COLUMBUS — The Big Ten recognized Ohio State’s past and future Tuesday, with the program’s departed emotional leader and the underclassman coaches hope will inherit the mantle cleaning up the major conference awards.
Three days after the Buckeyes completed a perfect season, sophomore Braxton Miller was named Big Ten offensive player of the year while senior defensive end John Simon was defensive player of the year — a marked contrast to the vote for the all-conference team a day earlier.
On Monday, it was revealed the league’s coaches did not select Miller as first-team quarterback, instead opting for Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez. A debate stirred over their motives as the media voted twice the number of Buckeyes (six) to the first team.
But Ohio State’s big night Tuesday represented a combined vote by the media and coaches. The only vote OSU lost was for coach of the year, with both the coaches and media selecting Penn State coach Bill O’Brien over Ohio State’s Urban Meyer. O’Brien provided Penn State (8-4) with a steadying hand after a sex abuse scandal and devastating NCAA sanctions appeared to wipe the program off the map.
Miller was named the Buckeyes’ first offensive player of the year since Troy Smith, the 2006 Heisman Trophy winner, after completing a record season. Miller set a single-season school mark with a 3,310 yards of total offense — surpassing quarterback Bobby Hoying — while his 1,271 rushing yards rank second among quarterbacks in Big Ten history.
“Winning this award is quite an achievement for this young man because he can still get better,” Meyer said of Miller, who is one of three finalists for the Davey O’Brien national quarterback of the year award. “I am happy for him and very proud. This is a terrific honor for a Buckeye to receive.”
Simon, meanwhile, was the Buckeyes’ heartbeat. One of eight two-time captains in OSU history, the senior from Youngstown had a Big Ten-leading nine sacks and was second with 14.5 tackles for a loss.
He is eighth OSU player to earn the conference’s top defensive award, following linebacker James Laurinaitis (2007-08), linebacker A.J. Hawk (2005), defensive end Will Smith (2003), safety Mike Doss (2002), cornerback Shawn Springs (1996), defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson (1993), and linebacker Steve Tovar (1992).
“Everyone knows how highly I think of John Simon,” Meyer said. “He is absolutely one of the finest young men I have had the privilege to coach. His determination and effort and selfless approach are second to none, and there is no better player or person to be honored with this player of the year award.”
Simon endured a cruel end to the season. A week after matching a single-game school record with four sacks at Wisconsin, he missed the Buckeyes’ 26-21 over Michigan on Saturday with a bursa sac injury in his knee.
“It was extremely tough to have to stay on the sidelines that last game and to watch your family go out there and play,” Simon said. “But they stepped up and got the win, and I’ve never been more proud of a group of guys in all my life.”
Penn State defensive end Deion Barnes, an honorable mention all-conference honoree, was named Big Ten freshman of the year.
Contact David Briggs at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6084 or on Twitter @DBriggsBlade.