CLEVELAND-- A total of 45 repeat selections from last year's All-MAC team and the first defensive player in history to be honored with back-to-back Vern Smith Leadership Award honors highlights this year's post season awards in the Mid-American Conference.
Northern Illinois University defensive end Larry English, a senior from Aurora, Ill., was tabbed as the winner of the 27th annual Vern Smith Leadership Award, the fourth time a Huskie has been honored. English, also the 2007 honoree, joins NIU quarterback Tim Tyrrell (1983) and running back Garrett Wolfe (2006) in the select company. He is the fourth overall to capture back-to-back honors with the other three all quarterbacks - Bowling Green's Brian McClure in 1984 and 1985, BG's Erik White in 1991 and 1992, and Marshall's Byron Leftwich in 2001 and 2002. The MAC's highest football honor is voted on by league head coaches.
English, who was also honored as the league's Defensive Player of the Year, anchored a Huskies squad that led the MAC in total defense, allowing 303.7 yards per game, which is 40 yards better than the No.2 rated defensive team. English tied for second in the MAC with 13.5 tackles for a loss and third in sacks with 8.0. The Huskies won four more games this year than in 2007, finishing with a bowl-eligible 6-6 record. Four of the Huskies six losses were by four points or fewer.
In other awards voted by the MAC News Media Association, Ball State was recognized with Coach of the Year in Brady Hoke, Offensive Player of the Year in quarterback Nate Davis, and Freshman of the Year in defensive back Sean Baker. The Special Teams Player of the Year Award went to Antonio Brown of Central Michigan.
Hoke, in his sixth season as head coach at his alma mater, directed the Cardinals to the best season in school history. Ball State went 12-0 and won the MAC West Division to advance to the Marathon MAC Football Championship game Friday, Dec. 5 versus East Division opponent Buffalo. The Cardinals' 12-0 regular season is the league's best since Marshall went 11-0 in 1999. The Cardinals captured their first win ever over a Big Ten foe when they won at Indiana, and they also beat bowl-bound Navy.
Davis, a junior from Bellaire, Ohio, led the MAC in passing efficiency for the third consecutive season. He completed a league-high 66.7 percent (218-of-324) of his attempts for 3,095 yards, 25 touchdowns with six interceptions. He guided the Cardinals to a MAC leading 37.7 points per game. Davis also rushed for 241 yards and four touchdowns. He is the younger brother of Jose Davis, who while at Kent State set the MAC single-game record for passing yards with 551 in 1997 versus UCF.
Baker, a graduate of Canfield High School in Canfield, Ohio, stepped onto the scene by tying for the league-lead in interceptions with six, including three in one game (vs. Akron). He was a key part of the Cardinals defense the led the MAC in scoring defense, allowing 16.7 points per game. Baker had a fumble returned for a touchdown at Akron and the next week ran back an interception for a score at Indiana. He had 90 total tackles, 42 solos, and 10 pass break ups for a MAC-leading 16 passes defended.
Brown, a sophomore from Miami, Fla., followed up his 2007 MAC Freshman of the Year honor by leading the nation in punt returns at 20.67 yards per return and contributing 21.1 yards per return on 34 kickoffs. For good measure, he finished among the MAC's top receivers with 82 receptions for 802 yards and six touchdowns. Brown was a first-team selection at both the kickoff return and punt return position this year.
Among the most interesting all-conference selections was Akron strong safety Bryan Williams. A third team selection as a defensive back this year, Williams was a third-team honoree as a running back in 2007. In addition, second-year MAC member Temple had its first-ever, first-team selection in defensive tackle Terrance Knighton.
Ball State and Central Michigan each had seven first-team selections. Overall, Ball State set the pace with 13 honorees, followed by Western Michigan with 12 and Central Michigan with 10.
