OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Robert Griffin QB, Baylor
Folks around Waco know that Robert Griffin isn’t an overnight sensation.
From the moment he stepped on the field as a freshman against Wake Forest, he made plays. Not just plays, but jaw-dropping, pulse-raising, soul-tickling plays.
On his third carry as a collegian, he accelerated to the sideline like a Ferrari, threw it into reverse to elude a diving Demon Deacon, then thrust it back into drive to zip 22 yards.
“The funny thing about Robert is that all of the sudden everybody’s getting to know him and see him and they think that all of the sudden here’s this really good football player,” Baylor coach Art Briles said. “Well, he’s been that way for four years. He didn’t show up and all of the sudden get good.”
No, he didn’t. But this season Griffin put it all together like never before, along the way picking up the Heisman Trophy as the nation’s most outstanding player. Naturally, he was an obvious choice as the Offensive Player of the Year on the Tribune-Herald ’s annual All-Big 12 football team.
Griffin didn’t play organized football until the seventh grade. Yet from the moment he began chucking the pigskin, he had a feel for it.
“The first time I picked up a football I could throw a tight spiral,” Griffin said. “I always threw a very catchable ball that made it easier for my receivers.”
Still, thanks to Griffin’s track star speed, some college programs viewed him more as an athlete or a receiver prospect coming out of Copperas Cove High School.
Not Briles, though. Briles saw a kid “who could really throw the football,” and he offered Griffin a scholarship to play quarterback while he was still the head coach in Houston.
When Briles accepted the Baylor job in late 2007, Griffin quickly followed by switching his commitment to the Bears. The self-assured, poised young signal-caller immediately envisioned scoreboard-illuminating offenses and multiple bowl berths for the Bears.
“I totally bought into it. I never thought that at Baylor nothing could ever happen,” Griffin said. “Coach Briles said that with my skill set, this could be a big thing.”
How big? Try these Goliath-sized numbers on for size: This season Griffin completed a mind-boggling 72.4 percent of his passes for 3,998 yards and 36 touchdowns, while showing he could still run a little bit too, with another 644 yards and nine touchdowns rushing. He ranks second nationally to Houston’s Case Keenum in total offense, and his passing efficiency mark of 192.31 would break the NCAA record of 186.0 by Hawaii’s Colt Brennan if it holds up.
“He’s Jim Thorpe all over again, but with a heck of a lot more speed,” Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said. “He can run fast, he’s got a good change of direction, good perception of where to go with the ball. He’s as good as it gets.”
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Frank Alexander DE, Oklahoma
Oklahoma’s coaches always believed that if Frank Alexander’s effort could ever match his physical gifts, he could be one of the best defenders in the country.
Alexander listened. And he proved his coaches right.
The mountainous defensive end scaled new heights as a senior, picking up 51 tackles, a league-high 18 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks, which tied Texas A&M’s Sean Porter for the league lead.
“He had just a huge year,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. “He played a different level this year.”
OU defensive coordinator Brent Venables once used the word “disinterested” to describe Alexander. But that wasn’t the case this season.
With Jeremy Beal, last year’s Big 12 defensive player of the year, having departed to the NFL, and with time winding down on his career, Alexander seized his moment.
“I wanted to be remembered as one of the greats to come through Oklahoma,” Alexander said. “You never want to leave without leaving a legacy.”
COACH OF THE YEAR
Bill Snyder Kansas State
Six years ago, Bill Snyder considered himself a victim of coaching burnout.
The legendary Kansas State coach stepped away from football, eager to spend more time with family. But when his old football family at K-State struggled under his successor Ron Prince, Snyder felt compelled to lend a hand.
“The Kansas State family is in flux right now,” Snyder said at his initial press conference in his return as head coach in November 2008. “I want to help. I want to soothe the waters.”
The waters in Manhattan aren’t just soothed, they’re downright idyllic. Despite taking the Wildcats to the Pinstripe Bowl last year, Snyder’s team wasn’t expected to be a contender in 2011. Picked eighth in the Big 12 preseason poll, K-State instead finished eighth in the final BCS standings, finishing 10-2 and earning a trip to the Cotton Bowl.
