BTN.com's 2016 All-Big Ten Assistant Coach Team
Players are honored with postseason all-conference squads. Why not coaches? I present my annual All-Big Ten Assistant Coaching Team.
Coordinator: Joe Moorhead, Penn State. He arrived from a head coach gig at Fordham to revamp the Nittany Lion offense and help the school win its first Big Ten title since 2008. PSU is No. 3 in the Big Ten in scoring (35.7 ppg); No. 4 in total offense (430.1 ypg); No. 3 in passing (261.2 ypg). The Nittany Lions were No. 11 in scoring (23.2 ppg) and No. 13 overall (348.6 ypg) last year.
Quarterbacks: Paul Chryst, Wisconsin. The Badger head coach and play-caller is one of the best in the business, a true offensive savant. No team had a bigger question under center when 2016 dawned as Wisconsin, which had to replace Joel Stave. But Chryst deftly developed this position, utilizing both senior Bart Houston and redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook. The Badgers are just No. 9 in the Big Ten in passing (179.2 ypg) but the aerial attack was more than good enough to make room for another strong Wisconsin rushing attack (204.5 ypg) for the Big Ten West champs.
Running backs: Anthony Tucker, Maryland. His backs helped the Terrapins rank No. 4 in the Big Ten in rushing (204.5 ypg). And Maryland didn’t have any running back earn even honorable mention All-Big Ten and only one offensive lineman earned honorable mention (T Michael Dunn). Ty Johnson paced Maryland with 845 yards rushing, averaging 8.9 yards per tote.
Receivers: Dennis Springer, Northwestern. This group overachieved in helping pump life into what was a pedestrian Wildcat offense in 2015, when NU was last in the Big Ten in passing offense (138.5 ypg). This season, Northwestern is No. 4 in the Big Ten in passing (247.7 ypg). Kudos to Austin Carr, a Biletnikoff finalist who leads the league with 84 catches for 1,196 yards with 12 TDs. Flynn Nagel chipped in with 37 receptions for 421 yards and two TDs, while superback Garrett Dickerson had 29 catches for 272 yards and four TDs working with breakout QB Clayton Thorson.
Line: Brian Ferentz, Iowa. Overcoming many early season injuries, Iowa’s offensive line has seen seven different starting combinations through 12 games. Senior Cole Croston (LT/RT); juniors Ike Boettger (LT, LG, RT), Boone Myers (LT, LG), and Sean Welsh (RG, RT); sophomores James Daniels (C), Lucas LeGrand (C), and Keegan Render (LG, RG); and freshman Levi Paulsen (RG) have all started in at least one game for the Hawkeyes. Still, Iowa’s offense is averaging 171.9 rushing yards per game — averaging 4.48 yards per carry. The Hawkeyes also lead the Big Ten in red zone offense (.923), scoring points on 36-of-39 trips to the red zone, and own a league leading TD conversion rate of 72 percent.
Coordinator: Don Brown, Michigan. When DJ Durkin left to coach Maryland, Jim Harbaugh hired Brown from Boston College, where he had one of the nation’s top defenses in 2015. And the man known as “Dr. Blitz” orchestrated one of the most deadly defenses in America in 2016. The Wolverines are No. 2 in the nation in total defense (252.7 ypg), No. 2 in scoring defense (12.5 ppg), No. 1 in passing defense (135.9 ypg) and No. 13 in rushing defense (116.8 ypg). Amazing.
Line: Greg Mattison, Michigan. He is a sage veteran who previously was the Michigan defensive coordinator under Brady Hoke. End Taco Charlton was a consensus first-team All-Big Ten pick. End Chris Wormley was a first-teamer by the coaches. Tackle Ryan Glasgow was a consensus second-team pick. There also is good depth, including tackles Maurice Hurst, Matthew Godin and Bryan Mone, along with stud freshman Rashan Gray. The Wolverines are No. 13 in the nation in rush defense (116.8 ypg).
Linebackers: Justin Wilcox, Wisconsin. He arrived in Madison as the replacement for defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, who left for LSU. And Wilcox has been an instant hit. The Badgers had one of the better defenses in the nation in 2016. They are No. 7 in the nation in total defense (303.0 ypg), No. 4 in scoring defense (15.5 ppg), No. 6 in turnovers gained (27) and No. 2 in rushing defense (96.9 ypg). The Badger linebacker corps led the way, with studs like T.J. Watt (a consensus first-team All-Big Ten pick), Vince Biegel, T.J. Edwards and Ryan Connelly. And this unit excelled even though it lost Chris Orr and Jack Cichy to injury.
Secondary: Greg Schiano, Ohio State. He brought a glossy resume to Columbus, having been a successful head coach at Rutgers and also leading the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Schiano, working in concert with cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs, has done a masterful job building what many feel may be the top secondary in the nation. Schiano had three starters to replace, with cornerback Gareon Conley the lone starter back. No problem. Cornerback Marshon Lattimore and safety Malik Hooker earned first-team All-Big Ten honors from the coaches; Conley was a second-teamer. Corner Damon Webb was an honorable mention choice by the coaches for a secondary that has helped Ohio State rank No. 6 in the nation in pass defense (164.5 ypg).
Special teams: Kerry Coombs, Ohio State. The Buckeyes had the first-team media All-Big Ten punter in Cameron Johnston and third-team kicker in Tyler Durbin and return man in Parris Campbell. Johnston averages a Big Ten-high 46.2 yards per boot and Durbin has hit 17-of-20 field-goal attempts. Campbell averages 26.6 yards per kickoff return.