Big Ten football beat writers pick most valuable players
With the 2015 college football regular season complete and the start of Big Ten bowl season less than a week away, it’s time to relive the season from the perspective of Big Ten beat writers.
BTN.com recently asked a beat writer for every team to answer the same four questions, as part of our annual beat writers’ season recap.
S Clayton Fejedelem. He led the Big Ten in tackles. Former walk-on from NAIA school St. Xavier went from “who’s he?” to an NFL draft prospect. Illinois could use 10 more like him.
QB Nate Sudfeld. More important than the record-breaking passing performances, Sudfeld brought a calming presence to IU’s offense. Although injuries took away opportunities against Ohio State and Penn State, Sudfeld authored two of his best games to close the season and send IU bowling.
QB C.J. Beathard. Not only did he make the big plays (like his 85-yard pass to Tevaun Smith), he made the subtle plays. One of the season’s most important series involved Beathard diving over his own goal line to avoid a safety at Iowa State when the Hawkeyes trailed 10-3, then running out of the end zone for 44 yards on the next play. Seven plays later, Beathard drills a pass through a narrow opening to Tevaun Smith to tie the game. Iowa doesn’t sniff the Rose Bowl without Beathard.
CB Will Likely. The cornerback continued to develop into one of the top playmakers in the Big Ten — and possibly the country — this fall. From his record-setting performance with 233 punt return yards against Richmond in the season opener to playing on offense, defense and special teams down the stretch, it was appointment television whenever Likely had the opportunity to touch the ball.
QB Jake Rudock. It’s Rudock, by far. It’s a very safe assumption that Michigan wouldn’t be in position to win 10 games without him stepping up down the stretch and making some big-time throws. Throws no one really expected him to make early on in the season, that just shows how far he evolved this season.
QB Connor Cook. Shilique Calhoun, Jack Allen, Jack Conklin and Aaron Burbridge deserve consideration, but Cook carried this team for most of the season, with injuries limiting MSU’s offensive line and defense.
QB Mitch Leidner. The junior quarterback handled waves of early season criticism, along with constant pressure behind a tattered offensive line. He led key late-game drives to beat Colorado State and Ohio and passed for 250-plus yards in consecutive games against Michigan, Ohio State, Iowa and Illinois.
Former coaching staff. In a 5-7 season, candidates for MVP are slim. I’m going to go with the former coaching staff, which was responsible for the team’s APR, which was Nebraska’s ticket into the Foster Farms Bowl at 5-7.
DE Dean Lowry. Anthony Walker is garnering the top postseason honors, and there’s even an argument to be made for Matt Harris based on how the defense struggled without him, but Lowry was the MVP for me. He was consistently outstanding all year.
DE Joey Bosa. Defense carried Ohio State all year, so I’m going to the defensive side of the ball, where Bosa’s stats were down but his disruptive presence was felt every snap.
DE Carl Nassib. Last year at this time many people weren’t even sure how to pronounce his last name and the little known, 6-foot-7, former walk-on hadn’t started a game in either high school or college. Nassib broke out in a big way this season with 15.5 sacks, 19.5 tackles for loss and six forced fumbles en route to snagging the Big Ten’s defensive player of the year award along with the Rotary Lombardi and Ted Hendricks awards.
RB Markell Jones. The running back set the program’s true freshman rushing record. A player to build around.
WR Leonte Carroo. Because he only played in 26 of a possible 48 quarters due to injuries and suspension, Leonte Carroo’s value to Rutgers was even more evident than if he had been healthy all season. Carroo led the conference with 10 touchdown catches, including three games with three scores, and a 20.9 yards-per-catch average.
WR Alex Erickson. An anemic running game for much of the year led Wisconsin to throw it more than any other team in school history, and without Erickson it wouldn’t have been possible. For a second straight season, the senior had more receptions by himself (72) than the rest of the wide receivers combined (70).