OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR:
WR JUSTIN BLACKMON, OKLAHOMA STATE
Justin Blackmon is a big, fast, physical specimen who has been compared favorably to another receiver who recently starred at Oklahoma State.
Dez Bryant terrorized Big 12 defensive backs before the Dallas Cowboys made him a first-round draft pick last spring.
Don’t be shocked if Blackmon follows Bryant as a high NFL pick in the next couple of years.
“I’m not sure if Justin is at Dez’s level yet,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. “But if he keeps working hard, he could be at that level by next year. You can see why there are comparisons because they’re both big, physical receivers who have good hands and body control.”
For an explosive Oklahoma State offense, Blackmon was the most feared player on the field.
After putting up remarkable numbers, the Cowboys’ dangerous receiver is the Tribune-Herald ’s Big 12 offensive player of the year.
Blackmon finished the regular season with 102 catches for a league-high 1,665 yards and 18 touchdowns. With the Cowboys’ bowl game remaining, he’s only eight yards shy of breaking the NCAA record for receiving yards by a sophomore set by Pittsburgh’s Larry Fitzgerald in 2003.
Blackmon is also on track to break the school record of 107 catches for 1,695 yards set by Rashaun Woods in 2002.
Blackmon had to put up great numbers to beat out two of his own teammates for offensive player of the year. Quarterback Brandon Weeden led the Big 12 with 4,037 yards passing while throwing for 32 touchdowns during the regular season, while Kendall Hunter led the Big 12 with 1,516 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns.
Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones and receiver Ryan Broyles and Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin were also worthy candidates.
“I think you have to look at each player and how he performed at his position and look at what he could control,” Gundy said. “How many plays did Justin have and did he take advantage of them? I think his numbers speak for themselves.”
The Cowboys expected big things from Blackmon when they signed him out of Plainview High School in Ardmore, Okla. After catching 61 passes for 1,547 yards and 14 touchdowns as a senior, he was named to the SuperPrep All-America team.
After redshirting in 2008, Blackmon caught just 20 passes for 260 yards and two touchdowns last season.
But Blackmon’s consistency has been astounding this season as he’s collected at least 100 yards receiving and one touchdown in all 11 games that he’s played. Gundy isn’t surprised the 6-1, 205-pound Blackmon has enjoyed such a big breakout season.
“Justin is a very competitive guy and a great practice player,” Gundy said. “He’s also a team player and doesn’t go into games thinking about accomplishing individual feats.”
But those individual feats stack up to Big 12 offensive player of the year.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR:
DE JEREMY BEAL, OKLAHOMA
If college football coaches held a draft, a great pass rushing defensive end would be near the top of the list.
They don’t come much better than Oklahoma’s Jeremy Beal.
During the last three seasons, Beal has been a sack machine, collecting 28. After another great year, Beal is the Tribune-Herald ’s choice for defensive player of the year.
Beal has been in opposing teams’ backfields so often that he could be the 12th man. The 6-3, 267-pound senior collected 8 1/2 sacks for the Sooners during the regular season and recorded a Big 12-high 18 tackles for losses.
“Jeremy is everything you want as a player,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. “He’s tough and physical and plays hard every single down. He’s not only a great football player, he’s a prince of a guy.”
Beal came to Oklahoma with high credentials after making the Class 5A Texas all-state team out of Creekview High School in Carrollton. Oklahoma converted him to defensive end, and his career took off.
After getting one sack as a redshirt freshman in 2007, Beal collected 8 1/2 as a sophomore in 2008. He made first-team all-conference and had one of his biggest moments in the Big 12 championship game when he deflected a pass that led to a Lendy Holmes interception against Missouri.
Beal made another big step forward last year when he collected 11 sacks and became the first player in school history to record a pair of three-sack games against Tulsa and Miami. He also made 19 tackles for losses and had his first career interception against Kansas.
This season, he’s come up big in some of Oklahoma’s most important games. He collected two sacks against Texas and had four tackles for losses and two pass breakups against Missouri.
To show his versatility, Beal returned to his old high school position at outside linebacker when the Sooners played Oklahoma State last weekend. Stoops needed Beal to make the switch to help defend against the Cowboys’ explosive offense.
After just a few practices at linebacker, Beal played superbly to help the Sooners pull out a 47-41 win over their biggest rival to advance to the Big 12 championship game.
“Jeremy was once again excellent,” Stoops said.
Beal has accumulated 217 career yards on sacks to become the first Oklahoma player in history to surpass 200 yards. His 29 career sacks rank second in school history, and his 13 pass breakups are a hefty number for a defensive lineman.
Beal won Big 12 defensive player of the year over some other worthy candidates like Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller and Nebraska defensive back Prince Amukamara.
He could have gone out for the NFL draft after his tremendous junior season, but decided to wait. He’ll be one of the top defensive ends in this year’s draft.
Stoops is glad Beal waited. Such dominating defensive ends don’t come along very often.
COACH OF THE YEAR:
MIKE GUNDY, OKLAHOMA STATE
Nobody thought Oklahoma State would be a big factor in the Big 12 South race this season.
