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Blackmon, Beal the Big 12 players of the year
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Justin Blackmon was named the Big 12’s offensive player of the year Wednesday after a breakthrough season in which he went from a relative unknown to the nation’s most productive wide receiver for No. 16 Oklahoma State.
Blackmon became the first receiver to win the honor after leading the nation with 1,665 yards receiving and 18 touchdown catches. Just a sophomore, he ends a streak of 11 straight years with quarterbacks as the Big 12’s top offensive player, and before that running backs Troy Davis and Ricky Williams combined to win the first three awards.
“He’s pretty amazing,” Cowboys coach Mike Gundy said. “He’ll have a good chance to win the Biletnikoff as the No. 1 receiver in the nation, so we felt like that he was the player of the year in this league. I never really talk much about that. In my opinion, (Auburn quarterback) Cam Newton is the Heisman Trophy winner. He is the best player in the country.
“Well, I believe Justin Blackmon is the best player in the league this year.”
Blackmon received 16 of the 20 votes from The Associated Press’ panel in a clean sweep by Oklahoma State, which is second in the nation in total offense. Running back Kendall Hunter received three votes and quarterback Brandon Weeden got the other one. Blackmon also received the same honor from the league’s coaches on Tuesday.
Oklahoma defensive end Jeremy Beal was picked as the defensive player of the year in the closest balloting for this year’s awards. He received nine votes, Nebraska’s Lavonte David got six, Texas A&M’s Von Miller got four and Cornhuskers cornerback Prince Amukamara _ the coaches’ pick for defensive player of the year _ had one.
Nebraska swept the honors for newcomers, with quarterback Taylor Martinez winning on offense and David on defense.
Blackmon practically came out of nowhere after making only 20 catches last season as a freshman. With star Dez Bryant moving on to become a first-round NFL draft pick and new offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen bringing in a pass-heavy offense, Blackmon seized an opportunity to become Oklahoma State’s go-to receiver.
“We knew he was going to be a good player. We didn’t know about his durability and his ability to handle pressure and just all the accolades that he received during the season, and he’s done a really good job with that,” Gundy said.
“I’m still somewhat stunned at the year that he’s had.”
Blackmon has tied an NCAA record with 11 consecutive games with at least 100 yards receiving and a touchdown, the last one coming as he played through a sprained ankle last week in a 47-41 loss to Oklahoma. Gundy said Blackmon did not practice all week before that game and will be in a cast for about two weeks as the Cowboys prepare to play in their bowl game.
Blackmon has not been allowed to speak to reporters since Oct. 27, when he apologized for being arrested on a driving under the influence charge.
His yardage total this season ranks 16th in Bowl Subdivision history with an opportunity to still move up.
“From about Week 3 on, he’s getting tons of bracket coverage and he still managed to get big-time numbers,” Gundy said. “It’s just surprising that he was able to do that. But he’s just a special guy. There’s not many of them around like him.”
Beal leads the Big 12 with 18 1/2 tackles for loss and is tied for second, behind only Miller, with 8 1/2 sacks. He’s the first Sooners player with at least 7 1/2 sacks in three straight seasons, but is more than just a pass rusher.
Last week, Oklahoma switched defenses and used him as a linebacker, even dropping him into pass coverage against Oklahoma State.
“The guy is the absolute best. … He just consistently makes plays. We stood him up and put him in a different position last week because of all their four wide receiver sets,” Sooners coach Bob Stoops said of his sixth different player to win top defensive honors since 2000. “He took to it, he’s out there playing cornerback half the time. The guy can do anything.”
Martinez emerged as Nebraska’s starting quarterback as a freshman and led the 13th-ranked Cornhuskers back to the Big 12 championship game for the second straight year. They’ll face Beal and No. 10 Oklahoma on Saturday night in Arlington, Texas.
David ranks second in the Big 12 with 128 tackles and also has six sacks and nine passes broken up.
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