One day after being named the best players in the conference at their respective positions, Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller and defensive lineman Johnny Simon found out even better news on Tuesday night.
They were both named the Big Ten’s players of the year on their respective sides of the ball, honors that might take away some of the feeling of snub that Ohio State fans were feeling after their undefeated team had only two consensus All-Big Ten picks Monday night.
In combined voting of the coaches and media, Miller was named the Graham-George Offensive Player of the Year. The honor is named after Northwestern legend Otto Graham and OSU Heisman-winning running back Eddie George.
“It’s one step closer to all the goals that I want to reach playing football, but there are a lot more things I still have to work at,” Miller said Tuesday.
Miller, a Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award finalist and one of the Walter Camp Award’s 15 “players to watch,” threw for 2,039 yards and 15 TDs while completing nearly 60 percent (148 of 254) of his passes. On the ground, he led the Buckeyes with 1,271 rushing yards, added 13 TDs and recorded six 100-yard rushing games, including a school QB record 186 in the win over Nebraska.
In the process, Miller became just the third different QB in Big Ten history to rush for at least 1,000 yards in a season. He topped Bobby Hoying’s official school record with 3,310 yards of total offense, though Terrelle Pryor’s record of 3,526 yards in 13 games in 2010 has since been wiped off the record books.
Miller is the first Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year from Ohio State since Troy Smith, the 2006 Heisman Trophy winner. Miller could follow in Smith’s footsteps if he’s chosen to go to New York City next weekend as a Heisman finalist, but the sophomore from Huber Heights, Ohio, said he hasn’t focused on that talk all season long.
“I heard the talk a few times on the front side of the season,” he said. “I didn’t really pay any attention to it. Some of the guys always make jokes about it and things like that. You see it on TV. You just have to keep working hard. You never know what to expect at the end of the season.”
Of the new Heisman front runner, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, Miller said, “He’s real good. I’d say his character is real good and how he plays the game is similar, but he had a heck of a season.”
Miller previously was named the Big Ten’s Griese-Brees Quarterback of the Year yesterday and figures to be a candidate for the Big Ten Silver Football MVP trophy handed out by the Chicago Tribune. However, he was named first-team All-Big Ten only by the conference media, not its coaches.
On the other side of the ball, Simon captured the Nagurski-Woodson Defensive Player of the Year trophy, which is named after Minnesota’s Bronko Nagurski and Michigan’s Charles Woodson. He is the first OSU player to be named the top defender in the Big Ten since James Laurinaitis won it in both 2007 and ’08.
The senior from Youngstown (Ohio) Cardinal Mooney did not play in the Michigan game because of a knee injury and also fought a shoulder problem during the early part of the season.
Despite that, he racked up 45 tackles, led the league with nine sacks and finished second behind teammate Ryan Shazier with 14½ tackles for loss. Simon had five tackles for loss vs. Nebraska and tied a school record with four sacks at Wisconsin. He also broke up four passes and forced a fumble.
Simon was chosen as the winner of the Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year yesterday.
Many thought Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer was in the mix for the league’s top coaching honor after leading the Buckeyes to a 12-0 season, but he was beaten out by Penn State’s Bill O’Brien, who lost a number of scholarship players at the start of fall camp amid NCAA sanctions but still coaxed his team to an 8-4 (6-2) mark.
Ohio State has not won a coach of the year honor since Earle Bruce in 1979.