Despite a middle-of-the-pack finish in the conference in 2011, the Texas Longhorns made a dent in the Big 12 conference awards released Wednesday, as voted by the coaches. Leading the way was freshman defensive back Quandre Diggs, who was honored as the Freshman Defensive Player of the Year. Four other Longhorns were voted to the first team, while Diggs was among four on the second team.
Senior linebacker Emmanuel Acho, junior defensive end Alex Okafor, junior safety Kenny Vaccaro, and senior kick returner Fozzy Whittaker were the Texas players given first-team honors. Acho and Okafor made the team after strong performances in the second half of the season, while Vaccaro somewhat unexpectedly earned the nod with consistently steady play throughout the season -- the type of performance that doesn't always get noticed on these type of lists.
The second team continues the trend of Longhorn players recognized for their contributions to the conference's best defense -- sophomore defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat, senior linebacker Keenan Robinson, senior defensive tackle Kheeston Randall, and the aforementioned Diggs.
It seems like a pretty reasonable list, except for the ridiculous omission of sophomore cornerback Carrington Byndom, who was the best cover corner on the team for most of the season and one of the top cover corners in the entire league. By the end of the year, quarterbacks rarely even looked in Byndom's direction. When Ryan Tannehill made the mistake of doing so, Byndom housed the resulting interception for one of the signature moments of the Texas season.
While Diggs certainly deserves recognition for his contributions as a true freshman, his play overall was not as strong as Byndom and included many more shaky moments than his older counterpart. Again, not on a dig on Diggs, but anyone who watched Texas this season for more than a few plays likely recognized that Byndom performed at a higher level.
Besides the omission of Byndom, the only other glaring lack in this list was of Texas offensive players. What's unfortunate is that none of those omission's were glaring. Only senior guard David Snow made anything approaching a strong case for second-team honors, but even had a slow start to his own final season in Austin. Freshmen Malcolm Brown and Jaxon Shipley may have been able to make a case for themselves had they not missed most of the final third of the season with injuries.
One thing that seems clear is that the Longhorns won't be able to compete for a conference title next season unless several players emerge on offense to demand consideration on these lists.
On the conference-wide scale, Bill Snyder won Coach of the Year for magically turning Kansas State into a contender and winning the Texas state championship, while Robert Griffin III became the first Baylor player to win the Offensive Player of the Year.
So, Texas fans, any other thoughts on the All-Big 12 teams and other awards?