UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In the wake of a second consecutive 10-win season it's hardly surprising that Penn State football is all over this year's All-Big Ten selections. The conference announced this morning its defensive and special teams selections, with a total of 12 Nittany Lions earning a spot on one of three All-Big Ten teams or honorable mention distinction across both releases.
In just the first day of All-Big Ten awards, the Big Ten will hold offensive selections for Wednesday and individual awards winners for Thursday.
Check in on all the highlights from this year's Nittany Lion defensive and special teams honorees.
Marcus Allen - First
Team All-Big Ten (Coaches), Second Team All-Big Ten (Media)
In early November, safeties coach Tim Banks called Allen one of the best he has ever coached at the position. With size, speed and physicality, Allen has been not only a force on the field but a leader on the team as one of this year's team captains.
"I've had guys his size who maybe weren't quite as athletic or guys that are a little smaller that may be a little bit faster, but when you start talking about overall combo guy, I don't know if I've had a combo guy with that type of skillset with that type of size," Banks said.
Ranked second on the team with 65 tackles, Allen added 4.0 tackles for loss and one sack in addition to grabbing his first career interception in Penn State's 56-0 shutout against Georgia State.
- A finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, Allen collects his highest All-Big Ten honors this year, named to last year's third team by the coaches and an honorable mention selection the media following more honorable mention honors in 2015.
- Allen highlighted the Pittsburgh win with 12 tackles, adding a fourth-quarter safety marking the first Penn State safety since 2010. With the first team All-Big Ten selection, he becomes the sixth safety since Penn State joined the Big Ten to earn first team accolades.
- With at least five tackles in eight games this season, Allen is the sixth Nittany Lion in program history with 300-plus career tackles and just one stop shy of matching Brian Gelzheiser (1991-94) for fifth place on the Penn State all-time career tackles list.
Amani Oruwariye -
Second Team All-Big Ten (Coaches and Media)
If there's one thing Penn State head coach James Franklin has seen in Oruwariye from last year to this year, it's confidence. Oruwariye picked right up where he left off last year, opening the first game of the season with his second career interception. Soaking in all of the leadership attributes around him this year, he's poised to be among the leaders in a group of returning corner backs following his first career All-Big Ten honors.
- With four takeaways on the year, Oruwariye is ranked third in the conference and 19th in FBS in total interceptions.
- Oruwariye combined for back-to-back interceptions against Indiana and on the road at Northwestern, making him the second Penn State defensive back with interceptions in consecutive outings alongside Grant Haley.
- He ranks third on the team with eight pass breakups, also tied for second with 12 passes defended, which is third in the conference and 30th in the FBS standings.
Jason Cabinda - Second Team
All-Big Ten (Coaches), Honorable Mention All-Big Ten (Media)
One of the many strong heartbeats of the 2017 team, Cabinda's impact at middle linebacker is uncontested. Leading the team with 84 tackles on the year, he's also third on the team with 5.0 tackles for loss.
Coming off his career-high 14 tackle performance against Indiana, defensive coordinator Brent Pry was just as pleased with his physical approach and knack for coming up with the clutch play in the big moment.
"He's just kind of a do it all, very physical, has a prowess out there on the field, great leader, Pry said. "I think he embodies Linebacker U, I really do."
- With three double-digit tackle performances on the year, Cabinda climbed the Penn State career tackles chart, moving to eighth all-time with 282 career stops.
- Cabinda is also tied for second on the squad with two forced fumbles, registering one in the win against Michigan and one most recently at Maryland, where he forced a sack-fumble on third-and-long in the first quarter.
- Too many of his key plays don't always make it clearly articulated on the stat sheet though, like his leaping stop at Iowa to keep the Hawkeyes from converting on fourth-and-one in the first quarter or when he halted Rutgers for a 2-yard loss on a fake punt attempt to put the game out of reach for the Scarlet Knights.
