PHILADELPHIA — The Sports Network announced its initial Watch List today for the 2012 Rice Award (Football Champion Subdivision’s Freshman of the Year), and The University of Montana’s Trent McKinney was named as a candidate for that prestigious recognition.
Sixteen players are on the list: six quarterbacks, three running backs, one wide receiver, one all-purpose player, four linebackers and one strong safety.
A 6-foot, 205-pound redshirt freshman from Mililani, Hawaii, McKinney is 94-of-137-7 (68.1%) in passing for 941 yards and 6 touchdowns this season. He is UM’s second-leading rusher with 55 carries for 294 yards and 4 scores.
“It is a much deserved recognition for Trent,” said UM head coach Mick Delaney. “He has put in a tremendous amount of work, and his production has been outstanding. He’s spending a lot of time with Coach Rosenbach, and Timm is doing a great job with Trent and bringing him along at a pace of what he (McKinney) does have he’s not going to lose, and what he gains as he goes down the road here will just add to his knowledge and understanding of his role as our quarterback.”
McKinney is currently ranked 31st in the FCS in total offense, averaging 245.2 yards a game. He is 48th in passing efficiency (129.26).
“Trent’s deserving of this recognition, and he’s been working hard in trying to become a better quarterback and better player,” said Griz offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Timm Rosenbach. “As long as he continues to do the things in the classroom that he does so well, and work hard in football too, he’s going to continue to get better.
“He has very good tools, and now we just need to let him grow up in the system and keep him operating within the system, and doing what we do, and I think that’ll a great thing for him and us down the road,” Rosenbach said.
A year ago, it took Towson football coach Rob Ambrose one game before he lifted running back Terrance West’s redshirt. Was he ever glad he did, as West went on to score an FCS-high 29 touchdowns when the Tigers captured the CAA Football title and finished 9-3. West won the inaugural Jerry Rice Award, which honors the FCS’s national freshman of the year.
The Rice Award, named for the legendary wide receiver who played in the FCS (then Division I-AA) at Mississippi Valley State, will be voted on by a national panel of sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries following the regular season. The list will grow to 20 finalists by then.
Earlier today (Wednesday, Oct. 3), Montana junior linebacker Jordan Tripp was named as one of three players who was added to The Sports Network’s 2012 Buck Buchanan Award Watch List (FCS “Defensive Player of the Year”). Joining Tripp on the list were linebacker Robert McCabe of Georgetown and safety Cooper Taylor of Richmond.
“Those two things are outstanding news today, in spite of where we are at the last two weekends (two UM losses),” Delaney said. “Those are two things that make everybody happy. I am real happy for Trent and Jordie. Any time that you get nominated for awards like that it’s because of what the team is doing.
“Obviously we’ve lost three games, but we’ve been on national television three times so far this season, and that’s a good thing,” Delaney said. “Any time you can expose your program to the entire country and play well, although obviously we would have liked to have won all three of those games, but it’s important from a recruiting standpoint to get that kind of publicity. It’s just a great tribute to both of those players and that makes us all excited.”
Also named to the Jerry Rice Award Watch List:
Vernon Adams, Eastern Washington, Quarterback, 6-0, 180.
Zak Browning, Southern Utah, Linebacker, 5-11, 215.
Reese Hannon, Furman, Quarterback, 6-2, 201.
Ryan Heaston, Missouri State, Running Back, 5-10, 174.
Telvin Hooks, Tennessee State, Running Back, 5-10, 190.
Jacob Huesman, UT-Chattanooga, Quarterback, 6-1, 190.
Miles Killebrew, Southern Utah, Strong Safety, 6-3, 201.
Sawyer Kollmorgen, Northern Iowa, Quarterback, 6-2, 215.
T.J. Lally, South Dakota State, Linebacker, 6-0, 225.
Sean Price, Appalachian State, Wide Receiver, 6-5, 210.
J.J. Raffelson, Western Illinois, Linebacker, 6-3, 235.
Brendon Riddick, Norfolk State, Running Back, 5-11.
John Robertson, Villanova, Quarterback, 6-1, 200.
Luke Rhodes, William & Mary, Linebacker, 6-2, 230.
Andre Stubbs, Youngstown State, All-Purpose, 5-6, 160.
The Sports Network also presents the Walter Payton, Jerry Rice and Eddie Robinson awards. The Payton Award honors the outstanding player in the FCS, the Rice Award goes to the FCS freshman of the year and the Robinson Award honors the FCS coach of the year. All four awards will be presented on Dec. 17 at the FCS Awards Banquet and Presentation in Philadelphia.
— UM Sports Information