PFN’s All-Big Ten Football Team Honors for the 2021 college football season

Honoring all of the first-team and top players, individuals, units, and teams in our All-Big Ten Team after the 2021 college football season.

After all the talk, the Michigan Wolverines finally got over the hump in 2021. After dominating The Game against Ohio State, they looked even more impressive in capping a dream season with an emphatic Big Ten Championship Game win over Iowa, 42-3. As such, the Wolverines are — rightfully so — well-represented on our All-Big Ten Team for the 2021 college football season.

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All-Big Ten Football Team Honors for 2021

The saying goes, “defense wins championships,” and that’s exactly what the Wolverines rode en route to their first Big Ten Championship Game victory. Defensive ends Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo were a big reason for their success, much like their patience and persistence with their head ball coach.

It’s important to note that these are awards and honors from Pro Football Network for each individual’s prowess on the field this season. This is in no way a projection of their NFL Draft status nor a report on actual conference awards that were already handed out. These honors are from Pro Football Network, as judged upon by our team of college football analysts.

Let’s get to the overall awards.

  • Big Ten Coach of the Year: Jim Harbaugh, Michigan
  • Big Ten Player of the Year: Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan
  • Big Ten Newcomer of the Year: Kenneth Walker III, Michigan State
  • Big Ten Game of the Year: Michigan vs. Michigan State, Week 9

All-Big Ten Offense

Ahead of the selections on the first and second teams as well as the honorable mention awards in the Big Ten, we first knock out some of the bigger bits of individual recognition. Here are the top individual honors from the Big Ten on offense in 2021:

  • Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year: Kenneth Walker III, Michigan State
  • Big Ten Quarterback of the Year: C.J. Stroud, Ohio State
  • Big Ten Running Back of the Year: Kenneth Walker III, Michigan State
  • Big Ten Wide Receiver of the Year: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State
  • Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year: Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa
  • Big Ten Offensive Line of the Year: Minnesota
  • Big Ten Offensive Rookie of the Year: TreVeyon Henderson, Ohio State

Newcomer of the year Kenneth Walker III also earns the top offensive player honors after running wild through Big Ten defenses. Walker finished second in the country with 1,636 rushing yards, averaging a whopping 6.2 yards per carry. In fact, Walker was the only one who carried the ball 235 times or more and averaged more than 6 yards per carry. Walker edged out C.J. Stroud for the top offensive spot, but Stroud more than earned his right to be the top quarterback in the conference.

The Buckeyes fall short in The Game but impress nonetheless

After ironing out some accuracy issues over his first few starts, Stroud hit his groove. He led the conference in every major passing category except completion percentage. Stroud averaged 9.8 yards per attempt, and he was able to routinely find the conference’s best emerging talent in Jaxon Smith-Njigba more often than not.

Smith-Njigba didn’t quite have the touchdowns that his counterparts in Garrett Wilson (12) and Chris Olave (13) did, but he made up for that by averaging 15.7 yards per catch. JSN was dominant at the catch point and has a highlight-reel ability about his play. There wasn’t much Smith-Njigba did in 2021 that says he shouldn’t be considered the best returning receiver in the country in 2022.

Minnesota’s offensive line paves the way

The Golden Gophers certainly didn’t have their best season by even P.J. Fleck standards. However, their offensive line was more than impressive. In a conference with OL factories from Wisconsin, Iowa, and Ohio State, Minnesota deserves to be right alongside their conference counterparts. From left to right, LT Sam Schlueter, LG Conner Olson, C John Michael Schmitz, RG Blaise Andries, and RT Daniel Faalele was a dominant group.

The Gophers averaged 4.9 yards per carry as a team but were rarely contacted at the line of scrimmage due to their efforts up front. With these in mind, let’s get to the Offensive All-Big Ten Team from the 2021 college football season.

