Three of Penn State’s defensive players earned spots on the All-Big Ten team on Tuesday night, with five others earning honorable mentions. But one selection just didn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense.
Cornerback Amani Oruwariye was a unanimous first-team selection, while defensive end Shareef Miller was a unanimous third-team pick. Fair enough. The issue came with defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos, who was a first-team media selection — but somehow, some way — a third-team coaches selection.
Third team? Really?
Maybe it’s because Gross-Matos’ name is hard to pronounce. Or maybe it’s because the sophomore came out of nowhere this season to become arguably the Nittany Lions’ best defensive player. Ignorance can be the only actual defense here.
If you watched Gross-Matos or, heck, even glanced at the stats once — you’d know he’s no third-teamer.
Let’s compare and contrast. Here are Gross-Matos’ numbers this season: 54 tackles, 20 tackles for loss, 8 sacks. Here are the stats from first-team coaches selection Rashan Gary of Michigan: 44 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks. And here are Ohio State second-teamer Chase Young’s numbers: 29 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks.
You don’t need an advanced mathematics degree like John Urschel to notice that one group of numbers is not like the other. The third-teamer has better marks in every single category.
Gross-Matos is second in the conference in tackles for loss and fifth in sacks. But somehow, according to the Big Ten coaches, at least eight linemen in the conference are better than him.
It’d be great to ask for an explanation from a Big Ten coach. But the response would likely be somewhere along the lines of, “Oops, that was a mistake.” Or “I don’t pick those; I just sign off on them like the top-25 rankings.” Because this is pretty black and white.
It’s a mistake that Gross-Matos is a third-team pick. Heck, it’s a mild disgrace.
Even if you’re trying to look beyond the stat sheet, Gross-Matos’ case only becomes stronger. The underclassman improved as the year wore on and, in the last seven games, has 16 tackles for loss to go along with six sacks.
Against Maryland this past weekend, he was tasked with stopping sweeps and runs that bounced outside. He helped contain the Terps’ then-No. 17 rushing attack — an attack that gashed Ohio State for 341 yards — to just 74 yards.
“Maryland was a big jet team, and the way he stopped the jet — it was like taking candy away,” teammate and linebacker Koa Farmer said Saturday.
Gross-Matos may not be getting the credit he deserves right now. But it’ll come. The coaches royally screwed up this season — there’s no other way to say it — but the 6-foot-5 defensive end with the reported 4.52 40-yard dash will be virtually impossible to ignore in 2019.
Even if he was ignored in 2018.
The All-Big Ten defensive teams are listed below, with Penn State players bolded. The offensive teams will be released Wednesday evening.
|DL||Chase Winovich, Michigan||A.J. Epenesa, Iowa||Anthony Nelson, Iowa|
|DL||Rashan Gary, Michigan||Carter Coughlin, Minnesota||Raequan Williams, Michigan State|
|DL||Kenny Willekes, Michigan State||Joe Gaziano, Northwestern||Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State|
|DL||Dre’Mont Jones, Ohio State||Chase Young, Ohio State||Shareef Miller, Penn State|
|LB||Devin Bush, Michigan||Tre Watson, Maryland||Blake Cashman, Minnesota|
|LB||Joe Bachie, Michigan State||Markus Bailey, Purdue||Ryan Connelly, Wisconsin|
|LB||Paddy Fisher, Northwestern||T.J. Edwards, Wisconsin||Andrew Van Ginkel, Wisconsin|
|DB||Amani Hooker, Iowa||Antoine Brooks Jr., Maryland||David Dowell, Michigan State|
|DB||Lavert Hill, Michigan||Darnell Savage Jr., Maryland||Dicaprio Bootle, Nebraska|
|DB||David Long, Michigan||Josh Metellus, Michigan||Montre Hartage, Northwestern|
|DB||Amani Oruwariye, Penn State||Justin Layne, Michigan State||D’Cota Dixon, Wisconsin|
Honorable Mentions: INDIANA: Jonathan Crawford, Marcelino Ball; IOWA: Jake Gervase, Matt Nelson; MARYLAND: Byron Cowart, Tino Ellis; MICHIGAN: Bryan Mone, Josh Ross, Josh Uche, Kahleke Hudson, Tyree Kinnel; MICHIGAN STATE: Andrew Dowell, Khari Willis, Mike Panasiuk; MINNESOTA: Jacob Huff; NEBRASKA: Carlos Davis, Luke Gifford, Mohamed Barry; NORTHWESTERN: Blake Gallagher, J.R. Pace, Nate Hall; OHIO STATE: Damon Arnette, Jeffrey Okudah, Jonathon Cooper, Jordan Fuller, Kendall Sheffield, Malik Harrison, Robert Landers, Tuf Borland; PENN STATE: Garrett Taylor, John Reid, Robert Windsor; PURDUE: Antonio Blackmon, Derrick Barnes, Jacob Thineneman, Lorenzo Neal; RUTGERS: Saquan Hampton
A.J. Epenesa, Iowa
|Anthony Nelson, Iowa||
Raequan Williams, Michigan State
Chase Winovich, Michigan
|Rashan Gary, Michigan||Joe Gaziano, Northwestern|
|DL||Kenny Willekes, Michigan State||Carter Coughlin, Minnesota||Chase Young, Ohio State|
Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State
|Dre’Mont Jones, Ohio State||Shareef Miller, Penn State|
|LB||Tre Watson, Maryland||Joe Bachie, Michigan State||Mohamed Barry, Nebraska|
|LB||Devin Bush, Michigan||Blake Cashman, Minnesota||Blake Gallagher, Northwestern|
|LB||T.J. Edwards, Wisconsin||Paddy Fisher, Northwestern||Markus Bailey, Purdue|
|DB||Amani Hooker, Iowa||
Darnell Savage Jr., Maryland
|David Long, Michigan|
|DB||Lavert Hill, Michigan||
Josh Metellus, Michigan
|Khari Willis, Michigan State|
|DB||Montre Hartage, Northwestern||Justin Layne, Michigan State||Dicaprio Bootle, Nebraska|
|DB||Amani Oruwariye, Penn State||Jordan Fuller, Ohio State||D’Cota Dixon, Wisconsin|
Honorable Mentions: ILLINOIS: Del’Shawn Phillips, Bobby Roundtree; INDIANA: Marcelino Ball, Jonathan Crawford; IOWA: Jake Gervase, Parker Hesse, Matt Nelson, Geno Stone; MARYLAND: Antoine Brooks Jr., Byron Cowart, Tino Ellis; MICHIGAN: Khaleke Hudson, Tyree Kinnel, Kwity Paye, Josh Uche; MICHIGAN STATE: Andrew Dowell, David Dowell, Mike Panasiuk; MINNESOTA: Jacob Huff; NEBRASKA: Khalil Davis, Luke Gifford; NORTHWESTERN: Nate Hall, H.R. Pace; OHIO STATE: Damon Arnette, Tuf Borland, Nick Bosa, Jonathan Cooper, Malik Harrison, Kendall Sheffield, Pete Werner; PENN STATE: Micah Parsons, John Reid, Nick Scott, Garrett Taylor, Robert Windsor; PURDUE: Antonio Blackmon, Kenneth Major, Lorenzo Neal, Jacob Thineneman; RUTGERS: Saquan Hampton, Trevor Morris; WISCONSIN: Ryan Connelly, Andrew Van Ginkel