Kenny Willekes - B1G Defensive Lineman Of The Year

Kenny Willekes - B1G Defensive Lineman Of The Year

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Kenny Willekes - B1G Defensive Lineman Of The Year

On Tuesday, the Big Ten announced recipients of the conference’s defensive awards for 2018.  Michigan State’s Kenny Willekes leads a gang of Spartans on the awards lists as the Smith-Brown Defensive Lineman of the Year.

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Just yesterday, we published this story making note of the fact that Michigan State’s Kenny Willekes was the recipient of the Governor’s Award at Sunday night’s annual football awards banquet at the Kellogg Center –

https://spartanswire.com/2018/11/26/kenny-willekes-mvp-for-18-with-much-more-ahead/

Tuesday, Willekes received another award.

The junior defensive end is the recipient of the Big Ten’s 2018 Smith-Brown Defensive Lineman of the Year Award, named after Michigan State’s Bubba Smith and Penn State’s Courtney Brown.

Willekes is the second Spartan to receive the award – Shilique Calhoun was the recipient in 2013.

An Ohio State Buckeye had won the award the previous four seasons dating back to Calhoun and the Spartans’ Big Ten Championship and Rose Bowl victory season of 2013.

Willekes also earned unanimous First Team All Big Ten Defense status.

In 2018, Willekes led the Big Ten in tackles-for-loss with 20.5 for 84 yards.

That specific accomplishment isn’t just something that shines among Big Ten defensive players for 2018 – his mark in the category ranks 7th in all of FBS.

Willekes finished the season 4th in the Big Ten in sacks with 8.5 for 60 yards.

He also had 12 QB hurries, he forced a fumble, and recovered a fumble while playing in all 12 games.

Willekes led all defensive linemen across the Big Ten in tackles with his own career-high of 76.

Of course, Willekes began his career at Michigan State as a walk-on and has grown into one of the nation’s premiere defensive players.

The junior will be back in Green & White next Fall, primed to help lead a defense that will be every bit as strong as it was this season.

Joining Willekes on the Coaches’ First Team All Big Ten Defense is Joe Bachie, the junior linebacker who finished the season with 94 tackles, 8.5 tackles-for-loss, a sack, 5 pass breakups, 3 forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, and his game-clinching interception in the season-opener against Utah State.

Both Willekes and Bachie were major reasons why Michigan State finished the season with the nation’s #1 rush defense that allowed 81.3 yards a game and the nation’s #14 overall defense which allowed 311.5 yards of offense per game.

Justin Layne – the junior Spartan cornerback – earned unanimous Second Team All Big Ten honors after tying for the Big Ten lead in passes defended (16) and pass breakups (15) while registering 72 tackles and one interception.

Raequan Williams – the junior defensive tackle – was a unanimous Third Team All Big Ten selection after finishing the season with 49 tackles, 9.5 tackles-for-loss, 1.5 sacks, and 5 pass breakups.

David Dowell – the junior Spartan safety – was named to the Third Team All Big Ten Defense by the coaches after a strong season that included 55 tackles and 2 interceptions.

Senior safety and team captain Khari Willis was selected by the media as a member of the Third Team All Big Ten Defense following a season in which he recorded 81 tackles, 8 pass breakups, and 2 interceptions.

Senior linebacker Andrew Dowell and junior defensive tackle Mike Panasiuk earned Honorable Mention All Big Ten Defense honors from both the coaches and media.

Seniors Khari Willis and Andrew Dowell will certainly be missed – but they’ve left a strong and important legacy.

The rest of these Spartans return to a defense that will feature a slew of younger players who contributed significantly all season long to one of the nation’s best defenses – and one that will be ready to demonstrate more toughness in 2019.

How about this guy?

 

Matt Coghlin – Michigan State’s sophomore assassin – showed that he’ll be an important weapon for the Spartans for another couple of years by drilling 16 of 19 field goals, being perfect on 25 extra points attempts – and by scoring a rushing touchdown on a fake field goal against Indiana.

Coghlin was a First Team All Big Ten selection by the media and a Third Team All Big Award recipient by the coaches.

The accomplishment of Kenny Willekes can’t be overstated.

He’s as good of a representation of what it means to be a Spartan as any player on the roster.

His story is a Michigan State all-timer when considering individual growth, accomplishment, toughness, determination – and class.

He has more awards ahead – but for now, he’ll be focused on making sure the necessary work begins right now so that 2019 can be the season Spartan fans were expecting in 2018.

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