Jewell, Jackson, Welsh Earn All-Big Ten First Team Honors

By RossWB on November 29, 2017 at 7:02 pm
Game recognizes game.
© Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
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The Big Ten is (slowly) rolling out its All-Big lists and individual honors; they announced defensive and special teams All-Big Ten honorees yesterday and offensive All-Big Ten honorees today. Since you presumably read the headline, you already know that a handful of Iowa players received first team All-Big Ten honors. Let's go defense-first: 

Josey Jewell and Josh Jackson were named All-Big Ten first team; these picks were pretty much no-brainers. Jewell and Jackson are the favorites (or sure as hell ought to be, anyway) to be named Linebacker of the Year and Defensive Back of the Year (and they may even be the favorites for the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Award), respectively, so they should certainly be first team All-Big Ten. And they are! After making second team All-Big Ten in 2015 and 2016, Jewell finally (deservedly) ascended to the first team this year. This is also the second consecutive season that Iowa has had two players on the defensive All-Big Ten first team; Jaleel Johnson and Desmond King were both first team selections last year (at least for the coaches; Johnson was a second-team selection for the media). 

Outside of Jewell and Jackson, three other Iowa defenders got some sort of All-Big Ten recognition: Anthony Nelson was selected to the third team by the media (honorable mention by the coaches) and Nathan Bazata and Ben Niemann received honorable mention acknowledgement. I think the only omission that's surprising is Parker Hesse; he finished with 10 tackles for loss (Top 20 in the Big Ten), 3.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles. That wasn't good enough to warrant even honorable mention? Not sure that one passes the smell test. 

The offensive honors are probably a little bit more contentious. 

Sean Welsh was Iowa's only first team honoree, via the media (the coaches named him to the second team). Akrum Wadley and Noah Fant each earned third team honors. Certainly we entered 2017 hoping that Wadley would be a first team, or at worst second team, All-Big Ten performer this season, but third team is fair given a few things. One, Wadley had a solid season (1021 rushing yards, 4.4 yards per carry, nine touchdowns, 329 receiving yards, 12.7 yards per reception, three touchdowns), but not a transcendent one, thanks to Iowa's struggles along the offensive line and in playcalling. Two, this was a hell of a year for running backs in the Big Ten. Jonathan Taylor was the latest great Wisconsin running back (1806 rushing yards, 7.0 yards per carry, 13 touchdowns), Saquon Barkley was excellent (1134 rushing yards, 5.7 yards per carry, 16 touchdowns, 594 receiving yards, 12.6 yards per reception, three touchdowns), J.K. Dobbin was the more productive of Ohio State's two-headed backfield (1190 rushing yards, 7.3 yards per carry, seven touchdowns, and Justin Jackson finished off a great career on a high note (1154 rushing yards, 4.5 yards per carry, nine touchdowns). So third team seems fair for Wadley.

Third team for Fant is a little bit tougher to swallow, though. Let's try this with a blind taste test: 

A: 51 receptions, 501 receiving yards, nine touchdowns
B: 28 receptions, 486 receiving yards, 10 touchdowns
C: 38 receptions, 471 receiving yards, four touchdowns

Which one do you think should be All-Big Ten first team? If you said C, congratulations, you're a Big Ten coach! Those numbers belong to Wisconsin's Troy Fumagalli. If you said A, congratulations, you're a Big Ten media member! Those numbers belong to Penn State's Mike Gesicki. And if you said B, well, you're probably an Iowa fan, because those numbers belong to Noah Fant. I don't have an issue with Gesicki being ahead of Fant -- their numbers are pretty similar in yards and touchdowns and his receptions attest to his reliability (drops were an issue for Fant at times, as we know). Would Fumagalli have been first team All-Big Ten if he wasn't a preseason Mackey Award watch list guy on a team that went 12-0? It's hard to imagine. It's not as though Wisconsin was otherwise ignored by the All-Big Ten teams; Beau Benzschawel and Michael Deiter were first team offensive linemen and Jonathan Taylor was (obviously) one of the first team running backs, and they had several defensive first team honorees as well. Of course, this is what happens when a team goes 12-0 and wins the Big Ten West, right? That's certainly what happened in 2015, when Iowa had all of... two first team honorees (Desmond King and Jordan Walsh, and even he was only first team by the coaches). Hmm. 

James Daniels and Nate Stanley both got honorable mention recognition as well. There was a drop-off in the Big Ten quarterback ranks after J.T. Barrett and Trace McSorley; Clayton Thorson earned third team honors. Thorson had more passing yards (2809 versus 2338) and a higher completion percentage (60.6% versus 56.0%), but Stanley had 10 more touchdowns (25 to 15), half as many interceptions (six versus 12), higher yards per attempt (7.0 to 6.6), and a higher QB rating (135.4 versus 121.9). You know, just saying. 

Finally, it isn't an official All-Big Ten team (it's just from BTN.com), but Alaric Jackson and A.J. Epenesa were named to BTN.com's Big Ten All-Freshmen team. Congratulations to all of Iowa players who received All-Big Ten recognition. 

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