Commentary

The Nation's Best: Seventh Annual Herbie Awards

Originally Published: August 27, 2007
By Kirk Herbstreit | Special to ESPN.com

With the kickoff to the college football season just days away, it's time to step back and celebrate the players, coaches and color and pageantry of the sport. And for the seventh straight year, the Herbie Awards will try to do just that.

This list has everything to do with the playmakers, the hogmollies, the difference makers and, in short, just everything that's great about college football. Herbies are given to the best college football players, coaches, teams and fans from across the nation.

Also, this is just my list. These are my choices and not everyone will agree. That's the beauty of it. Let the second-guessing begin.

So, without further ado, here are the seventh annual Herbie Awards:

Best Running Backs - The Veterans
1. Darren McFadden, Arkansas
Darren McFadden ran away with a Herbie.
(Photo by JC Ridley/WireImage)
2. Steve Slaton, West Virginia
3. Ray Rice, Rutgers
4. Mike Hart, Michigan
5. Jonathan Stewart, Oregon
6. James Davis, Clemson

Best Running Backs - The Next Wave

Beanie Wells should get some Buckeyes to go with his Herbie.
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
1. Beanie Wells, Ohio State
2. DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma
3. Mike Goodson, Texas A&M
4. Graig Cooper, Miami
5. Joe McKnight, USC
6. Noel Devine, West Virginia

Best Wide Receivers - Speed To Burn
1. DeSean Jackson, California
The Herbie probably won't be DeSean Jackson's only award in '07.
(Photo by Kirby Lee/WireImage)
2. Early Doucet, LSU
3. Malcolm Kelly, Oklahoma
4. Limas Sweed, Texas
5. Mario Manningham, Michigan
6. Adarius Bowman, Oklahoma State
7. Andre Caldwell, Florida

Dream Offensive Line - The Hogmollies

Alex Mack anchors the Golden Bears' line.
(Photo by Tom Hauck/Getty Images)
1. Alex Mack, C, Cal
2. Will Arnold, G, LSU
3. George Robinson, G, Oklahoma
4. Jake Long, T, Michigan
5. Sam Baker, T, USC

Best Tight Ends - Block And Catch
1. Chase Coffman, Missouri
Chase Coffman catches everything for the Tigers.
(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
2. Fred Davis, USC
3. John Carlson, Notre Dame
4. Travis Beckum, Wisconsin
5. Craig Stevens, Cal

Best Quarterbacks - Old School: Classic Dropback Style

Brian Brohm is No. 1 on the list of dropback passers.
(Photo by Al Messerschmidt/WireImage)
1. Brian Brohm, Louisville
2. John David Booty, USC
3. Colt Brennan, Hawaii
4. Andre' Woodson, Kentucky
5. Matt Ryan, Boston College
6. Nate Longshore, California

Best Quarterbacks - New School: Dual Threats
1. Pat White, West Virginia
Pat White gets it done on the ground and through the air.
(Photo by Charles LeClaire/WireImage)
2. Tim Tebow, Florida
3. Chase Daniel, Missouri
4. Bobby Reid, Oklahoma State
5. Jameel Sewell, Virginia
6. Matt Grothe, USF

Quarterbacks - What A Difference A Year Makes

Anthony Morelli should deliver this season.
(Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
1. Anthony Morelli, Penn State
2. Matt Flynn, LSU
3. Matthew Stafford, Georgia
4. Rudy Carpenter, Arizona State
5. Curtis Painter, Purdue

Defensive Ends - The Sack Masters
1. Tyson Jackson, LSU
Tyson Jackson's pumped up about getting a Herbie.
(Photo by Matthew Sharpe/WireImage.com)
2. Derrick Harvey, Florida
3. Calais Campbell, Miami
4. Quentin Groves, Auburn
5. Chris Long, Virginia
6. Vernon Gholston, Ohio State
7. Bruce Davis, UCLA

Defensive Tackles - Not Your Everyday Run-stuffers

Getting a Herbie shouldn't be a surprise to Glenn Dorsey.
(Photo by Steve Franz/WireImage)
1. Glenn Dorsey, LSU
2. Sedrick Ellis, USC
3. DeMarrio Pressley, NC State
4. Andre Fluellen, Florida State
5. Mitch King, Iowa
6. Eric Foster, Rutgers

