Eleven Spartans Earn All-Big Ten Honors on Defense and Special Teams
Sophomore safety David Dowell named first-team All-Big Ten by the media.
EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Michigan State sophomore safety David Dowell was named first-team All-Big Ten by the media as a total of 11 Spartans received all-conference recognition on defense and special teams, the league office announced on Tuesday.
Eight of MSU's 11 honorees were underclassmen (six sophomores, one redshirt freshman, one true freshman).
The offensive team will be released on Wednesday.
MICHIGAN STATE ALL-BIG TEN SELECTIONS -- DEFENSE AND SPECIAL TEAMS
First team: S David Dowell
Third team: LB Joe Bachie, DE Kenny Willekes, CB Josiah Scott
Honorable mention: PK Matt Coghlin, LB Chris Frey, P Jake Hartbarger, CB Justin Layne, DT Mike Panasiuk, DT Raequan Williams, S Khari Willis
So. S David Dowell (first team, media; honorable mention, coaches)
In his first season as a starter, Dowell ranks second in the Big Ten and tied for seventh in the FBS with five interceptions (78 return yards). He also has four pass break-ups and a career-high 49 tackles. Dowell had two interception each vs. Michigan and Penn State, and one at Ohio State. Dowell's five interceptions are the most by a Spartan in the Mark Dantonio era and the most by a Spartan since 2001 (Broderick Nelson also with five).
The North Ridgeville, Ohio, native started all nine games for MSU in Big Ten play. He was named the Rose Bowl Game Big Ten Player of the Week for his performance in the win at No. 7 Michigan, as he recorded two interceptions (35 return yards), one pass break-up, a forced fumble and seven tackles. Dowell also had two picks for 28 yards in the victory against No. 7 Penn State on Nov. 4. He tallied a career-high nine stops and his fifth interception of the season at Ohio State.
Dowell is the 37th first-team All-Big Ten selection under Dantonio and just the second Spartan sophomore defensive back to earn first-team All-Big Ten honors (Phil Parker, 1983). Dowell is also the eighth different Spartan defensive back to earn first-team All-Big Ten accolades under Dantonio (S Otis Wiley in 2008; CB Johnny Adams in 2010 and 2011; S Trenton Robinson in 2011; CB Darqueze Dennard in 2012 and 2013; S Isaiah Lewis in 2013; S Kurtis Drummond in 2013 and 2014; CB Trae Waynes in 2014).
So. LB Joe Bachie (third team, coaches and media)
Bachie has started all 12 games at middle linebacker for the Spartans and leads the team in tackles (94; 7.8 avg.), which ranks tied for seventh in the Big Ten. In addition, he ranks second on the team in tackles for loss (8.5 for 29 yards) and interceptions (three) and fourth in sacks (3.5 for 16 yards). He also leads the team in production points with 289.
Bachie was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week twice this season. Following his career-best 13-tackle performance vs. Indiana on Oct. 21, Bachie shared conference player of the week honors. He also had 1.5 tackles for loss, including a 1-yard sack, and a forced fumble against the Hoosiers. The 6-2, 233-pound Bachie has led the Spartans in tackles seven times this season, including double-digit stops in five games (career-high 13 vs. Indiana; 11 vs. Maryland; 11 against Western Michigan; 10 vs. Michigan and Bowling Green).
Bachie was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week after helping lead the Spartan defense to an impressive performance in the 14-10 win at No. 7 Michigan on Oct. 7 in Ann Arbor. He tied a team high with 10 stops against the Wolverines, including an 11-yard sack in the second quarter, in compiling a career-high 40 production points. He forced a fumble on Michigan's second offensive series in the first quarter, giving MSU excellent field position at the Michigan 46-yard line. The Spartans capitalized with a six-play, 46-yard touchdown drive, capped by a 14-yard TD run by Brian Lewerke, giving the Spartans a lead they wouldn't relinquish.
Bachie was at it again in the second half, as he recorded his first career interception on the second play of the fourth quarter. He was also credited with a pass break-up on the game's final play as Michigan attempted a Hail Mary pass in the end zone.
The Spartans held Michigan to 10 points, tied for the lowest total in the Jim Harbaugh era at UM, and just 102 yards rushing. According to STATS, Bachie became just the second Big Ten linebacker and fifth in the FBS in the last five years (since 2012) to record double-digit tackles (10) and at least one interception, one forced fumble, one sack and one pass break-up in the same game.
Bachie had 38 production points vs. Iowa on Sept. 30 in which he led MSU in tackles (9) and tackles for loss (3.5) to go along with a 3-yard sack and fumble recovery in the red zone.
Bachie also had interceptions vs. Penn State and Rutgers.
The Brook Park, Ohio, native emerged as a leader during the offseason and was voted to the team's Eagles Leadership Council in the spring and again in the fall.
So. DE Kenny Willekes (third team, coaches and media)
Willekes, who entered the program as a walk-on for the 2015 season, has emerged as a force on the defensive line for the Spartans. Willekes earned a scholarship this past spring and hasn't looked back since. The native of Rockford, Michigan, has started 11 games at defensive end and leads the team in tackles for loss (14.5 for 42 yards) and sacks (7.0 for 28 yards). Willekes played in just one game as a redshirt freshman in 2016.
Willekes, who has been named to the final ballot for the Ted Hendricks Award, given annually to the nation's best defensive end, ranks tied for fourth in the Big Ten in sacks (7; 0.58 pg) and fourth in tackles for loss (14.5; 1.21 pg). He recorded two sacks each against Michigan (Oct. 7), Minnesota (Oct. 14) and Maryland (Nov. 18).
