DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: SUTTON SMITH, NO. ILLINOIS
Northern Illinois junior defensive end Sutton Smith earned the coveted Vern Smith Leadership Award, indicative of being the top player in the league along with being named the MAC’s Defensive Player of the Year. He was a first-team A.P. All-American. Smith finished the season with 43 solo tackles, 18 assists, 15.0 sacks. He led the nation with 26.5 tackles for loss.
Smith also won the MAC’s Defensive Player of the Year award in 2017. Being a model of hard-work and consistency, his 2018 stats were a mirror of the previous season. Smith looks to be a mid-round prospect.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: TYREE JACKSON, BUFFALO
Buffalo junior quarterback Tyree Jackson was named the MAC’s Offensive Player of the Year, with UB head coach Lance Leipold getting the Coach of the Year Award. Jackson led the Bulls with 2,605 yards passing this season, 25 touchdowns and a 55.5 percent completion rate.
Draft pundits either glow when speaking of Jackson’s size and potential or growl when discussing his lack of accuracy, lamenting he didn’t return to school for another year – there hasn’t been much in-between. Johnson is expected to be picked in the second or third round.
SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER OF THE YEAR: DIONTAE JOHNSON, TOLEDO
Johnson lead the MAC with an average punt return of 18.3 yards, and he is second in kickoff return average at 25.8 yards per attempt. Johnson is the only player in the conference to return a punt and kickoff for a touchdown this season. As a receiver, he is tied for the team lead with 43 receptions, leads UT with 663 receiving yards, and has seven touchdown catches. For his career, he averaged 23.4 yards per kickoff return, which would put him third all-time in UT history.
Johnson has declared for the draft and looks to be a mid-late round pick.
FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR: JARET PATTERSON, BUFFALO
Patterson leads Buffalo and ranks fifth in the MAC with 874 yards rushing and his 12 touchdowns are tied for third in the league. Patterson has appeared in all 12 games as a freshman and is averaging 5.8 yards per carry and 72.8 yards per game.
“He gets the ball, he makes guys miss, he can run you over,” said teammate and wide receiver Anthony Johnson said. “He just fights. I love that guy. He’s really a great freshman and he has a few more years. He’s going to be an outstanding player.”
COACH OF THE YEAR: LANCE LEIPOLD, BUFFALO
Leipold led the Bulls to a 10-2 record this season. Leipold is in his fourth season leading the Buffalo program and has the Bulls in the Marathon MAC Football Championship Game for the first time since 2008. Leipold has led the program to its first 10-win season in school history. The Bulls were bowl eligible for the second consecutive season as the program’s win total has increased from two wins in 2016, six wins in 2017 and 10 wins in 2018. The ten wins are the most a Buffalo team has won in a season since joining the FBS ranks in 1999.