Yesterday was the offense's time to shine in the Big Ten end-of-season awards. Today it was time for the defense to get a little love. Iowa had arguably the league's best defense, so it seems very right that they also had several players honored on the league's All-Big Ten teams. The headliner, of course, was Daviyon Nixon who was named All-Big Ten First Team by the coaches and media. Nixon was also named Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, which we covered here.
Nixon was the most-celebrated member of Iowa's fearsome defensive line, but he wasn't the only standout performer on that unit. His teammate in terror, Chauncey Golston, was also excellent this year -- and he too earned All-Big Ten First Team honors from the coaches and media. Golston was fifth in the Big Ten in tackles for loss (8.5), but tied for first (with Nixon) in sacks (5.5). He was also tied with Nixon for most tackles among defensive linemen (45). Nixon held down the middle for Iowa's outstanding defensive line, but they needed a leader and a disruptor on the outside and Golston was that guy week in and week out.
But Nixon and Golston weren't the only Iowa defensive linemen to earn All-Big Ten honors -- Zach VanValkenburg earned Second Team honors from the coaches and media. VanValkenburg's emergence this season was one of the year's best stories, as he went from a lightly-used rotation piece last year to the starting end opposite Golston and an increasingly influential figure in Iowa's defense as the season wore on. The fact that he transferred to Iowa from a Division II school (Hillsdale College) only makes his story even more remarkable. Iowa's ability to locate and develop talent is remarkable, especially on the defensive side of the ball. VanValkenburg finished the season tied for fifth in tackles for loss (8.5) and tied for 11th in sacks (3.5).
We're accustomed to seeing Iowa defensive backs earn All-Big Ten honors and we saw it again this season, as Jack Koerner was named All-Big Ten Second Team by the media and Third Team by the coaches. Koerner led Iowa in interceptions (3) and finished tied for fifth in the conference. His value went beyond stats, though; he was one of the key leaders for Iowa's defense and the most experienced player in the secondary and helped get the defense in the right looks.
Nick Niemann was the final Hawkeye to earn All-Big Ten honors, with a Third Team recognition by the coaches. Niemann led Iowa (and finished second in the Big Ten) with 77 tackles and was another one of the key leaders for Iowa's excellent defense. He helped anchor the linebacker position for the Hawkeyes all season long.
Finally, several other Hawkeyes earned All-Big Ten Honorable Mention consideration, including Dane Belton, Seth Benson, Matt Hankins, and Riley Moss.
Congratulations to all of Iowa's All-Big Ten recipients on the defensive side of the ball. The defense was (as usual) the key to Iowa's success this season and it's great to see so many players from that side of the ball recognized for their strong play.