First-Team All-Big Ten Offense

QB: C.J. Stroud, Ohio State
RB: Kenneth Walker III, Michigan State
RB: TreVeyon Henderson, Ohio State
WR: David Bell, Purdue
WR: Chris Olave, Ohio State
WR: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State
TE: Chigoziem Okonkwo, Maryland
FLEX: Garrett Wilson, Ohio State
LT: Nicholas Petit-Frere, Ohio State
LG: Thayer Munford, Ohio State
C: Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa
RG: Blaise Andries, Minnesota
RT: Daniel Faalele, Minnesota

Second-Team All-Big Ten Offense

QB: Payton Thorne, Michigan State
RB: Hassan Haskins, Michigan
RB: Braelon Allen, Wisconsin
WR: Jahan Dotson, Penn State
WR: Jayden Reed, Michigan State
WR: Samori Toure, Nebraska
TE: Jake Ferguson, Wisconsin
FLEX: Bo Melton, Rutgers
LT: Vederian Lowe, Illinois
LG: Conner Olson, Minnesota
C: Andrew Vastardis, Michigan
RG: Paris Johnson Jr., Ohio State
RT: Dawand Jones, Ohio State

Honorable Mention All-Big Ten Offense

QB: Taulia Tagovailoa, Maryland
RB: Blake Corum, Michigan
RB: Tyler Goodson, Iowa
WR: Jalen Nailor, Michigan State
WR: Rakim Jarrett, Maryland
WR: Milton Wright, Purdue
TE: Austin Allen, Nebraska
FLEX: Parker Washington, Penn State
LT: Ryan Hayes, Michigan
LG: Josh Seltzner, Wisconsin
C: Doug Kramer, Illinois
RG: Jack Nelson, Wisconsin
RT: Andrew Stueber, Michigan

All-Big Ten Defense

If the Heisman Trophy was won in November, the award would easily go to a defender this year. That defender would belong to the Big Ten champions as well. With that in mind, let’s hit the individual honors in the conference from 2021.

  • Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year: Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
  • Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year: Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
  • Big Ten Linebacker of the Year: Leo Chenal, Wisconsin
  • Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year: Dane Belton, Iowa
  • Big Ten Defensive Rookie of the Year: Denzel Burke, Ohio State
  • Big Ten Defensive Line of the Year: Michigan Wolverines
  • Big Ten Secondary of the Year: Iowa Hawkeyes

Hutchinson was the most impressive player on the field in seemingly every game this season for Michigan. His impressive play led to 14 sacks and 58 total tackles. Hutchinson demanded double-teams and opened up pass-rushing opportunities for his teammates, most notably Ojabo, who finished second in the Big Ten with 11 sacks. Together, they anchored the top defensive line in the conference and were the best pass-rushing duo in the country.

Leo Chenal gave life for Wisconsin when the Badgers needed a spark this season. He recorded 7 sacks to rank fourth in the conference, but he also made a handful of other plays in coverage. Chenal patrolled sideline to sideline with ease and was the best player on his stingy defensive unit.

Iowa Hawkeyes create ‘No Fly Zone’

Despite the final result of the Big Ten Championship Game, the Iowa defense certainly had their moments. At least in coverage, that is. Iowa had four different defenders with at least 3 interceptions this season, while Dane Belton led the conference with 5 picks. Riley Moss recorded 4 interceptions, 2 of which he returned for touchdowns as he single-handedly won games for the Hawkeyes.

The Hawkeyes are greatly represented on our All-Big Ten Defensive Team from the 2021 college football season.

