WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Several Purdue Boilermakers earned All-Big Ten recognition as the league office announced the first half (defense, special teams) of all-conference awards Tuesday afternoon on BTN. Sophomore Nic Scourton and true freshman Dillon Thieneman were both named Second Team All-B1G by the conference’s coaches, while Tyrone Tracy Jr. was tabbed Third Team All-B1G as a return specialist. Three Purdue defenders earned honorable mention: Kydran Jenkins, Sanoussi Kane and Isaiah Nichols.
Scourton and Thieneman have been anchors in the Purdue defense all season long. Scourton leads the Big Ten with 10.0 sacks, ranking eighth nationally and the most by a Boilermaker since Ryan Kerrigan (2012). He has 2.5 more sacks than any other Big Ten defender, looking to become just the second Boilermaker to lead the conference in sacks alongside Kerrigan once again (2009, 2010). Eight of Scourton’s sacks occurred in Big Ten play, another league best.
Along with his sacks, Scourton has also been a conference leader in tackles-for-loss. He averaged 1.4 TFLs per game to rank second in the Big Ten and 14th nationally. Despite only playing 11 games, missing the Northwestern matchup due to injury, Scourton made 15.0 TFLs for the third most in the league. With a career-high 3.5 TFLs at Virginia Tech (Sept. 9), the sophomore helped the Boilermakers win the first game of the Ryan Walters era.
Scourton made a personal-best 10 tackles at Nebraska (Oct. 28) before recording a pair of sacks at No. 3 Michigan (Nov. 3) for the first multi-sack game of his career. The Bryan, Texas, native added two more sacks in the season finale against Indiana (Nov. 25), including one on the final defensive play of the game to secure the victory and Purdue’s possession of the Old Oaken Bucket.
Thieneman was the only Big Ten freshman defender to make one of the three all-league teams. The Westfield, Indiana, native led the Boilermakers with 106 tackles, ranking fifth in the conference, including 74 solo tackles. Thieneman’s 6.2 solo tackles per game rank third in the country among all defenders. The 74 solo tackles set a new Purdue freshman record, breaking College Football Hall of Famer Rod Woodson’s mark of 67 that stood for 40 years. Thieneman led the Boilermakers in tackles eight times throughout his debut season, while cracking double digits in four of them.
Thieneman also ranks second in the country and leads the Big Ten with six interceptions, the most by a Boilermaker since Ricardo Allen recorded six in 2013. He became just the eighth Boilermaker to tally six picks in a season, while becoming the only freshman to reach that mark. His two INTs in the Old Oaken Bucket Game gave him the freshman single-season record, surpassing Stuart Schweigert’s season total of five.
In terms of freshmen, Thieneman leads the nation’s first-year players in tackles (106), solo tackles (74), interceptions (6) and forced fumbles (2). His six INTs were twice as many as the next nearest freshmen. Thieneman earned five Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors throughout the 2023 season; he became the first Big Ten defender in conference history, regardless of class, to collect five weekly conference accolades in a single season.
Ending his collegiate career and second year as a Boilermaker, Tracy had a breakout season to earn third team honors as a return specialist. The Indianapolis native showcased his versatility by transitioning from wide receiver to running back at the start of the year, while also leading the Purdue return game. Tracy tallied 1,270 all-purpose yards, including 408 kick return yards, to rank second in the conference in both categories. Averaging 25.5 yards per return, Tracy finished with the 11th-best kickoff return average in Purdue history and the highest since Akeem Hunt in 2013 (26.1).
To start the season, Tracy took the opening second half kickoff 98 yards to the end zone for his first career kickoff return touchdown. He became one of only three Big Ten players to return a kickoff for a touchdown this season. Tracy’s touchdown return was Purdue’s first since Raheem Mostert took a 100-yard return to pay dirt at Penn State in 2013. It was the first kickoff return for a score at Ross-Ade Stadium since Akeem Hunt went 99 yards against Indiana State, also in 2013.
On the opposite side of Scourton, Jenkins was a dominating force in Walters’ defense and one of the best defensive players in the conference. He led the Boilermakers with 15.5 TFLs, ranking second in this Big Ten and 18th nationally, while also sitting second in sacks (7.5) behind Scourton. Jenkins had arguably the best game of his career at Nebraska (Oct. 28), recording career highs in TFLs (4.5) and sacks (2.0) while forcing a fumble and returning it 55 yards for his first career touchdown. The 4.5 TFLs against Nebraska was the most by a Boilermaker since Gelen Robinson recorded 5.5 TFLs against Nebraska exactly six years to the day (Oct. 28, 2017).
After leading the Boilermakers in tackles a season ago with 72, Kane made 79 stops this year to rank second on the team this season behind Thieneman and 15th in the Big Ten averaging 6.6 per game. The team captain paced Purdue with seven pass breakups and added 6.0 TFLs, third on the team behind B1G leaders Jenkins and Scourton. He forced a fumble to in a victory at Virginia Tech (Sept. 9) and made a career-high 10 tackles at Nebraska (Oct. 28).
In his only season as a Boilermaker, Nichols made an instant impact. The Arkansas transfer started all 12 games on the Purdue defensive line, registering 20 tackles. Statistically, his best game was the victory over Virginia Tech (Sept. 9) in which he made four tackles with a pair of TFLs and one sack. Throughout 2023, Nichols helped clog the middle of the field to limit opponents on the ground.
The Big Ten will announce additional all-league honors and awards Wednesday (Nov. 29) on BTN.
All-Big Ten Boilermakers (Defense and Special Teams)
Nic Scourton – Second Team (Coaches, Media)
Dillon Thieneman – Second Team (Coaches), Third Team (Media)
Tyrone Tracy Jr. (Returner) – Third Team (Coaches), Honorable Mention (Media)
Sanoussi Kane – Honorable Mention (Coaches, Media)
Kydran Jenkins – Honorable Mention (Coaches, Media)
Isaiah Nichols – Honorable Mention (Coaches)