The (better) Tonys: SIU midseason awards

By Tony McDaniel

Saluki football is just past the midseason point and sits at 5-2, third place in the Missouri Valley Football Conference.

SIU was picked to finish fifth in the MVFC this year, and it is doubtful most people saw the Salukis put a beat on Eastern Illinois or South Dakota earlier this year.

In honor of SIU’s surprising first half of the season, some awards are in order, or “The Tony’s” as I’m calling them. Not to be confused with The American Theatre Wing’s Tony Awards for Broadway Excellence. These are better than their Tony’s; these are all awards for Saluki football excellence.

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Note to the winners: don’t expect a trophy. That didn’t fit into the budget.

The “Tony” for offensive MVP goes to Malcolm Agnew. 

This was a tough choice. Senior running back Malcolm Agnew and senior tight end MyCole Pruitt both have had really good seasons. Pruitt had three straight games with more than 100 receiving yards and has reeled in 49 catches for 604 yards and 7 touchdowns.

Agnew on the other hand has 789 all-purpose yards and 12 touchdowns this year. Agnew has scored 72 points for the Salukis this season, 17 more points than any other Saluki.

A case can be made for both Agnew and Pruitt to be the offensive MVP. I see touchdowns as the difference maker here. Twelve touchdowns is an outrageous amount to have after seven games.

The Tony for defensive MVP goes to Tyler Williamson. 

Senior linebacker Tyler Williamson is doing it all for the Salukis. He’s a captain on the defense and leads the team in forced fumbles, tied for the team lead in sacks and second in total tackles. Williamson has absolutely lived up to his title as captain.

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Williamson is not the MVP on defense just because of his statistics, but it is the situations he steps up in. Williamson made several big plays on third down against North Dakota State, including a drive where he made to two out of three tackles to force a three-and-out for the Bison. Two out of three takles.

Williamson is the heart of the Saluki defense.

The Tony for breakthrough player goes to Mark Iannotti. 

Lots of Salukis have burst onto the scene this year. Freshman safety Ryan Neal and freshman punter Nick Neidig both come to mind. When talking about people new to a starting role, it is hard to look past junior quarterback Mark Iannotti. Last season Iannotti was lost in the shuffle of Eastern Michigan’s quarterbacks, now he is the starter for SIU.

He not only emerged as the best Saluki quarterback, but one of the best in the whole MVFC.

Iannotti leads the conference in passing yards, passing touchdowns, and passing yards per games. Impressive since he did not attend classes at SIU this time last year.

The Tony for most underrated player(s) goes to the offensive line.

The big guys in front never get any love; I don’t think that is fair. If there is one group of big guys that deserve some love, it is SIU’s.

The Salukis are No. 14 in sacks allowed in the Football Championship Subdivision and No. 2 in the MVFC. Without the offensive line, Iannotti and Agnew would not be put up the same numbers.

The Saluki offensive line is where it starts for the offense, and for that reason they share the Tony for most underrated player.

The Tony for most disappointing player goes to Thomas Kinney 

I don’t like to call out kickers. They only get a handful of chances to impact a game and are usually successful with their field goal attempts. However, when they miss, they are heavily criticized.

With that said, senior kicker Thomas Kinney has been a disappointment thus far, and criticism is warranted.

So far Kinney, who was a preseason All-American, is converting 60 percent of his field goals, good for 58th in the FCS. Kinney’s leg strength is not a concern; he converted a 50-yard field goal against Eastern Illinois. His accuracy leaves something to be desired.

On the brightside, the senior kicker is perfect on extra point attempts and routinely kicks the ball out of the end zone on kickoffs to prevent a return.

Kinney still has time to turn things around when it comes to his field goals; he may be an early contender for the postseason Tony for most improved player.

Tony McDaniel can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @tonymcdanielDE

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