NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Memphis’ Mike Norvell and Vanderbilt’s Zach Cunningham were voted the College Football Coach and Player of the Year, respectively, by the Tennessee Sports Writers Association for the 2016 season, announced this week by the organization.
Norvell and Cunningham will be honored during the annual TSWA Hall of Fame dinner and awards banquet set for Thursday, July 13, at Baird Chapel on the Cumberland University campus.
Norvell led the Tigers to eight victories, the most wins by a first-year coach in program history. Memphis ranked in the Top 25 in eight NCAA statistical categories and set a school single-season record with 34 touchdown passes. UM ranked second in school history in total offense (6,028 yards), total TDs (63) and scoring (505).
Memphis also ranked fifth nationally in turnovers gained (29) and 17th in turnover margin while returning three kicks for touchdowns for the youngest head coach in FBS. The Tigers started the season 3-0 and won three of its last four games, including a 48-44 victory over 18th-ranked Houston, to finish the regular season.
Cunningham earned unanimous First Team All-America honors from the likes of the Associated Press, Walter Camp Football Foundation, Football Writers Association of America, ESPN.com, etc., the first Commodore player in the program’s history to achieve that feat. He was also the first VU position player to earn consensus First Team All-America recognition since George Diederich in 1958.
The linebacker led the SEC with 125 total tackles and four fumble recoveries while ranking second in the league with 71 solo stops and third with 16.5 tackles for loss. Cunningham earned unanimous National Defensive Player of the Week accolades following a 19-tackle performance at Georgia in October and produced some of the conference's top individual defensive plays, including a tackle on 4th-&-1 late at Georgia to clinch the victory and leaping the Auburn line to block a Tiger field goal attempt.