The All-Big Ten teams and individual awards are out, and the league hands out its four major awards — Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Coach of the Year and Freshman of the Year — later today. As always, we’re handing out our endorsements for each award in advance of the announcement. We'll agree on some and differ on others.
Let's turn our attention to the defensive side of the ball.
Adam Rittenberg endorses Ohio State LB Ryan Shazier
If I had to build a defense around one Big Ten player, I would pick Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland. If I were an NFL general manager drafting one Big Ten defender, I'd go with Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard. But for the 2013 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, I'm endorsing Ohio State's Shazier. Borland and Dennard would be good choices, too, but Shazier's overall profile gives him the edge. He leads the Big Ten in both tackles (122) and tackles for loss (21), leads Big Ten linebackers in sacks (6) and is tied for the league lead in forced fumbles (4). He needs just five more tackles for loss to tie Mike Vrabel's team record. Ohio State really leaned on Shazier, the only returning starter in the Buckeyes' defensive front seven, and he came through every single week. Like Carlos Hyde, my pick for Offensive Player of the Year, Shazier is finishing the season extremely well, recording 50 tackles in his last three games.
Brian Bennett endorses Shazier
In another year, Borland and Dennard might just win this award. But it's really hard to ignore what Shazier has done, especially in the closing stretch of the season. Where would Ohio State's defense be without him? That's something I'm sure Urban Meyer and Luke Fickell would rather not contemplate. Three times this season, Shazier was named Big Ten defensive player of the week, and the Butkus Award finalist could have been honored in many other weeks. Borland was also outstanding, but missing two Big Ten games hurt his case. There's no better cornerback in America than Dennard, but I think a linebacker has a bigger impact on a defense. And no one player made a bigger impact on the league defensively than Shazier.