NittanyNation's midseason awards

October, 9, 2012
10/09/12
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With the season halfway over, NittanyNation has looked over the games and each player performance to decide this year's midseason awards.

Who's the team MVP to this point, and who's the biggest underachiever? NittanyNation has it all below:

Team MVP: LB Michael Mauti
This is an easy decision. Mauti has a brought a fire to this team, and his leadership hasn't been limited to just the field. During the sanctions, he was one of the first players to step up and pledge his loyalty to the university. And his linebacking performance this season could very well be remembered as one of the best of the decade at Linebacker U. Safety Malcolm Willis said this about Mauti: "His play speaks for itself. His [play] said, 'Guys I'm going to put the team on my back and make a bunch of plays. And I expect the same from you guys.' "
[+] EnlargeBill O'Brien
AP Photo/Gene J. PuskarMatt McGloin has benefitted from Bill O'Brien's tutelage. He's the leading passer in the Big Ten.
Biggest surprise: QB Matt McGloin
With the additions of O'Brien and Charlie Fisher, McGloin was expected to be improved this season -- but not this much. He leads the Big Ten in passing yards (1,499), completions (136) and is tied with Nebraska's Taylor Martinez in touchdowns (12). McGloin has limited his mistakes, throwing just two interceptions, and this season could go down as one of the best for a Penn State quarterback. At this pace, McGloin could finish the season as the school's No. 2 all-time passer when it comes to yards.

Biggest underachiever: DT Jordan Hill
You could argue for Sam Ficken here, but expectations weren't high for the kicker to begin with. Hill was expected to be a favorite for the Lombardi Award; he was expected to take over for second-round NFL draft pick Devon Still without barely missing a beat. Instead, Hill has taken a step back. He can't deal with the double-teams, and he has just two tackles-for-loss this season. Hill might not even be on course for a selection on the All-Big Ten First Team.

Rookie of the Year: DE Deion Barnes
He was expected to see a lot of time this season as a situational player. But, when Pete Massaro went down, Barnes stepped in as the starter -- and turned a lot of heads. He is the Nittany Lions' top pass-rusher and already has a team-leading four sacks and five tackles-for-loss. Defensive coordinator Ted Roof said Barnes has already proven to be a special player, and after a rookie season like this, the words "NFL future" are already being brought up in conversation.

Unsung hero: RB Zach Zwinak
Before the season, few would have guessed Zwinak would rush for more than 100 total yards on the season -- let alone boasting multiple 100-yard games halfway through the season. He was the team's last option, a third-string fullback the year before, but he came onto the field out of necessity for the Nittany Lions. With four tailbacks injured, Zwinak's number was called -- and he didn't disappoint. He leads the team with 317 yards on 68 carries; he also has three touchdowns. He's getting better every week.

Best backup: LB Mike Hull
Hull wasn't sure if he wanted to remain in Happy Valley following the sanctions, but he decided to stick with the team as the No. 4 'backer. He would have been the No. 5, if not for Khairi Fortt's transfer to Cal, but he's seen an increased workload because of his play. He scooped up one fumble and rumbled 74 yards for a touchdown earlier this season. Against Northwestern, he made the final deflection to seal the win. He's guaranteed to be a starter next season.

Most likely to set a record: WR Allen Robinson
O.J. McDuffie set the single-season school reception record in 1992 by catching 63 passes. Through six games, Robinson already has 41 grabs. It would actually be more of a surprise if he doesn't hit the record this season. Robinson could come away with records for receiving yards and touchdowns, but he's closest to the receptions record. He was a third-string wideout last season; he's one of the top in the nation this year.

Least likely to start next year: K Sam Ficken
He's been inconsistent and, before the Northwestern game, was statistically the least-accurate kicker in all of college football. O'Brien says the team remains behind him, but he clearly doesn't trust the kicker. Ficken isn't automatic from anywhere, and it would be a surprise if O'Brien can't find a walk-on or two to take his place next season. Ficken is definitely on the hot seat and, unless he improves drastically these next few weeks, he'll be there all offseason.

Josh Moyer | email

Penn State/Big Ten reporter

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