Offensive MVP: QB Trace McSorley
Even when he was battered and bruised and surrounded by new faces, McSorley was the man who made the offense go in 2018. If not for the experienced senior quarterback, Penn State likely drops a couple more games. He also gave one of the all-time great single-game performances in school history, which unfortunately isn’t likely to be remembered coming in a loss. McSorley’s illustrious career, on the other hand, will never be forgotten. Whether it be him taking the reins and leading the team to a wholly unexpected Big Ten Championship, or gritting it out with a group of newcomers in a pedestrian season, #9 will be forever remembered along with other all-time greats.
Others considered: Miles Sanders, KJ Hamler, Pat Freiermuth
Defensive MVP: DE Yetur Gross-Matos
Gross-Matos showed promise as a true freshman, which then exploded in undeniable star power in 2018. While the season began with potential for him, it ended with Gross-Matos blossoming into the best Penn State defensive end since Tamba Hali. The sophomore was an unblockable force throughout the season, coming on strong shortly before the midpoint and never relenting as he constantly caused mayhem in the backfield. Gross-Matos has at least one more year in Happy Valley, which could very well end as a First-Team All-American.
Others considered: DE Shareef Miller, DT Kevin Givens, CB Amani Oruwariye
Special Teams MVP: P Blake Gillikin
Prior to Gillkin’s arrival in 2016, the punting position had been a bit of a mess for Penn State for years. Gillikin has gone on to set such a high standard in three seasons, that is seems as though we’ve overlooked his greatness as just something to be expected. In 2018, Gillikin broke a 37 year old school record with a 44-yard punt average on the season. He also overtook Jeremy Boone for the best all-time average of 43.3 yards and blasted THREE punts for 70 yards or more. Gillikin has future plans to become a physician, but may be putting medical school on hold to fulfill his NFL dreams in 2020 and beyond.
Others considered: KJ Hamler, Kyle Vasey, DeAndre Thompkins
True Freshman of the Year: Pat Freiermuth
Freiermuth looked more like an All-Big Ten tight end rather than a true freshman. He quickly developed into one of McSorley’s most reliable pass catchers, and the team’s biggest threat in the red zone. Tommy Stevens and Sean Clifford are likely to take the helm at quarterback the next two seasons, and both will be lucky to have a tight end of Freiermuth’s caliber to rely on to make things happen.
Others Considered: Micah Parsons
Newcomer of the Year: KJ Hamler
It didn’t take long for Hamler to make a huge splash for the Nittany Lions. If not for his late heroics of a long kickoff return and acrobatic catches, Penn State most certainly would have started the season with a maddening upset at the hands of Appalachian State.
Hamler is the dynamic player that is a true threat to reach the end zone with each touch. His absence was largely felt as well- the offense clearly lacked firepower when he had to check out of the Ohio State game, as well as portions of the Citrus Bowl when he vanished from the gameplan. Hamler and his blazing speed will be back next year, and I’m already looking forward to another season of plays to add to his highlight reel.
Comeback Player of the Year: CB John Reid
Reid was far-and-away Penn State’s top cornerback well on his way to playing on Sundays heading into 2017 before a severe knee injury in spring ball knocked him out for the entire season. He made it back on the field in 2018, but didn’t look quite the same at first. Slowly but surely, Reid returned to form thanks to his tenacious and well-documented work ethic. Once he had a few games under his belt, Reid was back to his old self of making life difficult for the opponent’s top receiver and making plays all over the field.
Check back on Wednesday as we continue the BSD Awards!