Dienhart: Big Ten Trophy Tracker

Prior to the 2011 college football season, the Big Ten announced the creation of 18 new trophies, including two for the new Big Ten Championship Game and two for postgraduate awards. Each trophy honors the Big Ten’s rich history, with two Big Ten legends’ last names on it (i.e. Nagurski-Woodson Defensive Player of the Year).

Every week during the season, BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart breaks down the race for the 14 annual trophies. See Tom’s top candidates for each trophy following Week 8 in this post.

BIG TEN TROPHY TRACKER

Graham-George Offensive Player of the Year
1. Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin
2. Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin
3. Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan

THE BUZZ: The Badger offense remains the standard in the Big Ten, ranking No. 5 in the nation in scoring and No. 8 in total offense. Credit the tandem of Wilson and Ball, a 1-2 punch that has few peers. But the electrifying Robinson is the quintessential one-man-gang who could grab this honor with a big effort down the stretch.

Nagurski-Woodson Defensive Player of the Year
1. Devon Still, T, Penn State
2. Chris Borland, LB, Wisconsin
3. Jerel Worthy, T, Michigan State

THE BUZZ: A close race. If Penn State remains in contention for the Leaders Division crown deep into November, it will be because of a defense led by Still. Borland is a Tasmanian Devil who is relentless from sideline to sideline.

Hayes-Schembechler Coach of the Year
1. Mark Dantonio, Michigan State
2. Bret Bielema, Wisconsin
3. Brady Hoke, Michigan

THE BUZZ: This is a close race, with Dantonio getting a slight nod due to the fact his Spartans are one of two unbeaten Big Ten teams, Penn State the other. And no one expected that back in August. Joe Paterno and Ron Zook still have good chances to sneak up this list.

Thompson-Randle El Freshman of the Year
1. Donovonn Young, RB, Illinois
2. Jamal Turner, WR, Nebraska
3. Blake Countess, DB, Michigan

THE BUZZ: Young is the top rusher among Big Ten freshmen with 359 yards and four scores. Turner is a former quarterback who injects big-play ability into the Husker passing game. He has 15 catches for 243 yards and only will get better. Countess has been a revelation in a still-developing Wolverine secondary.

Rimington-Pace Offensive Lineman of the Year
1. C Peter Konz, Wisconsin
2. C Mike Caputo, Nebraska
3. T Riley Reiff, Iowa

THE BUZZ: Wisconsin is an offensive line factory, and Konz is the next great one. The Husker ground pounders are led by Caputo in the pivot, who like Konz is a heady blocker who makes all the calls and blocks for a strong unit. Reiff may be Iowa’s top blocker since Robert Gallery.

Smith-Brown Defensive Player of the Year
1. Devon Still, Penn State
2. Jerel Worthy, Michigan State
3. Whitney Mercilus, Illinois

THE BUZZ: Still is the anchor of a rugged Nittany Lion defense that ranks No. 8 in the nation. He ranks third in the Big Ten in tackles for loss and has three sacks. Worthy is right behind Still in being a disruptive force on the interior for a Spartan defense that ranks No. 2 in the nation.

Griese-Brees Quarterback of the Year
1. Russell Wilson, Wisconsin
2. Denard Robinson, Michigan
3. Kirk Cousins, Michigan State

THE BUZZ: Yes, Wilson looked human in a 37-31 loss at Michigan State, but he still hit 14-of-21 passes for 223 yards and two touchdowns. Most vital: He rallied his team from two touchdowns down by running and throwing for scores to tie the game late in a hostile environment vs. a great defense.

Ameche-Dayne Running back of the Year
1. Montee Ball, Wisconsin
2. Silas Redd, Penn State
3. Rex Burkhead, Nebraska

THE BUZZ: Ball paces all backs with 768 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns. Redd is coming off a career-high 164-yard effort last week and is asked to shoulder a bigger load of the offense than most any other running back in the Big Ten.

Tatum-Woodson Defensive Back of the Year
1. Micah Hyde, Iowa
2. Nick Sukay, Penn State
3. Ricardo Allen, Purdue

THE BUZZ: Hyde paces the Big Ten in passes broken up and has three picks, while Sukay is a heady leader and sure tackler in one of the nation’s top defensive backfields. Allen is one of the nation’s most underrated defensive backs.

Butkus-Fitzgerald Linebacker of the Year
1. Chris Borland, Wisconsin
2. Lavonte David, Nebraska
3. James Morris, Iowa

THE BUZZ: After a shoulder injury ruined 2010, Borland has returned to the disruptive ways of 2009 when he was Big Ten Freshman of the Year. He ranks No. 2 in the Big Ten in tackles and is fourth in tackles for loss in addition to being a heart-and-soul leader.

Richter-Howard Receiver of the Year
1. A.J. Jenkins, Illinois
2. Marvin McNutt, Iowa
3. B.J. Cunningham, Michigan State

THE BUZZ: Jenkins has been one of the top wideouts in the nation, grabbing 62 passes for 987 yards and seven TDs, but he failed to make any big plays vs. Purdue. McNutt became Iowa’s all-time leader in touchdown catches (24) last Saturday with a career effort vs. Indiana on Saturday with six catches for 184 yards and three touchdowns, while Cunningham continues to stretch the field for the Spartans.

Kwalick-Clark Tight End of the Year
1. Jacob Pedersen, Wisconsin
2. Drake Dunsmore, Northwestern
3. Jake Stoneburner, Ohio State

THE BUZZ: Pederson, along with Stoneburner, paces all league tight ends with six touchdown grabs, plus he has 19 catches for 262 yards. He looks like the next in a long line of recent standout Badger tight ends. Stoneburner is a safety blanket in a pedestrian Buckeye passing attack.

Bakken-Andersen Kicker of the Year
1. Brett Maher, Nebraska
2. Anthony Fera, Penn State
3. Mike Meyer, Iowa

THE BUZZ: Maher paces the Big Ten with 13 field goals, nailing 81.3 percent of his attempts. Fera deserves special mention in that he doubles as a standout punter.

Eddleman-Fields Punter of the Year
1. Cody Webster, Purdue
2. Anthony Fera, Penn State
3. Ben Buchanan, Ohio State

THE BUZZ: Webster may be the Boilermakers’ MVP to this point, averaging 46.6 yards per boot. Buchanan ranks third in the league with a 41.3-yard average despite punting the second most number of times in the Big Ten.

Tom Dienhart is a senior writer for BTN.com. Find all of his work at www.btn.com/tomdienhart, follow Dienhart on twitter at @BTNTomDienhart, and click here to subscribe to his RSS feed.

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