana State; Chad Willson, North Dakota State; Jordan Smith, Northern Iowa
DBs: Varmah Sonie, Northern Iowa; Marcus Williams, North Dakota State; Mike McElroy, Southern Illinois; Garrett Scott, UNI
P: Jason Schlautman, South Dakota State
KR: Steve Strother, Southern Illinois
Notes: The players in bold made the first team. Everyone else (except for UNI safety Jordan Smith) earned second team. Again, I was not allowed to vote for YSU players. I didn't see Rennie (he was injured for the YSU game), which is why I gave the nod to Brown.
The all-newcomer team will be announced Tuesday and I would expect YSU to do pretty well on the 15-member team.
YSU's all-newcomer nominees were Bryan, junior guard Lamar Mady, Pratt, junior DT Aronde Stanton and freshmen LBs Travis Williams and Teven Williams.
If you missed my end-of-the-year wrap-up, you can find it here: http://www.vindy.com/news/2011/nov/27/ysu-football--the-good-the-bad-and-the-u/
One note: I accidentally left off Carson Sharbaugh in the original version. Sharbaugh is a good player who had a typically solid year. My mistake.
Since I'm looking back, here's what my preseason poll looked like:
1. UNI, 2. North Dakota State, 3. Southern Illinois, 4. South Dakota State, 5. YSU, 6. Illinois State, 7. Indiana State, 8. Western Illinois, 9. Missouri State.
The actual preseason poll came out this way:
1. UNI, 2. North Dakota State, 3. Southern Illinois, 4. South Dakota State, 5. Illinois State, 6. Indiana State, 7. Western Illinois, 8. YSU, 9. Missouri State.
And they actually finished this way:
1. North Dakota State, 2. UNI, 3. Illinois State, 4. (tie) Indiana State, South Dakota State, YSU, 7. (tie) Southern Illinois, Missouri State, 9. Western Illinois.
Finally, I've said on several occasions that the Horizon League is a bad fit for YSU and this fall only served to further that point. The Penguins continued to struggle in volleyball (they went 5-24, including 2-8 in the league) and soccer (3-10-4, including 0-5-3 in the Horizon).
The lone bright spot was cross country, where the women placed second. (The men were seventh.)
YSU doesn't have an obvious league alternative -- the MAC only fits geographically and is unrealistic anyway -- so athletic officials are hoping the WATTS will pay dividends, both in recruiting and on-field success, over the next few years.