PARK RIDGE, Ill. (AP) - Illinois coach Ron Zook, his star running back Rashard Mendenhall and Ohio State linebacker James Laurinaitis were honored Monday night as the Big Ten announced its 2007 all-conference team.
Zook was named the Dave McClain coach of the year by members of the media for leading the Illini to a 9-3 record that included an upset of then top-ranked Ohio State.
Mendenhall was named offensive player of the year and Laurinaitis was chosen defensive player of the year in balloting for both the media and coaches.
Michigan offensive tackle Jake Long was named offensive lineman of the year for a second straight season, while Vernon Gholston of conference champion Ohio State was tabbed defensive lineman of the year by the coaches.
Ohio State has won back-to-back outright titles for the first time since 1954 and 1955 and Laurinaitis was a big reason. He led the Buckeyes with 103 tackles and had five sacks. His teammate Gholston had 10 sacks during conference play.
Mendenhall broke school single-season records for rushing yards, leading the Big Ten with 1,526 yards and 16 rushing touchdowns.
In addition to Mendenhall and Zook, the Illini garnered another honor: Arrelious Benn was named freshman of the year after catching 49 passes and being a threat on kick returns.
Zook guided the Illini, which won only two games last season, to a seven-win improvement in his third season on the job and has the program headed to a bowl game. Besides beating the Buckeyes in Columbus, they also defeated Penn State and Wisconsin this season.
Source: ncaafootball.com; Photo Credit: University of Illinois