The Cowboys lost some outstanding players from last year’s 9-4 team like quarterback Zac Robinson, receiver Dez Bryant and offensive tackle Russell Okung.
Most experts thought the Cowboys would spiral near the bottom of the division.
But coach Mike Gundy’s team surprised most observers by finishing the regular season with a 10-2 record and tying Oklahoma and Texas A&M for the South title. The Cowboys were in the South driver’s seat before dropping a 47-41 shootout to the Sooners last weekend.
Gundy is the Tribune-Herald ’s choice for Big 12 coach of the year in a tight race over Baylor’s Art Briles and Texas A&M’s Mike Sherman.
In previous seasons, Gundy had been heavily involved in play calling, but stepped back from it when he hired former Texas Tech and Houston offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen. It freed Gundy to focus on his overall head coaching duties, and the Cowboys have thrived.
The Cowboys got tremendous performances from three of the best offensive players in the league — 27-year-old quarterback Brandon Weeden, running back Kendall Hunter and receiver Justin Blackmon.
Though Oklahoma State’s defense has been vulnerable all season, it has been good enough for a highly successful season.
Tribune-Herald 2010 All-Big 12 Football Team
|WR||Justin Blackmon||6-1||207||So||Oklahoma St.||League-high 18 TD catches, 1,665 yards|
|WR||Ryan Broyles||5-11||178||Jr||Oklahoma||Led Big 12 with 115 catches for 1,391 yards|
|WR||Jeff Fuller||6-4||215||Jr||Texas A&M||65 catches, 12 touchdowns|
|C||Tim Barnes||6-4||310||Sr||Missouri||One of nation’s top centers|
|OL||Nate Solder||6-9||300||Sr||Colorado||Projected to be high NFL draft pick|
|OL||Levy Adcock||6-6||320||Jr||Oklahoma St.||First-year starting OT explosive blocker|
|OL||Ricky Henry||6-4||305||Sr||Nebraska||Key to Cornhuskers’ superb running game|
|OL||Erik Mensik||6-6||290||Sr||Oklahoma||Latest in line of great OU linemen|
|QB||Landry Jones||6-4||216||So||Oklahoma||Threw for 3,947 yards, league-high 34 TDs|
|RB||Kendall Hunter||5-8||197||Sr||Oklahoma St.||League-high 1,516 yards, 16 TDs|
|RB||Daniel Thomas||6-2||228||Sr||Kansas St.||1,495 yards rushing, 16 TDs|
|K||Dan Bailey||6-0||200||Sr||Oklahoma St.||Hit 24 of 28 FGs, scored 137 points|
|Ut||DeMarco Murray||6-1||214||Sr||Oklahoma||League-best 1,837 all-purpose yards|
|DL||Jeremy Beal||6-3||261||Sr||Oklahoma||Led Big 12 with 18 1/2 tackles for losses|
|DL||Sam Acho||6-3||260||Sr||Texas||Second in league with nine sacks|
|DL||Jared Crick||6-6||285||Jr||Nebraska||Dominating lineman for strong defense|
|DL||Brad Madison||6-4||255||So||Missouri||7 1/2 sacks, 11 tackles for losses|
|LB||Von Miller||6-3||240||Sr||Texas A&M||Led Big 12 with 9 1/2 sacks|
|LB||Lavonte David||6-0||215||Jr||Nebraska||Juco transfer averaging 10.7 tackles|
|LB||Orie Lemon||6-1||240||Sr||Oklahoma St.||Third in league with 9.9 tackles per game|
|DB||Jamell Fleming||5-11||178||Jr||Oklahoma||League-best 15 passes defended|
|DB||Prince Amukamara||6-1||205||Sr||Nebraska||League-high 13 pass breakups|
|DB||Andrew McGee||6-0||191||Sr||Oklahoma St.||5 picks tied for league best|
|DB||Byron Landor||6-0||210||Sr||Baylor||Led Big 12 DBs with 115 tackles|
|KR||William Powell||5-9||205||Sr||Kansas St.||34.6-yard kickoff return average|
|P||Quinn Sharp||6-1||191||So||Oklahoma St.||Averaged 46.2 yards per punt|
|WR||Lyle Leong||6-1||165||Sr||Texas Tech|
|C||Matt Allen||6-2||294||Sr||Texas A&M|
|OL||Lonnie Edwards||6-4||290||Jr||Texas Tech|
|OL||Zach Kendall||6-2||312||Sr||Kansas St.|
|QB||Brandon Weeden||6-4||224||Jr||Oklahoma St.|
|DL||Colby Whitlock||6-2||287||Sr||Texas Tech|
|LB||Jake Knott||6-2||237||So||Iowa St.|
|DB||Stephen Harrison||5-11||183||Sr||Kansas St.|
|DB||Dustin Harris||6-0||168||So||Texas A&M|
|KR||Cyrus Gray||5-10||196||Jr||Texas A&M|
|P||Kirby Van Der Kamp||6-4||179||Fr||Iowa St.|