The Big Ten announced its all-conference honorees on defense and special teams Tuesday, and Maryland linebacker Tre Watson was named First Team All-Big Ten by the media and selected to the league’s second team by the coaches.
Watson leads a group of eight Terps to earn All-Big Ten accolades Tuesday. Safety Darnell Savage was named to the second team by both the coaches and the media, while nickel corner Antoine Brooks picked up a second-team nod on the coaches’ vote and an honorable mention from the media. Five other Terps—defensive end Byron Cowart, cornerback Tino Ellis, kicker Joseph Petrino, punter Wade Lees and kick returner Ty Johnson—all earned all-conference honorable mentions.
Maryland hadn’t had a defensive First Team All-Big Ten honoree since Yannick Ngakoue in 2015 (DJJ Moore earned such recognition on the offensive side last year). But Watson, a grad transfer from Illinois, put up eye-popping numbers all year. In addition to leading Maryland with 108 total tackles, he led the conference with five interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown against Minnesota.
Savage hauled in four interceptions and ranked second on the Terps in tackles for loss (5.5) and fourth in total tackles (51). Brooks posted 68 total tackles and a team-high 9.5 tackles for loss, and his lone interception of the season secured a Week 1 win against Texas. Cowart finished the year with three sacks and five tackles for loss, while Ellis is credited with 12 passes defended.
On special teams, Petrino made his first 11 career field-goal attempts and finished his true freshman season 12-of-14, although he didn’t make any kicks from 40 yards or longer. Lees knocked 28 of his 67 punts inside the opposing 20-yard line, and averaged a career-best 40.9 yards per punt. In the return game, Johnson averaged 27.2 yards per kick return, highlighted by a 98-yard touchdown against Michigan, but gave way to Javon Leake as the primary kick returner down the stretch and missed three of Maryland’s last four games with an injury.
Maryland will have to replace the majority of players on this list in 2019. Watson, Savage and Johnson are seniors, Cowart has been listed as a senior on team depth charts since Week 9 and Lees was honored on senior day. The Terps will lean heavily on Brooks, Ellis, Isaiah Davis and defensive tackle Adam McLean to anchor the defense next season, and it’s unclear who will be the primary punter if the 30-year-old Lees does indeed move on from college football.
The Big Ten also announced defensive end Brett Kulka as Maryland’s sportsmanship award honoree Tuesday. Offensive all-conference selections will be announced Wednesday.