ROCK HILL, S.C. – The 2017 South Atlantic Conference Preseason All-Conference Football Teams were led by Catawba and Newberry who each placed seven student-athletes on the first teams, the League announced today. The teams are chosen by the League's Football Media Relations Directors.
Mars Hill placed four players on the 2017 team. Wide receiver Craig Rucker and offensive lineman Bryce King made the first team while wide receiver Keshaun Taylor and linebacker Jerjuan Edwards were second team picks.
Wingate placed four players on the first teams, while Carson-Newman put three student-athletes on the first teams. Tusculum, Lenoir-Rhyne, Limestone and Mars Hill rounded out the squads with two players each.
At the first-team quarterback position was Ivan Corbin of first year associate member Limestone. Corbin threw for 1,264 yards on 224 attempts. He connected on 12 touchdowns and averaged 126.4 yards per game. On the ground, Corbin racked up 179 yards and a pair of scores.
The running back corps consisted of Wingate's Lawrence Pittman and Blake Hayes and Antonio Wimbush of Carson-Newman. Hayes ranked No. 2 in the South Atlantic Conference with 100.8 yards per game and 14 touchdowns. Pittman led the SAC a season ago with 15 touchdowns before seeing his season end with an injury. In his six games played, Pittman racked up 811 yards and at one point in the season led Division II in rushing scores. Wimbush carried the ball for 941 yards and nine scores for the Eagles in 2016. His 85.5 yards per game was good for fourth in the Conference. Both Hayes and Wimbush posted first team All-SAC honors during the 2016 campaign.
Newberry's Markell Castle and Craig Rucker of Mars Hill highlight the trio of first team preseason wide receivers as each player earned first team honors during the 2016 season. Castle topped the SAC with 81.3 yards per game and 976 total receiving yards a season ago. He also hauled in seven scores to rank No. 2 in the League. Rucker was tabbed the 2016 SAC Offensive Freshman of the Year after leading the League with 10 scores to go along with 76.9 yards per game to rank No. 2 in the South Atlantic Conference.
Sam Mobley from Catawba rounded out the list of first team wide receivers. Mobley hauled in four touchdowns and amassed 663 yards of receiving a season ago.
The first team offensive line consisted of a pair of Wingate Bulldogs in Daniel Owens and Cabell Cantrell. Mars Hill's Bryce King, Quinzaious Sands of Catawba and Dakota Mozingo from Newberry closed out the first team preseason All-SAC offensive linemen. Owens and Sands earned first team All-SAC honors during the 2016 season.
At the tight end position, 2016 first team All-SAC Baptiste Staggers was named to the preseason All-SAC squad. Staggers hauled in 24 catches for 260 yards and four touchdowns during the 2016 season.
Tusculum's Jay Boyd was picked as the first-team return specialist as he posted 519 kickoff return yards for the Pioneers, including a 95 yard return for a score last season. He returned 20 kick offs to average 25.9 yards per return to earn first return specialist honors during the 2016 campaign.
Brennan Lambert from Catawba was tabbed the first-team placekicker, while teammate Ian O'Grady earned first-team long snapper honors.
Newberry posted a pair of players on the first team defensive line in Jamarcus Henderson and Josh Parker Catawba's Jordan Hemingway and Brian Bembry from Carson-Newman rounded out the list of first-team honorees.
Henderson was named first team defensive lineman during the 2016 season as he led the League with nine sacks. He finished the year with 65 total tackles and 20.5 tackles for loss. Parker closed his 2016 season out with 36 tackles, four tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. Hemingway turned in 34 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and one sack for the Catawba Indians in 2016, while Bembry combined for 14 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and a pair of sacks.
Kyle Kitchens of Catawba, a 2016 All-American and first team All-SAC selection, headlines the first team preseason linebackers. Teammate Trey Evans and Newberry's Joe Blue and Will Elm also received first team linebacker honors.
Kitchens, a 2017 Preseason All-American, posted 49 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. Evans tied for tops for the Catawba Indians with 73 tackles. He also chipped in 12.5 tackles for loss, three fumble recoveries, two sacks, one forced fumble and one interception.