Snyder, in his typical aw-shucks, low-key manner, deflected all credit to his players.
“I’m extremely proud of the young men in our program, who have worked so hard and prepared each day to get better,” he said.
However, Snyder clearly mines diamonds and pearls where others just see rocks. He’s been called “a miracle worker,” “a genius” and “the coach of the century” by his peers, because he tends to rely on junior college transfers and unheralded, overlooked recruits.
“We don’t have any five-star and four-star recruits,” K-State cornerback David Garrett said. “We don’t have big-time athletes like other teams. We just stick together and do our jobs. Coach instills that into us.”
Kansas State entered this season with nine first-year starters. Their quarterback, Collin Klein, was a converted receiver with just one career touchdown pass to his credit.
Ever flexible, Snyder installed an option-style offense that suited Klein’s talents. The Wildcats also showed unbelievable poise, winning eight games by a touchdown or less, more than any other team in the nation.
Kansas State athletic director John Currie said Snyder’s calm, controlled manner permeates the program.
“He’s incredibly consistent in an inconsistent world,” Currie said. “If you talk to the ones who played for him 15 or 20 years ago who are sometimes in the locker room, they’ll tell you that he’s teaching and coaching exactly the same way he always has.”
Tribune-Herald 2011 All-Big 12 Football Team
Offensive player of the year: Robert Griffin, QB, Baylor
Defensive player of the year: Frank Alexander, DE, Oklahoma
Offensive newcomer of the year: Malcolm Brown, RB, Texas
Defensive newcomer of the year: Arthur Brown, LB, KSU
Coach of the year: Bill Snyder, Kansas State
|QB||Robert Griffin||6-2||220||Jr||Baylor||NCAA leader in pass. effic. (192.3)|
|RB||Henry Josey||5-10||185||So||Missouri||Averaged Big 12-best 116 rush yds|
|RB||Terrance Ganaway||6-0||240||Sr||Baylor||Broke school record with 1,347 yds|
|WR||Ryan Broyles||5-11||187||Sr||Oklahoma||Nabbed 83 catches, 10 TDs before injury|
|WR||Justin Blackmon||6-1||215||Jr||Okla. St.||Amassed 1,336 yds, 15 receiving TDs|
|WR||Kendall Wright||5-10||190||Sr||Baylor||His 1,572 receiving yds led Big 12|
|C||Philip Blake||6-2||315||Sr||Baylor||Steady rock has made 37 straight starts|
|OL||Kelechi Osemele||6-6||347||Sr||Iowa St.||Projected as NFL first-round pick|
|OL||Levy Adcock||6-6||322||Sr||Okla. St.||Repeat first teamer keeps Weeden upright|
|OL||Gabe Ikard||6-2||290||So||Oklahoma||Former tight end gets off ball in burst|
|OL||Luke Joeckel||6-6||304||So||Texas A&M||Helped Aggies to 7th-best total offense|
|UT||Collin Klein||6-5||226||Jr||Kansas St.||Quarterback led league with 26 rush TDs|
|K||Quinn Sharp||6-1||189||Jr||Okla. St.||Big-legged Cowboy made 20 of 23 FGs|
|DL||Frank Alexander||6-3||259||Sr||Oklahoma||Pass-rush beast made 18 TFLs, 8.5 sacks|
|DL||Jamie Blatnick||6-3||265||Sr||Okla. St.||47 tackles, 7 sacks|
|DL||Alex Okafor||6-4||260||Jr||Texas||Plowed his way to 17 QB hurries, 7 sacks|
|DL||Jackson Jeffcoat||6-5||253||So||Texas||Breakout emerged as one of league’s best|
