Park Ridge, Ill. The Big Ten announced the 2008 All-Conference football teams and individual award winners tonight as selected by the coaches and a media panel. After sharing the 2008 Big Ten Championship, Ohio State and Penn State picked up two individual awards a piece while Iowa also claimed a pair of individual honors.
Buckeyes’ linebacker James Laurinaitis became the third Big Ten player to earn back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year honors while quarterback Terrelle Pryor was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year. The Nittany Lions’ Joe Paterno collected his third Dave McClain Coach of the Year award from the media while center A.Q. Shipley was honored by the coaches as the Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year. For the Hawkeyes, running back Shonn Greene was named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year while the coaches selected defensive tackle Mitch King as the Defensive Lineman of the Year.
After earning consensus All-America honors the last two seasons, Laurinaitis returned to Columbus to spearhead a Buckeyes unit which led the Big Ten in scoring defense in conference play for the fourth straight year. The two-time Big Ten Preseason Defensive Player of the Year boosted the Buckeyes to a share of their fourth straight championship for the first time since 1977. In all games, the senior linebacker led Ohio State and ranked second in the conference with 10.1 tackles per game (121 total) while also collecting 5.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, two interceptions and a forced fumble in 12 games. Laurinaitis is the third player in Big Ten history to earn Defensive Player of the Year honors in consecutive seasons along with two other linebackers, Illinois’ Dana Howard (1993 and 1994) and current Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald (1995 and 1996). Ohio State has now claimed four of the last six Defensive Player of the Year awards, including honors for linebacker A.J. Hawk (2005) and defensive end Will Smith (2003). Laurinaitis won the 2007 Butkus Award as the nation’s top linebacker and the 2006 Nagurski Trophy as the country’s top defender. He is a finalist for the Lombardi Award, a semifinalist for the Walter Camp Player of the Year and Bednarik Awards and a candidate to repeat as the Butkus Award winner.
Greene is the sixth Iowa standout to be named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, joining a group that includes Chuck Long (1985), Nick Bell (1990), Matt Rodgers (1990), Tavian Banks (1997) and Brad Banks (2002). The junior running back led the Big Ten with 1,729 rushing yards this season while scoring 17 touchdowns and averaging 6.2 yards per carry. He currently ranks second in the nation with 144.1 yards per game and is the only player in the country to rush for 100 or more yards in every game. He is the first Big Ten running back to surpass the 100-yard mark in 12 games since Northwestern’s Darnell Autry in 1995 and the first to accomplish that feat in all eight conference games since Penn State’s Curtis Enis in 1997. Greene’s 1,729 rushing yards set a new school record while his 17 touchdowns are tied with Tavian Banks for the single-season best. Greene is a semifinalist for the Maxwell Award, given to the nation’s top player, and one of three finalists for the Doak Walker Award, earned by the top running back.
Paterno guided the Nittany Lions to their second Big Ten title in the last four seasons and third since joining the conference to earn Big Ten Coach of the Year honors. After finishing 4-4 in the conference last season, Penn State produced a 7-1 mark with its lone loss coming on a last-second field goal at Iowa. The Nittany Lions ended the regular season 11-1 overall to post 10 or more victories for the second time in four seasons and the sixth time since joining the conference in 1993. Paterno has won 136 games since entering the Big Ten to rank sixth on the list of 12 mentors to collect 100 or more wins while at a conference school. He was previously honored as Big Ten Coach of the Year in 1994 and 2005 and becomes just the third individual in conference history to win three or more Coach of the Year awards. Michigan’s Bo Schembechler was named Big Ten Coach of the Year following six seasons (1972, 1976, 1980, 1982, 1985, 1989) while Iowa’s Hayden Fry was honored in three different years (1981, 1990, 1991).
Shipley became the first Nittany Lion to earn Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year accolades as voted by the coaches. The senior center spearheaded a Penn State attack that led the Big Ten with 33.9 points per conference game while also ranking among the top four in total offense (second with 409.0 yards per game), rushing offense (fourth with 180.2 ypg) and passing offense (fourth with 228.8 ypg). Shipley, a two-time first-team All-Big Ten selection, has started the last 37 games at center and played in every game the last three years.
King became the first Hawkeye to nab Defensive Lineman of the Year laurels from the coaches since Jared Devries was honored in 1997. Other Iowa defensive linemen to be honored include Paul Hufford (1984), Dave Haight (1987) and Leroy Smith (1991). King’s stout interior play helped Iowa lead the Big Ten in rushing defense for the first time since 2002 by allowing only 97.9 yards per game. The Hawkeyes also ranked third in conference play by limiting their opponents to only 16.2 points and 306.5 yards of total offense per contest. King led the team with 15.5 tackles for loss and added 51 total tackles, four sacks and a forced fumble in 12 games.
Pryor becomes the sixth Ohio State player to earn Freshman of the Year accolades, a group that includes Robert Smith (1990), Korey Stringer (1992), Orlando Pace (1994), Andy Katzenmoyer (1996) and Maurice Clarett (2002). Pryor led the Big Ten with a pass efficiency rating of 151.3 in conference games only, making him the first freshman to top the conference in that category since at least 1980 when the current pass efficiency system was introduced. The only other freshman to lead the Big Ten in passing since 1939 was Purdue’s Mark Herrmann, who ranked first in 1977 based on comparative grading. In all games, Pryor completed 95 of 152 passes (62.5 percent) for 1,245 yards and 12 touchdowns and ranked second on the team with 553 rushing yards and six touchdowns. He produced an 8-1 record as a starter and became the first OSU true freshman to start behind center since 1978.
Overall, there are 13 individuals repeating as members of the All-Big Ten first or second team from a year ago, including five first-team selections from 2007 who are on this year’s first team Illinois’ Vontae Davis, Iowa’s King, Penn State’s Shipley and Ohio State’s Malcolm Jenkins and Laurinaitis. Jenkins and Laurinaitis have now been named first team All-Big Ten in three straight seasons, the first Buckeyes to accomplish that feat since Hawk in 2003, 2004 and 2005.
The conference office also announced honorees from each team for the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award. The student-athletes chosen are individuals who have distinguished themselves through sportsmanship and ethical behavior. In addition, the student-athletes must be in good academic standing and have demonstrated good citizenship outside of the sports-competition setting. Honorees for football are Brit Miller of Illinois, Austin Starr of Indiana, Matt Kroul of Iowa, Sean Griffin of Michigan, Javon Ringer of Michigan State, Jack Simmons of Minnesota, Eric Peterman of Northwestern, Marcus Freeman of Ohio State, Gerald Cadogan of Penn State, Ryan Baker of Purdue and Chris Pressley of Wisconsin. These 11 student-athletes are now candidates for the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award, as the conference office will honor one male and one female student-athlete from each institution at the end of the school year.