Gophers senior John Michael Schmitz on Monday was named one of three finalists for the Rimington Trophy, given annually to the top center in college football. Joining Schmitz as finalists are USC's Brett Neilon and Michigan's Olusegun Oluwatimi.
Schmitz, a Flossmoor, Ill., native who returned for a sixth season with the Gophers, is the top-rated center in FBC by Pro Football Focus, grading at 92.4 for the season. Neilon has a 90.2 grade, second best among centers, and Oluwatimi has a 79.8, good for ninth. Schmitz's PFF grade also is the best among all FBC interior offensive linemen and second best among all offensive linemen to Air Force tackle Kaleb Holcomb, who has a 92.5.
Named first-team All-Big Ten by votes of both coaches and media members, Schmitz is part of an offense that ranks 11th in the nation in rushing (218.42 yards per game) and tied for 16th in fewest sacks allowed (13). Ohio State is the only other Big Ten team in the top 20 in both categories. Schmitz also was a semifinalist for both the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award while garnering first-team All-America recognition from Pro Football Focus.
"He's one of the greatest, if not arguably the greatest, offensive lineman to ever play here,'' Gophers coach P.J. Fleck said of Schmitz.
Schmitz is the first Gophers center since Greg Eslinger from 2003-05 to be named first-team All-Big Ten. Eslinger went on to win the Rimington and Outland trophies in 2005.
The Rimington Trophy committee uses All-America teams from the Walter Camp Foundation, The Sporting News and the Football Writers Association of America to determine its recipient. The winner will be announced Thursday on ESPN during the College Football Awards Show.