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December 27, 2006

Elite of the elite: Offense-Defense POY finalists

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - To be invited to the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl, you have to be a truly special player. But even in that elite group, there's a small group of players that have separated themselves from the pack and been nominated for national player of the year award.

The game is set for 7 p.m. (Eastern) on Jan. 4 and will be broadcast live on ESPNU. The night before the game, one deserving player will walk away with the coveted national player of the year award.

Offense-Defense will also honor players with other awards, including quarterback of the year, running back of the year, receiver of the year, lineman of the year, linebacker of the year and defensive back of the year. There will also be an award for assistant coach of the year.

Rivals.com will have full coverage of the awards banquet and everything associated with the inaugural Offense-Defense All-American Bowl as practices kick off Dec. 31 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Here's a quick look at each of the six finalists for the player of the year award.

Offense-Defense Player of the Year finalists
Aaron Corp
Villa Park (Calif.) Orange Lutheran
QB 6-4, 195

Corp led his team to the school's first state title in any sport. Orange Lutheran won the first CIF state football title for an Orange County school two weeks ago when Corp led his team to a victory over Palo Alto in the CIF Division II title game. Corp rushed for rushed for 155 yards on 11 carries with the one score and connecting on 16 of 32 passes for 208 yards and four touchdowns in the state final.

On the season, Corp finished with 1,135 yards on the ground with 12 TDs. He also completed 212 of 311 passes for 2,750 yards and 21 touchdowns. He committed early in the recruiting process to USC, turning down offers from Arizona, Arizona State, Cal, Colorado, Nebraska, Oregon, Oregon State and others.

He is ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 77 player overall and the No. 4 dual-threat quarterback in the country. He was also ranked as the No. 10 player in the preseason California Top 100.

William Cole
Cedar Hill, Texas
WR 5-10, 165

No player in the Lone Star State has seen his stock rise more than Cole. The four-star prospect led his team to a state championship this past weekend while playing predominately at quarterback, even though his future on the next level is at receiver. In a 51-17 rout of Cypress Falls in the state title game, Cole had 290 yards rushing and three touchdowns. Cole scored on runs of 75, 71 and 63 yards. He averaged 20.7 yards for his 14 carries and also threw a 20-yard touchdown pass.

This season Cole finished with 2,954 yards rushing, helping cement his stock as one of the Lone Star State's best all-around players. Cole has a top group of Arizona, Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma State. He has visits lined up to Kansas on Jan. 12, Arkansas on Jan. 19 and Missouri on Jan. 26.

He is ranked as the No. 27 receiver in the nation by Rivals.com and the No. 47 player in Texas in the preseason state rankings.

Lennon Creer
Tatum, Texas
RB 6-1, 202

Creer helped his team to a 32-14 win over Littlefield for the Class 2A Division I title. Last year, Creer guided Tatum to the Class 3A Division II championship. Creer finished the year with 2,744 yards and 36 touchdowns - proving once again that he is one of the top running backs in the Lone Star State. In the state championship game, he rushed for 214 yards and two touchdowns.

A four-year letter winner and a three-year starter, Creer has been the engine that drove Tatum's successful ride the past two years. He is one of the most heavily recruited class 2A players to come out of Texas in the past 10 years. He has taken official visits to Oklahoma and Tennessee, and he's working on visits with other teams like Florida, Georgia.

Rivals.com ranks Creer as the nation's No. 3 running back and the No. 39 player overall. He also was ranked as the No. 7 player in the preseason Texas top 100.

Joe Haden
Ft. Washington (Md.) Friendly
ATH 5-10, 189

After coming up just short in last season's Class 3A South Region playoffs, Haden and Friendly were on a mission to win it all this season. Haden helped his team accomplish the mission with a 37-18 victory over Rive Hill in the 3A state title game.

Haden threw for 151 yards and two touchdowns on 10 for 15 passing in the championship game. Haden also chipped in 42 yards rushing and two touchdowns, and added a pair of two-point conversion runs. For the season, Haden threw for 40 touchdowns and rushed for an additional 12 scores. No team was able to get closer than 19 points all season long - mostly because of Haden's explosive ability.

A four-year starter, Haden is ranked as the No. 94 player in the nation by Rivals.com and the No. 6 athlete overall. He could play a number of different positions for the Florida Gators, the school he committed to early in the process. He will most likely be in the defensive backfield.

Robert Marve
Tampa (Fla.) Plant
QB 6-1, 189

Records are meant to be broken, and Marve shattered a few during his senior season at Plant. Marve set a state record with 4,372 passing yards and 48 touchdowns this season. He was intercepted just 13 times. In the Class 4A state title game at Dolphin Stadium in Miami, he helped his team to victory with 30 of 46 completions for 305 yards and three scores.

The records alone speak for themselves, but Marve's true character was displayed when he led his team on a late drive to win the state championship over Ponte Vedra Beach Nease. It was a wild ride of Marve running, scrambling, and completing quick outs with the clock ticking. He finally produced the game winning pass with 17 seconds left.

Marve is ranked as the No. 8 pro-style quarterback in the nation and is a member of the Rivals250. He made an early commitment to Alabama, but other teams have stepped up and tried to get him to waver as the Crimson Tide searches for a new coach.

Brandon Saine
Piqua, Ohio
RB 6-0, 200

Saine was named Mr. Football in Ohio after leading his team to a state championship. Saine gained 2,261 yards for 33 touchdowns. He caught 19 passes for 345 yards and five TDs, and has 400 return yards and a kick return for a score. "Brandon is a great football player who is also a great sprinter," his coach said. "He's got the speed to turn the corner on people, but he'd just as soon run between the tackles and hit people."

Saine committed early to Ohio State and is expected to be used by the Buckeyes a lot like they use Ted Ginn Jr. He should be a threat for the Buckeyes on special teams and also in passing situations. He turned down offers from Boston College, Maryland, Michigan, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and numerous others.

He is ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 6 running back in the nation, the No. 64 player overall and the No. 2 player in Ohio.



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