You don’t have to be a genius to pick an All-Conference squad. Two friends and I set out to prove exactly that. Here’s Black Shoe Diaries’ 2017 All Big Ten squads, as chosen by us, three stooges on the BSD mast head.
BSD’s All Big Ten Offense
|QB||JT Barrett, OSU||JT Barrett, OSU||Trace McSorley, PSU|
|RB||Saquon Barkley, PSU||Saquon Barkley, PSU||Saquon Barkley, PSU|
|WR||DJ Moore, UMD||DJ Moore, UMD||DJ Moore, UMD|
|WR||Simmie Cobbs, IND||Simmie Cobbs, IND||DaeSean Hamilton, PSU|
|TE||Troy Fumagali, WISC||Mike Gesicki, PSU||Mike Gesicki, PSU|
|OT||Jamarco Jones, OSU||Jarmarco Jones, OSU||Jarmarco Jones, OSU|
|OT||Nick Gates, NEB||Michael Dieter, WISC||Michael Dieter, WISC|
|OG||Beau Benzschawel, WISC||Michael Jordan, OSU||Beau Benzschawel, WISC|
|OG||Sean Welsh, IOWA||Ben Bredeson, MICH||David Beedle, MSU|
|OC||Billy Price, OSU||Brian Allen, MSU||Tyler Biadasz, WISC|
|FLEX||Akrum Wadley, IOWA||Akrum Wadley, IOWA||Akrum Wadley, IOWA|
|FLEX||DaeSean Hamilton, PSU||Troy Fumagali, WISC||Stanley Morgan, NEB|
|FLEX||Felton Davis III, MSU||JK Dobbins, OSU||JK Dobbins, OSU|
bscaff: alright fellas, we shared a surprising amount of picks on the offensive side. But we do have a few key differences. Let's start with the signal caller. Clay, why did you pick Barrett over McSorley?
Clay: Barrett played the best in the biggest moment, down the stretch against Penn State. Did he lay an egg against Iowa, and really against Michigan as well? Sure. But at his best, Barrett was better than Trace and he was able to maintain that level of play for a majority of the season.
bscaff: And Jared, the opposite question for you. What gave Trace the edge in your mind?
Jared: For me, it comes down to consistency. Ok, and perhaps a little bit of bias. Barrett looked like a Heisman candidate at times (unfortunately, never more so than the second half against Penn State), but also couldn't get out of his own way, especially in losses to Oklahoma and Iowa. He was at his best against the outmatched defenses on the schedule, but often couldn't come close to the same level against the tougher defenses he faced. McSorley's highs may not have been on the same level as Barrett's, but even when he didn't have his best game, he was still really damn good. There were at least a couple of games where the Penn State Twitterverse was grumbling about McSorley's play, but when you took a step back and looked at his numbers, he was still having a damn good game.
bscaff: Fair enough. Now then - not to sound like Matt Millen - but you both chose a TE who doesn’t block. I wanted to pick Mike - the hands, body control, leaping stuff - but I just couldn’t do it.
Jared: I did struggle with picking Gesicki since his game is so one-sided, but I asked myself a simple question: Would I rather have Gesicki or Wisconsin's Troy Fumagali on my team? I would choose Gesicki without hesitation. He brings an element to the offense that was completely unmatched by any Big Ten tight end. Between his ability to create mismatches and catch anything in his general area, he brought a value to Penn State's offense that will be incredibly difficult to replace next season.
Clay: Fumagali had a ton of games in Big Ten play where he was invisible. If anything, George Fant of Iowa is the one who should challenge Gesicki, but Gesicki just adds another dynamic to the Penn State offense. He is a release valve in the truest sense and the best jump ball target in the country.
bscaff: Fumagali led the conference in yards per game, despite catching “passes” from Alex Hornibrook. That’s a miracle, not invisibility.
bscaff: Do you think we'll all look stupid Saturday night for choosing 3 running backs (Barkley, Wadley, and Dobbins) ahead of the conference's leading rusher (Jonathan Taylor)?
Clay: Taylor is unquestionably be fantastic, but the other three make more happen on their own. We’ve seen back after back just dominate in that Wisconsin offense behind dominant offensive lines. Taylor is awesome, but a ton of his production comes down to line play and massive holes to run through.
