Time for some Gator Season Awards

A 13-game season that saw one game after another go down to the wire made for some incredible moments and some incredible performances. Ten of 13 games were still in doubt with five minutes to play, yet in every situation but one, this group of Gators made the play(s) necessary to pull out the victory. Choosing individual awards is never all that easy, but it’s always fun and entertaining.

At least I hope it is! I am picking one guy and the runner up in a number of categories.

Offensive MVP —– Steve Rissler was the one guy the Gators needed week in and week out and he never disappointed. The lone senior on the offensive line is also the only guy who can reliably snap the shotgun. Rissler played hard, played hurt and brought his young line mates along to give the Gators relatively consistent play in the trenches. (Chris Leak)

Defensive MVP —– Brandon Siler was the most irreplaceable Gator when the season began and it showed through the season. The junior had a solid season and was the heart and soul of a tremendous unit that consistently rose to the occasion. His 12-tackle performance against Arkansas (I had him for about 15 tackles) was one of the best MLB performances the Gators have ever had in such a clutch situation. (Reggie Nelson)

Offensive player of the year —– Dallas Baker gets my vote, but it was an awfully close one. Florida seemed to have different guys make key plays one week after the other, but Baker never had a bad day. His 56 receptions, 897 yards and nine touchdowns were all team highs, but he gets the nod for the two crucial TD catches against Tennessee during the Gators’ comeback. To return to the scene of his biggest mistake and make the game-winning plays is really something special. (Chris Leak)

Defensive player of the year —– Reggie Nelson was Florida’s best player this season, period. Nelson not only registered 50 tackles, he had six interceptions, broke up five other passes and also blocked two kicks. He should have won the Thorpe Award, but he’ll have to settle for being a first round draft pick. It was quite an ordeal for two coaching staffs to get Nelson into a Gator uniform, but he is one over-hyped prospect who actually outperformed expectations. (Earl Everett)

Special teams’ player of the year —– Brandon James is a mighty mite form St. Augustine who has injected life into the Florida return game. James averaged 11.6 yards on punt returns despite having two touchdowns and two other long returns negated by penalties. He finally got one to count against Western Carolina, the first (official) punt return for a TD since Lito Sheppard brought two back in 2000. (James Smith)

Offensive rookie of the year —– He may not be Florida’s Reggie Bush, but Percy Harvin is the most electric performer the Gators have suited up in my memory. He’s the Gators third leading runner with 406 yards in just 36 carries (11.3 per). He is also fifth among Florida receivers with 25 catches for another 367 yards. The guy is scary good. (Tim Tebow)

Defensive rookie of the year —– It seemed like a good thing when Ryan Smith transferred in from Utah, but the addition of the junior corner turned out to be a life saver for the Gator defense. Smith, who was a freshman All-American in ’04 but lost his job to a new coaching staff and philosophy last year showed excellent cover skills and ball instincts. His eight interceptions lead the Gators and the SEC and is one shy of tying Keiwan Ratliff’s school record. (Dustin Doe)

Most improved offensive player —– Cornelius Ingram played in just two games last year but down the stretch was a crucial part of the Gator offense. He caught 16 passes in the final four games including a team high six against Arkansas. He’s gone from impressive physical specimen to big time threat in just the last month. (Carlton Medder)

Most improved defensive player —– Tony Joiner had a tough job, stepping in for Jarvis Herring at strong safety. I’d say he did okay. Joiner was a reliable tackler and a durable consistent presence week in and week out. He also had a terrific game against the best team on the Florida schedule, LSU with five tackles (two for losses) and an interception. (Derrick Harvey— toughest choice on the board for me)

Future star on offense —– Jared Fayson has shown me enough to be convinced he will have a major impact on the Florida offense in 2007. He has a great combination of size, speed and escapability.

Future star on defense —– Brandon Spikes is already full grown and in limited playing time always seemed to be around the ball. One way or the other he’ll be in the lineup next fall.

The future star category by design did not consider any player already singled out.

Don’t agree? Let’s hear it!