Six Syracuse players, including three defenders, were named to All-ACC teams on Tuesday morning.
Nykeim Johnson led the way, earning Second Team All-ACC honors as a return specialist. Wide receiver Taj Harris, punter Nolan Cooney and cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu were named to the third team, while cornerback Garrett Williams and linebacker Mikel Jones were honorable mention selections.
— Syracuse Football (@CuseFootball) December 22, 2020
Johnson was second in the ACC in kick return average (23.2 yards per return) and his 14.1 yards per return in the punt game led the ACC for players with 10-or-more returns on the season. That number would rank fifth nationally had he taken one more return to meet the 1.2 returns per game requirement to qualify for the statistical category.
Harris was fifth in the ACC in receptions per game (5.8), continuing the tradition under head coach Dino Babers of a player finishing in the top-five in the category in each season he’s been at Syracuse. He was sixth in receiving yards per game (73.3). He’ll begin the 2021 season ranked sixth in program history in career catches (135) tied with Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison.
Melifonwu, who earned AP Second Team All-ACC honors yesterday, finished his junior season tied for sixth in the ACC in passes defended (10) and fifth in the league in breakups (9). At 5.0 tackles per game, he was third among corners in the ACC. He and Williams were the seventh-highest graded cornerback duo in FBS football this season. He will will forgo his final season of eligibility and declared for the NFL Draft last week, accepted an invitation to the Senior Bowl over the weekend.
Cooney earned Pro Football Focus Honorable Mention All-America honors on Monday and was also the recipient of the Brian Piccolo Award, was third in the ACC in net punting (44.8). He booted 74 punts on the season, 25 were 50+ yards, 24 were downed inside the 20 and just three were touchbacks.
Williams was the ACC leader in passes defended and was third in ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year voting, despite only receiving honorable mention honors. He ranks seventh nationally in passes defended and second among rookies. He’s also tied for the ACC lead with 10 pass breakups. One of 10 players in the ACC to return an interception for a touchdown this season, Williams is the only player to have a pick-six against Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence in his career.
Jones is the only player in the nation to be part of eight separate turnovers this season. He is tied for the ACC lead with four interceptions, which ties for fifth in the FBS and first among linebackers. He also led the team with 69 tackles and had a takeaway in seven of Syracuse’s 11 games this season.