Outside Linebackers - All Over The Field
1. Xavier Adibi, Virginia Tech
Xavier Adibi goes sideline to sideline for the Hokies.
(Photo by Lee Coleman/WireImage)
2. Brian Cushing, USC
3. Reggie Carter, UCLA
4. Malik Jackson, Louisville
5. Jonathan Casillas, Wisconsin
6. Marcus Bell, Florida State

Inside Linebackers - Definition Of The Position

Dan Connor's the latest in the long line of talented Penn State LBs.
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
1. Dan Connor, Penn State
2. James Laurinaitis, Ohio State
3. Vince Hall, Virginia Tech
4. Jasper Brinkley, South Carolina
5. Rey Maualuga, USC
6. Eric Foster, Rutgers
7. Darry Beckwith, LSU

Cornerbacks - Just Throw The Other Way
1. Justin King, Penn State
Quarterbacks try to stay away from Justin King's side of the field.
(Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images)
2. Antoine Cason, Arizona
3. Malcolm Jenkins, Ohio State
4. Simeon Castille, Alabama
5. Brandon Flowers, Virginia Tech
6. Terrell Thomas, USC

Safeties - These Guys Belong On A Poster

Kenny Phillips does it all for the Hurricanes.
(Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
1. Kenny Phillips, Miami
2. Taylor Mays, USC
3. Anthony Scirrotto, Penn State
4. Reggie Smith, Oklahoma
5. Myron Rolle, Florida State

Players Who Don't Get Enough Respect
(Don't Worry Fellas, I've Got Your Back)
Offense
Defense
Earl Bennett, WR, Vanderbilt Marcus Ball, LB, Florida State
Dorien Bryant, WR, Purdue Reggie Carter, LB, UCLA
Keenan Burton, WR, Kentucky Chris Harrington, DE, Texas A&M
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, Ole Miss Kenny Iwebema, DE, Iowa
DJ Hall, WR, Alabama Ben Moffitt, LB, USF
Ryan Torain, RB, Arizona State Dorian Smith, DE, Oregon State

Top True Freshmen - From High School To The Big Time
Arrelious Benn, WR, Illinois
Joe McKnight's ready to run for the Trojans.
(AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
Eric Berry, CB, Tennessee
Jahvid Best, RB, Cal
John Clay, RB, Wisconsin
Anthony Davis, G, Rutgers
Torrey Davis, DE, Florida
Noel Devine, RB, West Virginia
Everson Griffen, DE, USC
Willy Korn, QB, Clemson
Joe McKnight, RB, USC

What's My Name - Players who will be household names by Oct. 1

Kenny Britt is a name you'll know by October.
(Photo by Rob Tringali/Sportschrome/Getty Images)
Tommy Blake, DE, TCU
Kenny Britt, WR, Rutgers
Andre Brown, RB, NC State
Ian Campbell, DE, Kansas State
Justin Forsett, RB,Cal
Vidal Hazelton, WR, USC
DeMarco Murray, RB, Oklahoma
Evan Royster, RB, Penn State
Beanie Wells, RB, Ohio State
Keiland Williams, RB, LSU

Movin' On Up
Headin' On Down
1. Alabama 1. Notre Dame
2. NC State 2. Arkansas
3. Virginia 3. Wake Forest
4. Arizona State 4. Oregon
5. USF 5. Pittsburgh
6. Iowa  
7. Miami