|LB||Sean Porter||6-2||220||Jr||Texas A&M||Tied OU’s Alexander for Big 12 sack lead|
|LB||Arthur Brown||6-1||223||Jr||Kansas St.||Transfer led Wildcats with 95 tackles|
|LB||Jake Knott||6-2||243||Jr||Iowa St.||Topped 100 tackles for third straight year|
|LB||Emmanuel Acho||6-2||240||Sr||Texas||Heart of Texas D swarmed to 122 tackles|
|DB||Carrington Byndom||6-0||175||So||Texas||Had 17 passes defended, 15 broken up|
|DB||Nigel Malone||5-10||176||Jr||Kansas St.||Led conference with 7 interceptions|
|DB||Brodrick Brown||5-8||185||Jr||Oklahoma St.||Playmaker who broke up 15 passes|
|DB||E.J. Gaines||5-10||190||So||Missouri||Set school record with 16 PBUs|
|KR||Tyler Lockett||5-11||170||Fr||Kansas St.||Brought 2 kicks back for TDs|
|P||Quinn Sharp||6-1||189||Jr.||Okla. St.||46.6-yard average|
|QB||Brandon Weeden||6-4||218||Sr||Okla. St.||Tossed 34 TD passes for Big 12 champs|
|RB||Joseph Randle||6-1||191||So||Okla. St.||Burner sizzled to 1,193 yards, 23 TDs|
|RB||Cyrus Gray||5-10||198||Sr||Texas A&M||1,000-plus for second straight year|
|WR||Ryan Swope||6-0||204||Jr||Texas A&M||Fourth in league with 1,102 receiving yds|
|WR||Eric Ward||6-0||202||So||Texas Tech||Racked up 84 catches, third in Big 12|
|WR||Kenny Stills||6-0||181||So||Oklahoma||Speedster had 818 receiving yards, 8 TDs|
|C||Grant Garner||6-3||292||Sr||Okla. St.||Guided an offense that averaged 50 ppg|
|OL||Clyde Aufner||6-6||301||Sr||Kansas St.||Team captain solid, steady leader on line|
|OL||Austin Wuebbels||6-4||295||Sr||Missouri||Savvy three-year starter at right guard|
|OL||LaAdrian Waddle||6-6||322||Jr||Texas Tech||Bruising left tackle has started 25 straight|
|OL||Robert T. Griffin||6-6||335||Sr||Baylor||Huge force in NCAA’s No. 2-ranked offense|
|UT||Christine Michael||5-11||215||Jr||Texas A&M||Averaged right at 100 yards rushing|
|K||Randy Bullock||5-9||205||Sr||Texas A&M||Groza winner nailed 25 field goals|
|DL||Ronnell Lewis||6-2||237||Jr||Oklahoma||Not many ball carriers escaped his reach|
|DL||Meshak Williams||6-2||231||Jr||Kansas St.||Juco transfer bagged 7 sacks, 10 TFLs|
|DL||Dominique Hamilton||6-5||305||Sr||Missouri||Near immovable force at nose tackle|
|DL||Jacquies Smith||6-4||255||Sr||Missouri||Forced four fumbles, best in Big 12|
|LB||Damontre Moore||6-4||248||So||Texas A&M||Playmaker piled up 15.5 TFLs, 7.5 sacks|
|LB||Elliot Coffey||6-0||230||Sr||Baylor||Inspirational leader also tallied 99 tackles|
|LB||A.J. Klein||6-1||243||Jr||Iowa St.||Steady bookend to fellow junior Knott|
|LB||Travis Lewis||6-2||233||Sr||Oklahoma||Overcame early injury to rack up 78 tackles|
|DB||Jamell Fleming||5-11||191||Sr||Oklahoma||Picked up 53 tackles, broke up 7 passes|
|DB||Markelle Martin||6-1||198||Sr||Okla. St.||Forced two fumbles, with 11 PBUs|
|DB||Quandre Diggs||5-10||192||Fr||Texas||Freshman dynamic on defense, returns|
|DB||K.J. Morton||5-10||185||So||Baylor||Scrappy cover corner made 4 interceptions|
|KR||Fozzy Whittaker||5-10||198||Sr||Texas||Averaged Big 12-best 42.4 yards per return|
|P||Trey Barrow||6-1||195||Jr||Missouri||Punts averaged 45 yards; 18 TBs|