Penn State sophomore Saquon Barkley, who rushed for more than 1,200 yards this season, was named Wednesday as the offensive player of the year by the Big Ten, which also recognized him as the running back of the year.
Barkley, who was named an all-Big Ten first-team selection by both Big Ten coaches and media, and a unanimous pick by media, ranks third in the conference in average yards per game with 101.6 and first in all-purpose yards, averaging 130.25 per game.
Barkley is the fourth Penn State player to be named offensive player of the year, and the first since Michael Robinson in 2005. He is the first Penn State player and the first sophomore to win the award as the conference's top running back.
Other Penn State players to be honored on all-Big Ten teams for offense were quarterback Trace McSorley, second team by coaches and media; tight end Mike Gesicki, second team by media, honorable mention by coaches; wide receiver Chris Godwin, third team by media, honorable mention by coaches, and center Brian Gaia, honorable mention by coaches and media.
Penn State coach James Franklin praised the team's cohesiveness. Unlike last year, he said, when defensive end Carl Nassib stood out on the defense, many players are quietly contributing this season on both sides of the ball.
That group mind-set was built in the tough early weeks, during a September in which the team went 2-2 with losses to Pittsburgh and Michigan.
On Wednesday night, Franklin noticed a swarm of TV cameras on the sidelines where the first-team offense was practicing. Amid the clamor around coordinator Joe Moorhead's new offense, he noted that the defense has often been overshadowed.
"All the cameras were down with the sexy offense," Franklin said. "But I think our defense is playing well."
Franklin was honored Tuesday as the Big Ten's coach of the year, an honor he attributed to his staff as a whole.
While the third-year coach didn't want to talk much about his own accolade, Mike Gesicki did.
"He is very deserving of it," the junior tight end said. "He has always had my back."
When Franklin was asked whether the award meant more considering the criticism he received in the national media earlier in the season, he paused.