The most successful offensive players of the 2022 season.
July 11, 2022 by Michael Ball and Chris Cassella in Awards with 0 comments
Ultiworld’s 2022 College Awards are presented by the National Ultimate Training Camp; all opinions are those of the author(s). NUTC helps young players become better athletes and community members.
Each year, Ultiworld presents our annual College Awards. Our staff evaluates the individual performances of players from throughout the season, talking to folks around college ultimate, watching film, and look at statistics, voting upon the awards to decide those to be honored. The regular season and the college Series are both considered, with extra emphasis for performances in the competitive and high-stakes environment at Nationals.
Our awards continue with the Offensive Player of the Year, recognizing the individual, and two runners-up, who we felt had the most impactful and productive seasons helping their teams score. They set up goals, finished off points, and produced yardage at consistently high levels against the top defenders.
D-III Men’s 2022 Offensive Player Of The Year
Winner: Will Brandt (St. Olaf)
This year’s Offensive Player of the Year is Will Brandt of the St. Olaf Berzerkers. To anyone who saw Brandt play in Milwaukee, what follows should be answered with a “duh.” For that we’ll apologize in advance. Brandt was the shining diamond in the rough performance for St. Olaf in the national final. And while Brandt is an all-around player for the Berzerkers, his offense is what sets him apart from the pack of talented offensive players in 2022.
If you could make a word cloud to describe Brandt’s play, the large bold-face adjective in the center is “unguardable.” At points, it looked like Brandt was being guarded by, to borrow a term from former NBA point guard JJ Redick, “plumbers and firemen.” Teams could only hope to contain him, not stop him. It is reminiscent of an early-2010s Kurt Gibson. Want to force him under? He’ll beat you with throws. Want to force him out? He’ll sky the pile for a goal. Even in the national final, OC struggled to slow down Brandt when he got hot. That game Brandt had three goals, three assists, as well as three blocks. This pairs well with his overall stat-line for the weekend. Brandt led the team in assists (21), tied as a team leader with goals (11).
It’s worth mentioning a few examples of Brandt’s dynamic play. In the semifinal against the Berry Bucks, the Berry zone forced Brandt back behind the disc. From the handler space he had two key impacts. First, he moved the cup backwards with quick fakes and handler crashes. Second, he opened up space over the top of the zone with crisp throws — it exposed some weaknesses in the Bucks’ zone and opened up shots to the end zone. In the final against OC, Brandt was pushed downfield. In the first offensive point of the game, Brandt skied for a goal. Later on in the first half, Brandt drew two or three defenders in the deep-space. When the throw went up, Brandt came down with it. The one instance where this did not work for Olaf was off of a high-contact play with an OC defender. While it is impossible to say that Brandt could have just outjumped the entire OC defense for an eventual win, the limited sample from the final shows the deep shots to Brandt were St. Olaf’s best option on offense.
Less of a problem for the 2021-2022 season, but a usual problem in D-III, is roster turnover and recruitment. The latter is a chore for smaller schools, as the talent pool is slim. But Will Brandt is only a sophomore. As he enters his junior year, he’ll be coming off of seasons with both the Minnesota Windchill in the AUDL and Minneapolis Sub Zero in the club division. For both of these teams he is already a huge contributor. As the seasons progress, he’ll only get better. This is great news for St. Olaf and bad news for every other team in the division.
With a few seasons left, look for Brandt to stay an offensive powerhouse in D-III. Teams are going to continue to struggle to find an answer for his athleticism, throwing ability, and growing ultimate IQ. And as more players cycle through the Berzerkers program, it will be interesting to see how Brandt cycles into different offensive positions. As a coach, this is a dream — for your best offensive player to have the ability to adapt to the strengths of other players. So, whether Brandt is behind the disc or downfield in the next season, look for him to be in continued conversation as one of the best offensive players in the country.
Walker Frankenberg (Middlebury)
After winning OPOTY in the fall, Frankenberg’s dip to 1st runner-up for this award is much more of a commentary on the excellence of Brandt than it is any sort of knock on Frankenberg. The Middlebury star was excellent once again this spring, leading the Pranksters’ O-line to the semifinals and producing his usual jaw-dropping numbers; his 4-goal, 6-assist performance in the semifinal against Oklahoma Christian might have been the single best individual game in Milwaukee.
After functioning almost exclusively as a handler in the fall, Frankenberg’s game became more versatile this spring, as the growth of other handlers around him allowed Frankenberg to push downfield and utilize his elite speed in different spaces. Even a team like Middlebury that reloads rather than rebuilds will struggle to replace Frankenberg next season.
Walter Ellard (Berry)
On a team with multiple stars, it’s a testament to just how good Walter Ellard was this year that he managed to stand out as the best one on the offensive side of the disc. Berry’s semifinal finish was the best in program history, and the throwing ability of Ellard deserves a large amount of the credit for their success. Time and time again, Ellard would use powerful throws to open up parts of the field defenders didn’t expect to be an option, making the lives of the Berry cutters easier with each toss. While his long field throws were certainly his biggest strength, Ellard was far from a one-dimensional handler this spring, using quickness and agility uncharacteristic of someone with his size to be just as lethal in small spaces as in the full field. There’s nobody on the Berry roster that comes close to replicating Ellard’s skillset, and their offense is sure to look much different without him next season.