To cap off the Michigan football team’s best regular season since 2011, the Wolverines brought home their most All-Big Ten awards in recent memory, with 10 more players earning honors on Wednesday night to bring the team total to 22.
A night after Michigan’s entire starting defense earned at least honorable mentions and fifth-year senior Kenny Allen was the second-team punter, almost every starter on offense also made the awards list. The only one who did not receive a mention was redshirt junior fullback Khalid Hill — the Big Ten does not list fullbacks on its all-conference teams.
For the second straight year, senior Jake Butt was the offensive headliner, repeating as the Kwalick-Clark Tight End of the Year. Butt’s numbers took a step back this season, from 51 catches to 43 and from 654 yards to 518. Still, he remained one of the Wolverines’ best offensive threats, a matchup problem for opposing defenses and a go-to option in third-and-short situations.
After forgoing the NFL Draft last year and returning for his senior season, Butt broke the Michigan records for career receiving yards and receptions by a tight end. He’ll be one of the top prospects at his position heading into the draft.
All around Butt, the Wolverines’ offense flourished in its second season under coach Jim Harbaugh, coordinator Tim Drevno and passing game coordinator Jedd Fisch. The entire offensive line received mention, led by fifth-year senior right tackle Erik Magnuson on the first team. Junior center Mason Cole, fifth-year senior right guard Kyle Kalis and versatile fifth-year senior Ben Braden followed on the second team. Even true freshman Ben Bredeson, who just started the last six games of the season, earned a third-team honor.
The most improved player on Michigan’s offense, though, was redshirt sophomore quarterback Wilton Speight, who punctuated his first season as a starter by making the third team. He finished with a completion rate of 62.5 percent, 17 touchdowns and just six interceptions, putting him third in the conference in pass efficiency.
A shoulder injury suffered on Nov. 12 at Iowa hampered those numbers, but Speight was one of the Wolverines’ best leaders all season. He stepped into the starting job after redshirting in 2014, backing up Jake Rudock in 2015 and taking almost no meaningful snaps entering this year. He spoke on several occasions this fall about how much he has grown in that time, and he’ll now be Michigan’s most productive player returning for 2017.
Fifth-year senior wideout Amara Darboh also made a big jump, becoming Speight’s main target and totaling a career-high 826 receiving yards, fourth in the Big Ten. He overtook fellow fifth-year senior Jehu Chesson for the title of top receiver, though Chesson earned honorable mention from the media after catching 31 passes for 469 yards.
In all, Michigan had 10 players recognized on offense and 11 on defense, equaled only by Wisconsin’s 11 on defense. Ohio State, though it only had nine honorees on offense and 10 on defense, boasts four players on each of the first teams to Michigan’s two. The Buckeyes’ J.T. Barrett is the Quarterback of the Year, and running back Mike Weber is the freshman of the year. Elsewhere in the Big Ten East, Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley beat out Speight for the second-team spot, and running back Saquon Barkley was the conference’s Offensive Player of the Year.
Michigan running back De’Veon Smith earned honorable mention for the second straight year as a senior. He led a rushing attack that finished second in the Big Ten with 223.3 yards per game, while the overall offense also ranked second behind Ohio State in yards and touchdowns. The Wolverines have not done that well in both categories since 2003.