WACO, Texas – Baylor football head coach Dave Aranda is the Big 12 Coach of the Year and Jalen Pitre is the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, as announced by the Associated Press on Thursday.
Along with BU’s two individual award winners, eight Bears were named to the AP All-Big 12 first- or second-team, including Terrel Bernard (first-team linebacker), Trestan Ebner (first-team all-purpose), Connor Galvin (first-team offensive tackle), Siaki Ika (first-team defensive tackle), Pitre (first-team safety), Jacob Gall (second-team center), Abram Smith (second-team running back) and Tyquan Thornton (second-team wide receiver).
Aranda led the Bears to an 11-2 season and a berth in the Allstate Sugar Bowl after defeating then-No. 5 Oklahoma State, 21-16, in the 2021 Big 12 Championship.
Despite being picked to finish eighth in the conference in the preseason media poll, Aranda tied for the nation’s second-best turnaround with nine more wins following last season’s 2-7 mark.
In just his second year in Waco, Aranda brought the Bears to a No. 6 ranking in the AP poll and the No. 7 spot in the final College Football Playoff rankings.
Pitre led the league with 17.5 tackles for loss as part of his 70 total tackles on the year. He also added three forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, 2.5 sacks, two interceptions and seven pass breakups.
A Jim Thorpe Award finalist, Pitre is the nation’s only player to record at least three fumble recoveries, three forced fumbles and two interceptions in 2021.
He joins James Lynch (2019) as the only Bears to be named AP Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.Bernard led the Bears with 86 total tackles and ranked sixth in the league with 6.9 tackles per game. He contributed 10.5 tackles for loss and added 5.5 sacks, moving up Baylor’s all-time leaderboard to fifth in career sacks with 14.5.
Bernard earned Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week honors on Nov. 15, after his performance against Oklahoma. His four career Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week awards are the most in program history.
Ebner ranked fourth in the Big 12 in all-purpose yards per game with 129.6 and tallied 638 total return yards on the season. In addition to returning kicks and punts, the senior from Henderson, Texas, rushed for a career-high 763 yards, racked up 284 receiving yards and scored a total of five touchdowns. His 98-yard kick return for a touchdown against Iowa State earned him Special Teams Player of the Week honors.
Galvin started all 13 games for the Bears at left tackle and led BU’s O-Line unit that was named a Joe Moore Award Semifinalist. His performance has been crucial in revamping Baylor’s ground game as the Bears have increased their rushing output by 138 percent from last season in averaging 214.7 yards per game, up from 90.3 yards per game last season.
Galvin and BU placed third in the conference and ranked 23rd nationally with just 18 sacks allowed.Ika was a stalwart on the defensive front all season long for the Bears, recording 19 total tackles, 6.0 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. He totaled four quarterback hurries, deflected one pass and constantly freed up holes for the BU defense.
Gall started all 13 games at center in his first season at Baylor and helped revitalize BU’s rushing attack, springing the Bears to a Big 12-best 214.7 rushing yards per game. Baylor’s 5.26 yards per rush ranked 16th in the nation. Additionally, BU placed 29th nationally with 6.37 yards per play.
Smith ran for 1,429 yards in 2021, the second-most by a Bear in program history. He was second in the league in total rushing yards and placed third with 109.9 rush yards per game. His 12 rushing TDs were the fourth-most by a Big 12 running back.
Thornton tallied 946 receiving yards, good for third in the Big 12, and added a career-high nine TDs. He ranked second in the league and 24th in the country with nine touchdowns and his 72.8 receiving yards per game earned him a spot inside the nation’s top-50.
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