MANHATTAN, Kansas – Highlighted by Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year Morgan Burns, Kansas State placed 10 football players on the 2015 All-Big 12 teams as the conference office announced the coaches’ selections on Wednesday.
Burns, who set a Big 12 record with four-straight conference player of the week honors over the final month of the season, picked up Kansas State’s third-straight Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year honor following Tyler Lockett’s awards in 2013 and 2014. It was only the second time in league history one school had the offensive, defensive or special teams player of the year in three-consecutive seasons (Oklahoma State, 2010-12, special teams).
Burns was also named an All-Big 12 First Team kick returner and earned honorable mention consideration as a defensive back. He was joined on the first team by senior offensive lineman Cody Whitehair, senior place kicker Jack Cantele and redshirt freshman fullback Winston Dimel, while senior defensive tackle Travis Britz and sophomore linebacker Elijah Lee were named to the second team. Cantele also received votes for Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year, and Whitehair earned votes for the Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year award.
K-State’s honorable mention selections included sophomore defensive tackle Will Geary, sophomore place kicker Matthew McCrane, senior offensive lineman Boston Stiverson and sophomore punter Nick Walsh.
Burns tied the school and Big 12 single-season records for kickoff-return touchdowns with four, including three over the final four weeks of the regular season. He set a new school record with 221 kickoff-return yards at Texas Tech – a game that featured a 93-yard touchdown – while he had 100-yard returns on the season-opening kickoff against South Dakota and against Iowa State, which helped spark a 21-point comeback victory over the Cyclones. He also helped fuel a comeback victory in K-State’s bowl-eligibility clinching win over West Virginia with a 97-yard touchdown, part of a school-record 67.0-yard average performance on three returns.
A product of Wichita, Kansas, Burns enters the bowl season ranked second nationally with a 33.8-yard return average, a mark that currently ranks third in school history. His 30.9-yard career average is first nationally among active players and second in school history, while his five career return touchdowns are tied for the K-State and Big 12 records.
In addition to his returns, Burns was also a factor on other specialty units over the final two games as he tackled the punter after a bobbled snap and later recovered a blocked punt in the end zone for a touchdown against Kansas. The next week, Burns blocked a Mountaineer punt in the first quarter.
Whitehair earned All-Big 12 honors for a fourth-straight season but picked up first-team accolades for the first time. An in-state product who has played in all 51 games over the last four years with 50 starts, the Abilene, Kansas, native is regarded as one of the most versatile offensive linemen in the league as he has started at both guard and tackle, including the last two years at left tackle.
A native of Wichita, Kansas, Cantele has made 12-of-14 field goals this season to rank second in the Big 12 and 14th nationally in percentage (85.7). He hit the game-winning field goal with three seconds left to help K-State complete a 21-point comeback over Iowa State, while he was true on four field goals against Louisiana Tech en route to Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Week honors.
One of the most versatile fullbacks in the Big 12, Dimel has started all 12 games in 2015 and has been instrumental to the offense as a blocker, runner and receiver. Dimel has recorded five rushing touchdowns – the third-most among freshmen in K-State history – including two-touchdown games against South Dakota and Kansas. He has also caught seven passes for 213 yards and another score as his 30.4-yard average per reception is the highest in school history among players with seven or more catches.
A three-time All-Big 12 honoree, Britz has recorded 36 tackles, including 11.0 tackles for loss and four sacks during his final campaign. He ranks 13th in the Big 12 and third among defensive tackles in TFLs thanks in part to recording 4.0 at Texas, the most by a K-State defender in a game since 2006.
Lee has led the Wildcats with 75 tackles to go along with 7.5 TFLs, 5.0 sacks and two interceptions during his first full campaign as a starting linebacker. Both of his interceptions came against TCU, as he became the first K-State linebacker with two picks in a game since 2002. He ranks 17th in the Big 12 in sacks but third among underclassmen.
Riding a three-game winning streak to become bowl eligible for the 19th time in school history and 17th time under Hall of Fame head coach Bill Snyder, K-State will take on the Arkansas Razorbacks in the 2016 AutoZone Liberty Bowl on January 2, at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis, Tennessee. The game, which kicks off at 2:20 p.m., will be shown to a national audience on ESPN and can be heard across the K-State Sports Network and on ESPN Radio.
Public tickets for K-State fans who did not place a pre-order are available now at the K-State Online Ticket Office and through the K-State Athletics Ticket Office in Bramlage Coliseum or via phone at 1-800-221-CATS. Fans are strongly encouraged to order through K-State’s official allotment to ensure that all Wildcat fans are seated in the official K-State sections of the stadium. The location for K-State’s ticket allotment at the Liberty Bowl is among the best of any bowl game with prime sideline seating locations available for $85. Student tickets, priced at $85, will go on sale at 2 p.m., Wednesday to ICAT members, while all remaining students can purchase tickets beginning Thursday at 8:30 a.m.
Coaches’ All-Big 12 Awards/Teams (Kansas State)
Special Teams Player of the Year: Morgan Burns
First Team All-Big 12: Winston Dimel (FB), Cody Whitehair (OL), Jack Cantele (PK), Morgan Burns (KR).
Second Team All-Big 12: Travis Britz (DL), Elijah Lee (LB)
Honorable Mention All-Big 12: Morgan Burns (DB), Jack Cantele (Special Teams Player of the Year), Will Geary (DL), Matthew McCrane (PK), Boston Stiverson (OL), Nick Walsh (P), Cody Whitehair (Offensive Lineman of the Year).