July 20, 2012
Cullowhee, N.C. - Just under a week prior to the release of the official Southern Conference preseason picks, Western Carolina today had seven players named to the preseason All-SoCon selections as chosen and released by College Sports Madness (www.collegesportsmadness.com). All told, the online publication recognized 78 SoCon student-athletes across three preseason squads with all nine football-playing schools represented.
Highlighting WCU's selections on the squad were three named to the second team and four, third team picks by the group. Senior wide receiver Jacoby Mitchell and junior George Richardson were selected to the second team offense with lineman Brian Johnson tabbed to the second team defense. Four were placed on the third team defense including WCU's returning tackler, senior LB Rock Williams, and lineman classmate Andre Shishkin. The two were joined by defensive backs, redshirt sophomore Ace Clark and Christon Gill to round out the Catamounts selections.
Mitchell finished last season with 26 catches and 388 yards, second on the team a season ago. He hauled in three receiving touchdowns including a career-long 75-yard strike in the home win over Mars Hill. A native of Decatur, Ga., Mitchell has 85 career catches for 987 yards and eight touchdowns in his first three seasons.
Richardson was named to the honorary squad as a kick returner after amassing 1,037 yards on 38 returns including one for 99 yards to open the second half against Furman that helped him earn SoCon Special Teams Player of the Week honors. The Kernersville, N.C., native suffered a dislocated knee, tearing the three major cruciate ligaments in his left knee in late November. He underwent off-season surgery to repair the damage in December that forced him to miss spring drills, and he is expected to be sidelined for the 2012 season.
Johnson finished with 29 tackles from his defensive end position last season, finishing second on the squad with 7.5 tackles for loss including 1.5 sacks. The Charlotte, N.C., native also forced a pair of fumbles while playing in 10 of the 11 games. He enters his junior season with 57 career tackles including 11.5 tackles for loss.
Williams paced the Catamounts a season ago with a career-best 115 tackles to rank third in the SoCon. The Howell, Mich., native recorded double-digit stops six times including a career-high 19 tackles with eight solo stops against Elon.
Shishkin was one of just three players to start all 11 games for WCU a season ago, finishing with 51 tackles including 18 solo stops to lead the Catamount defensive linemen. He also paced the squad with 8.5 tackles for loss including 2.5 sacks, and was twice tabbed as the team's defensive player of the week.
Clark ranked second on the WCU defense in 2011 with 90 tackles including tying for the team-lead with 50 solo stops. His 90 hits ranked eighth in the final SoCon standings helping him land on the 2011 SoCon All-Freshman team. The Germantown, Md., native posted a career-high 13 tackles against Appalachian State last fall.
Gill finished with 62 tackles to rank third on the squad, just behind Clark. He recorded three tackles for loss while also recovering a pair of fumbles. The Bridgeport, Conn., native posted his career-best with eight solo stops against Appalachian State as a part of his career-high 13 total tackles.
WCU will host the "Purple Party" on Wednesday, July 25, at the Hickory Tavern in Asheville's Biltmore Park to help gear up for the 2012 season. Fans in attendance can see the new headgear up close that night. The following day, the preseason All-SoCon teams and projected standings by both the league's nine head coaches and voting media will be released as a part of the annual Media Day that will be held at the Spartanburg Marriott on Thursday, July 26. Western Carolina and the Catamount Club will host the "unofficial kickoff" to fall with the Western Open on Wednesday, Aug. 1 with the squad officially reporting for fall camp on Thursday, Aug. 2.
First practice of the fall season is scheduled for Friday, Aug. 3.