Kenny Willekes wins MSU football team MVP award, Bachie best defensive player
With Michigan State football wrapping up its regular season Saturday night in a win over Rutgers, the time for awards has arrived.
The Spartans (7-5, 5-4 in Big Ten) held their team annual awards banquet Sunday afternoon, handing out 27 awards.
Defensive end Kenny Willekes became the first player at his position to win the Governor's Award, given to the team MVP.
The junior is fourth on the team in total tackles with 76, and first in tackles for loss with 20.5, which is first in the Big Ten and seventh throughout the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). Willekes also had a team-high in sacks (8.5) and quarterback hurries (12), and a forced fumble and a recovery.
Linebacker Joe Bachie was named the best defensive player, totaling a team-high 94 tackles, 8.5 of them for loss, which is third on MSU. The junior captain also has five pass breakups, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
Running back Connor Heyward won best offensive player, after obtaining a team-high in all-purpose yards (1,056), rushing yards (520), rushing TDs (5) and kick returns (287), while ranking third with 32 receptions for 249 yards. The sophomore is also one of five finalists for the Paul Hornung Award, given to the nation's most versatile player.
Kicker Matt Coghlin earned best special teams player, nailing 16-of-19 field goals (third in Big Ten) and also breaking the record for consecutive field goals made with 16 — dating back to the 2017 season — against Northwestern on Oct. 6, and setting it at 18 against Purdue on Oct. 27.
Coghlin is one of 20 semifinalists for the Lou Groza Award, which is given to the country's best kicker.
Among other awards, senior safety Khari Willis and senior wide receiver Felton Davis III won the Biggie Munn Award, given to the most inspirational players on the offense and defense.
Willis, a senior captain, is third on the team in total tackles with 81, along with eight pass breakups, two interceptions and a forced fumble.
Davis has missed the last five games because of a torn left Achilles suffered against Michigan on Oct. 20, but is still first on the team in receiving touchdowns with four, and second on the team in receiving yards with 474.
However, coach Mark Dantonio said Davis still impacted the team even with not playing in the last five games.
"Felton is not only a great player, but he is a great person, and he lifts people up around him and he brings energy to them, all of these guys," Dantonio said after the win over Rutgers. "When you lose a player, you lose some of your chemistry, but he has maintained that. Some of our other guys have maintained that as they have gone forward and I saw his little video, which I thought was outstanding."
Here are the other awards handed out Sunday:
President's Award (Senior Lineman/Senior Back Perseverance)
Offense: Senior tight end Matt Sokol
Defense: Senior defensive tackle Gerald Owens
Up Front Award (Outstanding Lineman)
Offense: Junior offensive lineman Tyler Higby
Defense: Junior defensive end Kenny Willekes
Clarence Underwood Jr. Sportsmanship Award / Potsy Ross Scholar-Athlete Award
Junior left tackle Cole Chewins
MSU Football Players Association Community Service Award
Senior safety Khari Willis
Outstanding Underclass Lineman
Offense: Sophomore right tackle Jordan Reid
Defense: Junior defensive tackle Raequan Williams
Outstanding Underclass Back
Offense: Sophomore running back Connor Heyward
Defense: Junior cornerback Justin Layne
Jim Adams Award (Unsung heroes)
Offense: Redshirt freshman offensive lineman Blake Bueter
Defense: Junior defensive tackle Mike Panasiuk
Tommy Love Award (Most Improved Player)
Offense: Junior wide receiver Darrell Stewart Jr.
Defense: Senior linebacker Andrew Dowell
Danziger Award (Outstanding Detroit Area Player)
Junior linebacker Tyriq Thompson
Iron Man Award
Junior defensive tackle Raequan Williams
Senior safety Khari Willis
Junior linebacker Joe Bachie
Junior quarterback Brian Lewerke
Doug Weaver Oil Can Award (Team humorist)
Junior wide receiver Darrell Stewart Jr.