College football wound down its season with the Army-Navy game this past weekend, and moved into awards weekend, where some of the best and brightest of college football hoped to pick up hardware ranging from the Heisman Trophy, to the Biletnikoff, to a spot on an All-American squad.
This year, FIU had a chance to send someone to an awards presentation. Surprisingly Jonnu Smith, who led all tight ends nationwide in receiving yards, catches and touchdowns, wasn't even considered for the John Mackey Award, given to the top tight end.
Based on statistics alone, one would think he would be finalist. He deserved it much more than Minnesota's Maxx Williams and Miami's Clive Walford and FIU could make an argument that he deserved it more than the 2014 John Mackey winner, Nick O'Leary from Florida State. Smith had 100 more yards and one more touchdown on the year than O'Leary, who played an extra game,
If winning it didn't rile up Panther fans, the fact that he wasn't even a semifinalist cause doubt in some people's minds. Unlike O'Leary, Walford, and Williams, Smith had to work much harder to get great statistics. Being the only real threat in a college football offense is hard to do, especially at tight end.
Smith didn't have a Heisman winner at quarterback (Jameis Winston), or a game-changing running back playing in the backfield to lessen his offensive burden )Duke Johnson, Delvin Coiok or David Cobb). Walford's Miami team had a top five running back in Johnson fantastic help at receiver with deep threat Phillip Dorsett and Stacey Coley out wide to take attention from Walford. Miami may have had a freshman quarterback in Brad Kaaya, but he was also an Elite-11 quarterback in high school and the number five quarterback in his class according to ESPN's Recruiting Nation.
O'Leary didn't need to stress out being an easy red zone threat because defenses had to worry about where receivers Rashard Greene and Travis Rudolph were at all times, along with the explosive running back Dalvin Cook. Plus Jameis Winston's ability to extend a play made it very easy for O'Leary to get open for a score.
Minnesota's Williams may not have had receivers like Walford and O'Leary to divert a defense's attention, though he did have running back David Cobb in his backfield, who rushed for over 1500 yards to help open up the passing game. Both Williams and Smith were in similar situations, having a less than reliable passing game as both of their quarterbacks threw for under 1700 yards for the season.
Jonnu Smith was the offense for FIU, accounting for 16 percent of the total offensive yards, and more than 33 percent of the total receptions. In fact, he had more receptions than the next 5 FIU receivers combined, with receiver Glenn Coleman coming in a distant second with only 23 receptions on the year.
I could keep on going about how Smith did his job better than the other guys who ended up as finalists, but these arguments are not the reason for the decision. It was the committee saying no. The committee looked away from the non-power five schools when it came to picking finalists.
Smith racked up quite a resume. He was mentioned on the John Mackey award mid season watch list and was a John Mackey Week Two Player of the Week, as well as being chosen as a PhilSteele.com Second Team Mid-Season All-American team and finished second behind O'Leary in SB Nation's All American team.
Somehow though, Smith did not make the cut for the finals. Unfortunately, most of the selection committee consists of people who primarily cover the big schools - FSU, Minnesota, and Miami, leaving a guy like Smith out in the cold.
All of this leads to the big question: Why wasn't Jonnu Smith the 2014 John Mackey Award winner, or at least a finalist?