Shareef Miller - Third Team
All-Big Ten (Media), Honorable Mention All-Big Ten (Coaches)
Stepping into a few openings along the defensive line left vacant by departures to the NFL, Miller has emerged as a key piece of a defensive line that was a once worrisome area to the coaching staff in training camp. Whether or not Miller could execute at the level the staff thought he could was quickly confirmed when he caught Iowa's Akrum Wadley in the end zone for his first career safety.
- Miller is tied for first on the team with 4.0 sacks on the year, with at least a half of a sack in four games this season, highlighting the year with 2.0 sacks in the win against Pittsburgh.
- He's also leading the team with 10.0 tackles for loss, with at least a half of a tackle for loss in all but four games this year.
- Miller wore injured teammate Torrence Brown's No. 19 jersey in a pair of games this year, beginning with the Pittsburgh game.
A few other members of the Nittany Lion secondary garnered honorable mention distinction from either the conference coaches or media members as well as defensive tackles Parker Cothren and Curtis Cothran.
Honorable Mention -
- Christian Campbell (coaches and media)
- Parker Cothren (media)
- Grant Haley (coaches and media)
- Curtis Cothran (coaches)
Saquon Barkley - First
Team All-Big Ten (Coaches and Media)
Penn State fans caught their first glimpse of Barkley back deep to return a kickoff against Akron. With three kickoffs for 53 yards at Iowa, it didn't take long before opponents started avoiding kicking to Barkley on kickoffs at all costs, after he returned his first of two kickoffs for a touchdown the very next week against Indiana.
"Saquon can hurt you as a returner," Franklin said. "The game has evolved and the game has changed and you have to take advantage of your playmakers in a variety of different ways and Saquon makes it easy to do that because you have some running backs that are really good runners, but are not good out of the back field when it comes to receiving the football, or whatever it may be. He's got so many tools in his toolbox, and every week for us, it's how do we take advantage of him to give the defense and our opponents issues."
- Barkley returned the first Penn State kickoff return for a touchdown since 2011 when ran back the opening kickoff 98 yards against Indiana.
- He silenced a boisterous Ohio Stadium on the road, again returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown, this time 97 yards. His two kickoff returns for a pair of touchdowns ranks first in the Big Ten and fourth in FBS.
On the year, Barkley is averaging 28.4 yards per return, which is good for tops
in the conference and 10th in the FBS standings.
Blake Gillikin - Second
Team All-Big Ten (Coaches and Media)
It was after the win against Indiana when Franklin shared one of the biggest differences in the program in year four compared to year one or two comes down to drive start, field position and punting. Among a host of key special teams contributors, perhaps someone who has made the largest impact, is Gillikin.
Gillikin's 43.2 punting average ranks second in the Big Ten standings, coming
off a true freshman season in which he broke Penn State's freshman season
punting average with 42.8 yards per punt in 2016.
- On the year, Gillikin has pinned 25 punts inside the 20, with a total of 24 career punts downed inside an opponent's 10-yard line, with 17 so far in 2017.
- Gillikin set a career-high mark placing three punts inside the 10-yard line against Pittsburgh. He matched the career-high mark at Iowa with three punts inside the Iowa 10-yard line, before doing it once more on the road at Northwestern and against Rutgers.
DeAndre Thompkins - Second
Team All-Big Ten (Coaches), Third Team All-Big Ten (Media)
Thompkins burst on to the scene as a potent punt returner for the Nittany Lions in the season opener, returning a first-quarter punt 61 yards for a touchdown, marking the first time a Nittany Lion returned a punt return for a touchdown since 2008.
- Much like Barkley, it didn't take long for opponents to opt to avoid punting to the speedy returner, who ranks 13th among active FBS punt returners in punt return average.
- Thompkins 14.5 punt return average ranks first in Big Ten and third in the FBS standings, while his punt return for a touchdown this year remains second in the conference and 10th in FBS.
- Among season highlights, he returned three punts for 33 yards at Northwestern, including a 32-yard punt return in the fourth quarter.