CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 03: Butch Jones coach of the Cincinnati Bearcats celebrates with his team after the Bearcats defeated the Connecticut Huskies 35-27 to claim their share of the 2011 Big East Championship on December 3, 2011 at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Tyler Barrick/Getty Images)
The Big East has officially announced its postseason football honors. Some of the voting has to be close, while others seem fairly obvious. Here's a look at the award winners.
Coach of the Year - Butch Jones - Cincinnati - Hard to argue too much with this one. Jones rebounded from a rough 4-8 opening season to lead the Bearcats to a 9-3 season and a share of the Big East title. They might have won the conference outright had quarterback Zach Collaros not gone down to a broken ankle late in the season against West Virginia. If you wanted to quibble, Charlie Strong and Louisville were picked second to last in most preseason polls and won a share of the conference title. Those losses to FIU and Marshall are still hurting the Cardinals.
Offensive Player of the Year - Isaiah Pead - Cincinnati - Pead was the only player I that thought could've won this award over West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith. I'd hate to think voters punished Smith for being in a pass-happy system because Pead is every bit as much in a run-happy system. Still, Pead had a great season, rushing for 1,110 yards and 11 touchdowns. His numbers don't reflect that he often didn't play in the second half of blowouts.
Defensive Player(s) of the Year - Khaseem Greene - Rutgers and Derek Wolfe - Cincinnati - Both players keyed tremendous improvements in their teams' defenses over 2010, which is the main reason both teams went from missing bowl games to finishing 8-4 and 9-3 respectively. Wolfe recorded nine sacks and two forced fumbles while Greene recorded 127 tackles and two sacks.
Special Teams Player of the Year - Tavon Austin - West Virginia - This one was a no-brainer as Austin finished in the top 20 nationally in both punt return and kickoff return averages. He also returned two kickoffs for touchdowns.
Newcomer of the Year - Teddy Bridgewater - Louisville - This one was also one of the easier selections. According to the Big East offices, the voting was unanimous. Bridgewater took over the job in the middle of the third game of the season and helped lead the Cardinals from a 2-4 start to a 7-5 finish and a share of the conference championship. He finished with 1,855 yards and 12 touchdowns. Louisville's Hakeem Smith won this award in 2010.