Willekes leads the defensive line and ranks fourth on the team with 69 tackles. He also has two fumble recoveries, two pass break-ups, one forced fumble and seven quarterback hurries. He ranks second on the team with 150 production points.
Fr. CB Josiah Scott (third team, media; honorable mention, coaches)
Scott became just the third true freshman position player under Mark Dantonio to start his collegiate debut, and never looked back, starting in 11 games overall at cornerback this season, the most ever by a freshman position player in the Dantonio era. The Fairfield, Ohio, native finished the regular season with a team-best nine pass break-ups -- most among Big Ten freshmen and tied for ninth overall in the conference -- along with two interceptions, 30 tackles, a forced fumble and one tackle for loss.
Scott was named to the Pro Football Focus National and Big Ten Team of the Week for his performance in the win at No. 7 Michigan, as he recorded three tackles and helped limit the Wolverines to under 200 passing yards. He tied his season high with six stops and had one pass break-up against No. 7 Penn State, and also had six tackles and a season-high three pass break-ups at Northwestern. In the regular-season finale at Rutgers, Scott recorded his second interception of the season and one pass break-up. He picked off his first career pass in the second game of the year against Western Michigan, and had two pass break-ups in his collegiate debut against Bowling Green. He also forced a fumble in the second half to help preserve MSU's 17-10 win over Iowa in the Big Ten opener.
R-Fr. Matt Coghlin (honorable mention, media)
Coghlin has made 15 field goals this season, which currently ranks second in the Big Ten and ties an MSU single-season freshman record (Michael Geiger, 2013; Brett Swenson, 2006). He is 15-of-19 (.789) on field-goal attempts, including 6-of-7 from 30-39 yards and 4-of-6 from 40-49 yards out. Coghlin is also a perfect 32-of-32 on point-after attempts and leads the team in scoring with 77 points (6.4 ppg), which ranks ninth in the Big Ten and second among conference freshmen.
In the last game of the regular season at Rutgers, Coghlin established season highs for field goals (4) and points (16); he tied his career long with a 46-yard field goal in the second quarter and also connected twice for 26 yards in the first quarter and once more for 32 yards in the third quarter. The Cincinnati, Ohio, product was named the Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week after he drilled the game-winning 34-yard field goal as time expired in the 27-24 victory over No. 7 Penn State on Nov. 4; he also tied the game at 24 with a 32-yarder earlier in the fourth quarter and made all three of his PATs in the win against PSU. Coghlin also had a multi-field goal game with three in the win at Minnesota on Oct. 14. He closed the regular season making his last eight field-goal attempts.
Sr. LB Chris Frey (honorable mention, media)
Voted a captain by his teammates, Frey helped lead a Spartan defense that finished the regular season ranked ninth in the FBS in total defense, allowing just 297.8 yards per game. An honorable mention All-Big Ten selection last season, Frey tied for the team lead and tied for third in the Big Ten with two fumble recoveries. He recorded a career-high four sacks (24 sacks) and had 49 tackles overall. Frey leads all active Spartans with 187 tackles in 51 career games.
Jr. P Jake Hartbarger (honorable mention, media)
A nominee for the Ray Guy Award, Hartbarger is averaging 42.0 yards per punt, which ranks sixth in the Big Ten. He has placed more than 40 percent of his punts inside the 20 (27 of 67), including 15 inside the 10, and has allowed only 31 punt return yards all season on 12 returns (2.6 avg.). In addition, he has 11 punts of 50-plus yards.
So. CB Justin Layne (honorable mention, coaches and media)
In his first full season as a cornerback, Layne continued to show his potential at the position. After transitioning from wide receiver as a freshman, Layne played in all 12 regular-season games at cornerback in 2017 as a sophomore, including seven starts. He leads the Spartan cornerbacks and ranks seventh on the team with 37 tackles, including a career-high 10 in the win over Indiana. He is second on the team and tied for 16th in the Big Ten with eight pass break-ups. Layne also forced a fumble in the win over Michigan, and recorded an interception at Ohio State.
So. DT Mike Panasiuk (honorable mention, media)
Panasiuk, who started all 12 games along with interior of the defensive line, was one of the main reasons why Michigan State finished the regular season ranked second in the Big Ten and fifth in the FBS in rushing defense, allowing just over 100 yards a game (101.3 ypg). He collected a career-high 24 tackles, including 2.5 for losses, while consistently clearing gaps for Spartan linebackers. Panasiuk has 38 tackles in 24 games at MSU.
So. DT Raequan Williams (honorable mention, media)
Williams started all 12 games for the Spartans at nose tackle and recorded career highs in tackles (29) and sacks (2.5) while matching his tackles for loss output (5 for 19 yards) from last year. He was named to the Pro Football Focus Big Ten Team of the Week after recording a career-high six tackles in the win over Indiana. Williams has 57 career tackles, including 10 for losses and 4.5 sacks, in 23 games with the Spartans.
Jr. S Khari Willis (honorable mention, coaches and media)
Willis has recorded a career-high 71 tackles, which ranks second on the team and fifth among Big Ten defensive backs, while starting all 12 games at safety for the Spartans. He ranks tied for second on the team with four sacks and also had 5.5 tackles for loss, both of which are career highs. The Jackson, Michigan, native has one interception (vs. Minnesota) and three pass break-ups. He has 112 career tackles in 32 games played.