Conference Picks - Mark It Down
CONFERENCE CHAMP SLEEPER
ACC Atlantic Boston College
New coach Jeff Jagodzinski inherits a veteran team with a stifling defense and the league's best QB in Matt Ryan.
NC State
How ironic Tom O'Brien leaves BC and stays in the same division. The Wolfpack-Eagles matchup on Sept. 8 could decide the division.
ACC Coastal Virginia Tech
The squad will carry the hopes and dreams of the Hokie Nation -- and this team is talented enough to make those dreams come true.
Virginia
After a rebuilding year, Al Groh has 19 returning starters, a tenacious defense and a big-time playmaker at QB in Jameel Sewell.
ACC Champ Virginia Tech
Big East Rutgers
The Scarlet Knights are out to prove last year wasn't a fluke. They have eight home games, including their first five. Rutgers will not get tested until Oct. 18 against USF. Handling prosperity and the throwing of Mike Teel are the keys.
USF
Jim Leavitt's team is making huge strides in just its seventh year at the I-A level. The Bulls have shocked the likes of Louisville and West Virginia in last two years. Now, they must prove to be more consistent.
Big Ten Penn State
Experience at key positions and a favorable schedule -- a game at Michigan is the only major road hurdle -- make the Lions the team to beat in my eyes. If Anthony Morelli plays the way he did in the Outback Bowl, the Lions are BCS bowl bound.
Iowa
My how quickly they forget. After posting at least 10 wins a season during 2002-04, including bowl wins over Florida and LSU, the Hawkeyes seem to be an afterthought in the Big Ten. Just the way Kirk Ferentz likes it. Although the Hawks have to go to Wisconsin and Penn State, they do not play Michigan or Ohio State.
Big 12 North Missouri
The Tigers feature a loaded offense led by QB Chase Daniel. The key will be how long it takes their young D-line and secondary to develop. They get the Huskers at home on Oct. 6 in a game that should decide the Big 12 North.
Kansas State
Last season's win over Texas has the Cats believing they can play with anyone in the Big 12. Considering they open the season on the road at Auburn, they better believe! All kidding aside, if Josh Freeman improves as a sophomore, the Cats will contend in the Big 12 North.
Big 12 South Oklahoma
The RB combination of Allen Patrick and DeMarco Murray, along with the most physical O-line in the conference will take pressure off QB Sam Bradford and passing game. As always, the winner of Oklahoma-Texas game has great shot of getting to the BCS title game. I give the Sooners the nod because of a better defense.
Oklahoma State
Almost all the skill players return to a team that averaged 35 points per game last season -- most notably QB Bobby Reid and WR Adarius Bowman. The entire back seven returns. The Cowboys are one big win away from truly believing they can compete in the Big 12 South.
Big 12 Champ Oklahoma
Pac-10 USC
In case you haven't heard, they're pretty good.
Oregon State
Mike Riley and the Beavers are a legit threat in the Pac-10. This is a team that won 8 of its last 9 in 2006, including a win over USC. Enough of that nucleus returns to give Beavers a chance at a great season.
SEC East Florida
The Gators will have to deal with the pressure that comes along with being the reigning national champs; every week your opponent wants a piece of you. Tim Tebow's skills are as good as any QB in the country. The only real question is how well nine new defensive starters fare in the best conference in the country.
Vanderbilt
You can't expect me to pick South Carolina as a sleeper, can you? With QB Chris Nickson and WR Earl Bennett highlighting 18 returning starters, I think the Commodores will reach their first bowl since 1982.
SEC West LSU
The Tigers have the country's best defense. QB Matt Flynn will play much better than his detractors think. LSU has a favorable schedule in the nasty SEC -- South Carolina, Florida, Auburn and Arkansas are all at home. Not to mention Virginia Tech. The Tigers' toughest road game is against -- that's right -- Nick Saban and Alabama.
Alabama
I think nine wins is possible for the Crimson Tide, but Bama must start fast to build confidence with a new coaching staff. The Tide have a veteran QB, two great WRs and arguably the best O-line in the SEC. The biggest question, however, is whether defensive guru Nick Saban has enough to work with in Year 1.
SEC Champ LSU
C-USA East Southern Miss
C-USA West Houston
C-USA Champ Southern Miss
MAC East Kent State
MAC West Toledo
MAC Champ Kent State
Mountain West Champ TCU
Sun Belt Champ Troy
WAC Champ Boise State

Favorite Playcallers - Keeping defenses off-balance
1. Steve Spurrier, South Carolina
Steve Spurrier's always had a knack for play-calling.
(Photo by Jimmy DeFlippo-US PRESSWIRE)
2. Steve Sarkisian, USC
3. Jeff Tedford, Cal
4. Rich Rodriguez, West Virginia
5. Dan Mullen, Florida
6. Bryan Harsin, Boise State
7. Rob Spence, Clemson

