Juice Williams, All-Big Ten Selection!! Wait…Juice Williams, All-Big Ten Selection????

juice

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? 

Wrong.

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.

That page?

His biography page at www.fightingillini.com.  Ouch.

Hand Darryl Clark the Big 10 MVP

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By Paul M. Banks

When the Big Ten MVP award is handed out today, many people think it will be either Wisconsin RB John Clay or Northwestern QB Mike Kafka. If those two names and the numbers behind them don’t overwhelm you, it’s because this year has no true front-runner. There’s no clear-cut number one. Preseason player of the year Terrelle Pryor has proven himself to be more overrated than Miley Cyrus. No one else on Ohio State, or Iowa for that matter comes close to deserving it.

Obviously, I think it would be really cool if a player on the team I cover (Kafka) won the award, but I’m not going to let that bias my choice here. Kafka just hasn’t accounted for enough TDs to win the award, and I think more of his success lies with the excellent work of his coaching staff (And Pat Fitzgerald deserves Big Ten Coach of the Years honors, in my opinion). The guy who has accrued touchdowns aplenty is Penn State QB Darryl Clark, who set the school record for TD passes in a season, and in a career on Saturday. Think about that. All the great players to play the top spot at a school that is top 5 all time in victories. Clark has truly impressed, and I asked his Offensive Coordinator Jay Paterno all about it after the Northwestern game on Halloween.

“Some of the throws he’s made the last couple of weeks have been fantastic, he’s in a rhythm and hopefully, people around the country take notice of him…“I certainly don’t think there’s anybody better at quarterback in the nation right now. Whether that makes him Heisman worthy or not that’s for other people to decide, but you have to show me a guy who’s having better year than he is. I wouldn’t trade him for anybody,” said the man likely to inherit the program from JoePa. Jay is also the man said to be actually pulling the strings in Happy Valley right now.

In recent years, Penn State deity/head coach Joe Paterno and company have gotten away from the traditional I-formation sets in their base offense and today rely on the “Spread HD.” PSU quarterbacks today are more often mobile, dual threats (Zack Mills, Michael Robinson) instead of the classic drop back passers of yesteryear (Kerry Collins, Todd Blackledge). Like President Barack Obama said, “it’s not enough to change the players, you have to change the game.” 2008 All-Big Ten quarterback Darryl Clark is the latest in the line of total offense generating machines being produced in Beaver Stadium.Darryl-Clark

“I think the biggest thing with darryl is that he’s even-keeled, and that’s one of the things you have to do if you want to be a big time quarterback, you can’t be too emotional. The game’s gonna be good and its gonna be bad. You’re going to miss throws, guys are going to miss protections,” Jay Paterno said.

Darryl Lawrence Clark is a 6-2 233 pound senior from Youngstown, Ohio. He was quite loquacious at Big Ten Media Day, which should serve him well as he works towards his second college degree in journalism- he finished his first degree in telecommunications last December. When asked who might win the Big Ten, if Penn State does not, Clark responded: “I don’t even want to answer that because I want to win the Big Ten. The conference is so unpredictable; you never know who the sleeper teams are, who’s going to creep up. Not to sound cocky or nothing like that, but we were predicted {in ‘08} what 5th? 6th? And we won it, so you just never know.” This season most experts predicted PSU to finish 2nd. So most forecasters pretty much got it right.

In ’08, he did sort of come out of nowhere to accomplish A LOT. He became just the second QB in Nittany Lion history to become an All-Conference first team quarterback as he threw for 2,592 yards (third highest in school history) while tossing just 6 interceptions against 19 TDs, leading Nittany Nation to a 11-2 record, the aforementioned conference championship and a Rose Bowl appearance. He was among the best passers in the nation, but also ran for 9 TDs on the ground and 282 yards. The 29 touchdowns he accounted for was a school record. If there were fantasy leagues for college players, Clark would no doubt be a first round pick. And this year, individually he topped those numbers. So basically he’s earned it.