Jared: I'll look stupid on Saturday for many reasons, including not picking Jonathan Taylor. He was incredibly difficult to leave off, but you could tell Dobbins was incredibly special right off the bat and the heir apparent to Barkley as the Big Ten's next premiere running back who constantly makes highlight-reel plays. Thomas is a great back for sure, but part of his productivity likely came from Wisconsin's offensive line. Akrum Wadley has the ability to turn something out of nothing, and really carried Iowa's offense- without Wadley, Iowa's offense is easily among the worst in the Big Ten.
bscaff: which offensive pick caused you the most heartburn?
Jared: I had a hard time deciding if DaeSean Hamilton should be all-Big Ten, or if it was because he's been one of my favorite players for so long. In the end, I do think he deserved it, even above Simmie Cobbs or Stanley Morgan. Hamilton added a new element to his game for his senior season that really set him apart- we all knew he had excellent footwork and great hands, but he looked like a completely different receiver who always found a way to come down with the ball in tight coverage. If Hamilton played on a different offense that didn't purposely spread the ball around so much, he just may have been the Big Ten's leading receiver.
Clay: Coincidentally enough, it was the decision to take Wadley over Taylor. Taylor’s numbers are absurd not just for freshman, but for any back. He’s incredibly fast for his size and when he gets going downhill he’s an absolute load to bring down.
bscaff: I really wanted to move Billy Price to Guard, send Sean Welsh to the bench, and pull in Tyler Biadasz at Center. Despite being a freshman, Biadasz is already a killer at the pivot. Wish I knew who/what Wisconsin teaches their O-linemen, because they polish more 3-star turds into all-conference diamonds than any other school, at any other position. Flipping amazing.
BSD’s All Big Ten Defense
|DE||Nick Bosa, OSU||Nick Bosa, OSU||Nick Bosa, OSU|
|DE||Rashan Gary, MICH||Sam Hubbard, OSU||Sam Hubbard, OSU|
|DT||Mo Hurst, MICH||Mo Hurst, MICH||Mo Hurst, MICH|
|DT||Conor Sheehy, WISC||Dre'mont Jones, OSU||Rashan Gary, MICH|
|LB||Tegray Scales, IND||Josey Jewell, IOWA||Josey Jewell, IOWA|
|LB||Ryan Connelly, WISC||Devin Bush, MICH||Devin Bush, MICH|
|LB||Jermaine Carter Jr, UMD||TJ Edwards, WISC||Joe Bachie, MSU|
|CB||Rashard Fant, IND||Grant Haley, PSU||Rashard Fant, IND|
|CB||Josh Jackson, IOWA||Josh Jackson, IOWA||Nick Nelson, WISC|
|S||Marcus Allen, PSU||Marcus Allen, PSU||Marcus Allen, PSU|
|S||Kyle Queiro, JNW||D'Cota Dixon, WISC||David Dowell, MSU|
|FLEX||Denzel Ward, OSU||Tegray Scales, IND||Tegray Scales, IND|
|FLEX||Shareef Miller, PSU||Lavert Hill, MICH||Tyquan Lewis, OSU|
bscaff: let’s start with the obvious. Chase Winovich (MICH) tied for the conference lead in sacks, and led the conference in tackles for loss - and he didn’t make anyone’s list, anywhere. Why did you leave him on the sideline? It was his hair, right?
Jared: Two reasons- this was an outstanding year for defensive lineman in the Big Ten, and also I believe Winovich was the beneficiary of offenses paying more attention to the players around him. He never jumped out at me the way Nick Bosa, Sam Hubbard or Rashan Gary did when I'd sit down to watch them.
Clay: I would also like to be the beneficiary of playing next to Rashan Gary and Mo Hurst. Winovich is a really solid player, but he benefitted greatly by being the “other Michigan defensive end” and teams game planning around the guy on the other side of the line.
bscaff: Let’s talk safeties. I had to take Marcus Allen, short alley defender supreme. Tons of tackles, tons of energy, and delivered several momentum shifting hits. But that also meant I needed my other safety to have some wheels in coverage - and that made the choice really difficult, since NFL-style coverage safeties tend to play boundary cornerback in college. I settled on Kyle Queiro, who - despite being a less reliable safety than his backfield mate Godwin Igwebuike - stands 6’3”, can run, and managed to shut out Mike Gesicki when PSU played at Northwestern. Anywho - how difficult for you was choosing a safety to play opposite Marcus Allen?
