If the honor is in being nominated, then UH quarterback Case Keenum can just go ahead and shut it down before the season gets started. The junior QB, last season's Conference USA offensive player of the year, has had his name added to two more postseason watch lists, putting him on four with the season still weeks away and preseason practice being just a little over a week old.
Then again, after having talked to Keenum, his coach, and several of his teammates, I have the feeling that just being nominated isn't going to be good enough for any of them. The goal of the season is to win games. If Keenum's a finalist for these awards come the end of the season, that will mean the Cougars have been winning. And by winning, I mean winning lots of games.
Keenum was already named to C-USA's preseason team, and he was on the watch list for the Davey O'Brien Award which goes to the nation's best college quarterback. Late last week, he was named to the watch list for the Maxwell Award, and yesterday he was put on the watch list for the Manning Award.
Keenum is just one of the 55 players on the watch list for the 73rd Maxwell Award which is presented to the Outstanding Player in college football. The winner of last year's award was Florida quarterback Tim Tebow. The semifinalists for this award will be announced on November 4, and the winner will be announced as part of ESPN's College Award Show on December 10. This is award is voted on by members of the Maxwell Football Club, NCAA sports information directors and head coaches, and select members of the national media.
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This is the fifth season for the Manning Award which was created by the Sugar Bowl to honor the college accomplishments of Archie, Peyton, and Eli Manning. This is the only quarterback award which takes into account a QB's bowl performance. The previous winners of this award are Matt Leinart, Vince Young, JaMarcus Russell, and Matt Ryan -- except for Matt Ryan, this is kind of Who's Who list of pro football QB failures. The 10 finalists for this award will be announced on November 30, with the winner announced on January 14, 2010. The winner is selected by a panel of national media who cover college football and the Mannings.
It's nice to see Keenum and the Coogs getting some preseason attention. But this doesn't really mean anything to head coach Kevin Sumlin. "What matters to us," Sumlin said at Media Day, "is what we talk about -- everybody's always going to have their opinion about your program, whether right or wrong. Fortunately, for us right now, it's a pretty good opinion. But that really doesn't matter..."
And Keenum realizes that the attention he's getting now, and any awards he might win at the end of the season, is the result of how the team plays. "Any honor that any of us get is a credit for the team and how hard we work. There's a lot of times that I'll throw a pass for two yards that [receiver Tyron Carrier] will take to the house for 82 yards. All of that doesn't happen without the offensive line. When they go we go...it comes down first to the offensive line, and if they're not working together, meshing, being as a team, then we can't really get anywhere without them."
The season begins for the Cougars at Robertson Stadium on September 5 when they take on Northwestern State. Until that time, the players are just going to continue practicing and trying to find ways to adjust to the heat. And that's more than enough time for Keenum and his teammates to continue to rack up preseason accolades.