January 2, 2007

ASUDevils.com 2006 Player Awards

Arizona State's 2006 season is complete and it's time to take a look at which players had the most impact on the team. Find out who won our Most Valuable Player Award, as well as more than a dozen other awards, along with a complete breakdown in this in-depth review at some of the great individual Sun Devil performances.

Team/Offensive MVP: Ryan Torain

A 6-foot, 216 pound transfer from Butler C.C. in Kansas, Torain became the first Sun Devil rusher to carry the ball for over 1,000 yards in a season since Delvon Flowers accomplished the feat in 2001. Torain played in all 13 of the team's games and finished the season with 1,229 yards (third in the Pac-10) rushing on 223 attempts (5.5 yards per carry) with seven rushing touchdowns. He also finished third on the team with 18 receptions totaling 205 yards and three more touchdowns.

Runner up: Zach Miller

The consensus All-American junior tight end is no doubt the team's top overall pro prospect and he is legitimately a toss-up candidate for team MVP with Torain. Miller had 50 catches on the season for 484 yards and four touchdowns. The next closest ASU receiver had 20 catches.

Defense MVP: Josh Barrett

Barrett, a junior, led the team in tackles with 82 from his strong safety position. That is 14 more than the next closest player and more than twice as many as the 37 Barrett had in 2005 when he started two games and played in all 12. The 6-foot-2, 227-pounder is perhaps the fastest player on the roster, and he is beginning to produce on a level that matches his almost limitless potential.

Runner up: Zach Catanese

The senior safety was the leading returning tackler in the Pac-10 in 2006, but a much more balanced offense reduced ASU's dependence on him and he dropped from over 100 tackles, to 68. But the true value of Catanese can't be expressed just in terms of statistics. With a number of true freshmen playing alongside or in front of him, his role as mentor was one he filled extremely well.

Offensive newcomer award (non frosh): Torain

Defensive newcomer award (non frosh): Justin Tryon

This 5-foot-9, 182-pounder arrived at Arizona State in the spring and almost immediately became the team's top cornerback. Though his performance was by no means flawless over the course of the full year, he had perhaps the best overall initial season of any ASU cornerback in recent memory. Tryon finished fourth on the team in tackles, led the team with seven pass breakups, and tied for the team lead with two fumble recoveries.

Most valuable freshman on offense (includes redshirts): no award given

If we were forced to give an award, it would likely go to one of several wide receivers who should signs of being potentially impacting in the future. None, however, provided enough of a case of the course of a season to stand out to the point where we'd feel comfortable giving an award. Even so, we feel that Chris McGaha, Brandon Smith and Kyle Williams all have a lot of natural talent and the ability to become key components of the ASU offense moving forward. Running back Dimitri Nance no doubt would have been in the mix for the award as well, if he was not a third or fourth team player due to the talent ahead of him.

Most valuable freshman defense (includes redshirts): Dexter Davis

This redshirt freshman defensive end earned an opening game start due in part to injuries other players had in front of him. He never relinquished the position and had one of the most impressive seasons of any player on the team relative to expectations. Davis finished fifth on the team with 40 total tackles, including a team-leading 10.5 for loss. He also led the team with six sacks and two quarterback hurries.

Runner Up: Ryan McFoy

The 6-foot-1 194-pounder is one of several true freshmen to make a significant impact within weeks of arriving on camps during the summer. McFoy was the first-team nickel back and he had 34 tackles, two interceptions, and generally displayed a degree of maturity and poise rarely seen in true freshmen. He'll stand a good chance of filling a starting spot on a full time basis next season.

Most improved on offense: Paul Fanaika

This former walk-on offensive guard reportedly struggled to perform a single push up upon joining the program. By the end of the season, Fanaika was one of the team's top interior linemen and he played with a streak of aggressive almost unmatched by his peers. The Levi Jones scholarship recipient will only be a junior next season.

Runner Up:Nate Kimbrough

Kimbrough was rapidly separating himself from the pack at the team's top wide receiver before he was hurt two-thirds of the way into the season, with an ACL tear. The sophomore had 15 receptions for 235 yards and one touchdown before he was injured.

Most improved on defense: Beau Manatai

After Dale Robinson departed, all eyes where on Manutai at the MIKE linebacker spot and he delivered a terrific season that helped the Sun Devil defense get much-improved over 2005. In a role that was well crafted for him by coordinator Bill Miller, Manutai demonstrated that he's terrific against the run and he plays with great poise and leadership ability. He will certainly be missed next season.

Runner Up: Derron Ware

Ware made very little impact in his first season of action in 2005 but a position move and an additional year to build his body and mind gave him newfound confidence, and he improved greatly. Though he wasn't able to sustain his remarkable start to the season, he was certainly significantly improved and deserves credit for his achievement.

Best Offensive Lineman: Mike Pollak

Offensive linemen rarely get the credit they deserve and that is certainly the case with Pollak. The 6-foot-4 junior center held together a line that had numerous serious injuries alter its look for the second season in a row, and helped allow Torain to rush for over 1,000 yards, and Keegan Herring rush for over 500 yards. It was a tremendous season and he was worth of all-league consideration.

Best Receiver/Tight End: Zach Miller

Best Running Back: Torain

Best Defensive Line: Michael Marquardt

While he didn't have as obviously impressive stats as Davis (defensive tackles often don't compared to ends), Marquardt was the key centerpiece of the team's defensive line. He finished third on the team in tackles for loss and sacks and met or exceeded expectations that were high after a great season on the scout team post-transfer from BYU.

Best Linebacker: Manatai

Best Defensive Back: Barrett
Special Teams MVP: Jesse Ainsworth

The senior kicker made all 42 of his PAT attempts and 14 of 19 field goals. He won Pac-10 Special Teams Player of the Week after one particularly good game. He was one of the best at kick-offs in the nation.

Team Spirit Award: (tie) Preston Jones and Tyrice Thompson

Both players personify what it means to be a Sun Devil. They compete hard every single day, even when it appears as though they are unlikely to get playing time. They are great teammates, well-likely, very positive, and they don't get into off-field trouble.

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