After putting up career-high tackle numbers, junior defensive end Kenny Willekes was named Big Ten Defensive Linemen of the Year and earned a spot on the All-Big Ten Defense first team, along with teammates junior linebacker Joe Bachie. Sophomore kicker Matt Coghlin was also recognized for his play this season (16-of-19 on field goals), being named to the All-Big Ten Special teams first team.
Willekes lead the Big Ten with 20.5 tackles for loss during the Spartans 7-5 season and was also named the 2018 Smith-Brown Defensive Lineman of the Year. This makes him the second Spartan to win this award after Shilique Calhoun back in 2013.
This season, the Rockford, Michigan native played in 12 games and recorded 36 solo tackles and 40 assisted tackles, bringing his career total to 71 solo tackles and 78 assisted tackles. He has 15.5 sacks in his career for a total of 88 lost yards.
As for the All-Big Ten First Team, Willekes was voted by both coaches and the media for his spot while Bachie was selected by coaches and Coghlin earned a first-team honoree by the media. Through his 12 seasons as the Spartans’ coach, Mark Dantonio has had 40 first-team All-Big Ten selections.
Another Spartan who earned second-team Big Ten honors is junior cornerback Justin Layne from coaches and media. Receiving third-team votes from the media include junior defensive tackle Raequan Williams and senior safety Khari Willis, and junior safety David Dowell from coaches and honorable mention from media.
Other Spartans to receive honorable mentions include senior linebacker Andrew Dowell, junior defensive tackle Mike Panasiuk and sophomore running back Connor Heyward.