C-USA Releases Football Preseason Awards


A trio of senior standouts headline the list of 2017 preseason Conference USA Football award winners, as chosen by the league’s 14 head coaches. WKU senior QB Mike White was selected as the C-USA Offensive Player of the Year, Rice senior LB Emmanuel Ellerbee was tabbed the Defensive Player of the Year, while WKU senior KR Kylen Towner earned Special Teams Player of the Year honors.

White returns for his second season at WKU after being named the C-USA Newcomer of the Year in 2016. He completed 67 percent of his passes (280-of-416) for 4,383 yards (fifth in the FBS) and 37 touchdowns with just seven interceptions. White registered eight 300+-yard passing performances, including seven of the last nine. After leading the nation’s top scoring offense and securing WKU’s second consecutive C-USA title, White returns to The Hill as the nation’s No. 2 returning passer behind Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield. White (10.5) and Baker Mayfield (11.1) were the only two quarterbacks in the country last season to average 10 yards or better per passing attempts, a Conference USA single-season record. White’s 181.4 passer rating not only ranked No. 3 nationally and second all-time in C-USA history, it also set a single-season school record.

Despite missing one game last season with an injury, Ellerbee led C-USA and Rice with 10.7 tackles per game which ranked sixth nationally. His average was the highest by an Owl since Larry Izzo averaged 11 tackles per game in 1995 (122 in 11 games). Ellerbee’s 118 total tackles were second in the conference and matched Brian Raines’ 2006 total for the 10th-most in school history. His 70 solo tackles tied for 14th in the nation and he finished with seven double-digit tackle games in 2016, the most double-digit tackle games since Izzo recorded seven in 1995. Ellerbee had eight tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, one interception, one fumble recovery and two pass breakups.

Towner had a record-breaking season in 2016, setting the NCAA’s FBS single-season record for kickoff return average at 40.3 yards per return. He also became WKU’s career record holder in kickoff return yardage at 2,441 yards, passing Joey Stockon’s mark of 2,302 yards from 1994-97. Towner tallied 1,048 yards on 26 returns with a long of 93 in a return score on the opening kickoff against Marshall. It marked the first time in the FBS era that WKU returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown. Towner also had a six-yard scoop-and-score on a blocked punt at Louisiana Tech.

Two-time defending champion WKU had the most overall preseason selections with seven, while Old Dominion and UTSA each had players comprising four spots. Six schools had multiple players named to the squad.

The league’s 22nd football season begins on Thursday, August 31. The 13th annual Conference USA Football Championship Game, pitting the champions of the East and West Divisions, will be held Saturday, Dec. 2.

The C-USA Media Poll (Predicted Order of Finish) will be released on Tuesday.

2017 C-USA Football Coaches Preseason Awards

Offensive Player of the Year

Mike White, Sr., QB, WKU

Defensive Player of the Year

Emmanuel Ellerbee, Sr., LB, Rice

Special Teams Players of the Year

Kylen Towner, Sr., KR, WKU


QB Mike White, Sr., WKU
RB Ray Lawry, Sr., Old Dominion
RB Ito Smith, Sr., Southern Miss
OL O’Shea Dugas, Jr., Louisiana Tech
OL Will Hernandez, Sr., UTEP
OL Trey Martin, Sr., Rice
OL Austin Pratt, Sr., UTSA
OL Brandon Ray, Sr., WKU
TE Ryan Yurachek, Sr., Marshall
WR Richie James, Jr., Middle Tennessee
WR Jonathan Duhart, Sr., Old Dominion
WR Allenzae Staggers, Sr., Southern Miss


DL Marcus Davenport, Sr., UTSA
DL Jaylon Ferguson, So., Louisiana Tech
DL Chris Johnson, Sr., WKU
DL Oshane Ximines, Jr., Old Dominion
LB Emmanuel Ellerbee, Sr., Rice
LB Alvin Jones, Sr., UTEP
LB Josiah Tauaefa, So., UTSA
LB Anthony Wint, Sr., FIU
DB Brandon Addison, Sr., Old Dominion
DB Nate Brooks, Jr., North Texas
DB Joe Brown, Sr., WKU
DB Kishawn McClain, Sr., North Texas

Special Teams

K Canon Rooker, Sr., Middle Tennessee
P Jake Collins, Jr., WKU
KR Kylen Towner, Sr., WKU
PR Nacarius Fant, Sr., WKU
LS Matt Bayliss, Sr., UTSA

About Paul Swann

Paul Swann, a broadcasting veteran of more than two decades, is the program director of Kindred Communications’ WRVC and WCMI (ESPN 94.1 FM; AM 930 and 1340) in the Huntington-Ashland Tri-State region. The versatile Swann, 44, also is the co-host of the stations’ weekday hour-long First Sentry Bank Sportsline show and Marshall football and basketball pregame and postgame shows. The award-winning Swann also has been a news anchor for the Tri-State area station and a columnist for Herd Insider magazine. Prior to his experience at Kindred’s family of stations, Swann worked for Huntington’s Clear Channel Broadcasting from 1993-2010. He was program director of WVHU and WIRO as well as a sports director, webmaster and producer, handling various tasks including writing, logistics and remotes. Swann also was a reporter for the Columbus-based Ohio News Network from 2000-10. Swann’s sports background includes work as broadcast manager and sideline reporter for the Huntington Blizzard Hockey Network from 1993-2000. He also has been a web publisher with West Virginia Preps on the network and worked as a freelance reporter for The (Huntington) Herald-Dispatch. Swann is a 1996 graduate of Marshall University, where he worked as on-air talent and program director at the award-winning WMUL (88.1 FM) from and also had a technical role with the MU Instructional Television Services. A past president of the West Virginia Associated Press Broadcasters Association (2008), Swann has won eight awards from that organization, as well as being honored in 2010 and 2013 by the West Virginia Broadcasters Association for best talk show. He also was a three-time award winner during his broadcast days at Marshall. Swann is a Huntington native and resident.

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