By Paul Schmidt
Let me be the first to say, I love Juice Williams, and I want you to, too.
I think he’s a great kid.
I think he was the most deserving player of all that received mention as a Big Ten Sportsmanship Award Nominee. The grace with which he handled his demotion, and the teaching capabilities he showed with Eddie McGee and Jacob Charest surprised even me, an ardent supporter.
But an Honorable Mention nomination at quarterback? Really?
Let’s go through some numbers…
Your first team QB was Darryl Clark, the conference’s leader in passing efficiency. That’s a good choice. Your second team QB was Mike Kafka. While Kafka was fifth in passing efficiency, he was second in per game averages of total offense. Again, a very defensible selection. I might have gone with Purdue’s Joey Elliott (the conference’s leader in total offense per game), but either way, Kafka is a fine choice.
Now…here’s the honorable mention QBs: Juice Williams, Ben Chappell, Ricky Stanzi, Kirk Cousins, Scott Tolzien, Terrelle Pryor, and the aforementioned Elliott.
Now, I know you’re looking at that and thinking, holy crap, that’s nine of the 11 starting QBs in the conference. Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. Given that list, it would be tough to leave Williams off, right?
The only top ten list Williams’ name appears on on the conference statistical leaderboard is, surprisingly, in passing efficiency, where he ranks tenth.
He’s not on the total offense list, a place that a running QB like him should be a lock to make.
Not on the top ten list for the conference’s top passers in terms of yards, either.
Heck, he’s not even in the top ten of games started by quarterbacks in the conference, mustering only nine appearances and eight starts. That’s right, an honorable mention Big Ten selection was benched halfway through the season. That alone should result in automatic disqualification from the award…
The simple solution? Nine QB’s mentioned in the all-conference awards, one way or another, is just too many. Dropping the number of players named would not only raise the prestige of the award but lend some legitimacy, as well.
But, assuming that you’re locked into that number of players appearing on your final award sheet, one deserving player was not named. Remarkable, considering the number that appeared, I know, but it’s true.
Where was Minnesota’s Adam Weber?
I know that the Minnesota writers here will slam this thought, but bear with me.
First, when naming nine QBs in the awards, you have to consider that Weber, though awful at times and someone who took a major step backwards this season, still was statistically one of the top nine QBs in the conference this season. He finished 8th in passing per game and 10th in total offense.
Plus, he was never benched this season.
Look, while I do applaud the Big Ten Conference for honoring as many players as possible, having nine QBs mentioned is simply too many. There must be a way to pare this down some, lest you face looking foolish on a national stage.
Of even greater importance would be to eliminate players like Juice Willams from contention, perhaps not a step the conference wants to take. Even given that, instilling some sort of a minimum performance barrier, or giving the voters qualified names to vote for would be a good step for the conference to make; awarding 81.8% of your conference’s starting quarterbacks some type of All-Conference award is just patently ridiculous.
I would have gone with Clark as the first team selection, and Elliott at second team, followed by honorable mention selections for Stanzi and Cousins. That’s it. Four guys is still more than a third of the QBs in the conference, and more than enough nomination-wise. Plus, naming just those four guys doesn’t make your conference look patently ridiculous.
Perhaps the most damning evidence against any awards for Juice comes from a web page listing his national ranks this season — 91st in the nation in passing efficiency and 93rd in total offense.
His biography page at www.fightingillini.com. Ouch.