Player A: Sacks: 1. Interceptions: 6. Tackles: 67. TFL: 5. Def. TD: 3
Player B: Sacks: 4. Interceptions: 1. Tackles: 66. TFL: 16. Def. TD: 0.
Player C: Sacks: 10. Interceptions: 1. Tackles: 55. TFL: 13. Def. TD: 1
Take your pick. Did you pick Player B? Me neither.
Player B is, in fact, Jabrill Peppers.
“Defense is about so much more than stats,” said every Michigan fan ever after I post this. “He makes an impact on every part of the game.”
Well, that’s kinda the point. If the Big Ten eventually gives out a OD+STPOTY (Offensive, Defensive and Special Teams Player of the Year), then I’ll hand Peppers his trophy myself. Peppers won because of his play this year as a whole. Not his defense.
Prior to the official reveal of the awards, ESPN.com Reporter Brian Bennett predicted the Peppers victory. “I wonder if Jabrill Peppers might actually win this prize, based in part on name recognition,” Bennett said – and he was spot on. Bennett, however, chose Player A as his selection for DPOTY.
Who is Player A? Or Player C?
Player A is Ohio State sophomore safety sensation Malik Hooker. Hooker entered the season with zero starting experience and quickly gained the OSU faithful’s attention (3 INT’s, 1 TD in first two games). He finished the year with six interceptions – three of which he returned for scores. He even snagged an errant Wilton Speight pass and strolled in for a TD against Peppers’ Wolverines. Peppers also recorded an interception against Ohio State – his lone pick of the year.
Player C is tight end turned linebacker T.J. Watt from Wisconsin. Watt’s 10 sacks bested his older brother J.J. during his career as a Badger who totaled 7.5 sacks in his final year in Wisconsin. T.J. racked up 11 total tackles in Wisconsin’s matchup against Michigan limiting Michigan to 14 points – their 2nd lowest total of the season. Peppers scrounged up a mere 3 total tackles in that primetime matchup. Amidst a depleted linebacking corps, Watt has fought through shoulder issues, yet putting up consistent numbers (recorded at least one sack in 7 of 12 contests).
Malik Hooker should have received the Big Ten DPOTY. Not only did he set a new Ohio State record for his 3 interceptions returned for touchdowns, but they were in key games. One came against then-No. 10 ranked Nebraska while another changed the outlook of “The Game” against Michigan. OSU defensive coordinator Greg Schiano raved about his 6-2 safety: “He’s got the potential to be as good as anyone I’ve ever coached — and I’ve coached Ed Reed.” If I’m an NFL exec, I’m grabbing Hooker to bolster my secondary rather than Peppers who generates buzz but lacks the concentration of talent that Hooker has in bunches.