Elliott among 7 Ohio State 1st-teamers on AP All-Big Ten squad


Eric Colson

AP College Football Writer

Ohio State dominated The Associated Press All-Big Ten team released Tuesday, with seven players on the first team and running back Ezekiel Elliott voted the offensive player of the year.

Penn State defensive end Carl Nassib was picked as the defensive player of the year, Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers the newcomer of the year and Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz was the overwhelming choice as coach of the year.

Elliott and Michigan State receiver Aaron Burbridge were the only unanimous first-team picks in voting by a panel of writers and broadcasters who cover the conference.

Elliott ran for a Big Ten-leading 139.3 yards a game, and his 19 rushing touchdowns are most in the conference and second nationally. He has run for 100 yards in 11 games this season, including a 274-yard outing against Indiana. If the junior from St. Louis follows through with his announced intention to enter the 2016 NFL draft, he’ll finish as the No. 2 all-time rusher in Ohio State history behind Archie Griffin with 3,812 yards.

Nassib is one of the feel-good stories in college football, having walked on to Penn State in 2011 out of West Chester, Pennsylvania. He was awarded a scholarship before the 2013 season and this season emerged as one of the most productive defensive linemen in the country. His school-record 15.5 sacks lead the nation, as do his six forced fumbles. He’s second in the nation with 19 tackles for loss.

Peppers was voted newcomer of the year even though he appeared in three games as a freshman in 2014 before a leg injury shortened his season. Peppers is one of the conference’s most versatile players, playing both ways and lining up at eight different positions for Michigan.

Peppers is averaging 11.4 yards as the Wolverines’ only punt returner, and he’s averaged 27.9 yards on eight kick returns. His 10 pass break-ups are second most on the team, and he’s Michigan’s fifth-leading tackler with 45. He’s caught eight passes and has 18 rushing attempts.

Burbridge broke out in his senior year for league champion Michigan State, catching 80 passes for 1,219 yards to become only the seventh receiver in program history to go over 1,000 in a season. He and quarterback Connor Cook are among four Spartans on the first team.

Ferentz, who will finish his 17th season as Iowa’s head coach in the Rose Bowl against Stanford, led the Hawkeyes to a 12-0 regular season. That was a five-win improvement over 2014, when the Hawkeyes lost five of their last seven.

The 60-year-old Ferentz started remaking his program in January, when he named Beathard his starting quarterback. That prompted 2014 starter Jake Rudock to transfer to Michigan. Ferentz switched from afternoon to morning practices and started giving players Thursdays off with the idea they would be fresher on Saturdays. Known to be conservative to a fault, Ferentz took a few more risks within the framework of a system predicated on physical play on both sides of the ball.

With Beathard emerging as one the conference’s top playmakers and a stout front seven on defense, the Hawkeyes have recorded the most wins in program history and narrowly missed winning their first Big Ten title since 2004.

Eric Colson

AP College Football Writer

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