KSU’s Jordan Willis named Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year

Florida Atlantic quarterback Jason Driskel (16) is sacked by Kansas State defensive end Jordan Willis (75) during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016, in Manhattan, Kan. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

MANHATTAN, Kan. – Paced by senior defensive end Jordan Willis as the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, six Kansas State football players earned All-Big 12 honors from the Associated Press, the organization announced Tuesday.

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. 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.

Winners of five of their last six, the Wildcats will ride momentum into the 2016 AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl as they take on Texas A&M at NRG Stadium on Wednesday, December 28. It is the 20th bowl game in school history and the 18th under Snyder. The game kicks off at 8 p.m., and will be shown to a national audience on ESPN, while it can be heard across the K-State Sports Network and on ESPN Radio.

Public tickets for K-State fans are still available at the K-State Online Ticket Office and through the K-State Athletics Ticket Office in Bramlage Coliseum or via phone at 1-800-221-CATS. Fans are strongly encouraged to order through K-State’s official allotment to ensure that all Wildcat fans are seated in the official K-State sections of the stadium. The location for K-State’s ticket allotment at the Texas Bowl is among the best of any bowl game with prime sideline seating locations available for $85.

Student tickets, priced at $85, will go on sale at 8:30 a.m., Wednesday to ICAT members, while all remaining students can purchase tickets beginning Thursday at 8:30 a.m.

Associated Press All-Big 12 Teams (Kansas State)
Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year: Jordan Willis (DE).
First Team: Jordan Willis (DE), Elijah Lee (LB), Will Geary (DT), Terrale Johnson (OL)
Second Team: Dalton Risner (OL), D.J. Reed (DB)

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