Dec. 7, 2011
Conference USA announced its 2011 Players of the Year today, as selected by the league's 12 head football coaches. C-USA is completing its 16th football campaign by sending five teams to bowl games, including two that are ranked in the top 20.
Houston senior QB Case Keenum was named the recipient of the Conference USA Most Valuable Player Award, becoming the first two-time winner. The MVP award adds to a history-making senior season for the Abilene, Texas, native. Keenum broke NCAA records for career passing yardage (18,685), total offense (19,572), touchdown passes (152), total touchdowns (175), completions (1,501) and 300-yard games (38). He owns virtually every NCAA career passing mark and is the first player in NCAA history with three career 5,000-yard seasons. In 2011, Keenum was the country's top passer, throwing for 5,099 yards and 45 touchdowns. His yardage and TD totals led the country, while his completion percentage (71.7) and passing efficiency (177.9) ranked among the top six in America. Keenum won the Sammy Baugh Award, given to the nation's top passer, on December 1, becoming just the second two-time winner in the history of that award. In addition to this honor, Keenum won the C-USA MVP award in 2009, the Offensive Player of the Year award in 2008 and Freshman of the Year honors in 2007.
Houston senior WR Patrick Edwards was named Offensive Player of the Year, marking just third time in the last 14 years that a non-quarterback has won the award and the first time in league history that it has been given to a wide receiver. Edwards led the FBS with 18 receiving touchdowns, the third-highest single-season total in C-USA history. He also ranked among the national leaders with 1,524 yards and 19.3 yards per reception. Edwards owns the nation's top receiving game with his seven catches for 318 yards and five touchdowns vs. Rice.
Defensive recognition went to Marshall senior DE Vinny Curry, who becomes the second Thundering Herd player to win that honor, joining DE Albert McClellan in 2006. A finalist for the Ted Hendricks Award, Curry is second nationally with 21.5 tackles for loss, tied for second nationally with six forced fumbles and tied for fifth with 11 sacks. His 48.0 career tackles for loss is also tops among all active FBS student-athletes, while his 26.5 sacks rank him seventh. The senior captain also has 72 tackles on the season, one fumble recovery, three blocked extra points and one tackle for safety. Curry, who was also selected to the 2012 Senior Bowl, was named Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week following his 4.0 TFL, 3.5 sack performance in the 24-20 homecoming win over Rice on Oct. 15.
The Special Teams Player of the Year award went to Houston senior kick returner Tyron Carrier. An All-Conference performer at both wide receiver and kick returner, Carrier averaged 124.9 all-purpose yards per game. He returned 28 kickoffs for 695 yards, an average of 24.8 per return. Carrier also had a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Rice for his seventh career kickoff return for a TD, tying the all-time FBS record set by Clemson's C.J. Spiller.
The league's Freshman of the Year honor went to East Carolina LB Jeremy Grove. Grove turned in the best campaign by a freshman defensive player in ECU history. He paced the Pirates with 122 tackles, 45 solo hits, 77 assists, 85 stops on rushing plays and 36 passing tackles. Grove currently stands third in Conference USA and 10th among all FBS players with 11.1 stops per game and is the only freshman among the FBS's top 88 tacklers.
Junior DB D.J. Hayden of Houston garnered the league's Newcomer of the Year award, the second time in three years that award has gone to a Cougar (WR James Cleveland in 2009). Hayden has been a valuable part of the one of the country's most improved defenses in 2011. The junior college transfer ranks sixth on the team with 62 tackles and has been outstanding in coverage, defending 11 passes, breaking up nine and recording two interceptions. Hayden has also recovered two fumbles, forced four and boasts six tackles for loss from his cornerback position.