Hardware Horse Race: Adam Breneman Takes Giant Leap Toward Mackey Award Honors

By Vico on August 28, 2017 at 2:35 pm
Sep 24, 2016; Foxborough, MA, USA; Massachusetts Minutemen tight end Adam Breneman (81) is pursued by Mississippi State Bulldogs line backer DeAndre Ward (28) during the third quarter at Gillette Stadium. Mississippi State won 47-35. Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the Hardware Horse Race. This weekly feature runs on Monday and relates the weekend's college football results to the competition for various national awards for which Ohio State players are candidates.

Saturday featured just five opening contests, which makes it difficult to do an honest evaluation of how the December awards circuit will unfold. We can make one exception for the sake of this feature after just five games on Saturday; Adam Breneman is almost assuredly winning the Mackey Award even if Marcus Baugh has a First Team All-B1G season at tight end.

Breneman, last year's receptions, yards, and touchdowns leader among all tight ends, had an outstanding performance for the Minutemen with nine receptions for 179 yards. Compare that to the best season a tight end had yet for Ohio State in the Meyer era. Breneman's game on Saturday was 34% of Jeff Heuerman's receptions in the 2013 season and 38% of the receiving yards. It was even 22% of the receiving yards Breneman had last year when he led all tight ends in receiving yards.

Breneman may have wanted the win instead of the monster game; Hawai'i beat UMass, 38-35, in Amherst.

That might be the silver lining of the Mackey Award race if Marcus Baugh thrives under the tutelage of Kevin Wilson. UMass won't win many games even if Breneman approaches 1,000 receiving yards for the season. Selectors for these individual player awards beyond the big overall awards (e.g. Heisman, Maxwell) are unlikely to punish players for being on bad teams, but Baugh could steal some of Breneman's thunder with a big season on a higher-profile program like Ohio State.

A few other players on the Mackey Award watch list were in action on Saturday but did not have the kind of performances Breneman had. Hawai'i's Metuisela 'Unga had three grabs for 30 yards and a touchdown against the Minutemen. However, he was far from the workhorse for the Rainbow Warriors that game. John Ursua, Hawai'i's H-receiver, stole the show with 12 receptions for 272 yards and a touchdown.

Dalton Schultz grabbed two receptions for 41 yards for a Stanford team that throttled Rice in Sydney. Stanford was able to run the ball at will against the Owls and spread the ball among its other receiving options. This made Schultz less the focal point he could be down the stretch for the Cardinal.

Mitch Wilcox participated in the season-opening win against San Jose State, but did not catch a pass. Wilcox led the Bulls' tight end stable with 12 catches for 278 yards and two touchdowns last year but is unlikely to have the kind of season to credibly challenge for the Mackey Award despite appearing on the Mackey Award's watch list.

This discussion exhausts those that were on the watch list for the Mackey Award who played on Saturday, but one other performance stood out. Noah Togiai had seven receptions for 67 yards and a touchdown in the loss at Colorado State. This output already matches what Togiai did in 2015 as a freshman (he lost most of last year to an injury). He also looked a vital part of the Beavers offense, portending he could reliably have 50-yard receiving games this season. This would put him over 600 yards receiving for a season and would be enough to keep him in the discussion of the best tight ends in the country.

However, the Mackey Award is Breneman's to lose. If he's healthy, he'll have the kind of season that will make him a fait accompli for this award. Marcus Baugh's path toward Ohio State's first ever Mackey Award got that much longer after Breneman's game on Saturday.

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