Linebacker Michael Mauti endured multiple knee injuries. Wide receiver Allen Robinson caught just three passes last season. Defensive tackle Jordan Hill started college as a two-star recruit from a Class A high school.
The resilient trio landed on the same prestigious teams Monday night.
Big Ten coaches and media tabbed Mauti, Robinson and Hill as first-team All-Big Ten selections. The trio highlight Penn State’s six first-team selections.
Center Matt Stankiewitch and guard John Urschel were first-team coaches selection. The media named Kyle Carter as its first-team tight end.
Mauti and Robinson were also honored as the conference’s top players at their positions. Mauti received the Butkus-Fitzgerald Linebacker of the Year Award and Robinson earned the Richter-Howard Receiver of the Year Award.
Mauti, a fifth-year senior, returned from an ACL injury he suffered last year against Eastern Michigan to collect 96 tackles and a team-high three interceptions in 11 games. Mauti, who also suffered an ACL tear in 2009, missed last weekend’s season finale because of a knee injury he sustained Week 11 against Indiana. The extent of his most recent knee injury has not been revealed.
“What’s jumped out is his intensity, his leadership and his passion,” Big Ten Network analyst Gerry DiNardo said on the network’s show unveiling the all-conference teams. “You obviously know he’s a big part of the Penn State defense.”
After playing a minor role in Penn State’s offense as a true freshman last season, Robinson blossomed into the Big Ten’s top receiver, catching a conference-high 1,018 yards and 77 receptions and 11 touchdowns. Robinson joined Bobby Engram as the second Penn State receiver to reach 1,000 receiving yards in a season.
“It’s been a pretty rough journey, I guess,” Robinson said in a Big Ten Network interview. “I wouldn’t say too rough, just like a lot of days in the spring and summer. It’s been a fun journey, actually.”
Hill, a senior from District 3 Steelton-Highspire High School, ended his solid four-year career by making 29 starts. As a senior, he collected 64 tackles, including 4 1/2 sacks. Hill is the 12th Penn State defensive linemen to earn first-team All-Big Ten honors since Larry Johnson took over as defensive line coach in 2000.
“It means a lot, not only to me, but to the whole defensive line,” Hill said in an interview posted on Penn State’s football website. “It really says a lot to who we are, a lot about Coach ‘J’ and how he coaches us. I’m just another one of the defensive linemen Penn State adds to the wall.”
Penn State’s productive offensive line was rewarded with Stankiewitch and Urschel’s selection to the coaches team. Stankiewitch, a senior center, was the only returning starter on the line. Urschel, a junior, won the starting right guard spot in spring drills and never surrendered the position. The duo helped Penn State average 29.1 points per game. The Nittany Lions averaged 19.3 points per game last season. Stankiewitch and Urschel were named second-team all-conference selections by the media.
Carter, a redshirt freshman, led Big Ten tight ends with 36 catches for 453 yards despite missing the final three games because of a wrist injury. He led a group of Penn State tight ends that combined to catch 82 passes for 1,090 yards. Carter was an honorable mention selection by the coaches.
Senior linebacker Gerald Hodges was a consensus second-team selection. Hodges led the Nittany Lions with 109 tackles in 12 games.
Defensive ends Deion Barnes and Sean Stanley, cornerbacks Stephon Morris and Adrian Amos, quarterback Matt McGloin, offensive lineman Mike Farrell and running back Zach Zwinak were honorable mention selections by the media.
Wisconsin running back Montee Ball, Michigan State running back Le’Veon Bell, Wisconsin wide receiver Jared Abbrederis, Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan, Wisconsin tackle Rick Wagner, Nebraska guard Spencer Long, Ohio State defensive end John Simon, Purdue defensive tackle Kawann Short, Iowa defensive back Micah Hyde and Ohio State defensive back Bradley Roby joined Mauti, Robinson and Hill as first-team selections.
Penn State has earned 38 first-team All-Big Ten selections since 2005.
The conference will announce its coach of the year, offensive and defensive players of the year and freshman of the year awards at 7 p.m. tonight on the Big Ten Network.
Hill, Ficken receive weekly awardsHill and sophomore kicker Sam Ficken received Big Ten player of the week awards for their performances in a 24-21 overtime victory over Wisconsin.
Hill collected eight tackles, including three for losses, to earn defensive player of the week honors. His play helped Penn State hold Wisconsin to seven points in the final 46 minutes of regulation. Hill won the weekly award twice this season. He also received the honor for his performance at Iowa on Oct. 20.
Ficken went 3-for-3 on field goals and hit a game-winning 37-yarder in overtime against the Badgers. He also kicked 23- and 32-yard field goals in the third quarter. After a rough start, Ficken converted his final 10 field goals this season.
Follow Guy Cipriano on Twitter @cdtguy.