LAWRENCE, Kan. (KU) – Pooka Williams Jr., was named the Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year and also picked up All-Big 12 First Team honors as both a running back and kick returner, joining seniors linebacker Joe Dineen Jr., and defensive lineman Daniel Wise as the Big 12 Conference awards were announced Wednesday. Williams, Dineen and Wise led the way as Kansas football had a total of 11 members of the program pick up all-conference honors as voted on by the 10 league coaches.
A New Orleans native, Williams is the first Jayhawk to garner Freshman Offensive Player of the Year honors and is also the first KU freshman to be named All-Big 12 First Team at any position. One of the most explosive players in the league with 15 carries of 20+ yards, Williams rushed for a total of 1,125 yards on 161 carries, good for 102.3 yards per game, 7.0 yards per carry and seven rushing touchdowns. He added 289 yards and two scores on 33 receptions and 246 yards on 11 kick returns to lead the Big 12 and rank sixth in the FBS in all-purpose yards at 150.9 per game. Williams also threw for a touchdown—a nine-yard pass against Oklahoma.
Williams is one of two players in the Big 12 Conference to record a 100-yard rushing game (4) and a 100-yard receiving game (1) joining TCU's Jalen Reagor. He is also one of only two players in the league to score a touchdown by way of passing, rushing and receiving in 2018 joining Texas' Lil' Jordan Humphrey and is one of just three true freshman in Big 12 history to accomplish the feat.
Williams' 1,125 rushing yards tie him for eighth place in KU's single-season history books, ranking him second among Jayhawk freshmen on that list. His 252 rushing yards at Oklahoma rank sixth in KU's single-game records, while his 16.8 yards per carry against the Sooners was both a Big 12 Conference and Kansas record for a game with a minimum of 15 carries. His 1,660 all-purpose yards rank third on KU's single-season list.
Williams was tabbed the Big 12 Conference's Newcomer of the Week on four occasions during the 2018 season. He is the one of just two Jayhawk running backs to be tabbed All-Big 12 First Team, joining Jon Cornish (2006). He is also one of just two Kansas returners to earn All-Big 12 First Team accolades, joining Charles Gordon (2005).
A Lawrence, Kansas, native, Dineen closes out his Jayhawk career leading the Big 12 Conference in tackles for the second-consecutive year—just the second player in conference history to do so joining Texas Tech's Lawrence Flugence (2001, 2002, 2003). Dineen turned in a career-best 147 tackles, which ranks sixth on KU's single-season chart. His 12.3 stops per game in 2018 also ranks fourth in the FBS.
For the second-straight season, Dineen led the FBS and the Big 12 Conference in solo tackles with 108 during his senior campaign. Dineen collected 11 tackles-for-loss in 2018, giving him a KU-record 45.5 in his career, making him both the single-season TFL record-holder (25.0 in 2017) and career record-holder. Additionally, Dineen's 391 career-tackles rank fourth in Kansas history.
Dineen was honored by the league coaches as a first-team member for the first time in his career after earning All-Big 12 Second Team honors in 2017. He was tabbed Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week twice during his senior season. Dineen is currently a Senior CLASS Award finalist, a Jason Witten Man of the Year semifinalist and a Lott IMPACT Trophy Semifinalist after picking up its weekly award one time this season and being a weekly award nominee three other weeks. He was named Midseason First Team All-America by Sports Illustrated, an Academic All-Big 12 First Team honoree and a finalist for the Pop Warner Little Scholars Collegiate Player of the Year.
Wise earned All-Big 12 First Team honors for the second-consecutive season, becoming the first Jayhawk to do so since Aqib Talib in 2006-07 and is the only KU defensive lineman to earn back-to-back first-team honors since the inception of the Big 12. A native of Lewisville, Texas, Wise led the Jayhawk defense with 12.5 TFLs in 2018. His career total of 44.0 tackles behind the line scrimmage rank second in KU history, just 1.5 behind Dineen.
Wise led KU in sacks in 2018 with 5.0, while he added five quarterback hurries and 34 total tackles as a senior. In addition to concluding his career at Kansas ranked second in TFLs, Wise ranks sixth in sacks with 18.5. His 16.0 TFLs in 2017 rank 10th in KU single-season history, while his 7.0 sacks in 2017 also rank 10th on KU's single-season charts.
Williams, Dineen and Wise give KU three All-Big 12 First Team honorees for the first time since 2014 when linebacker Ben Heeney, punter Trevor Pardula and cornerback JaCorey Shepherd each earned a first-team nod from the conference coaches.
In addition to the trio of first-team honorees, KU junior offensive lineman Hakeem Adeniji and sophomore punter Kyle Thompson each were tabbed to the All-Big 12 Second Team.
A native of Garland, Texas, Adeniji picked up All-Big 12 Second Team honors for the first time in his career after being recognized as an honorable mention honoree during his first two seasons as a Jayhawk. Adeniji started all 12 games at left tackle for KU, helping pave the way for Williams' outstanding all-purpose performance.
Thompson, who hails from El Cajon, California, was the Big 12's top punter in 2018, averaging 43.3 yards per punt. He recorded 17 kicks of 50 yards or longer and dropped 26 of his punts inside the opponent's 20-yard line. Thompson turned in a career-long 76-yard punt in KU's season-finale against Texas.
Four Jayhawks picked up honorable mention nods from the conference coaches in senior kicker Gabriel Rui and juniors defensive backs Hasan Defense, Mike Lee and Bryce Torneden. Additionally, both Wise and Dineen earned honorable mention honors for Defensive Player of the Year (Dineen) and Defensive Lineman of the Year (Wise), while freshman cornerback Corione Harris was honorable mention Defensive Freshman of the Year and sophomore wide receiver Stephon Robinson was honorable mention Offensive Newcomer of the Year.
Overall Kansas football had 11 players recognized with 15 honors, its most players honored since it had 11 recognized in 2016 and its most honors since it had 17 honors in 2005.