In a sign of improvement for the Scarlet Knights, quite a few players were named to All-Big Ten teams this #GivingTuesday. Most notably after being named recently to the Ray Guy Watch List, Punter Ryan Anderson was named First Team All-Big Ten, both by the media and coaches, the first Rutgers player to ever accomplish that feat in four seasons. In addition, four defensive players were named as Honorable Mention selections. Showcasing the character instilled in the #AshEra, Sebastian Joseph was named the team’s recipient of the Sportsmanship Award. To read the full press release from Rutgers, click here.
Rutgers Football Big Ten Honors
First Team (Coaches & Media): P Ryan Anderson
Honorable Mention Coaches: DB Kiy Hester, DL Sebastian Joseph
Honorable Mention Media: DB Damon Hayes, DB Kiy Hester, LB Trevor Morris
Sportsmanship Award: DL Sebastian Joseph
As the first Rutgers punter nominated to All Conference honors since Joe Radigan in 2006, when the Scarlet Knights played in the Big East, there is no mistaking Anderson’s impact to the program this year. After field position was a major issue last season, which was one factor that led other teams to continually running up the score against us, Ryan Anderson was able to control the field with his powerful and accurate leg. From the press release:
Anderson paced the Big Ten and ranked No. 13 nationally with an average of 44.4 yards per punt, a mark that established a new Rutgers single-season school record. A member of the Ray Guy Award watch list, he booted 27 attempts at least 50 yards and seven of 60 or more yards, including a 70-yard kick at Indiana that ranked as the fifth-longest in program history. Anderson also pinned 20 inside the 20-yard line and helped RU improve 82 spots in the national rankings in net punting from a season ago. The graduate student, who is working on a master’s degree in communication and information studies with a concentration in strategic organizational communication, is a candidate for Academic All-America honors.
Smart and talented. This is exactly the caliber of player we want playing for our school, and Anderson’s talent will be sorely missed next season. With Anderson and Cintron both graduating, it will be up to redshirt freshman Gavin Haggerty and incoming recruit Adam Korsak to fill Anderson’s big shoes.
Four other Scarlet Knights received honorable mention accolades for their efforts on the field, including junior safety Kiy Hester, sophomore cornerback Damon Hayes, redshirt senior defensive lineman Sebastian Joseph, and junior linebacker Trevor Morris. Some highlights from their selection criteria are included below from the press release:
Hayes started the last eight games at cornerback and tied the team lead with 10 pass breakups in 12 contests overall. He added an interception in the win over Purdue to finish at 0.9 passes defended per game, which ranked 14th in the Big Ten. The defensive back finished the season with 48 tackles, including a season-high 10 at Michigan.
Also in the defensive backfield, Hester picked off three passes to go with 10 pass breakups to average 1.2 passes defended per game. That mark ranked fourth in the league and 32nd nationally. He returned interceptions versus Nebraska and Maryland for touchdowns and racked up 37 tackles at strong safety.
Joseph started all 12 games at nose tackle this season and finished his career playing in 49 consecutive games and 50 overall. The defensive lineman totaled 41 tackles as a senior with a career-high seven in the win over Maryland. He also had 4.5 tackles-for-loss, 1.5 sacks, one pass batted down, one forced fumble, one blocked field goal and was a candidate for AFCA Good Works Team.
Morris finished second in the Big Ten with 118 tackles and 18th nationally at 9.6 per game. He reached double digits five times, including 18 stops at Indiana and a career-high 19 versus Michigan State that tied for the most by a Big Ten player this season. One hundred of the tackles came against the run and he was first in the conference with 102 overall in league games.
Joseph also received the Sportsmanship award, which is awarded to players who have “distinguished themselves through sportsmanship and ethical behavior. In addition, these honorees must be in good academic standing and must have demonstrated good citizenship outside of the sports-competition setting.”
As I mentioned in my tribute to the seniors last week, Joseph is involved in many charitable efforts, participating in both the AFCA Good Works Team and the Executive Board of the Student Athletic Advisory Committee. He is also in good academic standing and was nominated to the Academic All Big-Ten in 2015 and 2016. After years marred with bad behavior under former head coach Kyle Flood, this to me is one of the greatest signs of improvement for this team. A well-behaved and well-disciplined team has less penalties on the field, and Ash has made it clear he does not stand for bad behavior. You know who also didn’t stand for bad behavior? Lauded predecessor Greg Schiano. To me, this is a sign of good things to come from this team.
For those who are skeptical of the progress made by the team this year, here are some hard and fast stats for you from the press release:
Under the direction of head coach Chris Ash, Rutgers doubled its win total in 2017 and won three Big Ten games to match its high since joining the conference. The Scarlet Knights intercepted 12 passes, four more than a year ago to move up 52 spots in the FBS national rankings. The rushing defense improved 42 spots, while scoring defense went up 38 slots in the rankings and total defense improved by 25.
The rebuild may not be happening as quickly as we would all like, but progress is happening on defense and special teams.
The offensive and individual awards will be announced on Wednesday and Thursday respectively. Congratulations to all the award winners! We are proud to have you on the banks!