A.J. Epenesa Earns Big Ten Preseason Honors

By RossWB on July 20, 2019 at 3:08 pm
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© Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports
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The Big Ten's preseason rollout of information has gotten a little anemic. Just as they no longer do predictions for league standings, they also no longer do predictions for Player of the Honor honors or preseason All-Big Ten teams. Instead, they release a list of "Big Ten Preseason Honors," which is comprised of five players from the Big Ten West and five players from the Big Ten East. The players who made that list this year? 

BIG TEN WEST

A.J. Epenesa, Jr., DE, Iowa
Paddy Fisher, Jr., LB, Northwestern
Adrian Martinez, So., QB, Nebraska
Rondale Moore, So., WR, Purdue
Jonathan Taylor, Jr., RB, Wisconsin

BIG TEN EAST

Joe Bachie, Sr., LB, Michigan State
J.K. Dobbins, Sr., RB, Ohio State
Yetur Gross-Matos, Jr., DE, Penn State
Kenny Willekes, Sr., DE, Michigan State
Chase Young, Jr., DE, Ohio State

Youth will be served, eh? Only two seniors (Bachie and Willekes) make the list here. Also: no representation from Michigan, the preseason favorite to win the league? Huh. 

Much like the preseason league standings predictions, though, the Big Ten media has picked up the slack from the conference and taken to making their own picks for Preseason Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year in the Big Ten. The Offensive Player of the Year voting was a rout: it's Jonathan Taylor, by a mile. The Wisconsin RB finished with 78 points, more than doubling up the next highest vote-getter, Purdue's Rondale Moore (36 points). Taylor had far more first place votes (21) than every other player did combined (13). Michigan QB Shea Patterson finished third in the vote, followed by Nebraska's Martinez and Ohio State's Dobbins. Two Iowa players earned a little love -- Nate Stanley got 4 points and Tristan Wirfs received a single point. 

The Defensive Player of the Year voting was much closer. Ohio State's Chase Young was tabbed the favorite there, but the vote was close. He finished with 57 points, narrowly ahead of Epenesa (52 points). Young actually finished third in first-place votes (8), behind Epenesa (9), and Michigan State's Willekes (10), who was third in the overall vote with 41 points. That breakdown suggests that most of the voters who didn't have Young first had him second, while Willekes' votes were a little more scattered. The top four first place vote-getters were all defensive ends (Penn State's Gross-Matos finished fourth there, with 4 votes), suggesting that the Big Ten is going to be absolutely loaded when it comes to pass rushers this year. 

That said, as was the case with the preseason league standings predictions, the media's preseason picks don't have the greatest hit rate. Nick Bosa and Trace McSorley were the preseason player of the year picks last year and neither came close to receiving that honor at the end of the year. The actual Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year -- Ohio State QB Dwayne Haskins and Michigan LB Devin Bush -- finished fifth and fourth, respectively, in the preseason voting. We'll see how close their picks are to reality this year. 

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