Individual Award Winners Vern Smith Leadership Award - Larry English, Northern Illinois Coach of the Year - Brady Hoke, Ball State Offensive Player of the Year - Nate Davis, Ball State Defensive Player of the Year - Larry English, Northern Illinois Special Teams Player of the Year - Antonio Brown, Central Michigan Freshman of the Year - Sean Baker, Ball State
First Team Offense Center - Dan Gerberry, Ball State Lineman - Robert Brewster, Ball State Lineman - Andrew Hartline, Central Michigan Lineman - Chris Kemme, Akron Lineman - Andre Ramsey, Ball State Tight End - Darius Hill, Ball State Quarterback - Nate Davis, Ball State Wide Receiver - Jamarko Simmons, Western Michigan Wide Receiver - Naaman Roosevelt, Buffalo Wide Receiver - Antonio Brown, Central Michigan Wide Receiver - Bryan Anderson, Central Michigan Running Back - MiQuale Lewis, Ball State Running Back - James Starks, Buffalo Placekicker - Nate Parseghian, Miami
Second Team Center - Alex Derenthal, Temple Lineman - Augustus Parrish, Kent State Lineman - Jeff Niedermier, Buffalo Lineman - Josh Leuck, Ohio Lineman - T. J. Lang, Eastern Michigan Tight End - Branden Ledbetter, Western Michigan Quarterback - Dan LeFevour, Central Michigan Wide Receiver - Nick Moore, Toledo Wide Receiver - Dante Love, Ball State Wide Receiver - Stephen Williams, Toledo Wide Receiver - Jacory Stone, Eastern Michigan Running Back - Dennis Kennedy, Akron Running Back - Eugene Jarvis, Kent State Placekicker - Mike Salerno, Northern Illinois
Third Team Center - Eddie Adamski, Northern Illinois Lineman - Jon Brost, Northern Illinois Lineman - Phillip Sawnson, Western Michigan Lineman - Jason Onyebuagu, Northern Illinois Lineman - Greg Wojt, Central Michigan Tight End - Andrew Mooney, Ohio Quarterback - Tim Hiller, Western Michigan Wide Receiver - Andre Jones, Akron Wide Receiver - Deryn Bowser, Akron Wide Receiver - Bruce Francis, Temple Wide Receiver - Juan Nunez, Western Michigan Running Back - Brandon West, Western Michigan Running Back - DaJuane Collins, Toledo Placekicker - Andrew Aguila, Central Michigan
First Team Defense Outside Linebacker - Clayton Mullins, Miami Outside Linebacker - Austin Pritchard, Western Michigan Inside Linebacker - Nick Bellore, Central Michigan Inside Linebacker - Joe Hudson, Miami Down Lineman - Larry English, Northern Illinois Down Lineman - Frank Zombo, Central Michigan Down Lineman - Diyral Briggs, Bowling Green Down Lineman - Terrance Knighton, Temple Defensive Back - Louis Delmas, Western Michigan Defensive Back - B.J. Hill, Ball State Defensive Back - Davonte Shannon, Buffalo Defensive Back - Barry Church, Toledo Punter - Jake Richardson, Miami
Second Team Outside Linebacker - Derek Burrell, Kent State Outside Linebacker - Noah Keller, Ohio Inside Linebacker - Daniel Holtzclaw, Eastern Michigan Inside Linebacker - Kevin Grant, Akron Down Lineman - Andre Neblett, Temple Down Lineman - Jameson Hartke, Ohio Down Lineman - Zach Davidson, Western Michigan Down Lineman - Brandon Crawford, Ball State Defensive Back - E.J. Biggers, Western Michigan Defensive Back - Londen Fryar, Western Michigan Defensive Back - Mike Newton, Buffalo Defensive Back - Brian Lainhart, Kent State Punter - Chris Miller, Ball State
Third Team Outside Linebacker - Justin Winters, Buffalo Outside Linebacker - Boston McCornell, Western Michigan Inside Linebacker - Bryant Haines, Ball State Inside Linebacker - Tim McCarthy, Northern Illinois Down Lineman - Brandon Bice, Northern Illinois Down Lineman - Joe Coniglio, Miami Down Lineman - Almondo Sewell, Akron Down Lineman - Sean Murnane, Central Michigan Defensive Back - Steven Jackson, Ohio Defensive Back - Trey Buice, Ball State Defensive Back - Robbie Wilson, Miami Defensive Back - Bryan Williams, Akron Punter - Nick Iovinelli, Bowling Green
Kickoff Return Specialist First Team - Antonio Brown, Central Michigan Second Team - Travis Shelton, Temple Third Team - Bryan Williams, Akron
Punt Return Specialist First Team - Antonio Brown, Central Michigan Second Team - B.J. Hill, Ball State Third Team - Eugene Harris, Miami