The Big Ten announced its 2012 all-conference teams and most individual awards Monday night, but four more awards have yet to be revealed. Before the winners are announced, we're putting in our endorsements for Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Coach of the Year and Freshman of the Year. We'll agree on some and differ on others.
Here are our endorsements for the league's top freshman in 2012:
Brian Bennett endorses Penn State DE Deion Barnes
This one is a pretty easy call. Barnes, a redshirt freshman, led Penn State with six sacks (which ranked fifth in the Big Ten) and 10 tackles for loss and added three forced fumbles (tied for fourth in the league). Barnes showed off great explosiveness and instincts for a first-year player and should be a terror for league offenses to handle for the next couple of years. There were some other very promising freshmen in the Big Ten this year -- Minnesota quarterback Philip Nelson, Michigan tight end Devin Funchess, Michigan State receiver Aaron Burbridge and Penn State tight end Kyle Carter spring to mind -- but none made quite the season-long impact that Barnes did.
Adam Rittenberg endorses Penn State DE Deion Barnes
I agree with my esteemed co-blogger on this one, and agree that it's a fairly obvious decision despite some good freshman performances around the conference. Barnes actually caught my eye this spring when I watched him make play after play during a Penn State practice. He doesn't look like a freshman at 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds, and he doesn't play like one, either. With this award, I try to find guys who I notice on a consistent basis. Who jumps out in games week after week. Funchess did for a while at Michigan, but his production fell off in Big Ten play. Burbridge had a nice three-game stretch in Big Ten play, but didn't do much otherwise. Barnes was a factor in more games than the other freshmen, recording at least a half-sack in six contests and at least a half tackle for loss in eight contests. Illinois linebacker Mason Monheim actually would be my No. 2 pick and had a great season. Another Lions freshman, Carter, also is in the mix, but Barnes is a bona fide future star and deserves this award.