Cincinnati dominated the Big East individual awards announced Thursday, as running back Isaiah Pead was honored as Offensive Player of the Year, tackle Derek Wolfe was selected as Co-Defensive Player of the Year and Butch Jones won Coach of the Year.
Rutgers linebacker Khaseem Greene also took Defensive Player of the Year honors, while Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is the Newcomer of the Year and West Virginia all-purpose player Tavon Austin is the Special Teams Player of the Year.
Below you will find the first and second teams. All of these awards and teams are selected by the eight league coaches. Here are some of my thoughts on the winners:
I have to say I am surprised to see Pead win Offensive Player of the Year. I thought West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith would be a slam dunk because he and the Mountaineers dominated on offense this season. That being said, Pead is deserving of this award because he was the most valuable player for the Bearcats this season and he put the team on his back when Zach Collaros went down with an ankle injury. Pead led the Big East in touchdowns (14) and ranks second in the league in all-purpose yards with 1,429. He is a very deserving winner.
As for the defensive awards, I am not surprised to see a split. My choice was Greene, and I have been going back and forth for most of the season on who was most valuable for Cincinnati -- Wolfe or linebacker JK Schaffer. I thought both were terrific this season. But perhaps the coaches voted for Wolfe because he had a breakout season and was a big reason why Cincinnati led the nation in sacks. Wolfe led the Big East with 19.5 tackles for loss to rank No. 6 in the nation. The senior also had 9.5 sacks after notching 10 sacks combined coming into this season.
Jones also was my choice for coach of the year because of the turnaround season he led: from 4-8 to 9-3 and a share of the Big East title.
As for the first-team offense, I am surprised that Tavon Austin made it at receiver over teammate Stedman Bailey. Both are extremely solid, valuable players, but I thought Bailey was a notch more consistent this season as a wide receiver. Austin absolutely is the special teams player of the year. I also was surprised to see Antwon Bailey with first-team honors. My two backs would have been Ray Graham and Pead.
On first-team defense, West Virginia defensive end Bruce Irvin made the list despite an inconsistent season. Coaches clearly realized what a force he is because he was double-teamed most of the year and still got 7.5 sacks. The coaches were torn at safety, where four players were honored on the first team. I thought Duron Harmon and Hakeem Smith were the top two this season.
How about Rutgers getting Art Forst on the first team at guard and Desmond Wynn on the second team at guard. Hand clap for the big-time improvement on the Scarlet Knights offensive line.