Running back is Wisconsin's second straight Big Ten Freshman of the Year; Carimi, Moffitt, Kendricks and Watt named First Team All-Big Ten
Wisconsin running back James White was voted the Big Ten Freshman of the Year earlier tonight by both the coaches and the media, locking up Wisconsin's second straight freshman of the year award. Linebacker Chris Borland previously won the award for Wisconsin in 2009. Offensive lineman Gabe Carimi also took home an individual award for Wisconsin: Carimi was chosen as the Big Ten's Offensive Lineman of the Year.
There weren't any real shockers in the individual awards. Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson took home the Offensive Player of the Year award, Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan won both Defensive Player of the Year and the Defensive Lineman of the Year award, and Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio won the Big Ten's Coach of the Year award.
The Badgers also had several players among the First Team All-Big Ten. Wisconsin had three starters on the offensive side of the ball: offensive linemen Carimi and John Moffitt, as well as tight-end Lance Kendricks. The Badgers' lone First Team player on defense was junior defensive end J.J. Watt.
Let's take a deeper look at the individual awards first:
Offensive Player of the Year
While Denard Robinson was certainly one of, if not the most exciting player in the Big Ten, another case can be made for Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa. Persa was among the leaders in both completion percentage and quarterback rating up until he was injured, but if I had a vote I probably still would have voted for Robinson. Michigan's season would have been an absolute trainwreck without the emergence of Robinson- his explosiveness kept Michigan in games that they definitely would have lost otherwise.
Defensive Player of the Year
Ryan Kerrigan took home the award by himself, but I had hoped that he and J.J. Watt would share the award. Statistically, Kerrigan dominated the Big Ten this year. He lead the Big Ten in sacks with 12.5 (5.5 more than Watt), tackles for loss (5.5 more than Watt), and forced fumbles (2 more than Watt). However, and I hate to use this card, but Watt always came up big in clutch situations this year. The blocked extra point against Iowa, three tackles for loss and two sacks against Ohio State, the list goes on and on. Watt was absolutely the best play-making player on defense in the Big Ten this season.
Freshman of the Year
James White earned this award, straight up. He's Wisconsin's leading rusher this year, and his skill sets fit perfectly in Wisconsin's offense, giving the Badgers a legitimate three-headed rushing attack. Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase of Illinois was the next best freshman; but he trails White by 404 rushing yards, is only 8th in the Big Ten for completion percentage, 9th in yards per attempt, and 8th in quarterback rating. I'm sure Scheelhaase will improve over the course of his career, but White was simply the best freshman in the conference this year.
Coach of the Year
Mark Dantonio is definitely deserving of this award. As much as I would like to have seen Bret Bielema take home the honor because of the strides he has taken this year, Dantonio overcame at lot and coached the Spartans to an 11-1 record. After suffering a heart attack early in the season, Dantonio came back to the sideline and helped his team overcome slow starts in several late-season games, and showed he had a lot of guts when he called for several fake plays in crucial spots this year. In a different year, Bielema could have won because of the strides he took as a head coach, including beating a team ranked No. 1 in the nation and getting his first road win over a ranked team.
Offensive and Defensive Linemen of the Year
Not surprisingly, Kerrigan took home the Defensive lineman of the year award as well. See above for my reasoning for both Kerrigan and Watt to win this award. Wisconsin offensive lineman Gabe Carimi also won the Offensive Lineman of the Year award. You can file that piece of news under "Not Surprising" too. Carimi lead the Badgers' steamroller-like offensive line, which also allowed only 12 sacks on the year. Carimi also went head to head against potential first round draft picks such as Kerrigan, Ohio State's Cameron Heyward, and Iowa's Adrian Clayborne, and in the process established himself as one of the best offensive line prospects for this year's upcoming NFL draft.
All-Big Ten Teams
J.J. Watt, Lance Kendricks, John Moffitt and Gabe Carimi were all picked for the First-Team Big Ten. Quarterback Scott Tolzien, running back John Clay, safety Aaron Henry, and James White all received a spot on the Second-Team from either the media or the coaches.
Something that surprised me about the First and Second teams was that Denard Robinson was not selected as either the first or second team quarterback, despite winning offensive player of the year. Also, pre-season Offensive Player of the Year Terrelle Pryor was left off both the first and second teams, vindicating those of us who were taken aback when he was picked over returning OPOTY John Clay.
All in all, it seems like both the coaches and the media hit the nail on the head this year. There's defintiely room for debate, but at least there weren't any major snubs this year.