Favorite Defensive Minds - Ruthless Aggression

Pete Carroll keeps the Trojan defense flying to the ball.
(Photo by Kirby Lee/WireImage)
1. Pete Carroll, USC
2. Bo Pelini, LSU
3. Greg Schiano, Rutgers
4. Jon Tenuta, Georgia Tech
5. Bud Foster, Virginia Tech
6. Mark Stoops, Arizona
7. Charlie Strong, Florida

Best Game-Day Coaches Head Coaches In Waiting
1. Pete Carroll, USC 1. Bo Pelini, LSU
2. Urban Meyer, Florida 2. Steve Sarkisian, USC
3. Chris Petersen, Boise State 3. Paul Chryst, Wisconsin
4. Jim Tressel, Ohio State 4. Kevin Steele, Alabama
5. Rich Rodriguez, West Virginia 5. Jimbo Fisher, Florida State
6. Greg Schiano, Rutgers 6. John McNulty, Rutgers
7. Bret Bielema, Wisconsin 7. Ron English, Michigan

New Coaches - Instant Success New Coaches - Will Take Some Time
Dennis Erickson, Arizona State Troy Calhoun, Air Force
Steve Kragthorpe, Louisville Gene Chizik, Iowa State
Tom O'Brien, NC State Mark Dantonio, Michigan State
Nick Saban, Alabama Butch Davis, North Carolina
Randy Shannon, Miami Jim Harbaugh, Stanford

Best Student Sections
Student sections gain respect from me for originality, support (noise) and organization.
1. Penn State -- They continue to raise the bar with the white out. The music adds a festival-like atmosphere. I've never seen such support in all my life.
2. Florida -- When the Gators are good -- really good -- there is no place like "The Swamp." I still make the argument it's the loudest stadium in the country on game day. When Mr. Two-bits does his thing, it sends chills up and down your spine as the Gators take the field.
3. Texas A&M -- Aggieland just oozes tradition. Crowds of 40,000 attend yell practices on Friday nights. Are you kidding? I challenge you to locate a more faithful group than what you find at Kyle Field.
4. Oregon -- I'm simply going on my memories from my last trip to Autzen in 2001 -- wow, has it been that long? I think its time for "GameDay" to return to Eugene. Six Pac-10 champions and a major stadium renovation have come and gone since our last visit. But when we were there, it rocked.
5. Notre Dame -- The most traditional atmosphere you will ever witness. The loyal student body adds to the experience.

All-Uni Team - What A College Football Team Should Look Like
Offensive Team Defensive Team
QB - Colt Brennan, Hawaii DE - Tyson Jackson, LSU
RB - Darren McFadden, Arkansas DE - Derrick Harvey, Florida
RB - James Davis, Clemson DT - Glenn Dorsey, LSU
WR - DeSean Jackson, Cal LB - Rey Maualuga, USC
WR - Limas Sweed, Texas LB - Philip Wheeler, Georgia Tech
WR - Early Doucet, LSU LB - Xavier Adibi, Virginia Tech
T - Jake Long, Michigan LB - Dan Connor, Penn State
T - Sam Baker, USC S - Kenny Phillips, Miami
G - Kirk Elder, Texas A&M S - Taylor Mays, USC
G - Shannon Tevaga, UCLA CB - Justin King, Penn State
C - Antoine Caldwell, Alabama CB - Malcolm Jenkins, Ohio State

