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December 6, 2012

Six Pitt players named to All-Big East teams

The 2012 All-Big East teams were announced Thursday, and in Pitt's final season in the conference, six of the Panthers were among the league's best players.

Senior running back Ray Graham and junior defensive tackle Aaron Donald were both named to the All-Big East first team, while redshirt senior receiver Mike Shanahan, redshirt junior receiver Devin Street, redshirt senior center Ryan Turnley, and redshirt junior safety Jason Hendricks earned second-team honors.

Graham is now a two-time honoree on the all-conference first team. He was named to the first team in 2011 and repeated this season after ranking fourth in the conference in rushing with 1,042 yards, fourth in all-purpose yards with 1,382, and leading the Big East with 13 total touchdowns.

Donald also earned all-Big East honors for the second consecutive season, although in 2011 he was only a second-team selection. This year Donald was dominant: he ranked No. 5 in the Big East in sacks, led the conference in tackles for loss, and was among the league's top 25 in total tackles.

Graham and Donald were shoo-ins for the All-Big East first team, but Shanahan and Street weren't far behind as obvious selections. Both rank among the top four in the conference in receptions and receiving yards. Street's 66 receptions were second only to Syracuse receiver Alec Lemon, who was a unanimous first-team selection, and Lemon was also the only Big East receiver to have more than Shanahan's 926 receiving yards.

In addition to Lemon, Big East coaches voted Louisville's DeVante Parker onto the all-conference first team. Parker had fewer receptions and less receiving yards than Street or Shanahan.

Hendricks was also a curious second-team selection after leading the Big East in interceptions with five. Rutgers' Duron Harmon and Syracuse's Shamarko Thomas were the first-team choices; Hendricks averaged more tackles per game than Harmon and less than one tackle per game fewer than Thomas, while recording more interceptions and passes defended.

Most notable, though, was the absence of Tino Sunseri. Pitt's redshirt senior quarterback had his best season in three years as the Panthers' starter, throwing for 3,103 yards, 19 touchdowns and two interceptions. Sunseri ranked No. 3 in the Big East in passing yardage, No. 2 in passing efficiency, and No. 4 in passing touchdowns. Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater was the obvious selection as the first-team quarterback and the Big East Offensive Player of the Year, and the coaches opted for Syracuse's Ryan Nassib as the second-team quarterback.

Nassib's 3,619 yards and 24 touchdowns topped Sunseri's 3,103 and 19, but Sunseri had a higher pass efficiency rating.

Of the 52 players named to the All-Big East first and second teams, Louisville, Cincinnati, Rutgers, and Connecticut each placed eight, the most of any school in the conference. Temple had seven selections, Pitt had six, and Syracuse and South Florida each had five.

Cincinnati and Rutgers had the most first-team selections with five each, while Connecticut, Temple, and Syracuse each had three, Pitt had two, and USF had one. Of UConn's three first-team selections, none were on offense.

Rutgers linebacker Khaseem Greene was named Big East Defensive Player of the Year for the second consecutive season, Temple running back Matt Brown was named Special Teams Player of the Year, Temple linebacker Tyler Matakevich was named Rookie of the Year, and Rutgers' Kyle Flood and Louisville's Charlie Strong shared Coach of the Year honors.

Pitt finished the 2012 regular season 6-6 overall and 3-4 in the Big East. The Panthers will face Ole Miss in the BBVA Compass Bowl, which will be played in Birmingham, Ala., on Jan. 5.

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