Pitt: 2015 Football Season Fan Poll Awards

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Nov 27, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers linebacker Mike Caprara (30) talks with head coach Pat Narduzzi (R) against the Miami Hurricanes during the first quarter at Heinz Field. Miami won 29-24. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Surprise of the Year

Fan Vote: Mike Caprara

My Vote: Mike Caprara

Without a single doubt, the fans certainly got their vote right by selecting linebacker Mike Caprara as their Surprise of the Year.

Caprara is arguably the one Panther who grew the most as the season raged on. A starter to begin the season at the “money linebacker” position, Caprara was often overlooked in previous seasons due to his size, or lack-thereof. Standing at 6-foot-1 and 230 pounds, the money linebacker outplayed his size and became a consistent force by week four against Virginia Tech, where he earned his first sack of the season. Caprara also registered an interception against the Hokies, too.

His best game, however, was against Duke and the stumbling Blue Devils. Mike tallied nine tackles, a third of those tackles happened behind the line of scrimmage and were made on quarterback, Brenden Motley. It was a fantastic effort by the junior on his way to a breakout season.

Mike Caprara finished the season fifth on the team in total tackles with 45, 10.5 coming in the backfield. He pitched in five sacks, one interception, a single safety, and one forced fumble. Simply put, he was a disruptive force in a resurgent linebacker corps in his first real action since becoming a Panther.

Andrea Adelson of ESPN, one of the best in the business, shed light on what motivates Caprara and why he and Narduzzi are an ideal match as far as a coach and player are concerned:

"“When he first got here, everybody kind of wrote him off like, he can’t play,” Narduzzi said. “That’s what we’ve done for years where I’ve been. I love coaching the guy that they say can’t play.”"

Voting Breakdown:

Mike Caprara: 36.9%

Zach Challingsworth: 34.52%

Brian O’Neill: 28.57%

Next: Defensive Player of the Year