Fifteen Nebraska players were honored by the Big Ten Conference on Monday, earning all-conference honors as announced by the league office. Five Huskers were named first-team All-Big Ten selections by either the conference coaches or a media panel.
Junior offensive guard Spencer Long was a first-team selection by both the coaches and the media, the lone Husker to receive first-team accolades on both teams. Long was a second-team All-Big Ten selection as a sophomore in 2011. The Elkhorn High product has anchored a Nebraska offensive line that has powered the way for the Huskers to lead the Big Ten in rushing offense and total offense, while ranking second in scoring offense. Long is just the second Nebraska offensive lineman to earn first-team all-conference honors since 2003.
Joining Long on the coaches’ first team was junior quarterback Taylor Martinez. The Corona, Calif., native leads the Big Ten Conference in total offense and passing efficiency and has guided Nebraska to four double-figure second-half comebacks in 2012. Martinez has accounted for 3,316 yards of total offense this season, the second-highest total in school history and his 2,483 passing yards ranks fourth on the NU single-season list. Martinez is the first Nebraska quarterback to earn first-team all-conference honors since Zac Taylor in 2006.
Three Huskers joined Long on the media’s All-Big Ten first team. Place-kicker Brett Maher was the first-team selection for the second consecutive year. Maher has connected on 18-of-24 field goals this season, including three field goals of at least 50 yards. He has also made three-or-more field goals in three games this season. Maher is Nebraska’s fifth two-time first-team all-conference selection in Bo Pelini’s tenure as head coach, joining Ndamukong Suh, Jared Crick, Prince Amukamara and Lavonte David.
Maher was also selected as the co-recipient of the Bakken-Andersen Kicker of the Year award, along with Northwestern kicker Jeff Budzien. Maher also earned the award in 2011, and is one of only two repeat winners of position awards in the Big Ten, joining Running Back of the Year Montee Ball of Wisconsin.
A pair of Blackshirt defenders joined Long and Maher on the media’s All-Big Ten squad, as senior defensive end Eric Martin and senior safety Daimion Stafford both picked up first-team accolades. Martin ranks among the Big Ten leaders in sacks and tackles for loss with 8.5 sacks and 17 tackles for loss. Martin has been at his best in conference play, recording five sacks and 10 tackles for loss. Martin’s choice marks the fourth time in Bo Pelini’s five seasons Nebraska has had a first-team all-conference defensive lineman.
Stafford ranks second on the team in tackles with 83 total tackles. Stafford has a team-high four interceptions, all in Big Ten play and leads the conference in interceptions in league games. He has also added two fumble recoveries and two fumbles caused. Stafford’s selection marks the fourth consecutive year Nebraska has had at least one first-team all-conference defensive back.
Nebraska was also well-represented on both the second-team and honorable-mention listings from both the coaches and the media. Eight players earned nine spots on the coaches; second-team squad, including Maher who was chosen as both the second-team place-kicker and punter.
Offensively, those selected to the coaches’ second team included I-back Ameer Abdullah, wide receiver Kenny Bell and offensive tackle Jeremiah Sirles. Abdullah leads Nebraska with 1,071 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns this season, including six 100-yard rushing games. Bell is on track for one of the most prolific receiving seasons in school history with team-leading totals of 44 catches for 789 yards and eight touchdowns. Sirles has started every game at tackle to help Nebraska produce one of the nation’s top offenses.
The coaches’ second-team defense included Martin, Stafford, defensive tackle Baker Steinkuhler and linebacker Will Compton. Steinkuhler has racked up 47 tackles and seven tackles for loss while anchoring the interior of the Nebraska defensive line. Compton leads Nebraska with 98 tackles, including six tackles for loss and three sacks. He also has a team-high three fumble recoveries.
Martinez, Bell and Sirles were each selected to the second-team offensive unit by the conference media panel.
Several Huskers received honorable-mention all-conference honors from one or both of the sources. Tight end Ben Cotton, cornerback Ciante Evans, center Justin Jackson and safety P.J. Smith earned honors from the coaches, while Abdullah, Compton, Cotton, Evans, Jackson, Maher (punter), tight end Kyler Reed, Smith and Steinkuhler were honorable-mention All-Big Ten selections by the media.
In addition, senior I-back Rex Burkhead was chosen as Nebraska’s Big Ten Sportsmanship Award honoree.