Clay: Dixon is just a menace. He can play the pass or come up into the box and play the run. He plays with a swagger which I love and is really a mature football player. He’s rarely out of position and is like a coach on the field for Badgers defensive coordinator Jim Leonard.
Jared: It wasn't too difficult. I came away impressed with David Dowell early in the season. He is just one of the many talented underclassmen on Michigan State's defense, and I think he will be the Big Ten's best safety next season.
bscaff: next up, your linebackers. Explain them, please.
Jared: Iowa's Josey Jewell was as close to an automatic selection as they come. The dude just does everything, and leaves every ounce of effort on the field each Saturday. He's been a joy to watch the last few years. Joe Bachie had a quietly outstanding sophomore campaign for Michigan State, and it seemed like you could never go more than a couple plays without hearing his name called. He was a key part of Sparty's revival on defense, and could challenge for All-American status next season as they seem to be in line to have one of the nation's top defenses in 2018. Michigan's Devin Bush does everything well. He has the instincts and athleticism to make plays all over the field and really excels in pass coverage as well as being a danger coming off the edge.
Clay: Well this was pretty easy for me. Josey Jewell is the Iowa defense in the way that Pat Angerer was the Iowa defense. He’s good in space, he’s always in against the run and he makes all the right checks. Devin Bush may be the most athletic middle linebacker in the country not named Roquan Smith and gets sideline to sideline like a gazelle and T.J. Edwards is just solid. Edwards doesn’t run himself out of position and did a hell of a job making the right checks all year long for the Wisconsin defense that has been one of the nation’s best.
bscaff: Tegray Scales is the sole OLB in our lists, which implies two things: 1) playing OLB in a spread world is nearly impossible to do well; and 2) Scales is really good. I picked Carter (UMD) because he can slide outside without any issues, launches at gaps like a scud missile, and had to make 100% of Maryland’s tackles by himself (and did a great job of that, all things considered). Dude had next to zero help from his DL. Last, from the plethora of good MLB candidates, I chose Ryan Connelly (WISC). Like him a whole bunch. In addition to seemingly always being in the right place, he also plays stupid fast. Brain-to-feet takes no time at all for him. Kid’s like a mini Bobby Boucher. Put a mic on him, and I bet he makes the same noises.
bscaff: Last question. What was the hardest spot to fill / toughest choice for you to make on the defensive side?
Clay: I probably screwed Rashan Gary. He didn’t have eye-popping numbers, but teams were doing everything in their power to make sure he didn’t a la Barkley for Penn State. Leaving him off is probably the wrong choice in hindsight and it was tough to do when I made the selection.
Jared: I had a really difficult time picking a cornerback opposite Rashard Fant. Josh Jackson and Lavert Hill are both outstanding candidates, but Nick Nelson doesn't get the credit he deserves, which is all too frequent for top-flight cornerbacks who don't already enter the season with plenty of hype. He became a shutdown cornerback and really helped Wisconsin become one of, if not the best, defenses in the nation.
bscaff: for me it was that last, fictional “FLEX” spot in the lineup. I had five different players in that spot at one point or another. Lavert Hill (MICH) as an island corner. Grant Haley (PSU), because the ball always found him. Chris Frey (MSU), for some grit, war paint, and personal fouls. Gelen Robinson (PUR) or Winovich, for some tweener, 34 / 43 stem action. Jason Cabinda, French-speaking leadership, passionate vocals. I settled on Shareef Miller (PSU). Schematically, I can pull Sheehy off on passing downs, slide Gary inside to DT, and throw Miller at a broken down right tackle. But mostly I took Miller because he was easily PSU’s biggest DL threat - particularly after Torrence Brown and Ryan Buchholz went down. Miller drew a metric ton of attention from offenses, played injured the last half of the season, and still made a lot of plays. I want him on my team.