Cullowhee, N.C. – Senior defensive back John Brannon graced both postseason honorary squads to lead five Western Carolina Catamounts recognized on Tuesday following the conclusion of the 2019 regular season. Brannon was dubbed second-team All-Southern Conference by both the league’s head coaches and THE voting members of the SoCon Sports Media Association.
Joining Brannon in earning recognition from the league’s head coaches was redshirt freshman placekicker Julian Pletz, named to the All-Freshman team for special teams. Those two were joined on the media’s first-team selection by redshirt senior DB JerMichael White and a pair of second-team defense honorees in linebackers junior Ty Harris and sophomore Jayden Pauling. Each of WCU’s honorees earned the first postseason accolades of their respective careers.
All nine of the SoCon’s teams were represented with multiple selections on both the coaches’ and media postseason tabulations. Furman had a league-high nine selections in the coaches’ vote and seven players named to the SoCon All-Freshman team. Chattanooga led on the media tabulations with nine all-conference selections including five first-team honorees.
Brannon finished his final season with a single-season best three interceptions to rank tied for second in the league. He was one of just two defenders to return an INT for a touchdown among the top 10 in the SoCon, doing so with a 23-yard pick-six in the season-opener against Mercer. His team-best eight passes defended ranked eighth in the conference, adding five pass break-ups to his three interceptions. The Charlotte, N.C., product was credited with 55 tackles on the year including one for loss, while also recovering a pair of fumbles at home against Gardner-Webb and Samford.
Assuming the primary placekicking duties at mid-season, the left-footed Pletz led the Catamounts in scoring in 2019 with 40 total points. The Liberty Township, Ohio, native connected on all 16 of his point after touchdown attempts and split the uprights on 8-of-11 field goal attempts including four of 40-plus yards – booming a career-long of 44 yards three times. Pletz garnered SoCon Special Teams Player of the Week plaudits after kicking three field goals including his first 44-yarder in the road win at VMI in early November.
Returning for a fifth year after suffering a season-ending injury just three games into 2018, White finished third on the WCU team with 90 total tackles, tied for ninth in the SoCon at 7.5 tackles per game. Among his 90 stops were 43 solo hits, posting double-digit tackles three times including a season-high 14 at FBS-foe, North Carolina State. The Johnson City, Tenn., native recovered a fumble against his hometown team, ETSU, in early November, 23-20, overtime victory.
Harris ranked fourth in the SoCon this season with a WCU team-best 106 total tackles, averaging 8.8 per game. The Dacula, Ga., product posted eight-or-more tackles in nine-straight games to conclude the season with double-digit stops four times including a career-high 17 tackles against Samford in mid-November. Harris tallied a career-best four of WCU’s season-high nine tackles for loss in the home overtime victory over ETSU, garnering SoCon Defensive Player of the Week accolades. In the final game of the season, Harris pounced on a fumble in the end zone at Alabama to thwart a Crimson Tide scoring drive.
Playing in all 12 seasonal games with seven starts at linebacker, Pauling finished with 51 total tackles in the season including a team-best 11 tackles for loss, tied for fourth in the SoCon. His WCU-best 6.5 sacks ranked third in the conference. On the season, the Raleigh, N.C., native forced a league-leading five fumbles including three to accompany a season-high-tying eight tackles with a pair of sacks against Samford, earning SoCon Defensive Player of the Week honors on Nov. 18.
Wofford senior QB Joe Newman, The Citadel’s junior LB Willie Eubanks, and RB Ailym Ford of Chattanooga were each unanimously selected as the SoCon’s Offensive Player, Defensive Player, and Freshman of the Year, respectively, by the league’s head coaches and voting media. Wofford’s Blake Jeresaty took home the Jacob Blocking Award given out by the coaches, while Scott Wachenheim of VMI collected Coach of the Year honors from his peers and Wofford’s Josh Conklin was tabbed the Wallace Wade Coach of the Year by the media.
Western Carolina finished the 2019 season with a 3-9 overall record, scoring wins in two of its final four seasonal games. A combined 14 players including the program’s all-time leader in total offense, QB Tyrie Adams, finished their playing careers in Cullowhee this fall.
2nd team All-SoCon – DB John Brannon
All-Freshman – Special Teams – PK Julian Pletz
SoCon Sports Media Association:
1st team All-SoCon – DB JerMichael White
2nd team All-SoCon – LB Ty Harris
2nd team All-SoCon – LB Jayden Pauling
2nd team All-SoCon – DB John Brannon