EAST LANSING, Mich. – Five Spartans have been named to The Associated Press All-Big Ten team, as voted on by a 27-member panel consisting of writers and broadcasters who cover the Big Ten.
Junior defensive end Kenny Willekes, who also a first-team All-Big Ten honoree by the coaches and media, garnered first-team AP accolades, along with junior nose tackle Raequan Williams.
Junior linebacker Joe Bachie, sophomore placekicker Matt Coghlin , and junior cornerback Justin Layne picked up second-team honors.
Jr. DE Kenny Willekes (first team)
Named the Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year, Kenny Willekes has collected a league-best 20.5 tackles for loss, good for second-most in a Spartan single-season and seventh most in the FBS in 2018. He also leads the Spartans with 8.5 sacks, which ranks fourth in the Big Ten and tied for 28th in the FBS. The junior has registered a career-high 76 tackles to rank first among all defensive lineman in the FBS, including a career-high 13 against Ohio State on Nov. 3.
A 6-4, 250-pound native of Rockford, Michigan, Willekes was credited with a tackle for loss in 10 of MSU’s 12 regular-season games, including a career-high 3.5 against Ohio State and Nebraska in back-to-back games. He opened the season with six tackles, two sacks (19 yards) and a forced fumble in the win over Utah State, and also posted multiple TFLs against Indiana (2.0), Michigan (2.0) and Maryland (2.5).
According to Pro Football Focus, Willekes is the third-highest graded 4-3 defensive end in the FBS, leads all edge rushers with 21 quarterback hits, and ranks tied for fifth with 37 QB hurries.
At the Spartan Football Awards banquet on Nov. 25, Willekes was named the recipient of the Governor’s Award (MVP), becoming the first Spartan defensive end to win the honor since its inception in 1931.
Willekes is MSU’s active leader in tackles for loss (tied for ninth overall in school history with 35.0) and sacks (10th in school history with 15.5).
Jr. NT Raequan Williams (first team)
Raequan Williams, who has started 28 consecutive games at nose tackle, earned first-team AP All-Big Ten honors after picking up third-team accolades from the coaches and media. The Chicago, Illinois, product has recorded career bests in tackles (49), tackles for loss (9.5) and pass break-ups (5), while helping anchor the nation’s No. 1 run defense. He posted a career-best two tackles for loss against Arizona State and Northwestern.
Williams ranks second among active Spartans with 20.5 career tackles for loss, including six sacks, in 36 career games.
Jr. LB Joe Bachie (second team)
Joe Bachie, who was a first-team All-Big Ten selection by the coaches, was named to the second team by The Associated Press. The 6-2, 238-pounder from Brook Park, Ohio, leads the team and ranks tied for 11th in the conference with 94 tackles (7.8 avg.).
Voted a captain by his teammates, Bachie helped lead a defense that ranks No. 1 in the FBS in rushing defense, No. 13 in scoring defense and No. 14 in total defense. He has 8.5 tackles for loss, five pass break-ups, three forced fumbles, one interception and one fumble recovery, and was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week following his performance at Maryland (seven tackles, two TFLs, three forced fumbles).
In the season opener against Utah State and with MSU holding on to a 38-31 lead late in the fourth quarter, Bachie sealed the win by batting down a pass at the line of scrimmage, then coming up with the interception. He has recorded double-digits in tackles four times this season (11 vs. Utah State; 10 vs. Arizona State; 10 vs. Michigan; 12 vs. Rutgers).
In 31 career games, including 25 consecutive starts, Bachie has 206 tackles, 19.0 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, four interceptions, seven pass break-ups, five forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. He has recorded double-digits in tackles nine times in his career.
So. PK Matt Coghlin (second team)
A Lou Groza Award semifinalist, Matt Coghlin ranks among Big Ten leaders in field goals made (third with 16), field-goal percentage (third at .842) and scoring (ninth at 6.6 ppg). He has made 16 of his 19 field-goal attempts this season (5-of-5 from 20-29 yards; 7-of-8 from 30-39 yards; 4-of-5 from 40-49 yards; 0-1 from 50-plus yards). The Cincinnati, Ohio, native was a first-team All-Big Ten choice by the media and third team by the coaches.
Coghlin was named the Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week against Indiana after he scored on a 6-yard TD run on a fake field goal in the third quarter and made all five of his point-after attempts. He became the first Spartan to score an offensive touchdown and then kick the PAT on his own TD since Sam Williams in 1958 against Wisconsin.
Coghlin opened the season with three field goals in the win over Utah State, including a season-long 49-yarder, and also had multiple field-goal outings against Arizona State (2), Northwestern (2), Purdue (3), Ohio State (2) and Nebraska (2). He set a new school record with 18 consecutive field goals, dating back to last season, before a kick was blocked in the Purdue game. That streak was also tied for the fourth longest in Big Ten history.
Coghlin currently ranks first in MSU history in field-goal percentage (31-of-38, .816).
Jr. CB Justin Layne (second team)
Justin Layne, who was a second-team all-conference pick by the coaches and media, was also named to the second team by AP. Layne ranks tied for first in the Big Ten and tied for eighth in the FBS with 15 pass break-ups. He has also posted career highs in tackles (72) and tackles for loss (2.5) this season.
The 6-3, 185-pound Layne played both offense and defense in the win over Purdue on Oct. 27. Layne tallied a career-high four pass break-ups and registered seven tackles in playing 64 defensive snaps against the Boilermakers, and caught one pass for 11 yards and was targeted four times in 16 offensive snaps. He was named to the Pro Football Focus Big Ten Team of the Week for his performance vs. Purdue. Layne had four pass break-ups, 10 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and a half sack vs. No. 10 Ohio State, and recorded an interception in the win over Central Michigan.
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