The junior defensive tackle becomes the first Spartan defensive lineman to earn AP First-Team All-America honors since defensive end Charles “Bubba” Smith in 1966.

 

EAST LANSING, Mich. – Michigan State junior defensive tackle Jerel Worthy, who anchors a Spartan defensive unit that leads the Big Ten in rushing defense (104.3 yards per game), total defense (272.7 ypg.) and sacks (41), has been named First-Team All-American by The Associated Press. The 6-foot-3, 310-pound Worthy has produced a tackle for loss in eight of MSU’s 13 games this season.

 

He becomes the first Spartan defensive lineman to earn AP First-Team All-America honors since defensive end Charles “Bubba” Smith in 1966. It also marks the fourth-straight year that a Michigan State player has earned a spot on the AP All-America First Team (running back Javon Ringer, 2009; linebacker Greg Jones, 2009-10), tying the school record (1950-53).

 

Worthy recently earned First-Team All-America honors from the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA), Walter Camp Football Foundation, CBSSports.com, Yahoo! Sports and NBCSports.com. In addition, he was named one of 12 semifinalists for the Lombardi Award (college lineman of the year), one of 16 semifinalists for the Chuck Bednarik Award (defensive player of the year) and one of 20 quarterfinalists for the Lott IMPACT Trophy (presented to Defensive IMPACT Player of the Year).

 

A first-team All-Big Ten selection by both the coaches and media, Worthy ranks fourth on the team in tackles for loss (8.5 for 40 yards), including 3.5 sacks (28 yards). He has recorded 25 tackles (15 solos, 10 assists) and been credited with 14 quarterback hits and 10 QB hurries.

 

“Jerel Worthy has been a three-year starter and throughout his career, he has shown the ability to make big plays,” MSU head coach Mark Dantonio said. “Over the last two years, he has put together some dominating performances. Jerel helps anchor a defensive front seven that has ranked first in the Big Ten against the run all season long.”

 

“This is an unbelievable accomplishment, but I can’t take all of the credit for myself,” Worthy said. “With our scheme, Coach (Pat) Narduzzi put me in position to make a lot of big plays. I’m fortunate to play for a great defense – one that has ranked among the nation’s Top 10 in total defense all season.  I’m also blessed to play for a great coaching staff, and these coaches have pushed me every day to be successful. They taught me not to be content with my game and encouraged me to consistently play at a high level. I also have to give a ton of credit to the other 10 guys on the field, who busted their butts to make themselves better throughout the season.”

 

Worthy tied a career high with two tackles for loss (3 yards) in the 55-3 win over Indiana. In its 37-21 win at Iowa, MSU limited Marcus Coker, the nation’s sixth-leading rusher, to just 57 yards on 21 carries – 65 yards below his season rushing average.

 

He made three tackles in MSU’s 37-31 victory over No. 4 Wisconsin, including one for a 2-yard loss. Worthy had two stops in MSU’s 28-14 win over No. 11 Michigan, including a 4-yard half sack. He also produced two tackles in MSU’s 10-7 victory at Ohio State, with 1.5 tackles for loss including a 5-yard sack.

 

Worthy registered a season-high four stops and recovered a fumble at Notre Dame. He wore retired jersey No. 95 against the Irish as a tribute to former two-time All-American “Bubba” Smith, who passed away in early August. Smith’s final game as a Spartan came in the 1966 “Game of the Century” between the No. 1 Irish and No. 2 Spartans that ended in a 10-10 tie.

 

The Huber Heights, Ohio, native has started 37 of 39 career games and recorded 102 tackles, with 25.5 resulting in losses (116 yards) including 12 sacks (78 yards). Those marks rank among MSU’s all-time leaders: tied for 12th in sacks and tied for 18th in tackles for loss.

 

The 12th-ranked Spartans (10-3, 7-1 Big Ten) will face No. 18 Georgia (10-3, 7-1 SEC) in the Outback Bowl on Monday, Jan. 2, 2012, in Tampa, Fla. The Outback Bowl will be televised nationally by ABC with kickoff set for 1 p.m. EST. Michigan State is bowl eligible for a school-record fifth-consecutive year.