End of season all-conference lists give an indication of each respective conference’s unquestioned cream of the crop. It’s no surprise to see a total of nine Nittany Lions on just one side of the ball garner All-Big Ten defensive honors. But, with all the good they bring, they invite plenty of criticism from those who feel inclined to opine.
— Penn State Football (@PennStateFball) November 28, 2017
Let’s cut to the chase then, shall we? Call it sour grapes, but Grant Haley was robbed being left off the All-Big Ten team after the season he had. For reference, here’s a look at the players who made the list ahead of him.
— Big Ten Football (@B1Gfootball) November 28, 2017
We’ll start with the second team — a list that features Northwestern safety Godwin Igwebuike and Michigan cornerback Lavert Hill. If we’re talking statistics from a coverage standpoint, Haley deserves his props. The discrepancy in tackles is moderate; Igwebuike finished with 72 tackles to Haley’s 36. But keeping in mind the positions they both play — Igwebuike is a strong safety who occasionally plays near the box vs Haley as an outside cornerback who’s not as close to the hash marks. Tackling isn’t as much a priority as coverage, and Haley’s numbers provide a clearer picture. He’s got just as many interceptions, but has one more pass deflection, and was seemingly a regular on Pro Football Focus’ weekly Big Ten teams of the week.
Here’s an example of his work against Rutgers a few weeks ago, along with his numbers against Maryland — where he matched up with Terps standout WR D.J. Moore:
Penn State CB Grant Haley was the most targeted defensive player in coverage for the Nittany Lions yesterday. And he locked down his receivers. pic.twitter.com/DLz7h2ZwYG
— PFF College Football (@PFF_College) November 12, 2017
— Cameron Mellor (@PFF_Cam) November 26, 2017
The story is the same when compared to Lavert Hill — who’s numbers slightly pale in comparison to Haley’s. Hill has 24 tackles, two picks, and only seven pass deflections. If Amani Oruwariye — who’s had an excellent season in his own right — can make the second team list, it seems obvious that Haley would garner at least a second or third team nod.
Haley is among the most targeted defensive backs in the conference, and not only does he hold his ground, but routinely produces at an extremely high level. Haley’s play has been the backbone for an extremely talented Penn State secondary, and the group’s overall success can largely be attributed to him.
It’s borderline criminal to not give this talented senior his props, but then again, rankings like these won’t matter as much in the end. Haley’s put together some stellar film for NFL executives to ponder and study during his career in Happy Valley. Haley has a legitimate shot at hearing his name called this coming April during the NFL Draft, all-conference teams aside.