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Ninth Annual Herbie Awards

Herbstreit
Herbstreit /

By Kirk Herbstreit

ESPN.com

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With the season’s kickoff just days away, it’s time to step back and celebrate the players, coaches, color and pageantry of college football. Who are the players to know? Where are the places to be? The ninth annual Herbie Awards presentation answers those questions and more.This list tackles the top playmakers, the defensive difference-makers, the fresh faces on the scene, the student sections that roar and everything else that’s great about college football. Herbies are given to the best college football players, coaches, teams and fans across the nation. Also, this is just my list. These are my choices, and not everyone will agree. That’s the beauty of it. Let the second-guessing begin.So, without further ado, here are the ninth annual Herbie Awards:

BORN TO RUN: BEST RUNNING BACKS


Jahvid Best has his eyes on a Herbie Award.

(Photo by Daniel R. Harris/Icon SMI)

1. Jahvid Best, California
2. Jonathan Dwyer, Georgia Tech
3. DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma
4. Jacquizz Rodgers, Oregon State
5. C.J. Spiller, Clemson
6. Kendall Hunter, Oklahoma State

OFF AND RUNNING: READY TO TAKE IT TO THE NEXT LEVEL

1. Toby Gerhart, Stanford
2. Dexter McCluster, Ole Miss
3. Damion Fletcher, Southern Miss
4. LeGarrette Blount, Oregon
5. Michael Smith, Arkansas
6. Nic Grigsby, Arizona

Toby Gerhart will have Cardinal foes seeing red.

(Photo by Daniel R. Harris/Icon SMI)

CATCH A RISING STAR: TOP WIDE RECEIVERS


Defenses will handle Dez Bryant with care in 2009.

(Photo by Scott Wachter/Icon SMI)

1. Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State
2. Julio Jones, Alabama
3. A.J. Green, Georgia
4. Damian Williams, USC
5. Arrelious Benn, Illinois
6. Jordan Shipley, Texas
7. Golden Tate, Notre Dame
8. Mardy Gilyard, Cincinnati

THE HOGMOLLIES: BEST IN THE TRENCHES

C – Kristofer O’Dowd, USC
G – Sergio Render, Virginia Tech
G – Rodney Hudson, Florida State
T – Ciron Black, LSU
T – Russell Okung, Oklahoma State

USC’s Kristofer O’Dowd is the center of attention.

(Photo by Jeff Golden/Getty Images)

END GAME: TOP TIGHT ENDS


Catching Jermaine Gresham won’t be easy in ’09.

(Photo by Todd Kirkland/Icon SMI)

1. Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma
2. Aaron Hernandez, Florida
3. Kyle Rudolph, Notre Dame
4. Rob Gronkowski, Arizona
5. Ed Dickson, Oregon
6. Dennis Pitta, BYU
7. D.J. Williams, Arkansas

QUARTERBACKS: POCKET PRESENCE

1. Sam Bradford, Oklahoma
2. Jevan Snead, Ole Miss
3. Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame
4. Max Hall, BYU
5. Ryan Mallett, Arkansas
6. Colin Kaepernick, Nevada
7. Tim Hiller, Western Michigan

Will Sam Bradford make another Heisman connection?

(Photo by Todd Kirkland/Icon SMI)

QUARTERBACKS: DUAL THREAT


Tim Tebow’s focused on another title run.

(Photo by Todd Kirkland/Icon SMI)

1. Tim Tebow, Florida
2. Colt McCoy, Texas
3. Terrelle Pryor, Ohio State
4. Zac Robinson, Oklahoma State
5. Robert Griffin III, Baylor
6. Jake Locker, Washington
7. Todd Reesing, Kansas

ANTICIPATION: TOP FIRST-YEAR QB STARTERS

1. Greg McElroy, Alabama
2. Kyle Parker, Clemson
3. Matt Barkley, USC
4. Zac Lee, Nebraska
5. Jacory Harris, Miami
6. Jarrett Brown, West Virginia

Greg McElroy’s ready for his turn with the Tide.

(Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

OFF THE EDGE: BEST DEFENSIVE ENDS


Carlos Dunlap will have his eyes on QBs this fall.

(Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

1. Carlos Dunlap, Florida
2. Greg Hardy, Ole Miss
3. Jeremy Beal, Oklahoma
4. Sergio Kindle, Texas
5. Everson Griffen, USC
6. Rahim Alem, LSU

NOWHERE TO RUN: TOP DEFENSIVE TACKLES

1. Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma
2. Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska
3. Terrence Cody, Alabama
4. Jared Odrick, Penn State
5. Geno Atkins, Georgia

Look for Gerald McCoy to be a destructive force.

(Photo by June Frantz-Hunt/Icon SMI)

INSIDE EDITION: TOP INSIDE LINEBACKERS


Brandon Spikes has the inside track for a Herbie.

(Photo by Tim Larson/Icon SMI)

1. Brandon Spikes, Florida
2. Rolando McClain, Alabama
3. Sean Lee, Penn State
4. Ryan Reynolds, Oklahoma
5. Reggie Carter, UCLA

OUTSIDE EDGE: BEST OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS

1. Rennie Curran, Georgia
2. Navorro Bowman, Penn State
3. Travis Lewis, Oklahoma
4. Sean Weatherspoon, Missouri
5. Sean Spence, Miami
6. Eric Norwood, South Carolina

Rennie Curran is the top dog at outside linebacker.

(Photo by Brad Schloss/Icon SMI)

CORNERING THE MARKET: TOP CORNERBACKS


Joe Haden has things covered for the Gators.

(Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

1. Joe Haden, Florida
2. Syd’Quan Thompson, California
3. Trevard Lindley, Kentucky
4. Myron Lewis, Vanderbilt
5. Alterraun Verner, UCLA
6. Patrick Peterson, LSU

SAFETY DANCE: NATION’S BEST SAFETIES

1a. Eric Berry, Tennessee
1b. Taylor Mays, USC
3. Morgan Burnett, Georgia Tech
4. Bo McNally, Stanford
5. Chad Jones, LSU

Taylor Mays and Eric Berry share a Herbie.

(Photo by Getty Images)

RETURN ENGAGEMENT: TOP RETURN MEN


The final returns have Brandon James on top.

(Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)

1. Brandon James, Florida
2. Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State
3. Javier Arenas, Alabama
4. Syd’Quan Thompson, California
5. C.J. Spiller, Clemson

FRESH APPROACH: TOP TRUE FRESHMEN

1. Matt Barkley, USC
2. Manti Te’o, Notre Dame
3. Trent Richardson, Alabama
4. Tate Forcier, Michigan
5. Jelani Jenkins, Florida
6. Marlon Brown, Georgia
7. Bryce Brown, Tennessee
8. Alex Okafor, Texas
9. Rueben Randle, LSU
10. Jonathan Bostic, Florida

Matt Barkley will have a leading role in L.A. in ’09.

(Photo by Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US Presswire)

REMEMBER ME: HOUSEHOLD NAMES BY THE END OF SEPTEMBER


Mark Ingram will help the Tide roll this season.

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

1. Mark Ingram, Alabama
2. Richard Samuel, Georgia
3. Jason Worilds, Virginia Tech
4. Thaddeus Gibson, Ohio State
5. Russell Wilson, NC State
6. David Ausberry, USC
7. Jewel Hampton, Iowa
8. David Nelson, Florida
9. Detron Lewis, Texas Tech
10. Jarrett Brown, West Virginia

RODNEY DANGERFIELDS: PLAYERS WHO DON’T GET ENOUGH RESPECT

1. Aaron Hernandez, Florida
2. Kerry Meier, Kansas
3. Chris Brown, Oklahoma
4. Josh Pinkard, USC
5. Evan Royster, Penn State
6. Josh Nesbitt, Georgia Tech

No way the Herbies would overlook Aaron Hernandez.

(Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

TEAMS ON THE MOVE

Movin’ On UpHeadin’ On Down
1. LSU Tigers1. Missouri Tigers
2. Notre Dame Fighting Irish2. Cincinnati Bearcats
3. Clemson Tigers3. Connecticut Huskies
4. UCLA Bruins4. Northwestern Wildcats
5. Arkansas Razorbacks5. Boston College Eagles
6. Michigan Wolverines6. Texas Tech Red Raiders

MARK IT DOWN: CONFERENCE PICKS

ConferenceChampionSleeper
ACC AtlanticFlorida StateNC State
ACC CoastalGeorgia TechNorth Carolina
ACC champGeorgia Tech 
Big 12 NorthNebraskaColorado
Big 12 SouthTexasOklahoma State
Big 12 champTexas 
Big EastRutgersWest Virginia
Big TenPenn StateMichigan State
Pac-10USCUCLA
SEC EastFloridaSouth Carolina
SEC WestAlabamaArkansas
SEC champFlorida 
C-USA EastSouthern Miss 
C-USA WestHouston 
C-USA champSouthern Miss 
MAC EastTemple 
MAC WestWestern Michigan 
MAC champWestern Michigan 
MWCBYU 
Sun BeltTroy 
WACBoise State 

UP AND COMING ASSISTANTS AND COORDINATORS


Bryan Harsin directs the Boise State offense.

(Photo by Brian Losness/US Presswire)

1. Josh Heupel, Oklahoma
2. Justin Wilcox, Boise State
3. Danny Langsdorf, Oregon State
4. Corwin Brown, Notre Dame
5. Bryan Harsin, Boise State
6. Kirby Smart, Alabama

HEAD COACHES IN WAITING

1. Brent Venables, Oklahoma
2. Charlie Strong, Florida
3. Kevin Wilson, Oklahoma
4. Tom Bradley, Penn State
5. Gus Malzahn, Auburn

Brent Venables looks like a future head coach.

(Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images)

ALL-UNI TEAM: WHAT A COLLEGE TEAM SHOULD LOOK LIKE

Offensive TeamDefensive Team
QB – Jake Locker, WashingtonDE – Carlos Dunlap, Florida
RB – C.J. Spiller, ClemsonDE – Thaddeus Gibson, Ohio State
RB – DeMarco Murray, OklahomaDT – Jared Odrick, Penn State
RB – Toby Gerhart, StanfordDT – Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma
WR – Arrelious Benn, Illinois (captain)LB – Rolando McClain, Alabama
WR – Mardy Gilyard, CincinnatiLB – Martez Wilson, Illinois
WR – Dez Bryant, Oklahoma StateLB – Quan Sturdivant, North Carolina
TE – Jermaine Gresham, OklahomaLB – Travis Lewis, Oklahoma
C – Stefen Wisniewski, Penn StateCB – Chykie Brown, Texas
G – Jeff Byers, USCCB – Joe Haden, Florida
G – Mike Johnson, AlabamaS – Eric Berry, Tennessee
T – Trent Williams, OklahomaS – Taylor Mays, USC (captain)
T – Sam Young, Notre Dame 

STUDENT BODY RIGHT: BEST STUDENT SECTIONS


Penn State’s student section roars to the top.

(Photo by Paul Spinelli/Getty Images)

1. Penn State
2. Florida
3. Oregon
4. LSU
5. Wisconsin
6. Ohio State
7. Notre Dame
8. South Carolina
9. Auburn
10. Michigan