Jeffs Earn Defensive Player, Coach of the Year Honors

Mike Taylor '10 is the first Lord Jeff to earn NESCAC Defensive Player of the Year honors since 2001.

AMHERST, MA – Amherst College was well represented when the NESCAC announced today the members of its 2009 Football All-Conference Teams. The Lord Jeffs featured the Defensive Player of the Year and Coach of the Year, in addition to seven student-athletes who were named to an All-Conference First or Second Team.

Highlighting Amherst’s honorees is senior inside linebacker Mike Taylor (Evanston, IL), who was named the conference’s top defensive player in addition to being selected to the First Team. As the leader of the NESCAC’s best defensive unit, Taylor became the first Lord Jeff to earn Defensive Player of the Year honors since lineman Pat McGee ’02.

Taylor led Amherst in tackles for a second consecutive year, with his 89 takedowns (47 solo) besting his previous high of 59 and ranking second in the NESCAC. Taylor also led the conference in forced fumbles (3) and finished tied for fifth in tackles for loss (11.0), adding 4.0 sacks, five pass breakups and a fumble recovery. A two-time NESCAC Defensive Player of the Week honoree in 2009, Taylor’s best performance came at Tufts when he recorded 16 tackles, 3.0 TFL, 2.0 sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery while helping hold the Jumbos to -15 rushing yards.

Earning a spot on the All-NESCAC First Team for a second consecutive year were linemen Eric Pender (Drexel Hill, PA) and Edwin Urey (Quincy, MA). The duo was part of a unit that allowed only three rushing touchdowns and is currently leading all of Division III in rushing defense (50.9 ypg). Urey ranked second in the NESCAC in sacks (8.0) and TFL (13.0) this year, adding six breakups and a forced fumble. Pender had 38 tackles, 5.0 sacks, 7.0 TFL, three breakups and a fumble recovery, with the two players combining for 27.0 sacks in their careers.

Also earning First Team honors is senior defensive back Fred Argir (Lakeville, MN). Argir at one point led all of Division III in passes defended per game, thanks in large part to back-to-back two-interception games. In addition to leading the conference in interceptions (6) and passes defended (14), Argir’s 57 tackles ranked in the top 20. His biggest interception came at Williams when he opened the fourth quarter with a remarkable pick that led to Amherst’s eventual game-winning touchdown drive. Days later, the New England Football Writer's released the Division II/III All-New England Team, selecting Urey, Taylor and Argir to its ranks.

Rounding out Amherst’s First Team selections is offensive lineman Wyatt Moss (Westport, CT). The Lord Jeffs lost a significant amount of talent from last year’s o-line that allowed a mere five sacks, but this year’s group surrendered a conference-low eight sacks despite Moss being the lone returning starter. Moss provided valuable senior leadership to an incredibly young line that averaged 79.1 rushing yards per game and was the NESCAC’s lone group to allow fewer than 10 sacks.

Fred Argir '10 led the NESCAC in interceptions (6) and passes defended (14).

Helping to represent Amherst’s offense is junior wide receiver Brian Murphy (Evanston, IL), who earned a spot on the All-NESCAC Second Team. The Lord Jeffs featured a very deep receiving core this year, but Murphy stood out as the team’s leader in receptions (41), yards (374) and touchdowns (4), marking the second consecutive season he has been Amherst’s leader in receiving yards. Murphy has caught 71 passes for 692 yards and six touchdowns in his career, but his biggest play came in the 2009 finale at Williams when he made it a 26-14 game in the fourth quarter by making a heads-up play on a deflected pass. Murphy finished seventh in the NESCAC in receptions per game (5.12).

Rounding out Amherst’s All-Conference honorees is Second Team selection Jeff Katz (Cheshire, CT). A transfer student from Lafayette, Katz made an immediate impact on a linebacker unit that took a big hit with the loss of an exceptional Class of 2009. Katz was an instant success, earning NESCAC Defensive Player of the Week honors for recording 3.5 sacks and a safety in a win over Colby. Katz finished the season with 38 tackles (19 solo), 12.5 TFL (4th NESCAC), four pass breakups, a forced fumble, safety and interception, while his 8.0 sacks were tied for the most in the conference. Katz is expected to return as a leader on defense next year with a season of Division III experience under his belt.

It should come as no surprise that E.J. Mills was the unanimous choice for NESCAC Coach of the Year, marking the first time he has been honored by the conference. Mills had led the Lord Jeffs to three 7-1 seasons before this year’s squad finished at a perfect 8-0 for the first time since 1984. Amherst also earned its first win over Trinity since 2001, its first victory over Middlebury since 2005 and its first win at Williams since 1985. This was Mills’ 17th season on the Lord Jeff coaching staff and the 13th as head coach, as he has posted an impressive 74-30 (.712) record since his 1997 head coaching debut.

Known for having one of the top defensive minds in the NESCAC, Mills helped lead a defense that is currently leading all of Division III in sacks per game (4.75) and rushing defense (50.9). The Lord Jeffs also led the NESCAC in scoring defense (10.4 ppg), turnover margin (+9), pass efficiency defense (95.9) and sacks (38). This is the second consecutive year Mills and the Jeffs have led the conference with four All-NESCAC First Team selections on defense.

A complete list of the 2009 Football All-NESCAC honorees can be found on the NESCAC website.