By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
SALEM, Ore. -- The top two defensive players on the Willamette University tackle chart in football have earned First Team All-Northwest Conference recognition in voting by the NWC head coaches. Nick Brickous (Sr./Jr., SS, Mesa, AZ/Perry HS/U.S. Military Acad.), who led the Bearcats in tackles, and Nikk Ryan (Sr., DE, Oakdale, CA/Oakdale HS) who ranked second, were two of 13 players named First Team All-NWC on defense.
An additional 15 players were named to the First Team Offense. Another 14 offensive players and 14 defensive players who chosen for the second team. A total of 19 players were named to the Honorable Mention list. Overall, 75 players were included on the 2016 All-Northwest Conference Football Team.
Second Team selections for the Bearcats were Taylor Wyman (Sr., TB, Bellevue, WA/Issaquah HS) at running back and Sal Lopez (Jr., OG, Chandler, AZ/Hamilton HS) in the offensive line. Honorable Mention went to Willamette's Jordan Fickas (Jr., WR, Gilbert, AZ/Campo Verde HS) at wide receiver and Tyler Ropp (Sr., DT, Corvallis, OR/Santiam Christian HS) in the defensive line.
Quarterback Sam Riddle from Linfield College was chosen NWC Offensive Player of the Year. Linebacker Jack Perez of Pacific University was named NWC Defensive Player of the Year, and wide receiver Kobe Williams of Pacific was chosen NWC Freshman of the Year. Head Coach Joseph Smith of Linfield was voted NWC Coach of the Year.
Willamette finished the season with a 3-7 overall record, including 2-5 in the NWC. The Bearcats averaged 377.2 total yards per game, including 216.9 passing yards per contest. WU also averaged 160.3 rushing yards per game. On defense, the Bearcats limited George Fox University to just 293 total yards and held three other teams under 350 yards.
First Team All-Northwest Conference
Nick Brickous (Sr./Jr., SS) registered a team-high 68 total tackles this season. He also led the team with 44 unassisted tackles and 24 assists. He recorded 4.0 tackles for loss and 1.0 sack. He intercepted two passes which he returned 68 yards and 32 yards. The 68-yard return set up Willamette's first touchdown as the Bearcats rallied from a 21-0 deficit to defeat California Lutheran University, 28-24, on Sept. 17. He was named NWC Defensive Studen-Athlete of the Week after the win over CLU.
Brickous also broke up three passes and forced one fumble during the season. He started all 10 games for the Bearcats.
In three seasons since transferring from the U.S. Military Academy, Brickous has achieved 132 total tackles, including 80 unassisted stops. He has attained 7.0 tackles for loss and has broke up 14 passes. He has grabbed five interceptions.
Brickous earned First Team All-NWC honors for the first time this season. He was named Honorable Mention All-NWC in 2015.
Nikk Ryan (Sr., DE) was chosen First Team All-NWC for the second year in a row. This fall, Ryan provided the Bearcats with 49 total tackles, as he was credited with 33 solo tackles and 16 assists. He led the Bearcats with 13.5 tackles for losses of 34 yards. He was second on the team with 3.5 quarterback sacks.
In addition, Ryan topped the Bearcat statistics with four quarterback hurries. He broke up three passes and recovered one fumble.
As a four-year player at Willamette, Ryan amassed 125 tackles, with 79 unassisted tackles and 46 assists. During his junior and senior seasons, he recorded a total of 91 tackles (57 unassisted). His career statistics also include 28.5 tackles for losses of 96 yards, plus 8.5 quarterback sacks (38 yards lost), one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and one blocked kick. He was credited with a career-high 4.0 sacks as a junior in 2015.
Second Team All-Northwest Conference
Sal Lopez (Jr., OG) started all 10 games for the Bearcats this season on his way to being named Second Team All-NWC for the first time. Lopez and the rest of the offensive line supplied pass blocking that allowed the Bearcats to throw for 216.9 yards per game and 13 passing touchdowns. He also helped Willamette rush for 160.3 yards per game and an additional 16 touchdowns.
In three seasons with the Bearcats, Lopez has seen action in 24 games -- all starts. He started the first six games of 2015 before missing the final three games due to an injury. In 2014, he started eight games. Willamette averaged 413.4 total yards and 258.9 rushing yards in 2014. The Bearcats gained 350.4 total yards and 198.0 passing yards per game in 2015.
Taylor Wyman (Sr., TB) was selected Second Team All-NWC at running back for the second time after previously receiving the honor in 2013. He was named Honorable Mention All-NWC at punter in 2013.
This season, Wyman led the NWC with 1,037 rushing yards and 103.7 rushing yards per game. He scored seven rushing touchdowns. In addition, he caught 24 passes for 182 yards and two scores. He completed 2 of 2 passes for 66 yards. He rushed for more than 100 yards five times, including a career-high 214 yards on a career-high 29 carries against University of Puget Sound on Oct. 1.
Wyman finished his career with 2,027 rushing yards on 346 carries. He also gained 321 yards on 43 receptions. He registered 2,348 all-purpose yards at Willamette, including 1,219 yards this season.
As a punter, he averaged 38.2 yards for his career on 68 punts. He punted 10 times in 2016 for 33.1 yards per punt. He earned a career-high 40.4 yards per punt in 2013, when he had six punts of 50 or more yards. One of his punts went 66 yards -- one yard short of the school record -- against Lewis & Clark College on Oct. 19, 2013.
Honorable Mention All-Northwest Conference
Jordan Fickas (Jr., WR) caught a team-high 45 passes and led the Bearcats with 500 receiving yards. He scored two touchdowns. Fickas recorded a season high for the Bearcats when he hauled in 11 pases against Lewis & Clark on Oct. 29. He helped Willamette earn a team total of 2,169 passing yards during the season.
He gained a career-high 109 yards on eight catches against Pacific Lutheran on Oct. 8. He caught at least two passes in every game and had four or more catches five times.
Fickas played in nine of 10 games this year. In three years with the Bearcats, he has played in 19 games, including 17 of 19 games since the start of the 2015 season. He was chosen Honorable Mention All-NWC for the first time this fall.
Tyler Ropp (Sr., DT) received Honorable Mention All-NWC recognition for the first time this year. He started all 10 games and contributed 17 unassisted tackles and eight assists for 25 total tackles. He ranked third on the team with 5.0 tackles for loss and also earned 2.0 quarterback sacks.
In 2015, he produced 18 total tackles. He had 7.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 quarterback sacks to go with one forced fumble and two quarterback hurries.
During his WU career, Ropp played in all 37 games from 2013 through 2016. He stared 28 games, including 18 of 19 games as a junior and a senior. He provided the Bearcats with 84 total tackles, with 44 solo tackles and 40 assists. He attained 19.0 career tackles for losses of 50 yards. He recorded 7.0 quarterback sacks resulting in 34 yards in losses.