Top 10 "GameDay" Locations
Based on fan participation, excitement and other personal factors
1. Ohio State -- Last season's Ohio State versus Michigan game proved again why Columbus is at the top of the list. Not only was it No. 1 versus No. 2, but with Bo Schembechler's passing on the eve of the game, it added to the history of the rivalry. Fans from both teams embraced the history and embraced one another more so than I ever remember. Just another reason why Columbus always has a place at the top of this list.
2. Clemson -- I've never seen so much orange in my life. It was by far the best "GameDay" experience of last season. One of the friendliest host staffs we've ever encountered. We literally stayed overlooking the Esso Club. The only drawback was that long drive to Charlotte on Saturday night
3. Florida -- Annually some of the most creative signs we come across are in Gainesville. I love where our set is -- right in between "The Swamp" and fraternity row. We're just crammed with fans. It just feels like a pep rally for the Gator Nation. With Florida coming off a national title, I can only imagine what it will be like this year.
4. LSU -- College football is a way of life in Baton Rouge. You have to see it first hand to believe it. I've never seen a group get after it from Friday night to Sunday morning and still be standing. It's one big weekend-long party.
5. USC -- I continue to be amazed by the USC fans. Keep in mind we go live at 7 a.m. local time. It's dark out, but the Trojan fan base shows its support for the team. They are changing the national image of Pac-10 fans by themselves.
6. Texas A&M -- Now here's a fan base that's starving for a winner. Last season, we set up outside Kyle Field for a showdown with Oklahoma and you could feel how badly A&M fans wanted to return to college football royalty. It was two straight hours of pandemonium. Plus, me and my man Fallica ("GameDay" researcher) knocked out some serious Tex-Mex on Friday night.
7. Virginia Tech -- From the first time I stepped on that campus in 1999, Virginia Tech and the Hokie fan base have made this one of my favorite places to go. Not only is it a spectacular and intimidating scene during the game, but the people of Blacksburg are the friendliest people you will ever meet.
8. Iowa -- Although it had been a long time since "GameDay" had been to Iowa City, last season's visit was a nice reminder of why it is so much fun. I knew it would be a good show on Saturday when the Friday "SportsCenter" segment we taped drew as many people as some places draw on Saturday morning. Had a wonderful steak at Joseph's Steak House. It came highly recommended by Mike Stoops and was one of the best steaks I had all year.
9. Alabama -- For the Friday night team meal, we head on over to Cypress Inn. Once we go 10 deep on an order of the white BBQ chicken for an appetizer, I'm ready to call it a night. Saturday's setup on the quad is probably the best site we have for our show. A sea of crimson just outside Bryant-Denny Stadium. You can literally feel the tradition.
10. Penn State -- The weather always will be lousy and the fans always will be there to support the team and the show. Seeing the white out in person never gets old.

Campus Watch: Prettiest Coeds
1. Georgia
Florida's coeds are near the top in the Herbies Awards.
(Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
2. Ole Miss
3. Florida
4. LSU
5. South Carolina
6. Auburn
7. Florida State
8. Texas
9. Tennessee
10. Alabama

Best Damn Bands In The Land
1. Ohio State: It's not even up for debate.
2. Wisconsin: Unusual marching style scores high points, as do the brass section and the unis.
3. Michigan: Great fight song (obnoxious as all get-out). Could be strong contender for the top spot. I originally docked the Wolverines two points for having music sheets on their instruments, but the Michigan faithful let me know that I was wrong. My attempt to have a little fun failed. Glad to hear the Wolverine band is up to speed!
4. USC: From the conservative Midwest where tradition is the cornerstone, to Southern California where it's about sunshine and excess. USC's band is arguably one of the most supportive of its team. The musicians really watch and are into the game.
5. Notre Dame: Putting the Irish on the list in honor of the over 6-foot tall Irish Guard who always are in character -- and for the classic fight song

Favorite Restaurants
1. Lil' Dooey (Starkville, Miss.): Still the undisputed champion. The best BBQ and the friendliest service in America.
2. Mark's U.S. Prime (Gainesville, Fla.): After years of eating at Arby's every time "GameDay" visited, I was introduced to Mark's U.S. Prime last year. It' safe to say that Arby's has lost a customer. Hopefully, we'll get back to Gainesville more than once this season.
3. El Arroyo (Austin, Texas): Much like Lil' Dooey, it's a local authentic restaurant, in this case, Tex-Mex. I go there every time I'm in Austin and it never gets old.
4. Joseph's Steak House (Iowa City, Iowa): Took a recommendation from former Hawkeye and current Arizona head coach Mike Stoops. Leave it to one of the Stoops boys to hit a home run.
5. Hyde Park Steakhouse (Columbus, Ohio): Hometown favorite. Best steak you'll ever have and an outstanding atmosphere.


Kirk Herbstreit is an analyst on ESPN's "College GameDay." Chat with Kirk Herbstreit every Thursday at 3 p.m. ET, starting on Aug. 31.

Kirk Herbstreit

College Football analyst
Kirk Herbstreit has been an ESPN college football studio analyst since August 1996. Herbstreit, who joined ESPN in September 1995 as a college football sideline analyst for ESPN2, is also a game analyst for ESPN's Thursday night college football telecasts.