Athlon Sports Tabs Eight Jayhawks for Preseason All-Big 12 Teams
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Eight Kansas football players were recognized by Athlon Sports in its annual Preseason All-Big 12 awards, led by linebacker Ben Heeney who was chosen for First Team honors by the publication. Three Jayhawks were tabbed to the third team and four more picked up fourth team honors.
Heeney, a senior from Hutchinson, Kansas, missed a pair of games in the middle of the 2013 conference slate, but still finished with a team-best 88 total stops, including 11.5 tackles for loss and the first three interceptions of his career. Heeney, selected as an All-Big 12 Second Team selection by the Associated Press and the conference coaches last season, was fourth in the conference with 8.7 tackles per game and ranked fifth in tackles-for-loss per game with 1.15. He reached double figures in tackles in six of his 10 games played, including four Big 12 contests.
Kansas players earning Third Team honors from Athlon Sports were seniors Ngalu Fusimalohi and Trevor Pardula and junior Isaiah Johnson.
Fusimalohi, an offensive lineman from Daly City, California, started every game during the 2013 season at Kansas on the interior of the line and earned honorable mention All-Big 12 honors as a junior.
Pardula, a native of San Jose, California, earned honorable mention All-Big 12 honors at punter in 2013 after booting 24 punts of more than 50 yards, including a career-best 78 yard punt, for an average of 43.7 yards per kick. Pardula also placed 25 punts inside the 20. He concluded the year topping the KU record books in punts in a season with 84 and single-season punting yards with 3,668.
Johnson, a safety from Cary, North Carolina, was the 2013 Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year after leading KU and ranking tied second in the conference with five interceptions. He was second on the team and 20th in the Big 12 with 73 tackles. Johnson’s five interceptions were the most by a Jayhawk since 2008, when Darrell Stuckey also picked off five passes.
A quartet of Jayhawks picked up Fourth Team honors by Athlon Sports in seniors Nick Harwell, Dexter McDonald, Michael Reynolds and JaCorey Shepherd.
Harwell, a wide receiver from Missouri City, Texas, will suit up for the first time as a Jayhawk in 2014, but he compiled 3,166 receiving yards and 23 touchdowns on 229 receptions during three seasons at Miami (Ohio). He was a three-time All-MidAmerican Conference honoree during his time at Miami and finished the 2011 campaign ranked third in the NCAA in receiving yards per game (129.5 ypg) and fourth in receiving yards (1,425).
McDonald, a cornerback from Kansas City, Missouri, proved to be a one of the top corners in the conference in his first season as full-time starter and earned honorable mention All-Big 12 honors after logging two interceptions and 12 pass break-ups in 2013.
Reynolds, a Wichita, Kansas, native who plays the BUCK linebacker position, led Kansas and ranked sixth in the conference with 6.5 sacks in 2013. He ranked second on the team and 19th in the conference with 10.0 tackles-for-loss, while also being credited with four pass breakups, three quarterback hurries and two forced fumbles during his junior season.
Shepherd, who plays on the KU defense at both cornerback and nickelback, was honored by Athlon Sports as a kick returner. The Mesquite, Texas native, led KU in kickoff returns in 2013 with 24 returns for 547 yards. His 22.8 yards per kickoff return ranked seventh in the Big 12. Shepherd started all 12 games in 2013 at cornerback, finishing the season with 45 total tackles, while leading KU and ranking third in the Big 12 and tied for 17th in the NCAA with 15 passes defensed.
KU will begin the 2014 season on September 6 vs. Southeast Missouri State at 6 p.m., in Memorial Stadium. The Jayhawks will also host non-conference opponent Central Michigan (Sept. 20) before Big 12 rivals Texas (Sept. 27/Homecoming, K-Club Weekend), Oklahoma State (Oct. 11), Iowa State (Nov. 8) and TCU (Nov. 15) visit Lawrence. Season tickets are available online at KUAthletics.com, by calling 800-34-HAWKS or in-person at the Allen Fieldhouse ticket office.
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