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Wednesday, November 30, 2011
B1G endorsements: Coach of the Year

By Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett

The Big Ten announced its 2011 all-conference teams and most individual awards Monday night, but four more awards will be revealed Wednesday afternoon. Before the winners are revealed, we're putting in our endorsements for Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Coach of the Year and Freshman of the Year. We'll agree on some and differ on others.

Here's our third endorsement, for the league's coach in 2011:

Adam Rittenberg endorses Michigan's Brady Hoke

You can't go wrong with Hoke or Michigan State's Mark Dantonio, the 2010 winner and a guy who did a phenomenal job with the Spartans. These are the only two coaches who should be seriously considered for the award. I give the slight edge to Hoke because of what he did in Year 1 with a Michigan team he didn't recruit. It's tough to get players you didn't recruit to buy into your message, but Hoke and his staff succeeded, particularly on defense. Hoke stressed defense from Day 1, and along with help from coordinator Greg Mattison and others, Michigan went from one of the nation's worst units -- prone to breakdowns and poor fundamentals -- to a defense that ranks 16th nationally in yards allowed and ninth in points allowed. The defense went from a significant liability to a group that carried the team at times. Michigan also showed the ability to finish a season strong after backsliding down the stretch in each of the past three seasons. The Wolverines improved by three wins from 2010 and Hoke has facilitated a culture change that should serve the program well in the years ahead.

Brian Bennett endorses Michigan State's Mark Dantonio

There's no doubt that Hoke did a terrific job in his first year in Ann Arbor. But I'm even more impressed with what Dantonio did in the same state. Even though the Spartans won a share of last year's Big Ten title, most people counted them out this season because of their brutal road schedule. Dantonio had his team up for every challenge in the Big Ten, and Michigan State's only poor performance came at Nebraska. Even after clinching the Legends Division title, the players kept their focus to win on the road against a hot Northwestern club, securing a second straight 10-win season for the first time in school history. Dantonio had to replace his top two linebackers and much of his offensive line from last year, and both those units grew into strengths as the year went on. Despite the league's worst rushing attack, the offense still managed to produce points at a high rate. The Spartans tripped up Wisconsin and beat Hoke's Wolverines by two touchdowns. Dantonio has turned Michigan State into a consistent Big Ten power, and for that he deserves recognition.