Written by: TJ Inman (@TJHoosierHuddle)
*Writer’s Note* - I am a huge fan of IU sports, football (obviously) and basketball included. However, I am also a big fan of Butler basketball. I live about 20 minutes from the Butler campus and have been going to games for as long as I can remember. I will never forget piling into Randy Longman’s van (we called it the “party van”) with my dad, brother, Randy and our best friends (and Randy's kids...), Rory and Rudy as we headed to Hinkle, bought $5 tickets and sat right behind the basket (in the sections now known as the “Dawg Pound”) as Butler took on teams like Detroit and Wisconsin-Milwaukee. I’ve continued to watch and root for the Bulldogs and admired their program and all that it stands for.
Yesterday, after a lengthy battle with cancer, former Butler center Andrew Smith passed away. Many of us have followed his fight and been informed and perhaps inspired by the writing of his wife, Samantha Smith. Andrew was, by all accounts, an incredible person and as tough as they come. He’s gone to his eternal home in Heaven and I know the Lord has welcomed him with loving arms but I ask that you pray for those that loved him that are on still on this Earth. Samantha's blog posts have been heartbreaking but they've also been very powerful and inspirational. Her writing conveys such strength and grace in the face of crippling fear and sadness. I know she won't read this but I can honestly say that her faith in Christ and 100% trust in Him has touched me and helped to strengthen my relationship with the Lord. I can’t imagine the pain that Samantha is going through or the grief that has been set upon his parents. Thanks for indulging me by reading this addendum to the article. If you believe in the power of prayer, please pray for the Smith family, please pray for the continued research to help end the scourge that is cancer and please make sure to cherish and enjoy the time you get with your loved ones. *
On to the awards...the Alabama Crimson Tide survived a valiant challenge from the Clemson Tigers and won a classic championship game to put a bow on the 2015 college football season. Kevin Wilson has signed a contract extension that will keep him at Indiana University for at least another six seasons and the offseason is now underway. Each of the Hoosier Huddle writers have pondered and debated and we are pleased to unveil part one of the 2015 Hoosier Huddle Awards!
Offensive MVP – Nate Sudfeld
The Hoosiers senior quarterback entered the season with high expectations and a lot of pressure to help lead IU to its first bowl game since 2007. Despite an injury scare and a missed game, he was able to produce a strong season and leave his mark on the program as one of the best signal-callers in school history. Sudfeld led the conference in quarterback rating (151), passing touchdowns (27) and passing yards (3,573). Sudfeld was spectacular in the three biggest wins of the season (Western Kentucky, Maryland and Purdue) and the coaches often pointed out that his leadership skills greatly improved before his final season. He did a very good job of distributing the ball and only threw 7 interceptions during the regular season.
The offensive line deserves a ton of credit for the success of the offense and Jordan Howard was very good while he was healthy. In addition, I think Kevin Wilson, Kevin Johns and the offensive staff have done a great job developing this system. However, Nate Sudfeld made everything click.
Defensive MVP – Marcus Oliver
IU’s defense was shredded in many games and there wasn’t a ton for the unit to be proud of. However, there were some players that had very impressive seasons. Rashard Fant had some nice games. Jonathan Crawford burst onto the scene as a potential future star at safety. Nick Mangieri was able to provide good pressure on the opposing quarterback. However, the most valuable player for this defense was inside linebacker Marcus Oliver. Oliver, a redshirt sophomore from Hamilton, Ohio, was on the BTN.com honorable mention freshman team in 2013 but missed most of the 2014 season with an ACL injury. He returned in 2015 to lead the team in tackles (112, no one else had more than 76) and became a steady force in the middle of the defense. Oliver forced two fumbles in week one and two more during the rest of the season. He also had two interceptions, four pass breakups and 6.5 tackles for loss.
Oliver still has two years of eligibility and it appears he will help anchor what should be a very strong group of linebackers in 2016.
Newcomer of the Year – Jordan Howard
This was a fairly easy choice, despite the injuries that stagnated, and ultimately ended, Jordan Howard’s season. The transfer from UAB got off to a great start as the new starting tailback as he ran for 145 yards and three touchdowns against Southern Illinois and followed it up with 159 yards against Florida International and 203 yards against Western Kentucky. The nation began to notice as he led the country in rushing yards and he produced 168 yards with a touchdown at Wake Forest. Unfortunately, Jordan Howard’s season began to come unhinged against #1 Ohio State as his ankle was rolled on by Joey Bosa and he was forced to leave the game and gained only 34 yards. Howard returned in three weeks but he wasn’t 100% against Michigan State and only received 11 carries (he still gained 78 yards). Howard returned to a starring role against Iowa (174 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries) and then he demolished the stout run defense of Michigan with a memorable 35 carry, 238 yard performance in a nail-biting loss for the Hoosiers. He was hurt early in the game against Maryland and was unable to return to action.
After the season, Jordan Howard decided to forgo his final season of eligibility and entered the NFL Draft. Again, the offensive line deserves a ton of credit and Devine Redding did a terrific job while Howard was injured but Jordan Howard is our Newcomer of the Year.
Freshman of the Year – Jonathan Crawford
Crawford, a safety from Largo, Florida, came to Bloomington as a 3-star recruit that had offers from Wisconsin, Iowa, Louisville and others. We were high on him coming into the season thanks to our wise decision to listen to our recruiting expert in the Sunshine State, Lynden Ostrander. Ostrander saw him play several times in high school and he believed that Crawford had the ability to impact the Hoosiers right away. Ostrander was correct. The true freshman had eight tackles and a blocked kick against Southern Illinois and then six tackles against Florida International. He had a pair of interceptions against Western Kentucky, one of the best offenses in the nation, that helped swing the game in IU’s favor. Crawford ended up second on the team in tackles (76) and first in interceptions (4). There were moments where his youth and inexperience were exposed but, for the most part, this was a highly-encouraging debut season for Crawford and the future is very bright for this safety.