No running back has won the Heisman Trophy since Alabama’s Mark Ingram in 2009. And just one player at the position -- if you ignore Reggie Bush’s vacated award from 2005 -- has taken home the trophy in this century.
Here in the Big Ten, though, we cherish our runners. And for the fifth time since 2007, a back was named the league’s offensive player of the year on Tuesday.
To the surprise of few, the honor went to Ohio State junior Ezekiel Elliott, who headlined the All-Big Ten team and individual awards on offense. The defensive and special teams awards were announced Monday.
Also Tuesday, Kirk Ferentz was named the Big Ten coach of the year by the league coaches and media for leading Iowa to a 12-0 record and No. 4 national ranking. Ferentz won the honor in 2002, 2004 and 2009. He is the first four-time recipient. Hayden Fry, Joe Paterno and Bo Schembechler won it three times.
Elliott led the Big Ten with 1,672 rushing yards, 19 touchdowns and 1,861 all-purpose yards. He saved his showcase performance for the regular-season finale at Michigan, churning for 214 yards and two touchdowns in the Buckeyes’ 42-13 win last week.
His primary competition for the offensive honor came from Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook, the quarterback of the year and consensus first-team selection over Iowa’s C.J. Beathard and Indiana’s Nate Sudfeld.
Elliott was named the running back of the year. Michigan State’s Aaron Burbridge earned the receiver-of-the-year honor. Michigan’s Jake Butt was named as the league’s top tight end, and Ohio State tackle Taylor Decker earned the offensive lineman-of-the-year award.
The only real oddity on the teams came at receiver. Alongside Burbridge, the coaches placed Michigan’s Jehu Chesson on the first team. He ranked 14th in the league with 646 receiving yards, 11th in yards per reception at 14.4 and second with eight touchdowns.
Chesson was an honorable-mention choice of the media, who put Wisconsin’s Alex Erickson on the first team. Erickson ranked third among eligible receivers in yards per game behind Burbridge and Penn State’s Chris Godwin. Godwin was a second-team pick of the coaches and third-teamer by the media.
Interestingly, Rutgers’ wideout Leonte Carroo, a 2014 first-team pick who played in just eight games and started six because of suspension and injury, earned honorable mention from the coaches and third-team honors from the media.
Carroo, despite the missed time, led the league with 10 touchdown receptions and a 20.7-yard average per catch.
Indiana’s Jordan Howard, despite playing in only nine games because of injury, joined Elliott on the first team at running back.
Notably absent was an Ohio State quarterback, billed before the season as the most loaded position nationally. Former QB Braxton Miller, the offensive player of the year in 2012 and 2013, was named honorable mention at receiver. J.T. Barrett, the first-team QB last year, and 2014 College Football Playoff star Cardale Jones received no mention.