The Big Ten announced the 2004 All-Conference Football teams and individual award winners today as selected by the league coaches and a media panel. Big Ten Co-Champion Michigan claimed three individual honors as the coaches and media picked Braylon Edwards as the Offensive Player of the Year and Michael Hart as the Freshman of the Year, while the coaches also chose David Baas as the Offensive Lineman of the Year. Wisconsin's Erasmus James swept Defensive Player of the Year laurels from both groups while also garnering Defensive Lineman of the Year accolades from the coaches. Iowa mentor Kirk Ferentz was the media's choice for the Dave McClain Coach of the Year award after leading his program to a share of the title.
Edwards boosted Michigan to back-to-back Big Ten titles for the first time since the 1997-98 seasons to become the second straight Wolverine to earn League Offensive Player of the Year laurels, as running back Chris Perry was honored last season. The senior became the first wide receiver to be named Offensive Player of the Year since fellow-UM wideout Desmond Howard collected the accolade in 1991 on his way to the Heisman Trophy. Edwards is the first player in Big Ten history to record three consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons, as he has produced a career-high 1,221 yards in 2004 after breaking the 1,000-yard barrier as a junior (1,138) and sophomore (1,035). The Detroit-native currently ranks among the top four in Conference career records for receiving touchdowns (2nd with 36), receptions (4th with 242) and yards (4th with 3,433). A finalist for the Biletnikoff, Maxwell and Walter Camp Awards, Edwards leads the Big Ten and ranks among the top five nationally in receptions (3rd with 7.91) and receiving yards (5th with 111.0) per contest and is also tied for third in the country with 12 touchdown catches. He is the only player to earn unanimous First Team All-Big Ten honors from both coaches and media this season, as he was also a First Team honoree in 2003.
Hart became the first true freshman to lead the Big Ten in rushing since Wisconsin's Ron Dayne in 1996 to give the Wolverines their second straight Freshman of the Year award, as Steve Breaston was honored by the coaches last season. Hart ranks 10th nationally with 124.7 rushing yards per outing, as he accumulated 261 attempts for 1,372 yards and nine touchdowns this season. He was also the only freshman to earn All-Big Ten First Team accolades in 2004.
Baas was tabbed the Offensive Lineman of the Year as he bolstered an attack that blocked for the League's leading rusher and protected a true freshman quarterback. After earning First Team All-Conference laurels as a guard the last two seasons, the senior made the move to center and the Wolverines ranked second in Big Ten play with 423.6 total yards and 30.8 points per game. Baas is only the second offensive lineman in Michigan history to earn First Team All-League honors in three straight seasons along with four-time honoree Steve Hutchinson (1997-2000), who was the last Wolverine to be named Offensive Lineman of the Year in 2000.
James was named the Defensive Player and Defensive Lineman of the Year after leading a Wisconsin defense that topped the Big Ten and ranked among the top 10 nationally in passing (6th with 158.5 yards per game), scoring (T7th with 14.6 points per contest) and total defense (8th with 275.9 yards per outing). The senior defensive end is a finalist for the Lombardi Award, Nagurski Trophy and Hendricks Award after leading the Conference and ranking among the top 15 in the country with eight sacks. He picks up First Team All-Big Ten honors for the first time in his career, including a unanimous selection by the media. James is the first Badger to claim Defensive Player and Defensive Lineman of the Year accolades in the same year since Tom Burke in 1998, as Wisconsin has produced the Defensive Lineman of the Year in four of the last seven seasons including Wendell Bryant in 2000 and 2001. The last UW product to collect the Defensive Player of the Year award was Jamar Fletcher in 2000.
Ferentz earns Coach of the Year laurels for the second time in his career, as he was also honored in 2002 after leading the Hawkeyes to his first Big Ten title. The Iowa mentor rallied his team from a season-opening defeat at Michigan to reel off seven straight victories and earn a share of the 2004 Big Ten Championship, as Iowa finished atop the standings twice in three seasons for the first time since 1960 and 1958. The only other Hawkeyes mentor to claim Coach of the Year honors was Hayden Fry, who was honored on two occasions in 1981 and 1990. The Dave McClain Big Ten Coach of the Year award is voted on by a Conference media panel and is named for the late Wisconsin coach, who served at the Badgers' helm from 1978-1985. The League dedicated this award to his honor in 1986.
Overall, there are 17 repeat honorees on either the First or Second All-Big Ten Teams from a year ago, including eight First Team selections from 2003 who are on this year's First Team – Iowa's Abdul Hodge and Matt Roth, Michigan's Baas and Edwards, Minnesota's Greg Eslinger, Ohio State's A.J. Hawk and Wisconsin's Anttaj Hawthorne and Jim Leonhard. Baas and Leonhard are the only three-time First Team All-Big Ten honorees, as Leonhard is the first Badger to earn three straight selections since Bryant from 1999-2001.
Cornerback Ukee Dozier was a first team selection and defensive end Darrell Reid was a second team pick by the media. Running back Marion Barber III, tight end Matt spaeth and wide receiver Ernie Wheelwright were honorable mention choices.
The Conference office also announced honorees from each team for the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award. The student-athletes chosen are individuals who have distinguished themselves through sportsmanship and ethical behavior. In addition, the student-athletes must be in good academic standing and have demonstrated good citizenship outside of the sports-competition setting. Honorees for football are Kelvin Hayden of Illinois, Aaron Halterman of Indiana, Jonathan Babineaux of Iowa, Kevin Dudley of Michigan, Tyrell Dortch of Michigan State, Dominique Sims of Minnesota, Luis Castillo of Northwestern, Maurice Hall of Ohio State, Zack Mills of Penn State, Kyle Ingraham of Purdue and Scott Starks of Wisconsin. These 11 student-athletes are now candidates for the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award, as the Conference office will select one male and one female student-athlete from each institution at the end of the school year.
The complete first and second team can be viewed by clicking the link below.