Blue led his squad and ranked second in the League with 91 tackles, including 60 solo tackles to lead the League. He also chipped in seven tackles for loss, two sacks, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and one pick. Elm posted 62 stops, three tackles for loss and a sack for the Wolves.
Blue and Evans were also named first team All-SAC linebackers during the 2016 season.
Jay Boyd, the 2016 SAC Defensive Freshman of the Year was joined on the first team defensive back list by, Kyle Dugger of Lenoir-Rhyne, the 2015 SAC Defensive Freshman of the Year, Cris Page of Catawba, and Limestone's Joshua Simmons.
Boyd recorded 42 tackles for the Pioneers a season ago to go along with five interceptions, 4.5 tackles for loss, three break ups and one forced and recovered fumble. Dugger, who missed the 2016 season with an injury, finished the 2015 season with six interceptions, six break ups and 43 tackles. Page earned first team All-SAC honors during the 2016 season after posting 31 tackles, three interceptions, 10 break ups, 3.5 tackles for loss, three fumble recoveries and one interception. Simmons was named to the College Football America 2017 Yearbook Division II Starting Lineup after leading the nation with three interception returns for touchdowns last season. He finished his 2016 season with 42 tackles, eight interceptions, 12 break ups and a pair of fumble recoveries.
Jonathan King of Carson-Newman rounds out the list of first-team picks at the punter slot.
2017 South Atlantic Conference First and Second Team Preseason All-Conference
FIRST TEAM OFFENSE
QB – Ivan Corbin, Limestone
RB – Lawrence Pittman, Wingate
RB – Blake Hayes, Wingate
RB – Antonio Wimbush, Carson-Newman
WR – Markell Castle, Newberry
WR – Craig Rucker, Mars Hill
WR – Sam Mobley, Catawba
OL – Bryce King, Mars Hill
OL – Daniel Owens, Wingate
OL – Cabell Cantrell, Wingate
OL – Quinzavious Sands, Catawba
OL – Dakota Mozingo, Newberry
TE – Baptiste Staggers, Newberry
PK – Brennan Lambert, Catawba
LS – Ian O'Grady, Tusculum
RS – Jay Boyd, Tusculum
SECOND TEAM OFFENSE
QB – Reid Carlton, Catawba
RB – Eamon Smart, Catawba
RB – Nelson Brown, Lenoir-Rhyne
RB – Tony Belle, Tusculum
WR – Lonnie Williams, Carson-Newman
WR – D'Anta Fleming, Limestone
WR – Keshaun Taylor, Mars Hill
OL – Jordan Seal, Carson-Newman
OL – Tyler Anderson, Newberry
OL – Austin Turner, Newberry
OL – Keveon Broadwater, Tusculum
OL – Austin May, Wingate
TE – Kedar Bryant, Mars Hill AND Jake Jensen, Wingate (TIE)
PK – Shea Rodgers, Newberry
RS – Lonnie Willams, Carson-Newman
LS – Dawson Campbell, Carson-Newman
FIRST TEAM DEFENSE
DL – Brian Bembry, Carson-Newman
DL – Jordan Hemingway, Catawba
DL – Josh Parker, Newberry
DL – Jamarcus Henderson, Newberry
LB – Kyle Kitchens, Catawba
LB – Will Elm, Newberry
LB – Joe Blue, Newberry
LB – Trey Evans, Catawba
DB – Cris Page, Catawba
DB – Jay Boyd, Tusculum
DB – Joshua Simmons, Limestone
DB – Kyle Dugger, Lenoir-Rhyne
P – Jonathan King, Carson-Newman
SECOND TEAM DEFENSE
DL – Montel Presley, Carson-Newman
DL – Trevor Bembry, Catawba
DL – Britt Hastey, Tusculum
DL – Colton Strickland, Tusculum
LB – Zack Singleton, Wingate
LB – Michael Peppers, Catawba
LB – Raymond Hall, Limestone
LB - Jerjuan Edwards, Mars Hill
DB – Kameron Johnson, Wingate
DB – Jeremy Addison, Catawba
DB – Marcus Kincaid, Lenoir-Rhyne
DB – PJ Brown, Limestone
P – Hunter Cantrell, Tusculum