Allow me to throw a few disclaimers out here before I move into the ranting portion of this piece.
- Awards are political. Big names get trophies and awards. Lesser-known names who are deserving, often do not.
- Award voters are typically uninformed, don't care to be informed, or are unaware that they're uninformed. The best example of this is the Heisman Trophy, and until Christian McCaffrey and Ndamukong Suh are retroactively awarded college football's top award, the Heisman will continue to be the best example of this.
- As far as awards/honors (which are mostly meaningless) go, the most meaningless of them is probably being named to an all-conference team. I'll lend a little more credence to the coaches versions of these, but even they only know what they saw on the field.
All of that being said...how in the hell did the Big Ten coaches and media members alike name three full teams, including 12(!!!!!) defensive backs, and not put Grant Haley on the first, second, or third team?
As recently as mid-October, Haley was rated by Pro Football Focus College as the top corner in the conference. At that point quarterbacks throwing on him were running with a 6.7 combined QB rating. That is absurdly low number.
Granted, that came right before back-to-back losses to Ohio State and Michigan State, but Haley was hardly the reason why those losses came to fruition. And aside from those two games, the only team to have any success throwing on the Nittany Lions was Nebraska, who did nearly all of their work against the backups.
Even if advanced stats aren't your cup of tea, check out what Haley did by conventional metrics.
36 total tackles, 3.0 tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks, 2 interceptions, 12 passes defended, 1 fumble recovery (it's worth noting that these Penn State numbers vary slightly from those of ESPN, but ESPN is terrible at compiling defensive statistics in college games)
Those numbers, when combined with the fact that he often lined up in the slot (traditionally the most difficult receiver position to defend) when an extra defensive back was brought in, paints the picture of a player who was comfortably among the best at his position in the conference.
I'm a big fan of what a lot of the guys who were named to the team did this year, particularly Josh Jackson of Iowa. But there's no way that Haley should have been left off of this list. Indiana's Rashard Fant is a great player, but what did he do in 2017 to say he was a better player than Haley aside from be named to the all-conference preseason team? How about Haley's teammate, Amani Oruwariye? I love Amani and think he's going to be a star, but to say he was better than Haley this year is to say "I looked at the stats, and he had two more picks than Haley did".
All things considered, like I said at the top, things like this are meaningless in the grand scheme of things. But that doesn't mean it's not a source of pride for the players. Even if awards are political and unfair, it's always nice to be recognized for a job well done. And Grant Haley deserved that recognition.
— Grant Haley (@haleyboy10) November 28, 2017