Awards: Breakout Player of the Year
The Breakout Player of the Year is meant to honor the player who rose from obscurity to become a force to be reckoned with. This year, two people embodied that vision: Destany McLin and Eli Jenkins.
McLin established herself as an offensive weapon this season. The sophomore showed her ability to drive to the basket, but her deadly mid-range jumper is where she did most of her damage.
In her freshman season, she started only five of her 26 games and averaged 15 minutes, 5.5 points and 3.1 rebounds per game. This season, she started 25 of her 28 games and averaged 32.1 minutes, 14.5 points and 6.2 rebounds per game.
She finished second in scoring behind junior guard Candace Morton. But, her career high 31 points in JSU’s overtime win over Belmont was the highest point total for Gamecock of the season.
Jenkins burst on the scene in the 2013 J-Day game when he threw an 85-yard touchdown pass to Wesley Warren on his first play of the game. It should have come as no surprise he won the starting quarterback job when the regular season started. But after suffering a hand injury in the season opener at Alabama State, his throwing ability had to take a back seat to his running ability.
In JSU’s 49-13 win over Jacksonville University, he was one of four 100-yard rushers. The quarterback position became a revolving door after that game with Jenkins still nursing an injured hand and Max Shortell and Kyle West showing their skills as passers.
His hand healed as the season went on and after the Eastern Illinois game, he once again had a stranglehold on the quarterback position. He went on to lead the Gamecocks to the quarterfinals of the FCS Playoffs and looked poised to lead the Gamecocks to the semifinals before suffering an injury against Eastern Washington.
Despite the injury limiting his action and splitting time with two other quarterbacks, Jenkins finished as the second leading rusher with 1,053 yards and eight touchdowns and the second leading passer with 887 yards and three touchdowns. He threw a 35-yard touchdown to Anthony Johnson on his first play of this year’s J-Day game. If he can avoid the injuries, that could serve as an omen of greater things to come.