A school-record eight Northern Illinois University football players were named to the 2015 All Mid-American Conference first team and NIU kickoff returner Aregeros Turner (Akron, Ohio/Copley HS) was named the MAC Special Teams Player of the Year Wednesday as the league office announced the 2015 All-MAC football teams and award winners.
The Huskies’ eight first-teamers were the most of any MAC team as offensive linemen Andrew Ness (O’Fallon, Mo./Christian Brothers HS) and Aidan Conlon (Flossmoor, Ill./Homewood-Flossmoor HS), tailback Joel Bouagnon (Aurora, Ill./Aurora Christian HS), kicker Christian Hagan (Omaha, Neb./Westside HS), defensive end Perez Ford (Romeoville, Ill./Romeoville HS), linebacker Boomer Mays (Lawrence, Kansas/Eudora HS) and cornerback Shawun Lurry (West Palm Beach, Fla./W.T. Dwyer HS), along with Turner, all made the squad. In addition to the eight first-team selections, NIU had two players on the All-MAC second team and one on the third unit, giving the Huskies a total of 11 players on the 2015 All-MAC teams, the most since 13 players were honored in 2010. Wide receiver Kenny Golladay (Chicago, Ill./St. Rita HS) and offensive tackle Levon Myers (Franklin, Wis./Franklin HS) were the Huskies’ second team choices, while Marlon Moore (Mobile, Ala./C.F. Vigor HS) was named to the third team. In all, five NIU seniors, four juniors and two sophomores received league recognition.
“It’s great to have eight guys on the first team and 11 overall selected as All-MAC players this year,” said NIU Head Coach Rod Carey. “We’re very proud of our entire team, and these guys would be the first to say that they couldn’t get there without their teammates.”
Turner is averaging 25.6 yards per kickoff return while setting the NIU single season records for kickoff returns (37) and kickoff return yards (948). He leads the MAC and ranks sixth nationally in combined kick return yards, and scored on an 86-yard kickoff return at Boston College. He is the first NIU player to earn the Special Teams Player of the Year Award since Steve Azar in 2003; his selection marks the fifth time a Huskie has collected the honor.
“Ducey [Aregeros] has improved in all areas of his game this year,” Carey said. “He certainly is a very talented football player and we are really happy to see him get this award. Obviously also a credit to our return team for doing the work up front necessary for him to get this.”
Ness, the Huskies’ four-year starter at center, picked up All-MAC first team honors for the second straight year. He and left offensive guard Conlon will break the NIU record for most consecutive starts with their 55th when they lead the Huskie offense onto the field Friday in their fourth consecutive MAC Championship game. The duo, along with second-team selection Myers, have paved the way for tailback Bouagnon’s 1,200-yard rushing season. NIU leads the MAC in rushing offense, is scoring 34.6 points per game and ranks sixth in the country in red zone offense.
A junior, Bouagnon leads the Mid-American Conference in rushing with 101 yards per game (1,212 total) and in touchdowns scored. His 18 rushing touchdowns rank fourth in the country as he has scored at least one TD in 10 of NIU’s 12 games this season and has six multi-touchdown, and six 100-yard, games, on the year.
“Our ability to run the football this year is only as good as these guys, and Aidan, Andrew and Joel have done a great job of executing, along with our second team All-MAC guys in Kenny and Levon,” Carey said. “That group has contributed a lot to power our offense this year and it’s great to see them recognized.”
One of two Huskie sophomores on the All-MAC first team, kicker Hagan has made 14-of-18 field goals and 49-of-51 PATs on the season for 91 total points, second on the NIU team. He is 10-of-11 on threes from inside 40 yards and made a career-long 52-yarder at Toledo on a day when he went four-for-four on field goals in a 32-27 NIU victory.
After claiming second team All-MAC honors a year ago, both Ford and Mays were named to the first team as seniors in 2015. Ford leads NIU in quarterback sacks with five and ranks second on the team in tackles for loss with 6.5. Mays is the Huskies’ leading tackler with 92 stops on the season from his middle linebacker spot. He earned MAC West Defensive Player of the Week honors twice in the month of November with a 15-tackle performance versus Western Michigan and a 10-tackle night at Toledo that included a game-sealing interception.
Lurry’s eight interceptions lead the nation and the sophomore has made 35 tackles and broken up a team-leading 14 passes. His average of 1.8 passes defended per game also lead the country as he has a pass break up or interception in 10 of NIU’s 12 games. The Florida native has broken the school record for interception return yards in a season with 209 and his eight INTs are a modern era record.
“The defense has played really well this year, as have these guys individually, so it’s nice for these three guys to get an honor, along with Marlon [Moore] on the third team. He’s the quarterback for our defense, along with Boomer, so I was happy to see him as an All-MAC player.”
NIU newcomer Golladay was a second team All-MAC choice in his first year in the league. The junior transfer from North Dakota leads the Huskies with 70 catches for 1,107 yards and 10 receiving touchdowns. His average of 92.3 yards per game ranks 20th in the country while his 10 receiving scores are 14th nationally.
Moore is a three-year starter who ranks second on the team in tackles with 88. He has two interceptions, seven pass break-ups and two forced fumbles on the year and was named MAC West Defensive Player of the Week for his performance versus Ohio when he made seven tackles, broke up two passes, intercepted one and forced a fumble.