Commentary

The Nation's Best: Eighth Annual Herbie Awards

Originally Published: August 25, 2008
By Kirk Herbstreit | ESPN.com

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

This list has everything to do with the playmakers, the difference-makers and, in short, all 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 eighth annual Herbie Awards:

Best Running Backs -- The Veterans
1. Chris Wells, Ohio State
Beanie Wells raced toward the Herbie finish line.
(Photo by Icon SMI)
2. Knowshon Moreno, Georgia
3. DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma
4. LeSean McCoy, Pitt
5. James Davis, Clemson
6. Javon Ringer, Michigan State

Best Running Backs -- The Next Wave

Joe McKnight gets his chance to shine in 2008.
(Chris Williams/Icon SMI)
1. Joe McKnight, Southern California
2. Noel Devine, West Virginia
3. Mike Goodson, Texas A&M
4. Chris Rainey, Florida
5. Mike Ford, South Florida

Best Wide Receivers
1. Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech
The Herbie is a perfect fit for Michael Crabtree.
(Photo by Icon SMI)
2. Brandon Gibson, Washington State
3. Aaron Kelly, Clemson
4. Brian Robiskie, Ohio State
5. Demetrius Byrd, LSU
6. Mike Thomas, Arizona

Hybrid -- Can Do It All
1. Jeremy Maclin, Missouri
Jeremy Maclin knows what to do with the football.
(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
2. Percy Harvin, Florida
3. Arrelious Benn, Illinois
4. Jacoby Ford, Clemson
5. Brandon Saine, Ohio State

Dream Offensive Line -- The Hogmollies

Alex Boone is the rock of Ohio State's O-line.
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
1. Andre Smith, T, Alabama
2. Alex Boone, T, Ohio State
3. Jonathan Luigs, C, Arkansas
4. Duke Robinson, G, Oklahoma
5. Herman Johnson, G, LSU

Best Tight Ends
1. Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma
The Herbie is in good hands with Jermaine Gresham.
(Photo by Tim Heitman/US Presswire)
2. Rob Gronkowski, Arizona
3. Travis Beckum, Wisconsin
4. Richard Dickson, LSU
5. Brandon Warren, Tennessee

Best Quarterbacks -- Old School: Classic Dropback Style

Matt Stafford leads the preseason's top Dawgs.
(Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)
1. Matt Stafford, Georgia
2. Sam Bradford, Oklahoma
3. Curtis Painter, Purdue
4. Nate Davis, Ball State
5. Willie Tuitama, Arizona

Best QBs: New School -- Spread Offense -- Run and Throw
1. Tim Tebow, Florida
Tim Tebow picks up a Herbie to go with his Heisman.
(Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
2. Chase Daniel, Missouri
3. Pat White, West Virginia
4. Matt Grothe, South Florida
5. Jake Locker, Washington
6. Dan LeFevour, Central Michigan

Quarterbacks -- What A Difference A Year Makes

Mark Sanchez and USC are primed for a title run.
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
1. Mark Sanchez, Southern California
2. Todd Boeckman, Ohio State
3. Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame
4. Jonathan Crompton, Tennessee
5. Cullen Harper, Clemson
6. Kevin Riley, Cal

Defensive Ends -- Sack Masters (could have gone 15 deep!)
1. Tyson Jackson, LSU
Tyson Jackson can add a Herbie to his résumé.
(Photo by Marvin Gentry/US Presswire)
2. George Selvie, South Florida
3. Jeremy Lomax, Georgia
4. Auston English, Oklahoma
5. Ricky Sapp, Clemson
6. Brandon Graham, Michigan
7. Brian Orakpo, Texas

Defensive Tackles -- Not Your Everyday Run-stuffers

Ricky Jean-Francois' Herbie is worth the wait.
(Photo by Greg McWilliams/Icon SMI)
1. Ricky Jean-Francois, LSU
2. DeMarcus Granger, Oklahoma
3. Mitch King, Iowa
4. Geno Atkins, Georgia
5. Sen'Derrick Marks, Auburn

Outside Linebackers -- All Over The Field
1. Brian Cushing, Southern California
Brian Cushing is an impact Herbie player.
(Photo by John Pyle/Icon SMI)
2. Marcus Freeman, Ohio State
3. Zack Follett, Cal
4. Ryan Reynolds, Oklahoma
5. Eric Norwood, South Carolina
6. Martez Wilson, Illinois

Inside Linebackers -- Definition Of The Position

A healthy Jasper Brinkley means trouble for opponents.
(Photo by Greg McWilliams/Icon SMI)
1. Jasper Brinkley, South Carolina
2. James Laurinaitis, Ohio State
3. Rey Maualuga, USC
4. Brandon Spikes, Florida
5. Dannell Ellerbe, Georgia

