Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, December 12, 2011
Everyone knew Ohio State?s Braxton Miller was talented and likely headed for a promising college football career. But few thought he?d have a big impact as a true freshman in 2011. Miller was thrust into the starting lineup early in 2011 and proceeded to enjoy the best season of any Big Ten freshman. This is why the precocious Miller, the Big Ten?s Thompson-Randle El Freshman of the Year, headlines BTN.com?s 2011 All-Freshman Team.
I've compiled my team in the post, but feel free to check out the Big Ten football stats page to see where the freshman rank among the league leaders. And remember we have player pages for every Big Ten football player linked from our Big Ten roster pages. And as always, I want to hear what you think. Which freshman caught your eye this season? Come tell me in the comments box below,
OFFENSE – *Denotes redshirt
WR Kenny Bell, 6-2, 175, Nebraska*: Had a team-high 29 receptions with 24 of those in Big Ten play. Second-most receptions and receiving yards ever by a Nebraska freshman.
WR Kevonte Martin-Manley, 6-0, 205, Iowa*: Made two starts, catching 29 passes for 302 yards (10.4 average) and three touchdowns.
TE Jon Davis, 6-3, 230, Illinois: Made 21 catches, the third-most on the team, for 187 yards and a touchdown. No Big Ten freshman tight end had more catches.
L (C) Brandon Vitabile, 6-3, 300, Northwestern*: Started all 12 games at center, winning the job from three-year starter Ben Burkett who moved to right guard. Helped Northwestern finish first in the Big Ten in passing yards per game (256.6) and fifth in rushing yards per game (176.2).
L (T) Tyler Moore, 6-6, 300, Nebraska: Started first four games at tackle, most starts ever by a Nebraska true freshman offensive lineman. Also is the first Nebraska true freshman to start the season opener on the offensive line.
L (G) Bernard Taylor, 6-2, 278, Indiana: Started last eight games at left guard. Faced some of the top defensive tackles in the country, allowed only two sacks in 237 passing attempts while in lineup.
L (G) Brandon Scherff, 6-5, 310, Iowa*: Started three games and saw action in 11 of 12. Often rotated during course of games. Played big role in helping Iowa average 142 rushing yards and 379 yards total offense.
L (C) Travis Jackson, 6-3, 275, Michigan State*: Has started eight of the last nine games at center. Helped Spartans rank No. 3 in Big Ten in scoring (30.9 ppg) and No. 5 in Big Ten in total offense (390.4 ypg).
QB Braxton Miller, 6-3, 210, Ohio State: Became the starter in fourth game, throwing for 997 yards with 11 touchdowns and four interceptions. Also led team with 695 yards rushing with seven touchdowns.
RB Donovonn Young, 6-0, 215, Illinois: Had 75 carries for 406 yards and six touchdowns. No Big Ten freshman running back had more rushing yards.
RB Treyvon Green, 5-10, 215, Northwestern. Team's third-leading rusher with 349 yards on 94 carries, the most yards by a true freshman running back at Northwestern since Tyrell Sutton in 2005. Also caught nine passes for 31 yards.
L (E) Marcus Rush, 6-2, 250, Michigan State*: Started every game and earned honorable-mention All-Big Ten honors from the coaches and media. Had 51 tackles with 10 tackles for loss and four sacks and team-high nine quarterback hurries.
L (T) Michael Bennett, 6-3, 280, Ohio State: Saw action in all 12 games. Notched 16 tackles with five tackles for loss and three sacks.
L (E) Ryan Russell, 6-5, 264, Purdue*: Totaled 32 tackles with 4.5 tackles for loss and a sack. Also recovered two fumbles.
LB Ryan Shazier, 6-2, 212, Ohio State. Notched 48 tackles with five tackles for loss and three sacks. Active, athletic force that played often down the stretch.
LB Chase Hoobler, 6-2, 232, Indiana*: Started seven times, including last four games. Sixth on team with 40 tackles and tied for fourth with four tackles for loss to go along with the two sacks and one forced fumble.
LB Desmond Morgan, 6-1, 220, Michigan: Started final five games and had 53 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, one sack, one pass breakup. Ranked fifth on team in tackles despite starting just six games.
LB Jake Ryan, 6-3, 230, Michigan*: Played strong-side linebacker and rush end, starting 10 of 12 games. Had 30 tackles, 7.0 tackles for loss and two sacks. Ranked fourth on team in tackles for loss.
DB (CB) Adrian Amos, 6-0, 205, Penn State. Made one start. Had 11 tackles, one interception returned 46 yards. Had five pass breakups, which tied for fourth on the team.
DB (CB) Blake Countess, 5-10, 176, Michigan: Started final five games and had 36 tackles, one tackle for loss, six pass breakups and one forced fumble. Was part of defense that ranked No. 3 in Big Ten in scoring defense (17.2 ppg).
DB (S) Ibraheim Campbell, 5-11, 205, Northwestern*: Started 11 of 12 games. Team's leading tackler (89, including team-high 51 solo) and ranked 11th in Big Ten. Had two interceptions and four pass breakups along with 2.5 tackles for loss.
DB (S) Mark Murphy, 6-2, 202, Indiana. Started three times at weak-side linebacker and last four at safety. Second on team with 58 tackles to go along with an interception, a tackle for loss, three pass breakups and quarterback hurry.
K Matt Wile, 6-2, 208, Michigan: Kicked off in all 12 games and punted in first four. Kicked off 75 times with 64-yard average with 19 touchbacks.
P Mike Sadler, 6-0, 182, Michigan State*: Left footer led all Big Ten freshman punters with a 39.8-yard average on 53 punts. Placed 38 percent (19-of-50) of his punts inside the 20. Tied for 25th in FBS with 19 punts inside the 20.
KR Raheem Mostert, 5-11, 180, Purdue. Led Big Ten and ranked eighth in nation in kickoff returns with a 31.0-yard average on 23 returns. Vs. Wisconsin, set school-single game record with 206 kickoff return yards on five returns (41.2 yards per return).
We all know every team has some notables and we expect to see great things from the names below, too.
HONORABLE MENTION: Ameer Abdullah, KR, Nebraska; Michael Amaefula, DE, Minnesota; Devin Crawford, WR, Minnesota; Justin DuVernois, P, Illinois; Collin Ellis, LB, Northwestern*; Nick Hill, KR, Michigan State*; Mike Hull, LB, Penn State*; Marcus Jones, WR/KR, Minnesota; Tony Lippett, CB, Michigan State*; Tommy Olson, G, Minnesota; Ben Perry, DE, Minnesota*; Tre Roberson, QB, Indiana; Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State*; Chase Rome, DT, Nebraska*; Trevor Siemian, QB, Northwestern*; Devin Smith, WR, Ohio State; Shane Wynn, KR, Indiana.
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, send a question to his weekly mailbag here, and click here to subscribe to his RSS feed.