First-Team All-Big Ten Defense

EDGE: Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan
EDGE: David Ojabo, Michgian
DI: Jacob Slade, Michigan State
DI: Ben Stille, Nebraska
LB: Leo Chenal, Wisconsin
LB: Jack Sanborn, Wisconsin
LB: Jalen Graham, Purdue
CB: Riley Moss, Iowa
CB: Denzel Burke, Ohio State
CB: JoJo Domann, Nebraska
S: Dane Belton, Iowa
S: Kerby Joseph, Illinois
FLEX: Daxton Hill, Michigan

Second-Team All-Big Ten Defense

EDGE: George Karlaftis, Purdue
EDGE: Jacub Panasiuk, Michigan State
DI: Julius Turner, Rutgers
DI: Branson Deen, Purdue
LB: Jack Campbell, Iowa
LB: Ellis Brooks, Penn State
LB: Olakunle Fatukasi, Rutgers
CB: Matt Hankins, Iowa
CB: Dedrick Mackey, Purdue
CB: Max Melton, Rutgers
S: Nick Cross, Maryland
S: Brandon Joseph, Northwestern
FLEX: Arnold Ebiketie, Penn State

Honorable Mention All-Big Ten Defense

EDGE: Boye Mafe, Minnesota
EDGE: Zach VanValkenburg, Iowa
DI: Greg Rose, Maryland
DI: Haskell Garrett, Ohio State
LB: Brandon Smith, Penn State
LB: Cody Simon, Ohio State
LB: Chris Bergin, Northwestern
CB: Jakorian Bennett, Maryland
CB: Caesar Williams, Wisconsin
CB: DJ Turner, Michigan
S: Cam Allen, Purdue
S: Jaquan Brisker, Penn State
FLEX: Nick Herbig, Wisconsin

Big Ten Special Teams

It’s safe to say that, as a whole, the best punters lie within the Big Ten. The conference was known for a few things in 2021 — punting was certainly one of them. Let’s get to the individual specialist awards in the Big Ten now.

  • Big Ten Kicker of the Year: Caleb Shudak, Iowa
  • Big Ten Punter of the Year: Adam Korsak, Rutgers
  • Big Ten Specialist of the Year: Charlie Jones, Iowa

Caleb Shudak handled both placekicking duties as well as kickoff duties for Iowa. Though one of those tasks involved more heavy lifting, Shudak was great in both facets. Most notably, he hit all 34 extra points and made 4-of-6 from 50+ yards away. He was a perfect 14-of-14 on kicks between 30-49 yards and 18-of-20 on all kicks 30+ yards away in distance.

Adam Korsak booted his way past his counterparts in 2021 as well. Korsak averaged a conference-best 45.3 net yards per punt and had 39 punts downed inside the 20. The latter figure also bested the conference — he was a man on a mission. Then, there was Charlie Jones who handled both kick- and punt-returning duties for the Hawkeyes. All told, Jones finished with 895 total return yards including 615 on kicks and another 280 on punts.

First-Team All-Big Ten Specialists

Kicker: Caleb Shudak, Iowa
Kickoff Specialist: Jordan Stout, Penn State
Punter: Adam Korsak, Rutgers
Kick Returner: Charlie Jones, Iowa
Punt Returner: Jayden Reed, Michigan State
Special Teamer: Lawrence Stevens, Rutgers

Second-Team All-Big Ten Specialists

Kicker: James McCourt, Illinois
Kickoff Specialist: Caleb Shudak, Iowa
Punter: Jordan Stout, Penn State
Kick Returner: Emeka Egbuka, Ohio State
Punt Returner: Charlie Jones, Iowa
Special Teamer: Prather Hudson, Illinois

Honorable Mention All-Big Ten Specialists

Kicker: Jake Moody, Michigan
Kickoff Specialist: Dragan Kesich, Minnesota
Punter: Tory Taylor, Iowa
Kick Returner: Jayden Reed, Michigan State
Punt Returner: Aron Cruickshank, Rutgers
Special Teamer: Raymond Niro III, Northwestern

Congratulations to all those players selected. For any questions regarding these selections or the process behind them, please ask on Twitter (@CamMellor).

Cam Mellor is the Senior Director of the College Football/NFL Draft vertical for Pro Football Network. You can find his writing here and follow him on Twitter: @CamMellor.

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