The victors usually bring home the spoils, and that was the case again this year as Big Ten Champion Penn State had 10 first team all league selections out of 24 total players on the coaches ballot and seven from the media.
Iowa finished the year 8-4, 5-3 in Big Ten play and saw four players named to the first team on the coaches ballot and three from the media; five Hawkeyes were second team selections from the coaches, four from the media.
Shonn Greene is the sixth Iowa standout to be named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, joining a group that includes Chuck Long (1985), Nick Bell (1990), Matt Rodgers (1990), Tavian Banks (1997) and Brad Banks (2002). The junior running back led the Big Ten with 1,729 rushing yards this season while scoring 17 touchdowns and averaging 6.2 yards per carry.
Greene is the best running back at Iowa in my lifetime of watching Iowa football, and I go back to 1981. I have simply not seen a combination of power, speed, footwork, durability and consistency like Greene displayed this season, and I may never see anything like it again. If Greene tops the 100 yard mark in Iowa's bowl game, that would be 13 for 13 this year, a mark that would probably never be topped at Iowa, and might never be duplicated.
Mitch King became the first Hawkeye to nab Defensive Lineman of the Year laurels from the coaches since Jared Devries was honored in 1997. Other Iowa defensive linemen to be honored include Paul Hufford (1984), Dave Haight (1987) and Leroy Smith (1991). King's stout interior play helped Iowa lead the Big Ten in rushing defense for the first time since 2002 by allowing only 97.9 yards per game. The Hawkeyes also ranked third in conference play by limiting their opponents to only 16.2 points and 306.5 yards of total offense per contest. King led the team with 15.5 tackles for loss and added 51 total tackles, four sacks and a forced fumble in 12 games.
I am beginning to come to terms with the thought of not having King in the Iowa lineup next year. The same can be said of his running mate Matt Kroul who took home second team all league honors from the media. I had similar feelings after Bob Sanders' Iowa playing days were over, and there was a void when Matt Roth and Jonathon Babineaux moved on to the NFL. That very next year, King and Kroul began their playing careers at Iowa and they more than bridged the gap. I wonder who will pick up the mantle next year as the most intense Hawkeye that becomes the heart and soul of the defense the way that Mitch King was?
A name I was very excited to see on the coaches 1st team ballot was that of Brandon Myers. Myers had 30 catches this year for 392 yards and four touchdowns. The majority of Myers receptions went for first downs and he showed remarkable ball skills this year. He showed us that last year, too, with 21 receptions for 208 yards and five touchdowns. In 2008, Myers' blocking ability really came to the fore, and that is going to earn him an NFL paycheck. In my mind, I rate Myers right alongside Marv Cook as the second/third best tight end of my Iowa football viewing lifetime. I know that might get an argument or two from some, but when you take Myers' ball skills, his hands, his hip flexibility and his improved blocking this year, only the names of Dallas Clark and Marv Cook come to my mind; he is a total package and I couldn't be more happy for him.
This is truly one of the great Ferentz era stories; a player that was offered a scholarship literally at the 11th hour in the recruiting process. He was ticketed to UNI before Iowa came calling just before signing day. He bided his time behind Scott Chandler, and was behind Tony Moeaki who played as a freshman. Myers proved that slow and steady wins the race and as I have been saying all season long, the kid is a pro, period. You will hear his name get called in April.
It was great to see Seth Olsen get a 1st team honor from the coaches. The only married Hawkeye, he has been a pleasure to be around since setting foot on campus. He originally committed to Nebraska coach Frank Solich, but when Solich was fired and replaced by Bill Callahan, the former Parade All American had a change of heart and came to Iowa. That was truly Iowa's gain, as he was a three year starter and a rock on the offensive line.
SECOND TEAM HONORS
Rob Bruggeman was tabbed on both ballots for a second team selection. This is another great Ferentz-era story. Were it not for an injury late in spring practice in 2007, Bruggeman would have been a two year starter, and Iowa's 2007 fortunes might have turned out differently. But he missed most of last year recovering from an ACL injury. This year, he hit the ground running from the first game, and he is likely the second best center of the Ferentz era behind Bruce Nelson, right in there with Brian Ferentz.
It seems like we have a theme going here with regards to great ‘Iowa' stories; Amari Spievey was named on the coaches 2nd team ballot. This is a player that was not really on the recruiting radar, but was Connecticut's Player of the Year in 2005. He redshirted in 2006, but did not cut the mustard academically. He played last year at ICCC where he starred, with his Juco coach saying he was the best player he has ever had. Spievey turned in one of the most impressive seasons by an Iowa cornerback in the Kirk Ferentz era, and he is only a sophomore. If he stays healthy, he has NFL written all over him.
True sophomore Bryan Bulaga took home second team honors from the coaches, while Junior Kyle Calloway earned second team honors from the media. Both players are serious candidates for first team honors next season.
The same can be said of Pat Angerer, who was a second team selection on both ballots. Perhaps he is the player that will carry on the ‘Heart of the Defense' legacy?
Ryan Donahue was named second team by the coaches, and Matt Kroul earned second team honors from the media. Kroul made a career out of doing the dirty work on the defensive line, but his efforts did not go unnoticed by the Iowa fans as he set an all time Iowa record with 49 straight starts.
Players earning Honorable Mention from Iowa were: Bradley Fletcher & A.J. Edds. Edds had the misfortune of playing in a stacked position in the Big Ten, but that is always the case at linebacker in this league. Barring injury, he will be a 1st team selection in 2009, and he will also play in the NFL. I honestly believe that Fletcher stands a chance at making it in the league, too.
Five players that earned second team honors will return for Iowa next year, in addition to Edds.
In addition to those six, here are more players to look for on next year's 1st or 2nd team All Big Ten ballots from an Iowa perspective: