IOWA CITY, Iowa – Two University of Iowa football student-athletes – junior Cooper DeJean and senior Tory Taylor – were recognized with Big Ten Conference positional player of the year awards.
DeJean (pictured above) was named the Tatum-Woodson Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year and the Rodgers-Dwight Big Ten Return Specialist of the Year, while Taylor was recognized as the Eddleman-Fields Punter of the Year.
The Hawkeyes had a total of 12 players earn all-conference recognition on defense and special teams. The conference office will announce the offensive honors Wednesday.
DeJean was tabbed first-team All-Big Ten as a defensive back and return specialist by both league head coaches and voting media. Joining DeJean with first-team accolades are LB Jay Higgins (coaches; media) and Taylor (coaches; media). DB Sebastian Castro was second team (media) and honorable mention by the coaches. Three Hawkeyes earned third-team all-conference recognition: DE Joe Evans (media), LB Nick Jackson (media) and PK Drew Stevens (coaches) with each player being recognized as honorable mention by the other voting group.
Iowa had four additional players garner honorable mention recognition, including DL Yahya Black (coaches; media); DL Deontae Craig (media); DL Logan Lee (coaches; media); DB Quinn Schulte (coaches; media).
DeJean is the sixth Hawkeye to be voted the Tatum-Woodson Defensive Back of the Year since the award was introduced in 2011. Other honorees include: Micah Hyde (2012), Desmond King (2015), Josh Jackson (2016), Amani Hooker (2017) and Riley Moss (2021). DeJean joins former Hawkeyes Ihmir Smith-Marsette (2018) and Charlie Jones (2021) as winners of the Rodgers-Dwight Big Ten Return Specialist of the Year.
Taylor was named the Eddleman-Fields Punter of the Year for a second time, having previously won the award as a freshman in 2020. He is the first punter in league history to earn the distinction more than once.
DeJean was one of top defensive players in the nation before going down with a season-ending injury in Week 12. The Odebolt, Iowa, native had 41 tackles, two TFL, two interceptions and five pass breakups in 10 games. He didn’t allow a touchdown pass in nearly 400 snaps in coverage in 2023.
As a punt returner, DeJean was one of the nation’s best. He had a 70-yard punt return for a game-winning touchdown against Michigan State and he had a second touchdown return for the game-winning score negated because of an “illegal fair catch” penalty against Minnesota. DeJean leads the Big Ten and ranks 14th nationally, averaging 11.5 yards per return.
Taylor leads the Big Ten and ranks third nationally with a 47.7-yard punting average on 79 punts – the most in FBS – in 2023. The Australian has boomed 31 punts 50 or more yards (five punts of 60+), 26 have been fair caught and 29 have been downed inside the 20, 11 inside the 10 and six inside the 5. Taylor, who set the Iowa single-season punt yardage mark for a third straight season and both the career punts and career yardage records, only has five touchbacks in 2023.
Higgins has been a tackling machine for Iowa’s defense, racking up 141 tackles – the most in the Big Ten, the third-most nationally (most by a Power 5 player) and the sixth-most in a single season in school history. The Indianapolis native has led the team in tackles in 10 of 12 games with two 15+ tackle games and eight games with 10 or more stops.
Castro has 52 tackles, nine tackles for loss, one sack and a team-best three interceptions out of the CASH position. The Illinois native had a 30-yard pick six in Iowa’s road win at Iowa State and he had the game-sealing interception in the road win at Wisconsin.
Evans earns All-Big Ten honors for a second straight year after accumulating 41 tackles and team-bests in sacks (5.5) and TFL (9.5) during the regular season. The Ames, Iowa, native has 24 career sacks, which are tied for the sixth-most in a single season in school history.
Nick Jackson garners his second straight all-conference nod (first in the Big Ten) after earning second-team All-ACC honors in 2022. The Georgia native has 91 tackles in 2023 to rank second on the team and eighth in the Big Ten. He also has accumulated eight TFL, four sacks, two forced fumbles and seven hurries in his first season as a Hawkeye.
Stevens has made 18-of-26 field goal attempts during his sophomore season, including a four-field goal game in the win over Michigan State and a three-field goal contest in the victory over Rutgers. The South Carolina native also drilled a 53-yard game-winner with 14 seconds remaining in the road win at Northwestern.
Black, Craig and Lee have each started every game on the defensive line in 2023, while Schulte has been the leader of Iowa’s defensive secondary throughout the season.
Black has 46 tackles, four TFL and a forced fumble that resulted in a safety at Wisconsin, Craig has 48 tackles, four TFL and two sacks, and Lee has 49 tackles, 4.5 TFL and two sacks. Lee also blocked a field goal in the road win at Iowa State.
Schulte has 59 tackles as Iowa’s free safety, which are third-most on the team. The Cedar Rapids, Iowa, native also has 2.5 TFL, three pass breakups and one interception, which came in the shutout victory over Rutgers.
Iowa’s defense has been one of the nation’s best in 2023, ranking fourth nationally with a 12.2 scoring defense. The Hawkeyes have allowed one touchdown or less in 10 of their 12 games this season. The 12.2 scoring average would be the best for the program since 1981.
Iowa is the Big Ten West Division champion for the second time in three years. The Iowa Hawkeyes will face No. 2 Michigan Wolverines in the Big Ten Championship Game on Saturday at 7:15 p.m. (CT) at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. The game will be televised on FOX.