Of the four major Big Ten awards, this was by far the most difficult selection. Earlier this month, I detailed how as many as nine players should be considered for the award, and little has changed in recent weeks. The Big Ten is bursting with defensive stars.
In the end, it came down to six players: Greg Jones, Brandon Graham, Pat Angerer, Navorro Bowman, Kurt Coleman and O'Brien Schofield.
The envelope, please ...
I endorse Michigan State linebacker Greg Jones for Defensive Player of the Year.
Graham is the league's most feared defender, and Schofield isn't far behind. Bowman and Coleman made tons of big plays, while Angerer is the model of consistency. But in making this endorsement, I tried to find the player who was a factor every time the offense snapped the football. No player found himself in the mix more than Jones.
The Spartans junior leads the Big Ten and ranks second nationally with 141 tackles (11.8 tpg). He reached double digits in tackles eight times this season. Most importantly, he found his way to the quarterback, leading all Big Ten linebackers with nine sacks, a total that ranked fourth overall in the conference. Jones ranks eighth in total tackles for loss (13.5) to go along with a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and eight quarterback hurries. He wasn't always the flashiest player on the field, but his consistency is second to none. Named the Big Ten's preseason defensive player of the year, Jones backed up the hype.
You can't go wrong with any of these choices, but Jones deserves the award.