The Big Ten announced its 2011 all-conference teams and most individual awards Monday night, but four more awards will be revealed Wednesday afternoon. Before the winners are revealed, 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's our fourth and final endorsement, for the league's top freshman in 2011:
Adam Rittenberg endorses Ohio State QB Braxton Miller
This award comes down to two candidates: Miller and Michigan State defensive end Marcus Rush, a redshirt freshman who had a terrific season with 50 tackles, including 10 for loss and four sacks, as well as nine quarterback hurries, four pass breakups and a forced fumble. But ultimately my vote goes to Miller, who developed his game during Big Ten play and has new Ohio State coach Urban Meyer and Buckeye Nation pumped up for the future. Miller is one of the best athletes in the league and showed tremendous running ability, leading Ohio State in carries (144), rushing yards (695) and rushing touchdowns (7). Miller's natural play-making ability makes him stand out, and there was no better example than at the end of the Wisconsin game. He also nearly rallied Ohio State to a win two weeks later against Purdue. Although Miller needs to develop more as a passer, Ohio State barely gave him a chance to throw the ball until the Michigan game. He should thrive under a better offensive staff with Meyer.
Brian Bennett also endorses Miller
I would toss Indiana quarterback Tre Roberson, Nebraska running back/returner Ameer Abdullah and Purdue receiver/returner Raheem Mostert into the conversation as other freshmen who impressed this season. But Miller is a no-brainer. I argued before the season that he should have been the starting quarterback to open the season, and the Buckeyes would have been better off handing him the ball right away instead of going with Joe Bauserman for the first three games. Meyer absolutely beamed about Miller in his introductory news conference on Monday, and you could see the new coach already had a few things in mind for next year with the quarterback. Saying Miller needs to develop more as a passer is an understatement, though. Before the Michigan game, he had not completed more than eight passes in any of his previous eight starts, and only one other time did he eclipse 100 yards passing as a starter. But you may have heard at some point that Tim Tebow wasn't a great pure thrower, either. Miller has amazing poise and an ability to make defenders miss, and he could terrorize Big Ten defenses for the next three years.