Written by: TJ Inman (@TJHoosierHuddle)
We handed out a quartet of awards in Part 1 of the Hoosier Huddle Awards on Wednesday. We conclude the awards with three more today. To all the winners, congratulations! You don’t win a shiny trophy or a commemorative plaque but we’ll be happy to give you a nice pat on the back and an “atta boy” next time we see you!
Walk-On of the Year – Mitchell Paige
Mitchell Paige earned a scholarship during the 2015 spring semester and was on scholarship during the 2015 season but he began his Indiana career as a walk-on and is a clear-cut winner for this award. Paige entered the season as a guy that not many thought of as an “impact player”. However, J-Shun Harris was injured before the season began and the Hoosiers were left a little thin at slot receiver, or so we thought. Paige caught four passes for 32 yards in the first game of the season. He then caught two passes, including his first touchdown reception against Florida International and followed it up with another touchdown against Western Kentucky. His season really began to take off when he caught eight passes for a career-high 126 yards against Rutgers and he would only be below 50 yards one time during the remainder of the season. The 5’7” junior from Carmel, Indiana proved to be a very adequate punt returner and a sure-handed receiver that seemed to always get himself open. Mitchell Paige ended up with 57 catches for 684 yards (16th most in the B1G) and six touchdowns during his stellar junior season.
Paige has turned himself into a very valuable part of the Indiana offense and I’m looking forward to seeing how he fits with a new quarterback during his final season in Bloomington.
Best Game of the Season (Single-Game) – Nate Sudfeld vs. Maryland
The Indiana Hoosiers entered College Park on a six-game losing streak. They knew they needed to win their final two games (both on the road) to reach bowl eligibility and their contest against Maryland was off to a dreadful start. Jordan Howard was injured and the Hoosiers trailed 21-3 late in the first quarter. Kevin Wilson turned to his senior quarterback and his offense and told them, “we’ve got to score 100”.
While IU wouldn’t reach the century mark, they did score three touchdowns in the span of four minutes, 33 seconds to seize the lead as Nate Sudfeld threw for 385 yards and four touchdowns to lead his team to a must-have victory. The senior QB connected on TD passes to Mitchell Paige (twice), Andre Booker and Michael Cooper. In addition, he ran for the touchdown that put IU ahead 24-21. The Hoosiers exploded for a 44-7 run that was largely keyed by Nate Sudfeld and the passing game. It’s a performance that will stand out when his career is looked back upon and it’s the one we are calling the top individual performance of the season.
Grunt Work Guy – Dan Feeney
This award could easily go to the entire offensive line. In fact, I’ll go ahead and declare that the offensive line is the winner of this award and Dan Feeney is being singled out as the representative for the unit. Feeney continued his excellent career with a dominant junior season. The 6’4” Orland Park, Illinois native has allowed only one sack in his 36 career starts and he excels as a run blocker for IU’s ground attack. A chunk of the success of Tevin Coleman, Jordan Howard and Devine Redding has to go to Feeney and the offensive line. They opened up huge holes against Michigan, pounded against Iowa and protected Nate Sudfeld well all season. Feeney was rewarded by being named to the First Team All-B1G squad and to the All-American team.
One of the best offensive linemen in Indiana history is contemplating whether he will return for his senior season or declare for the NFL Draft but it is currently expected that he will return. If he does, he will likely find himself on every preseason watch list for offensive linemen and he’ll be the anchor for what should be another solid O-Line and explosive offense.