Willis Earns Player of the Year Honors as Six Wildcats Land on AP All-Big 12 Teams
The hard work is paying off for the Kansas State Wildcats with post-season rewards.
In addition to Sunday’s invitation to the Texas Bowl, the Associated Press named three Wildcats to the first-team on defense, including defensive end Jordan Willis, the AP defensive player of the year. Willis was a unanimous choice for first-team honors and was joined by junior linebacker Elijah Lee, junior defensive tackle Will Geary and senior offensive lineman Terrale Johnson on the first team.
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Sophomore defensive back D.J. Reed and sophomore offensive lineman Dalton Risner were named to the second team.
The four players being named first team all-conference performers by the AP are the most for the Wildcats since also having four in 2013, while the four defensive players on the teams are the most since the 2012 Big 12 Championship squad placed five on the list.
Geary earned his second-straight nod on the AP’s first team, while the other five were first-time honorees by the organization.
A product of Kansas City, Missouri, Willis is the first Wildcat to pick up player of the year honors from the Associated Press since Collin Klein earned the offensive nod in 2012. The senior has 11.5 sacks this year to tie the school record, rank first in the conference and rank ninth nationally. He also has 16.5 tackles for loss, ranking second in the Big 12 and 20th in the nation, to go along with 48 total tackles, three pass breakups, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
Willis’ outstanding senior campaign has also vaulted him into the top-10 in school history in career sacks (3rd; 26.0), career TFLs (9th; 39.5) and career forced fumbles (t5th; 7). He also ranks seventh in Big 12 history in career sacks.
Lee paces the team and ranks fifth in the Big 12 with 98 tackles this year – including 67 solo stops to rank 21st in the nation – while he has 5.5 TFLs, 1.5 sacks and two interceptions. The Blue Springs, Missouri, native now has five career interceptions, the most by a Wildcat linebacker under head coach Bill Snyder.
A native of Topeka, Kansas, Geary has started all 12 games, totaling 44 tackles and 7.0 TFLs from his defensive tackle position. He ended the regular season on a high note, tallying a career-high 3.5 TFLs and a season-best seven tackles at TCU.
Reed, a community-college transfer, has a Big 12-best 18 passes defended this year, which also ranks fifth in the country and fifth in school history. He recorded one of K-State’s three interception-return touchdowns this year when he took a pick 35 yards for a score against Texas Tech.
Johnson, a Manhattan, Kansas, native, and Risner, a product of Wiggins, Colorado, have started all 13 games at right guard and right tackle, respectively. They have blocked for the nation’s 25th-best rushing offense at 232.9 yards per game, including a 290.2 mark over the last six contests. The duo has helped the Wildcats total at least 200 rushing yards in each of the last six games – K-State’s longest streak since the 2003 Big 12 Championship season – including three of the last four games in which the Cats have topped the 300-yard mark.
Coach of the year — Bob Stoops, Oklahoma.
Offensive player of the year — Dede Westbrook, WR, Sr., Oklahoma.
Defensive player of the year — Jordan Willis, DE, Sr., Kansas State.
Newcomer of the year — Justice Hill, RB, Fr., Oklahoma State.