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Nebraska's Taylor, OU's Alexander take AP's Big 12 honors
OMAHA, Neb. -- Zac Taylor has been instrumental in infusing a throwing mentality into a Nebraska program with a long tradition of running the football -- bringing the Huskers from a losing record in 2004 to within one win of a BCS bowl this season.
On Wednesday, the senior quarterback was selected as The Associated Press Big 12 offensive player of the year.
Oklahoma linebacker Rufus Alexander was selected as the conference's defensive player of the year.
Texas freshman quarterback Colt McCoy was picked as the offensive newcomer of the year and finished runner-up to Taylor for top offensive honors.
Baylor freshman linebacker Joe Pawelek was voted defensive newcomer of the year.
The selections were made in voting by 20 reporters who regularly cover the conference for newspapers in the seven states with Big 12 teams.
The AP all-conference teams will be released today.
When promoting Taylor for All-Big 12 honors, NU coach Bill Callahan said the quarterback single-handedly made the West Coast offense the norm at Nebraska, which won or shared three national championships in the 1990s with a bruising, run-oriented offense.
"He's flourished. On top of everything else, he just competes like crazy," Callahan said. "He's a tough competitor; he is relentless. He's a guy you want behind the controls."
Taylor is the first Nebraska player to win offensive player of the year honors since quarterback Eric Crouch in 2001.
Taylor joined the Huskers (9-3, 6-2 Big 12) after Nebraska went 5-6 in 2004. The next spring, he beat out 2004 starter Joe Dailey, who soon transferred to North Carolina.
Taylor has completed 62 percent of his passes this season, throwing 24 touchdowns and just four interceptions during this record-setting season, where he's passed for 2,789 yards -- more than 232 yards a game.
Alexander has 95 tackles this season and could become the first player to lead the Sooners (10-2, 7-1) in tackling in back-to-back seasons since Rocky Calmus, who played 1999 to 2001.
Considered an NFL prospect, Alexander announced in January he would skip the NFL draft and return to the Sooners for his senior season so he could earn his degree.
Oklahoma's Bob Stoops was named the league's coach of the year on Wednesday. Even after Stoops dismissed starting quarterback Rhett Bomar for NCAA violations and an injury sidelined star running back Adrian Peterson, the Sooners won a fifth Big 12 South title and a berth in the conference championship game.