Thinking Out Loud: Buckeyes Should Garner All-Big Ten Attention
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — There was only one Buckeye on the first team all-Big Ten team last season, but that should change dramatically in year one under Urban Meyer.
Ohio State capped off a perfect 12-0 season with a 26-21 victory over Michigan in their annual rivalry game this past Saturday, and Meyer should have a number of players garner all-conference honors when they are released later this evening (7 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network).
We don’t have the official tally, but it’s a good bet OSU quarterback Braxton Miller will earn first-team honors as the top quarterback in the Big Ten this season. He may also take home the conference’s Offensive Player of the Year award, an honor that went to Wisconsin’s Russell Wilson a year ago.
All of that had me thinking out loud about Ohio State’s potential all-conference selections.
1. Should Braxton Miller be the Offensive Player of the Year in the Big Ten?
A few weeks ago this would have been a no-brainer. Miller was not just the best player in the Big Ten, he was also racing to the top of the Heisman Trophy ballot, which would have made him the top offensive player in all of college football. Miller still may get an invite to New York next month, but his chances of taking home the stiff-arm trophy are slim after a few “down” performances the last two weeks.
Miller threw the ball effectively in the first half against Michigan, but he totaled just 105 yards on the ground and averaged less than three yards per carry in the two games against Wisconsin and Michigan. His numbers are still out of this world. Only three players – Le’Veon Bell, Montee Ball and Northwestern’s Venric Mark – rushed for more yards than Miller (1,271) did as a sophomore. He accounted for 28 touchdowns and threw just six interceptions to go with over 2,000 yards passing.
While Taylor Martinez and Matt McGloin both turned in good statistical seasons, there’s no question Miller should be the first-team quarterback in the Big Ten, and it ought to be unanimous, though I doubt it will be.
But the question was about Big Ten Offensive Player of the year, which means Miller is up against not only Martinez and McGloin, but also those three running backs we mentioned earlier.
Venric Mark had a fantastic season for Northwestern, and he deserves to be reward, although I think Ball and Bell will be your two first-team All-Big Ten tailbacks. I see those two as the only real challengers for Braxton when it comes to Offensive Player of the Year.
Bell led the conference in rushing with over 1,600 yards this season, but he also got the football nearly 30 times a game. That’s almost twice as many attempts as Braxton Miller, who had 400 fewer yards on the ground.
The fact Miller also quarterbacked a 12-0 football team should put him in the driver’s seat for this award.
2. What other Ohio State will make the first-team all-conference on offense?
Personally, I think Carlos Hyde was playing at an All-Big Ten level late in the season, but he’s going to have settle for second team behind two of those guys we talked about earlier.
He actually finished eighth in the Big Ten in rushing, behind Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah and Penn State’s Zach Zwinak, but his 16 rushing touchdowns were second only to Montee Ball (and twice as many as either Abdullah or Zwinak).
None of Ohio State’s receivers are going to garner much consideration for the first-team all-conference, despite the fact Corey Brown finished second in the league in catches with 67.
He was also sixth in yardage, but 669 yards and three touchdowns isn’t going to be enough, even with a few big special teams plays. At this point, Jared Abbrederis and Penn State’s Allen Robinson are all but locked in as the two first-team receivers.
Where Ohio State may be able to sneak another guy on to the first-team offense is on the offensive line. It’s hard to pick one guy who really had dominant season, because they were all pretty good up front for the Buckeyes this year.
My pick would be left tackle Jack Mewhort because of the degree of difficulty in playing that position for the first time, especially in an entirely new offensive system. Center Corey Linsley, left guard Andrew Norwell and right tackle Reid Fragel could also get a look, but I think only one guy ends up on the first team.
3. What about defense? Ohio State has to have some first-team guys on that side of the ball, right?
According to ESPN.com’s Adam Rittenberg, linebacker Ryan Shazier and Penn State’s Michael Mauti are the top two candidates for the Big Ten’s Defensive Player of the Year. I think it ultimately goes to Mauti, even though Shazier has nearly 20 more tackles this season.
Mauti is a senior who everyone views as the heart and soul of that Penn State defense. He gets a lot of credit for holding that thing together in Happy Valley, and it’s hard not to pull for a kid like that. He also had five sacks, an interception and three forced fumbles.
Even if Mauti earns player of the year, it’s almost a guarantee Shazier will be on the first-team defense. The other guy I would look for here is Wisconsin’s Mike Taylor, but Shazier’s numbers can stack up against any player in the country. He finished the year with 114 tackles and led the Big Ten with 17 tackles for loss.
The other guy who seems like a lock for first-team All-Big Ten on defense is Bradley Roby. Rittenberg and ESPN’s Brian Bennett both agreed that Roby was the one “no-brainer” in the secondary, and he finished second in the country with 19 passes defended.
Roby also finished third on the team in tackles with 63, and he made the game-saving play to break up a touchdown pass in Ohio State’s overtime victory at Wisconsin.
It stands to reason Roby and Shazier could be joined on the first-team by defensive linemen John Simon and Johnathan Hankins. According to Rittenberg, Defensive Lineman of the Year in the B1G will come down to Simon and Penn State's Jordan Hill.
Bennett agreed, but also threw Hankins into the mix for that award, which means both guys are likely to appear on the first-team defense, giving the Buckeyes four guys on that side of the ball.
4. What about guys on the second and third team?
This gets a little bit trickier, but like I said, I think Carlos Hyde is a lock to make the second-team All-Big Ten as a running back. The Buckeyes should also get a couple offensive linemen on the second and third teams – probably Norwell and Fragel along with either Mewhort or Linsley (whichever one doesn’t make first team).
It’s possibly Corey Brown could make the second or third team at wide receiver, and even Devin Smith has an outside chance, despite the fact he averaged 2.5 catches per game. He finished with over 600 yards receiving and six touchdowns.
On defense, Christian Bryant and Travis Howard could sneak in on the back end of one of the all-conference teams, but the one guy who deserves to on there somewhere is Zach Boren. This kid started at fullback for three years and switched to linebacker in the middle of the season.
He finished sixth on the team with 50 tackles, and led the Buckeyes with nine stops against Michigan. Despite playing linebacker for the first time in his college career, Boren averaged over 8 tackles per game on defense and really solidified things on that side of the ball for the Buckeyes.
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