Nobody should be surprised to learn that Rex Burkhead is a preseason all-Big Ten choice by Phil Steele.. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
Phil Steele released his 2012 preseason all-Big Ten team on Wednesday, with three Huskers being named to the first team. Guard Spencer Long was second team all-Big Ten in 2011 as a sophomore, so he's no surprise to jump to the first team. Neither are senior I-back Rex Burkhead and senior punter/kicker Brett Maher, who were first-team selections last season. Sophomores Kenny Bell and Ameer Abdullah earned second team all-Big Ten honors at wide receiver and kick returner respectively.
It's not until you get to the third team before you see any Blackshirts. Seniors Baker Steinkuhler (defensive tackle), Cameron Meredith (defensive end), Will Compton (linebacker), and Daimion Stafford (safety) all get a mention. I'm not going to criticize Steele for these selections, but let's be honest, that's not what we should see from a Bo Pelini defense. If no Blackshirts earn first or second team honors in December, then it's likely that Husker fans will be grumbling over another season of unmet expectations.
Guess who else earned third-team honors? Quarterback Taylor Martinez, which points out the vast dichotomy of opinions on the junior signal caller. Some fans want Martinez benched, while others are honoring him. Also honored on the fourth team was junior offensive lineman Andrew Rodriquez. That's an interesting selection since senior Seung Hoon Choi took most of the snaps with the first team in the spring.Tight end Ben Cotton was the Huskers' biggest snub on Steele's list. Despite earning honorable mention all-conference honors last season despite missing the final two games due to an injury, he didn't get a mention. Instead, Iowa's C.J. Fiedorowicz and Michigan State's Dion Sims were recognized. Steele must be anticipating additional playing time for Fiedorowicz that will result in bigger stats in 2012. If both Cotton and fellow tight end Kyler Reed can stay healthy in 2012, I expect both to be candidates for postseason honors. Reed was hampered by ankle and hamstring injuries last season, dropping his touchdown production from eight as a sophomore to just one last season.
Looking through my crystal ball, I wouldn't be surprised to see junior college transfer Mohammed Seisay emerge as a post-season honoree. It would be difficult for anybody to name Seisay to a preseason honoree list before he even plays a single game, but it's not unreasonable to suggest that he could finish the season there. I'd also like to see another offensive lineman emerge, such as sophomore Tyler Moore, or redshirt freshmen Ryan Klachko and Ryne Reeves.
Ha! I noticed Mike set to publish this and decided that I'd piggy back on some of my own opinions. Won't he be shocked when he sees this in the morning!
It's amazing how much power Phil Steele has during the offseason. He releases a list and we all pounce on it like we're in the hold of a ship that's been at sea too long and we're fighting over scraps of food, and all because Steele has the amazing superpower of making us read tiny type every June.
Four preseason teams? Why stop there? Why not go for five or six? Well... I'll tell you (I say, channeling my inner Tevye), it's because if you include a whole gob of players on your preseason list, then you can later say you had them right, and it has served Steele well.
About Kenny Bell's selection to second team - it should be noted that of the Big Ten's top 11 receivers last season, nine were seniors. That leaves a lot of room for a whole new set of talent to take over. Wisconsin's Jared Abbrederis is an easy selection on the first team as he had quite an impact last season. Iowa's Keenan Davis had 50 receptions for 713 yards, and garnered the other first team selection as wide receiver.
About those quarterback selections - Michigan's Denard Robinson, Ohio State's Braxton Miller, our own Martinez, and Illinois' Nathan Scheelhaase - all dual-threat quarterbacks. That certainly belies the myth of the Big Ten quarterback as some guy that just stands in the backfield directing a pro-style attack, doesn't it? (One could argue that Miller's placement is pretty high, but Urban Meyer brings that kind of ooommpph to a team.)
Iowans, of course, will be angry that James Vandenberg got no recognition. Too bad for Iowa.
It'll be interesting to see what our SB Nation Big Ten brethren think of the running back selections. Burkhead is our super man, no doubt, but if I were a Michigan man, I'd be arguing on behalf of Fitzgerald Toussaint, and the same goes for Penn State and Silas Redd. Neither gained as much yardage as Burkhead, but Toussaint had nearly 100 few carries (283 to 187) and boasted a higher ypc average (5.57 to 4.80), while Redd, he was just getting started last year, really.
The Andrew Rodriguez selection is a mystery to me. Mike mentions Choi, but I'm sure Steele is going with Rodriguez' higher recruit ranking. It's Rodriguez' year to get a killer instinct if he wants to earn any honors. Still, having a three-guard rotation with Long, Choi and Rodriguez doesn't suck.
The other name that's missing - Jeremiah Sirles. He was on just about everyone's preseason list last year and has disappeared. That's largely due to injury (we hope), and Sirles' return to prominence might play an important role in Nebraska's offensive success this season.