Emerald sports desk's regular-season awards

The Emerald sports desk’s end-of-season awards.

Offensive MVP — Kenjon Barner

Is there a doubt here?  Kenjon Barner picked up right where LaMichael James left off on his way to tying a program-record 21-touchdown season. Barner rushed for 1,624 yards in the regular season in his first year as the Ducks’ every-down back, and he might have eclipsed the 2,000-yard mark had he not so often been riding the bench by the second half. His 1,624 yards place him fourth nationally behind Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey, Nevada’s Stefphon Jefferson and Michigan State’s Le’Veon Bell. In a five-week stretch early in Pac-12 play, Barner hit the century mark in each game and scored 14 touchdowns. Barner’s season was highlighted by a 321-yard, five-touchdown performance against USC in Los Angeles. Though he was shut down in the next two weeks, the senior found his stride again in the Civil War, running for nearly 200 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Barner was hounded a bit by injuries in the last few weeks of the season but didn’t miss any significant time. A Doak Walker award finalist, Barner’s name was briefly mentioned in the Heisman discussion, particularly after his ludicrous performance against the Trojans. Honorable mentions: Marcus Mariota, De’Anthony Thomas

Defensive MVP — Kiko Alonso

No, not Michael Clay. Clay may have had, by far, more total tackles than anyone else on the team, but when you narrow things down to solo tackles, while Clay had the team lead, he had just one more than Alonso. In addition to Alonso’s 54 solo tackles, which ranks in the top 10 in the conference, Clay had a team-high 12 tackles for loss for 28 yards and also equalled Ifo Ekpre-Olomu for the team lead in interceptions with four. Alonso had two 10-tackle games and had two more games with nine tackles. In a defense that forced more turnovers than any other team in the nation, Alonso forced two fumbles and recovered two more to match his four picks, which was also in the top five in the conference. Alonso was named to the second team all-conference along with fellow linebacker Clay. Honorable mentions: Michael Clay, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu

Biggest surprise — Ifo Ekpre-Olomu

He wasn’t on many people’s radars at the start of the year, but Ifo Ekpre-Olomu has been an integral part of the Ducks ball-hawking defense in just his second season in Eugene. Ekpre-Olomu was tied for the team lead in interceptions with four, including two in the Ducks shutout win against Arizona, one of which was returned for a touchdown, and led the team with six forced fumbles, which leads the nation.  His half dozen forced fumbles this year have him sixteenth on the Pac-12 career list solely based on his production this year. He also led the Ducks with 15 pass breakups—nobody else was in double digits—and was third on the team in solo tackles with 39.  He had 19 passes defended to go along with his 15 breakups, the highest mark in the Pac-12 and second overall in the nation. Honorable mentions: Avery Patterson, Tyler Johnstone

Most Improved — Brian Jacksom

John Boyett’s injury forced the entirety of the Ducks’ defensive secondary to step up and few stepped up more than Jackson. The junior more than doubled his tackling production from last year to this year and finished third on the team with 67 tackles behind Clay and Alonso. He also had two interceptions and a fumble recovery. Jackson even got into the backfield against Arizona State with his first career sack. He also had a career-high eight passes defended — eight more than he had last year — and his two forced fumbles is good enough for tenth nationally. Honorable Mentions: Josh Huff, Colt Lyerla

Brightest Future — Marcus Mariota

The quarterback competition between Marcus Mariota and Brian Bennett seems like a distant memory now, doesn’t it? It’s scary to think that Marcus Mariota is only a freshman. He’s got the speed to take off downfield as a runner, and he’s done that effectively, finding the endzone with his feet four times and rushing for over 800 yards on the season.  Mariota has three runs longer than 50 yards and his 86-yard touchdown dash against Arizona State was the Ducks’ longest play from scrimmage this season.  But Mariota, as Chip Kelly has often said, is not a running back who can throw, he’s a quarterback who can run. The freshman from Hawaii completed nearly 70 percent of his passes, including 75 percent away from Autzen Stadium, and threw 30 touchdown passes to just six interceptions on the season. He was hovering near the top of the pack in passing efficiency all year — he’s ranked fifth now — and has by far the conference’s best quarterback rating. Though he’s already being called the best quarterback to play under Kelly, Mariota is still a freshman. It’s almost hard to say exactly where Mariota will improve, but as the game continues to slow down for Mariota, his accuracy should continue to improve and his already sky-high football IQ will only be raised with more experience.  Honorable Mentions: De’Anthony Thomas, Colt Lyerla


Daily Emerald

Daily Emerald