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Greg Schiano discusses Spring Practice Award Winners

After a six year absence, tradition has been restored and the head coach spoke about the selection process.

Penn State v Rutgers
Offensive tackle Hollin Pierce was recognized for his improvement this spring.
Photo by Benjamin Solomon/Getty Images

During halftime of the Scarlet-White game on Thursday night, Rutgers football announced the winners of this year’s Spring Awards. Head coach Greg Schiano had said earlier this month that he had reinstated the awards after they were abruptly cancelled in 2016 by former head coach Chris Ash. The Spring Awards have traditionally been given out annually for decades.

Defensive back Robert Longerbeam won the Frank R. Burns Award, which has honors the player who displays extraordinary mental and physical toughness during spring practice. He played five games as a true freshman last season. Schiano said of Longerbeam, “Robert just really gutted through a painful injury that he had and then you know, couldn’t do it any more, so he got — he got surgery and he’s going to be ready for camp. But he really exhibited every day coming to practice, working hard, fighting through it, and I thought he really personified what that award is meant to be.”

Offensive lineman Hollin Pierce won the Mark Mills Second Effort Award, which is given to the most improved offensive player. He was the backup left tackle last season and played on the field goal protection unit against Purdue in his only action. On his spring performance Schiano said, “Hollin Pierce on offense won the most improved and I really thought that Hollin had a great spring. He’s been coming on, he’s had kind of a linear ascent that we’re pleased with. Really, really good in certain things and certain things because he hasn’t played a ton of football, we have to get him up to speed with, but I think he’s going to be a fine player.”

Linebacker Tyreem Powell won the Douglas A. Smith Award as the most improved defensive player. Powell has yet to make his debut on the field after being on the scout team at practice last season. Schiano said, “I think that Tyreem Powell really came on this spring. You know, he got injured during the season and wasn’t able to do everything. And he just had a really good spring. Made a lot of plays. Showed his ability and so that’s — that’s why those three guys won.”

In regard to selecting this spring’s award winners, Schiano indicated there were multiple players considered. “It wasn’t easy. There were several guys that I thought qualified to win those, at least the most improved award. But when it came down to it, those were the guys that we selected.”

It’s great to have the spring awards back. Hopefully the players who won are able to continue to develop and become valuable contributors for this program moving forward.