PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Five Syracuse University seniors were rewarded with All-BIG EAST honors Thursday, Dec. 6 when the conference announced its major award winners and football all-conference teams. Receiver Alec Lemon, offensive tackle Justin Pugh and safety Shamarko Thomas were named to the first team. Senior Quarterback Ryan Nassib and defensive end Brandon Sharpe were selected on the second team.
Voting for the individual awards and all-conference teams was conducted by the league's eight head coaches following the conclusion of the regular season. Coaches were not permitted to vote for their own players.
An All-BIG EAST Second Team selection last year, Lemon was the only offensive player unanimously named to the 2012 first team. He leads the conference in receptions per game (6.4) and receiving yards per game (96.6). Lemon has a school-record 70 receptions for 1,063 yards and seven touchdowns this season, including five 100-yard receiving games. Against Missouri on Nov. 17, Lemon caught 12 passes for a career-high 244 yards and two TDs to lead the Orange to a come-from-behind win against the Tigers.
This is Pugh's third straight all-conference selection, and his second consecutive first-team nod. After missing the first four games of the year with an injury, he returned to the Syracuse lineup to anchor an offensive line that as has paved the way for 1,000-yard rusher Jerome Smith. In addition, the Orange is averaging 171.8 yards per game on the ground, the team's best rushing output since 2004. Pugh and the rest of the SU front five have allowed just 14 sacks this season or one every 32.1 pass attempts.
Thomas has started all 12 games at safety and he is the Orange's top tackler with 84 stops. He also leads the team with three forced fumbles and has two interceptions on the year. For his career, Thomas is sixth among Orange defensive backs with 259 total tackles.
Nassib leads the BIG EAST in total offense (312.3 yards per game) and passing (301.6 yards per game). In addition, he set the Orange single-season records for attempts (448), completions (283), yards (3,619) and touchdowns (24) in 2012. Nassib has accumulated 3,748 yards of total offense this year, another SU season record, and he has recorded six 300-yard passing games.
Sharpe ranks third in the league with six sacks and he is tied for fourth in the BIG EAST with a team-leading 13.5 tackles for a loss. Against Pittsburgh Sharpe had one of the most dominating games for an SU defensive lineman recent memory, finishing with seven tackles, including six for a loss and four sacks. Overall, Sharpe has 35 tackles.
The conference's major awards went to Louisville, Rutgers and Temple. Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was tabbed BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Year, and Cardinal head coach Charlie Strong shared conference coach of the year honors with Rutgers' Kyle Flood. Rutgers linebacker Khaseem Greene was voted BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year. Temple took home the final two awards with running back Matt Brown and linebacker Tyler Matekevich winning BIG EAST Special Teams Player of the Year and BIG EAST Rookie of the Year, respectively.
Syracuse will face West Virginia in the 2012 New Era Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 29 at Yankee Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:15 p.m. on ESPN. Tickets and travel packages for the game are available now at SUathletics.com/bowlcentral.
**Courtesy SU Athletics**