Cornerbacks -- Just Throw The Other Way
1. Malcolm Jenkins, Ohio State
Malcolm Jenkins anchors OSU's defensive backfield.
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
2. Vontae Davis, Illinois
3. Jairus Byrd, Oregon
4. Walter Thurmond, Oregon
5. Josh Pinkard, Southern California
6. Victor "Macho" Harris, Virginia Tech

Safeties -- These Guys Belong On A Poster

Who needs offense when you have Taylor Mays?
(Photo by Kevin Terrell/Getty Images)
1. Taylor Mays, Southern California
2. Eric Berry, Tennessee
3. Chad Jones, LSU
4. William Moore, Missouri
5. Patrick Chung, Oregon

Return Stars

Brandon James is a dangerous return man.
(Photo by Icon SMI)
1. Brandon James, Florida
2. Jeremy Maclin, Missouri
3. Jahvid Best, Cal
4. Deon Murphy, Kansas State
5. A.J. Wallace, Penn State

Top True Freshmen -- From High School To The Big Time
A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
It won't take long for A.J. Green to catch on at Georgia.
(AP Photo/John Amis)
Terrelle Pryor, QB, Ohio State
Darrell Scott, RB, Colorado
Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
DaQuan Bowers, DE, Clemson
Marcus Forston, DT, Miami
Richard Samuel, RB, Georgia

What's My Name -- Household Names By September's End

You'll hear all about Keiland Williams soon.
(Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
Keiland Williams, RB, LSU
Markus White, DE, Florida State
Chris Rainey, RB, Florida
Derrick Washington, RB, Missouri
Damian Williams, WR, Southern California
Everson Griffen, DE, Southern California
Joe Ganz, QB, Nebraska
Jamere Holland, WR, Oregon

Players Who Don't Get Enough Respect
(Don't Worry Fellas, I've Got Your Back)
Entire Wake Forest football team, including head coach Jim Grobe Nick Reed, DE, Oregon
Stafon Johnson, RB, Southern California Brian Hartline, WR, Ohio State
Chris Brown, RB, Oklahoma Sean Weatherspoon, LB, Missouri
Brian Johnson, QB, Utah

Going Bowling -- First Time In A While
1. Arizona
Mike Stoops has Arizona pointed in the right direction.
(Photo by Kevin Terrell/Getty Images)
2. Ole Miss
3. North Carolina
4. Pitt
5. UNLV

Movin' On Up
Headin' On Down
1. Nebraska 1. Hawaii
2. Notre Dame 2. Kentucky
3. Arizona 3. Virginia
4. Florida State 4. Arkansas
5. Miami 5. Kansas
6. Ole Miss 6. Virginia Tech

Conference Picks -- Mark It Down
CONFERENCE CHAMP SLEEPER
ACC Atlantic Clemson
Wake Forest
ACC Coastal Miami
North Carolina
ACC Champ Clemson
Big East USF
Connecticut
Big Ten Ohio State
Penn State/Michigan State
Big 12 North Missouri
Nebraska
Big 12 South Oklahoma
Texas
Big 12 Champ Oklahoma
Pac-10 USC
Arizona
SEC East Florida
Tennessee
SEC West Auburn
Ole Miss
SEC Champ Florida
C-USA Champ Tulsa
MAC Champ Central Michigan
Mountain West Champ Utah
Sun Belt Champ Florida Atlantic
WAC Champ Fresno State

Top Playcallers -- Based On Projected Player Personnel
1. Dan Mullen, Florida
Dan Mullen has plenty of talent to work with in '08.
(Photo by Jason Parkhurst/US Presswire)
2. Chip Kelly, Oregon
3. Dave Christensen, Missouri
4. Mike Bobo, Georgia
5. Steve Sarkisian, Southern California
6. Kevin Wilson, Oklahoma
7.Frank Cignetti, Cal

Top Defenses And The Geniuses Behind Them

Pete Carroll has many reasons to smile about his defense.
(Photo by Matt Kincaid/Getty Images)
1. Pete Carroll, USC
2. Willie Martinez, Georgia
3. Will Muschamp, Texas
4. Jim Heacock, Ohio State
5. Tom Bradley, Penn State
6. Paul Rhoads, Auburn
7. Vic Koenning, Clemson

