Best of Mississippi: What a splendid regular season it was

Rick Cleveland
Rick Cleveland

Without any adieu at all, the Cleveland Awards for the 2015 Mississippi college football season…

Best debut: No competition here really. Got to be Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly, who made the adjustment from junior college to the SEC Western Division look easier than kindergarten math. He just kept making plays, and, as the season went along, he started making more of them with his feet. He’s a big-time player.

Best single-game performance by an offensive player: Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott, vs. Arkansas. Produced 550 yards and seven touchdowns in a 51-50 Bulldog victory.

Best single-game performance by a defensive player: Ole Miss defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche in the Rebels’ victory over Alabama. Nkemdiche made millions of NFL dollars in that game alone. If Bama can’t block you, well, maybe you can’t be blocked.

Best catch: Southern Miss wide receiver Michael Thomas against Louisiana Tech. Listen, if you haven’t seen it, google it. Simply one of the best I’ve ever seen.

Best beard: Belongs to Mississippi State linebacker Richie Brown. Civil War generals would have killed for that beard. He can play, too.

Best victory: Ole Miss 43, Alabama 37, at Tuscaloosa. But then, are Ole Miss victories over Bama getting monotonous (he typed laughing)?

Best offensive player you might not have heard of: Alcorn running back Darryan Ragsdale, who has averaged more than eight yards per carry in his two seasons at Lorman.

Best defensive player you might not have heard of: Jackson State defensive end Javancy Jones, who was in on 110 tackles, including 25.5 behind the line and 7.5 sacks.

Best band: JSU’s Sonic Boom, and we might as well retire this award.

Best turnaround: USM, 4-32 over its previous three seasons, finishes regular season 9-3 and wins Conference USA’s Western Division.

Best video game numbers: USM won its last six regular season games by an average margin of 35 points per game while scoring at a 48-points per game clip. The Golden Eagles feature a 4,000-yard passer and two 1,000-yard rushers.

Most Likely to Succeed in the NFL: Ole Miss left tackle Laremy Tunsil.

Most Likely to Succeed in the NFL, Part II: LaQuon Treadwell.

Most Valuable Player: Dak Prescott. Rarely has one player meant so much to one team or one program.

Coach of the year: Hugh Freeze? Todd Monken? Both had fantastic years, but Jay Hopson at Alcorn State won a championship. The job he has done over the past four seasons rivals any in college football, period.

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Your Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame is hosting an open house for its newly expanded museum store Tuesday from 4 p.m. until 6 p.m. We’ll have book signings and sports memorabilia autographed my Mississippi sports legends. For details, click here.

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