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The Big Ten and the national awards

12/12/2008

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

For a league with a sagging national reputation, the Big Ten continued to hold its own in the national awards.

Three Big Ten players took home national honors Thursday night at the Home Depot/ESPNU College Football Awards Show. It wasn't quite the haul that the Big 12 had (seven awards), but the Big Ten had to be pleased.

Here were the winners:

  • Iowa running back Shonn Greene, Doak Walker Award (nation's top running back)

  • Penn State center A.Q. Shipley, Rimington Trophy (nation's top center)

  • Ohio State cornerback Malcolm Jenkins, Thorpe Award (nation's top defensive back)

Greene was the clear choice for the Doak Walker, beating out fellow Big Ten player Javon Ringer from Michigan State and Georgia's Knowshon Moreno. The Iowa junior rushed for a single-season school record 1,729 yards and eclipsed 100 rushing yards in all 12 games.

"I'm not biased, but it's a no-brainer," Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. "All you have to do is look at the production game-in and game-out. There are a lot of great backs out there, but if you look at game-to-game and if you look at the bottom line, it's probably pretty academic. With Shonn, you don't have to watch film, just look at the numbers. But if you watch film, then it's a no-brainer."

Agreed 100 percent.

Shipley also was a likely choice for the Rimington even though Cal center Alex Mack entered the season with more hype. The Penn State senior co-captain was named the Big Ten's Offensive Lineman of the Year by the league's coaches. Shipley is the first Penn State player to win the Rimington Trophy.

Jenkins was a bit of a surprise, only because Tennessee safety Eric Berry had received so much hype after a stellar season. But being on a bad team might be taken into account. Having covered the Big Ten closer than most, Jenkins was the best all-around player I saw, so he's deserving of any honor.

"When they announced the award winner, first I was surprised and then a sigh of relief," Jenkins said. "It's really nerve-wracking to sit there through the whole show because our award was one of the last ones announced. And those were not just two fantastic players who were the other finalists, but really nice guys as well.

"It's just an incredible honor, because of guys like Antoine Winfield who have won this award in the past, and also because of Jim Thorpe, who was one of a kind and a pioneer in history. I work every day to improve as a player and when I came back for my senior season, the chance to be a part of an award like this was one of the dreams I had."

Jenkins' teammate James Laurinaitis and Penn State defensive end Aaron Maybin both were up for the Bednarik Award, which went to USC linebacker Rey Maualuga. I thought Maybin had a shot here, but his age (only a sophomore) could have hurt his chances.

The Big Ten also placed six players on the Walter Camp All America team: Greene, Ringer, Shipley, Maybin, Laurinaitis and Jenkins. Only the Big 12 had more All-Americans (8).