Coaches Whose Teams Will Shine Coaches Who Will Exceed Expectations
1. Urban Meyer, Florida 1. Bo Pelini, Nebraska
2. Pete Carroll, USC 2. Charlie Weis, Notre Dame
3. Jim Tressel, Ohio State 3. Butch Davis, North Carolina
4. Mark Richt, Georgia 4. Mike Stoops, Arizona
5. Bob Stoops, Oklahoma 5. Randy Shannon, MIami
6. Gary Pinkel, Missouri 6. Mike Riley, Oregon State

Head Coaches-In-Waiting
1. Will Muschamp, Texas
USC's Steve Sarkisian is a hot head-coaching prospect.
(Photo by Icon SMI)
2. Steve Sarkisian, Southern California
3. Paul Chryst, Wisconsin
4. DeWayne Walker, UCLA
5. Dan Mullen, Florida
6. Mike Locksley, Illinois

New Coaches -- Instant Success New Coaches -- Will Take Some Time
Bo Pelini, Nebraska Rick Neuheisel, UCLA
Rich Rodriguez, Michigan Bobby Petrino, Arkansas
Bill Stewart, West Virginia Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech
Houston Nutt, Ole Miss Paul Wulff, Washington State
June Jones, SMU

Best Student Sections
1. Penn State -- If you haven't been to Happy Valley in the fall, you're missing out on one of the great happenings in all of sports. Quite simply the loudest, most supportive student section in college football.
2. Florida -- Still the loudest place to watch a college football game for four quarters. With Tim Tebow chasing a second Heisman and the Gators chasing a national title, I wouldn't want to be a visiting team at the Swamp in 2008.
3. LSU -- Typically, in most stadiums, the student section challenges the rest of the stadium to cheer at a certain level. At Tiger Stadium, that has never been the case. The everyday fans are just as crazy as the students, and because of that, the LSU student body has never been mentioned in the Herbies. But after two trips last year and seeing them a third time in the title game, this student section doesn't have to take a backseat to anybody.
4. Ohio State -- Over the past five years, the Buckeyes' home field has proved to be one of the toughest places to play in the country. New student seating configuration with 15,000 students at each end zone will create an even more hostile environment at the Shoe.
5. Oregon -- It looks like "GameDay" answered my call last year as we visited Eugene twice. And my memories were substantiated and then some. The place is louder and nastier than I remember it. Good luck winning there.

All-Uni Team -- What A College Football Team Should Look Like
Offensive Team Defensive Team
QB - Tim Tebow, Florida DE - Tyson Jackson, LSU
RB - James Davis, Clemson (offensive captain) DE - Carlos Dunlap, Florida
RB - Chris Wells, Ohio State DT - Ricky Jean-Francois, LSU
RB - DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma DT - DeMarcus Granger, Oklahoma
WR - Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech LB - Rey Maualuga, Southern California
WR - Jeremy Maclin, Missouri LB - Martez Wilson, Illinois
WR - Arrelious Benn, Illinois LB - James Laurinaitis, Ohio State
TE - Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma LB - Zack Follett, Cal
T - Andre Smith, Alabama S - William Moore, Missouri
T - Alex Boone, Ohio State S - Taylor Mays, Southern California (defensive captain)
G - Herman Johnson, LSU CB - Vontae Davis, Illinois
G - Anthony Parker, Tennessee CB - Malcolm Jenkins, Ohio State
C - Alex Mack, Cal

Sites "GameDay" Must Get To (I'm not quitting until we visit)
1. Georgia Enough is enough. Can we please get to Athens? We haven't been there since 1998. That's WAY too long.
2. Missouri
3. Washington
4. California
5. West Virginia

Favorite Restaurants
1. Lil' Dooey (Starkville, Miss.): Still the undisputed champion. I've been saying it for years: It has the best barbecue 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 two years ago. I was reminded again in the spring what a great meal can be had there.
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. Ruffino's (Baton Rouge, La.): Are you kidding me with the crabmeat cheesecake appetizer? A great mix of Italian with a Cajun twist.
5. Chuck's (Tuscaloosa, Ala.): Sushi and scenery.
6. Hyde Park Steakhouse (Columbus, Ohio): Hometown favorite. Best steak you'll ever have and an outstanding atmosphere.
In a special class of its own: Emeril's (New Orleans): This was probably the best meal I have ever had. I don't know where to begin. Starting with the barbecue shrimp to the salmon on cornbread (and whatever other appetizers we ordered) to the ridiculous entrées and unreal dessert spread -- highlighted by the banana crème pie and the sweet potato cheesecake -- it was a night to remember. Emeril himself came from the kitchen to greet our table, help serve and talk football. Can't beat that!


Kirk Herbstreit is an analyst on ESPN's "College GameDay."

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.