The Inaugural Prairie State Pigskin Team: Defense

The Inaugural Prairie State Pigskin Team: Defense
WIU's Brett Taylor is the Missouri Valley Football Conference Defensive Player of the Year. (photo courtesy of GoLeathernecks.com)

With the calendar reading December and the football season over for Illinois' four FCS teams, it's time to announce the inaugural Prairie State Pigskin Team.

DEFENSE

Defensive Lineman:  Khalen Saunders, WIU

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The sophomore from St. Louis led Leatherneck linemen with 48 tackles as he played both interior line and defensive end. He recorded 1.5 sacks, 5.0 tackles for a loss and broke up two passes. Saunders recorded a season-high two tackles for a loss in consecutive weeks (at South Dakota State, Indiana State), and his career-high of eight tackles came in WIU's win at South Dakota.

Defensive Lineman:  Dalton Keene, ISU

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The junior from Jacksonville started in all 11 games at defensive tackle and was named MVFC Defensive Player of the Week, following a nine-tackle effort in a win over Southern Illinois. Keene was third on the Redbird defense with 7.5 tackles-for-loss and tied for second in the league among defensive lineman with 67 tackles.

Defensive Lineman:  Jarvis Williams, EIU

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The senior from Jarvis, S.C. was fourth on the team with 48 tackles (24 solo, 24 assisted) in 11 games. Williams led the Panthers with 5.5 sacks and tied for the team lead with 12.5 tackles for loss. He also registered three quarterback hurries and anchored the run defense in the middle of the line.

Defensive Lineman:  David Johnson, EIU

David Johnson

The junior from Lithonia, Ga. joined the Panthers for the start of Ohio Valley Conference play as a transfer from South Carolina.  Johnson was named to the All-OVC second team and All-OVC Newcomer teams as a defensive lineman.  He finished fifth on the Panthers team with 51 tackles, tying for the team lead with 12.5 tackles for loss.  He ranked third in the league in tackles for loss.  Johnson added three sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

Linebacker:  Brett Taylor, WIU

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The junior from Macomb turned in one of the top tackles season in WIU history. The national leader in solo tackles per game (8.5 p/g), he finished seventh for the Buck Buchanan Award, given to the National Defensive Player of the Year. He ranked third nationally in total tackles (12.2 p/g). He recorded a career-high 18 tackles against Northern Iowa, including a career-high 15 solo tackles that stands as the most by any FCS player this season. He added 8.5 tackles for a loss, an interception and fumble recovery. Taylor was also an All-MVFC Academic performer.

Linebacker:  Seth McDonald, EIU

Seth McDonald

The senior from Sandwich was a first team All-OVC selection at linebacker as he led the Panthers with 99 tackles.  He ranked fourth in the league in tackles adding 2.5 tackles for loss and one sack.  McDonald just missed becoming the first player since Nick Ricks in (2002-03) to record back-to-back 100 tackle campaigns.

Linebacker:  Alejandro Rivera, ISU

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The senior from Sterling led the Redbirds with 95 tackles. Rivera had two interceptions, including one he returned for a touchdown in ISU's season-opening victory against Valparaiso. He had three quarterback hurries, one tackle for loss and a fumble recovery.

Defensive Back:  Davontae Harris, ISU

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The junior from Wichita, Kan. started 11 of 12 games for the Redbirds at cornerback and ranked No. 1 in the MVC in passes defended with 15 (13 PBU, 2 INT), while averaging 1.36 passes defended per game to also top the list. Harris tallied 5.5 tackles-for-loss and 59 total tackles on the season. He recorded his first-career interception against South Dakota and broke up the final two pass attempts against Western Illinois to secure the Redbird victory. Harris ended the season with four tackles and an interception in the playoff game at Central Arkansas.

Defensive Back:  Alec Kocour, ISU

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The junior from Waukesha, Wisc. started in all 12 games at safety and was a team captain. He ranked No. 9 in the MVFC and second on the team in tackles with 91 (47 solo, 44 unassisted) and leads all MVFC defensive backs with those 91 stops. He finished the season with two TFLs and one interception, with four pass breakups.

Defensive Back:  DraShane Glass, ISU

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The junior from Garland, Tex. started all games for the Redbirds. Glass led the team with three interceptions. He added 56 tackles, five pass breakups, 1.5 TFLs, one forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Thirty-five of his tackles were solo.

Defensive Back:  Xavier Rowe, WIU

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The sophomore from Oak Park led the Leathernecks with three interceptions. Rowe ranked third on the team with 59 tackles, 39 of them solo. He also had three pass breakups and one tackle for loss.

Punter:  Reece Attard, ISU

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The senior from Werribee, Australia averaged 40.7 yards per punt. Attard forced 25 fair catches and put 25 punts inside the opponents' 20-yard line. Attard had eight punts of more than 50 yards along with three touchbacks.

Return Specialist:  D.J. Davis, SIU

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The freshman from Pompano Beach, Fla. was named to the All-MVFC Newcomer Team and All-MVFC honorable mention. Davis led the MVFC in kick return average by 2.5 yards per return and was fifth in the MVFC in all-purpose yards per game. He had a 98-yard kick return touchdown vs. Murray State, the second-longest kick return TD in the MVFC in 2016. He ranked second nationally among freshmen in kick return average and had the third-most kick return yards in SIU single-season history.

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