Big 12 Football Predictions: Landry Jones and the Conference Awards for 2011
The college football season is just around the corner, and every Big 12 football fan wants to know who the next stars of the league will be in 2011.
The conference annually awards certain players for their on-field excellence during the season. Offensive players, defensive players, newcomers, and even special teamers are honored with their own trophies. And of course, one head coach is honored, too.
This year only Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon returns with a trophy from 2010 (Offensive Player of the Year). The media has already pegged their preseason picks, so now I'll give you mine.
Here are my selections to win the Big 12 Conference player awards for 2011.
Coach of the Year: Mike Sherman, Texas A&M
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If Texas A&M head coach Mike Sherman can win 10 or 11 games with his 2011 team, he'd be the top choice for Big 12 Coach of the Year.
Sherman made a difficult decision in 2010 by benching star quarterback Jerod Johnson in favor of converted wide receiver Ryan Tannehill. That paid off big time for A&M, as the team rattled off six-straight victories en route to a Cotton Bowl berth.
Sherman's 2010 turnaround has many pegging Texas A&M as an underdog to win the Big 12 title. They need to replace All-American defensive end Von Miller on defense, but the offense is loaded with stars and they have the benefit of holding one of the top home-field advantages in the country.
I like the Aggies chances going into next season. If they could win the conference, certainly Mike Sherman would be well-deserving of a Coach of the Year award.
Offensive Lineman of the Year: Levy Adcock, OT, Oklahoma State
Senior offensive tackle Levy Adcock is the clear front-runner for the conference's Offensive Lineman of the Year award.
Adcock, who started every game in 2010, is a 6'6", 332-pound behemoth with great athleticism for the right tackle position. He didn't allow a single sack and was named first-team All-Big 12 during his breakout 2010 season.
Adcock returns to a loaded Oklahoma State offense under the direction of star quarterback Brandon Weeden.
Iowa State offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele could challenge for the honors here, but as long as Adcock follows up with a strong senior season I see no reason why he won't win Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year.
Defensive Lineman of the Year: Brad Madison, DE, Missouri
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Missouri defensive end Brad Madison's meteoric rise makes him the favorite to win the conference's Defensive Lineman of the Year award in 2011.
As a back-up last season, Madison led the Tiger defense in tackles for loss (10) and sacks (7.5). He was a major contributor on one of the nation's most stout defenses in 2010. He's probably the first non-starter to be named second-team All-Big 12 in quite some time.
Madison has not stopped there, dominating the team's spring practices unlike any player in the Gary Pinkel era. He was named the Spring Team MVP and was named to the 2011 Big 12 preseason All-Conference squad.
Madison is my dark horse to win the Defensive Player of Year, but for now I'll keep him as the favorite for Defensive Lineman of the Year.
Special Teams Player of the Year: Grant Ressel, K, Missouri
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Arguably the most consistent kicker over the last two seasons, Missouri placekicker Grant Ressel looks primed to earn himself the Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year award in 2011.
A former walk-on, Ressel has become one of college football's elite kickers. Over the course of his college career, Ressel has drilled 43-of-46 field goals and 84-of-86 PATs. He ranks sixth on Missouri's all-time scoring list.
It's hard not to give the edge to a player who's made over 96 percent of the kicks he has attempted going into the next season.
It's no guarantee, but I'll take a former All-American with fantastic accuracy like Grant Ressel to emerge as the conference's elite special teamer going into next season.
Newcomer of the Year- Malcolm Brown, RB, Texas
This is the hardest award to predict in any conference, but Texas freshman running back Malcolm Brown is the likely starter for the Longhorns in 2011 and figures to make a huge impact right away.
The 5-star player from Cibolo, Texas is one of the elite players from the 2011 recruiting class. Brown registered back-to-back 2,000 rushing seasons as a high school player, including last season's 298 carry, 2,596-yard, 30 rushing touchdown senior campaign.
Brown is a powerful runner with an unusually high motor for an athlete as young as he is. He looks like the missing piece in the Texas offense this season and will see the majority of the carries in that offense.
With a solid offensive line in front of him, expect freshman Malcolm Brown to post big numbers en route to a Newcomer of the Year award in 2011.
Defensive Player of the Year: Travis Lewis, LB, Oklahoma
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Like his Oklahoma Sooner team, senior linebacker Travis Lewis is poised for a huge season that will likely land him the Big 12's Defensive Player of the Year trophy.
Lewis has been a star on Oklahoma's defense since his freshman season. He led Oklahoma in tackles with 109 and also added three interceptions, two forced fumbles, and 1.5 sacks.
He's been first team All-Big 12 for three consecutive seasons and the fearless leader in the middle of Oklahoma's defense. He's the only returning defender from the 2010 all conference squad, making him the most prolific and experienced defender in the conference.
Look for Travis Lewis to have another great season for the Sooners as he is the clear favorite to win the Defensive Player of the Year award for the Big 12.
Offensive Player of the Year: Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma
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This award has many, many strong candidates. With no disrespect to reigning Offensive Player of the Year, Justin Blackmon, I'm going with Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones to steal the award for 2011.
Jones was sensational in his first season as the Sooner starting quarterback. Jones slung it for 4,718 passing yards, 38 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Completing 65 percent of his passes, he broke seven school passing records and aims to break the single season passing mark left by former Heisman Trophy winner, Sam Bradford.
Not only does Oklahoma have a great offensive line returning in 2011, they have the most complete weapon in the conference in wide receiver Ryan Broyles and a rising star in Kenny Stills catching passes for Landry Jones.
Broyles, Justin Blackmon, and even Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden will certainly make strong cases for the honor of Offensive Player of the Year. But I think Jones has the better team around him, and no matter what Ryan Broyles does a lot of the credit will go to the quarterback for his success.
Expect it to be a dogfight, but my money is on Landry Jones to steal the conference's top honor for offensive players and possibly a Heisman Trophy.