The phrase, "so what, what have you done for me lately?", has never made itself more evident than it did today at Big Ten Media Day. Just because you were Offensive Player of the Year last season, doesn't mean you're favored to be again the next.
As it's custom, those present at Big Ten Media Day cast their selections for the preseason top three teams, as well as the conference's preseason offensive & defensive player of the year.
The top three teams selected as preseason favorites were: 1) Ohio State, 2) Iowa, 3) Wisconsin. It is custom to only select and reveal the top three teams voted for.
The Big Ten preseason offensive and defensive players of the year selected, were Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor, and Michigan State linebacker Greg Jones. Both Terrelle Pryor and Greg Jones were selected last season as the favorites for the preseason honors. This is the first time in 12 years that both preseason players were repeat selections. The last time there were repeat preseason players of the year was 1998 Wisconsin running back Ron Dayne and Ohio State linebacker Andy Katzenmoyer were selected.
Badger fan or not, love for the run over the pass or not, bias or not, how can John Clay not be the media's selection for Big Ten Preseason Offensive Player of the Year?
Take a look at Terrelle Pryor. Pryor had what many would agree to be a mediocre year, stat wise. Yes, he is a dynamic player to watch. Yes, he has all the intangibles and skills to be a fantastic college player and possible NFL prospect. But how in any way did Pryor prove last season that he was a great quarterback, deserving of preseason offensive POY hype?
In 2009, Pryor threw for 2,094 yards, 18 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, with a 128.91 quarterback rating. Seems like a mediocre passing season for Pryor. Factor in his running ability, and ability to avoid pressure and make some plays, and you may have more of a case. But, that seemed to be Pryor's plague all season long.
Looking more closely at the bigger games on the schedule, we see a "lack of Pryor" in each contest. Against USC, Pryor completed 11 passes for 177 yards, with no touchdowns and one costly interception in a tight 18-15 loss. Against Wisconsin, Pryor completed just 5 passes for 87 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. Against Iowa, Pryor threw for 93 yards, with no touchdowns or interceptions.
See a trend?
In the big situations, Pryor struggled. Sure he's a young player and many would argue he will be much more developed this year, but how can you put him ahead of last year's Offensive Big Ten POY, John Clay, based off of last year's performance and numbers?
Wisconsin junior running back John Clay will be entering this season behind arguably one of the best offensive lines in the country. With two NFL ready lineman in Gabe Carimi and John Moffitt, Wisconsin looks to have even more motivation to continue giving the ball to Clay and pounding it down the opposition's throat.
In 2009, Clay lead the Big Ten in rushing with 1,517 yards. The next closest was Penn State's Evan Royster, some 400 yards behind Clay's numbers. Clay also lead the Big Ten with 18 rushing touchdowns. Closest to matching that number: Purdue's Ralph Bolden with 9 rushing touchdowns.
John Clay will return to the field in 2010 having had two ankle surgeries (an issue that slowed and nagged on Clay in 2009), having the luxury of running behind a top-5 offensive line, and returning with a lot of momentum from last season.
How can the media be so quick to "de-throne" John Clay of Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year? Especially, by placing an unproven quarterback who has yet to develop above him?
One thing's for sure on Clay: I wouldn't bet against him.