The Big Ten loves postseason awards like it loves rivalry trophies. The conference traditionally takes two days to announce its offensive and defensive all-conference teams (coaches and media) as well as a slate of two-name awards (Smith-Brown Defensive Lineman of the Year is still my favorite).
Last night, the Big Ten released the defensive half of those awards, which was a very good night for Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers. The linebacker was named the defensive player of the year, linebacker of the year, return specialist of the year and, of course, was first-team All-Big Ten.
Nebraska’s best showing on Tuesday was courtesy of safety Nathan Gerry. He earned second-team honors from the media and third-team honors from the coaches. Josh Banderas, Ross Dzuris, Chris Jones, Kevin Maurice, Drew Brown and De’Mornay Pierson-El (return specialist) all earned honorable mention nods from at least one of the selectors.
A quick scan of the stats shows that it is unlikely Nebraska lands any players on first-team offense when those selections are announced tonight. Maybe Nick Gates slides in there on the offensive line. That’s probably the Huskers’ best bet. Jordan Westerkamp would’ve had a decent shot, but he missed two games this season and thus ranks 11th in receiving yards. Running back is loaded. Quarterback isn’t as loaded, but it is only one slot.
If Nebraska doesn’t land a player on first-team offense, it will mark the second consecutive season the Huskers didn’t have a first-team selection on offense or defense. (Sam Foltz was a first-team pick last season and the conference punter of the year.)
The last Husker to earn the distinction. If you guessed Ameer Abdullah, guess again. He got edged out in an insanely competitive year in 2014. But Kenny Bell grabbed first-team honors from the coaches, and Randy Gregory made both the coaches’ and media’s lists.
All-conference teams are far from the ultimate arbiter of ability, but as the overall quality of the Big Ten improves — the conference had three teams in the top six of last night’s new CFP rankings — it’s not a reach to say Nebraska has some ground to make up here.
“You Recruit Your Own Problems”
Interesting read from Matt Hayes of Bleacher Report. He asked more than 30 FBS coaches if it was possible to win in college football without cheating.
The answer: It ain’t easy. Many coaches, not surprisingly, commented anonymously, but there’s still plenty of meat here, like the story of Terry Bowden taking over at Auburn in 1993:
Everything changed within his first week. An assistant coach from the previous staff, whom Bowden was told he had to retain, walked into his office and placed a black ledger on his desk. It was a list of players who were being paid.
This is how we do it around here, Bowden was told.
This story has been told throughout the years and has almost become folklore, with too many incorrect iterations clouding reality. Auburn officials have always denied it, the NCAA could never nail it down and the statute of limitations on infractions has long since passed.
But here’s the catch: I’ve seen the ledger.
There’s plenty more there, including the source of the “you recruit your own problems” quote above. (Hint: Somebody said it to Bret Bielema.)
The Grab Bag
- Lynn Bowden, a 4-star athlete from Ohio, earned a Husker offer this week. His coach, who has coached Maurice Clarett and Mario Manningham, had some really high praise for Bowden.
- Oregon fired Mark Helfrich last night and, yes, Scott Frost is showing up on plenty of replacement lists.
- Michigan fell out of the top four in the latest playoff rankings, which is sort of dumb in my mind, and Nebraska fell out of the top 25, which makes more sense.
- Jerry Palm runs through the latest playoff scenarios now that the new rankings are out.
Today’s Song of Today
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.