If you haven't heard by now, Michigan LB Jabrill Peppers won the 2016 Big Ten Devensive Player of the Year award, along with a few other awards. Not to take anything away from him, but he ranks 32nd in the league in tackles, has only 3.5 sacks on the season (teammate Taco Charlton has 8.5 and has played 2 fewer games), zero defended passes and 1 single interception to his name.
At best, Jabrill Peppers is an average player. The only reason you know his name is because Jim Harbaugh decided to turn him into a 2-bit gimmick to try and win a Heisman trophy and help him in recruiting.
Here he is the first time Akrum "The Dread Lobster" Wadley embarrassed him a few weeks ago:
Here he is again getting turned into a blocking sled and letting Ohio State waltz into the end zone for a walk off overtime touchdown:
Jim Harbaugh probably isn't doing his favorite player any favors by tiring him out on offense and special teams, especially because he's only marginally effective there too, but at this point I think it's safe to say that Jabrill Peppers is clownfraud trash.
An average player won DPOTY, and I thought there had to be at least one player from each team more deserving of the award. Well here they are:
Michigan: CB Jourdan Lewis
That's right, Peppers isn't even the best defender on his own team. I would argue he doesn't even make Michigan's top 5. I could have picked someone flashier like Ben Gedeon or Taco Charlton, but in the end Jourdan Lewis is the anchor of this defense. He quietly had a terrific season as most offenses threw the ball to whatever side he wasn't on. Still, through only 9 games he was able to record 10 pass breakups and 2 interceptions.
Ohio State: S Malik Hooker
Hooker was a mad man for the Buckeyes this year. He was basically Jabrill Peppers minus the hype but plus actual results. Malik led the league with 6 interceptions, scoring touchdowns on 3 of them. Look out for him next year because just a couple of days ago, Malik announced he was forgoing the NFL Draft to return to Columbus.
Wisconsin: LB T.J. Watt
Without an elite defense, Wisconsin is probably a .500 team this year. Instead, guys like Sojourn Shelton and T.J. Watt stepped up and strong armed the Badgers' way into a top-10 ranking and a place in the Big Ten Championship game. Watt was an absolute wrecking ball in the pass rush this year, recording 13 tackles for loss including 9.5 sacks, along with a pick-6 against Purdue
Northwestern: DL Ifeadi Odenigbo
Northwestern's senior was another monster pass rusher this year. He leads the league in sacks with 10, all of them solo. Odenigbo basically beat Iowa by himself as he sacked C.J. Beathard 4 (!) times while adding a forced fumble...just because. I'm glad he graduates this year, because I will have nightmares about Odie for years to come.
Indiana: LB Tegray Scales
While none of you were paying attention, the Hoosiers made a bowl game in back-to-back seasons for the first time in a bajillion years as Kevin Wilson randomly decided to field a team that plays great defense. The junior linebacker could very well be NFL bound after Indiana's bowl game, as he led the entire Big Ten in both tackles (116) and tackles for loss (20.5!) while having a streak of 6 consecutive games with over 10 tackles. Tegray seemed to be in on every single play, and I think it's safe to say the Hoosiers aren't even sniffing a bowl game without him.
Iowa: LB Josey Jewell
Few players were overlooked by the Big Ten awards this year quite like The Outlaw Josey Jewell. Josey was second only to Tegray Scales in tackles this year with 114, and that's with only 11 games if you consider his early targeting ejection against Miami (OH). Josey is the Big Ten's only Butkus award finalist, yet he had to settle for second team All-B1G while losing the B1G Linebacker of the Year award to someone with 42 fewer tackles (Peppers, naturally).
Rutgers: LB Trevor Morris
There weren't many bright spots on Rutgers defense. On top of being overpowered and overmatched in every single conference game, they were constantly on the field as their offense struggled to move the ball with any consistency. In a year that Rutgers fans are eager to forget, Trevor Morris was unrecognized as the team's defensive workhorse. The sophomore played in all 12 games while leading the Scarlett Knights in tackles, averaging 8.5 per game. Trevor's numbers improved over the course of the season, in part because he refused to quit on a lost year. Rutgers will get 2 more years out of Trevor. If their fortunes turn around, this young man will have had a lot to do with it.
Penn State: S Marcus Allen
In addition to leading the team in tackles, the junior safety also recovered a pair of fumbles. In Penn State's overtime victory against Minnesota, Allen was an absolute terror monster, recording a jaw-dropping 22 tackles. If you've watched any of Penn State's games this year, you know that Marcus can lay some serious wood on ball carriers. I'm always impressed when defensive backs are good at tackling, so Marcus was a no brainer for my list.
Nebraska: S Kieron Williams
Screw Nate Gerry and his dirty hits, the best of the blackshirts is Kieron Williams. Kieron Snagged 5 interceptions this year, and took 1 to the house. In Nebraska's nail-biter against Indiana, he recorded 10 tackles and was instrumental in the narrow victory.
Maryland: LB Shane Cockerille
Shane was the most reliable player on a shaky Terrapins defense this season. He finished the regular season 3rd in tackles behind Tegray Scales and Josey Jewell with 108, including 3 sacks. Cockerill doesn't have a lot of turnovers or flashy plays to his name, but he's a sure thing tackling in open space and is one of those guys that can make everyone around him look just a little bit better.
Michigan State: DL Malik McDowell
Malik McDowell's role on defense is about as unglamorous and unheralded as it gets. At defensive tackle, he wasn't relied upon to get sacks or stuff the run in the backfield as much as occupy blockers and fill gaps. At least that's the way it's supposed to be, but Malik likes hearing his name called a lot. He has an ability to get big stops when Sparty needs them most. His best game was against Northwestern when he exploded for 11 tackles and a sack, and just reading his stat line doesn't do his performance justice.
Illinois: DL Dawuane Smoot
Woo another defensive lineman! Smoot was flat out fun to watch, you guys. A hurdler in high school, Smoot was often used as a rush end where he had a clear speed advantage over every offensive tackle he came across. He kind of showed up all over the box score each week for the Illini, recording 15 tackles for loss (including 5 sacks), 2 forced fumbles and a pass deflection (against Iowa of course). While undersized as a defensive end, Lovie Smith thinks Smoot could make a move to outside linebacker in the NFL. Dawuane brought some much needed swagger to an Illinois defense decimated by years of letting Tim Beckman do all the recruiting.
Purdue: LB Markus Bailey
Ok so there weren't many stars for Purdue this year. But the point of this article was to find someone more deserving of the DPOTY award than Jabrill Peppers from each team, and Markus Bailey absolutely fits that criteria. Markus had 25 more tackles than the September Heisman winner, as well as 4 interceptions to Peppers' 1. Once again: Jabrill Peppers had a statistically insignificant season compared to a random freshman from Purdue playing the same position. I'm calling it right now, this kid is going to be a star.
Minnesota: DL Steven Richardson
This big fella was Minnesota's defense. The 300 lb buffet breaker had 7 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries and 11 tackles for loss on the season. When you have a giant nose tackle who eats up blockers like chimichangas while still being a playmaker on defense, he deserves recognition.
Did I overlook someone? Let me know in the comments!