Spartanburg, S.C. - Junior tailback Detrez Newsome headlined a league-high tying 10 Western Carolina Catamounts to grace the preseason All-Southern Conference teams unveiled today as a part of 2016 Football Media Day held at the Spartanburg Marriott. Newsome garnered the conference's top offensive prize, selected as the preseason Offensive Player of the Year by the head coaches.
Newsome was joined on the coaches' first team offense by senior tight end Tyler Sexton. Catamount linebackers Tyson Dickson and Daniel Riddle both collected first team defense honors with redshirt sophomore punter Ian Berryman rounding out WCU's first team honorees.
Senior wide receiver Spearman Robinson and sophomore offensive lineman Nathan Dalton collected second team offense accolades with senior defensive backs Fred Payne and Trey Morgan garnering defensive second team honors. Rounding out WCU's honorees on Wednesday was sophomore placekicker Logan Howard as a second team specialist.
Chattanooga and Western Carolina each had 10 preseason all-conference selections. The Mocs placed seven players on the first team, while the Catamounts had five first-team selections and five second-team honorees. Samford had eight players earn preseason all-conference honors, while The Citadel earned seven preseason honorees. Eight of the league's nine teams had at least one first-team selection.
Western Carolina was also tabbed third in the preseason media poll and fourth in the tabulations by the league's head coaches, which were also released on Wednesday.
An all-around threat for the Catamounts, Newsome rushed for a career-high 1,109 yards as a sophomore, averaging 5.8 yards per carry last season. He caught 37 passes, including three touchdowns out of the backfield, and averaged 21.6 yards per return on kickoffs in 2015. A two-time All-SoCon selection including a first-team all-conference nod last year, the Raeford, N.C., native also completed a 75-yard touchdown pass in the season opener on the season's very first play from scrimmage. Newsome produced seven games of at least 150 yards of total offense as a sophomore.
Sexton looks to make a return from a season-ending arm injury suffered at Texas A&M last fall. He became a threat in the Catamount arsenal, averaging 13.2 yards per reception and matching his sophomore total with three receiving scores last fall. A fourth-year receiver out of Flat Rock, N.C., Sexton turned in his first career 100-yard receiving game last season.
WCU's linebacker duo of Dickson and Riddle spearhead a Catamount defensive unit, returning as the top two tacklers from a season ago. A product of Raleigh, N.C., Riddle led the team -- and the Southern Conference -- with 129 tackles last year including 46 solo stops and three tackles for loss. Dickson added a career-best 96 stops including a team-leading 10.5 TFLs -- a mark that ranked the Ellenwood, Ga., native tied for fourth in the league.
A first team All-SoCon and an All-Freshman team selection last fall, Berryman was a vital part of WCU's success in 2015. The Marietta, Ga., native held the second-best individual punting average in the conference -- and eighth-best nationally -- at 43.7 yards per kick. Berryman downed 22 of his 58 punts inside the opponent 20-yard line with 14 kicks boomed 50-or-more yards including a career-long 65 yard boot against Samford.
Robinson and Dalton graced the preseason second team offensive unit for the Catamounts. Robinson is poised for a strong final season. The Greenwood, S.C., product has averaged over 400 receiving yards on 36 catches per year (108 for 1,301 yards), entering 2016 with a team-best 13 career receiving touchdowns. Dalton played in all 11 games a season ago, earning SoCon All-Freshman team plaudits. He was a big part of the offensive line that opened holes allowing Newsome to eclipse the 1,000-yard rushing mark in 2015.
Payne and Morgan anchor the Catamount defense, both collecting second team preseason honors from the league's nine coaches. Payne finished third on the team with 75 tackles last fall, ranking 14th in the league with a 6.8 tackle per game average. The Gainesville, Ga., native had a pair of double-digit tackle games and enters his senior season with a pair of career interceptions. The ball-hawking Morgan has a team-best nine interceptions over his first three seasons, and has defended a combined 17 passes. The North Augusta, S.C., product posted 65 tackles a season ago and is a two-time All-SoCon selection, garnering second team accolades in 2015 after first team plaudits as a sophomore in 2014.
Howard finished the 2015 season second on the Catamount squad to just Newsome with 69 points scored -- a mark that ranked sixth individually in the SoCon. The Kernersville, N.C., product finished the year 12-of-14 on field goal attempts -- perfect between both 20-29 yards and 40-49 yards with a pair of 40-yard boots. He was 33-of-35 on PAT attempts in his first season, collecting All-Freshman team honors.
The 2016 Southern Conference football season begins Thursday, Sept. 1, when five SoCon teams hit the field, including a conference matchup between Mercer and The Citadel. Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own student-athletes as part of the balloting.
Season tickets for all five home dates of Western Carolina's 2016 football season are on-sale now through the WCU Athletics Ticket Office on the first floor of the Ramsey Center, and online at CatamountSports.com. Fans can call the WCU Athletics Ticket Office toll free at (800) 34-GOWCU or (828) 227-2401.
Western Carolina's football student-athletes officially report to campus for the 2016 fall camp on Wednesday, August 3 with practice opening on Thursday, Aug. 4 with the first of two acclimation period, helmet-only sessions. WCU's first day in full pads in the fall is scheduled for Monday, August 8.
2016 Southern Conference Football: Preseason All-Conference Teams
Offensive Player of the Year: Detrez Newsome, Jr., RB, Western Carolina
Defensive Players of the Year: Keionta Davis, Sr., DL, Chattanooga
First Team Offense
QB Al Cobb, Jr., VMI
RB Derrick Craine, Sr., Chattanooga
RB Detrez Newsome, Jr., Western Carolina
OL Isaiah Pinson, Jr. The Citadel
OL Brett Niederreither, Sr., Mercer
OL Armando Bonheur, Sr., Samford
OL Corey Levin, Sr., Chattanooga
OL Jacob Revis, Jr., Chattanooga
(tie) OL Anton Wahrby, Sr., Wofford
TE Tyler Sexton, Sr., Western Carolina
WR Karel Hamilton, Sr., Samford
WR Aaron Sanders, Sr., VMI
First Team Defense
DL Joe Crochet, Sr., The Citadel
DL Ahmad Gooden, So., Samford
DL Keionta Davis, Sr., Chattanooga
DL Miles Brown, So., Wofford
LB Tevin Floyd, Sr., The Citadel
LB Nakevion Leslie, Sr., Chattanooga
LB Tyson Dickson, Sr., Western Carolina
(tie) LB Daniel Riddle, Jr., Western Carolina
DB Dee Delaney, Jr., The Citadel
DB Trey Robinson, Sr., Furman
DB Jamerson Blount, Sr., Samford
DB Lucas Webb, Jr., Chattanooga
First Team Specialists
PK Henrique Ribeiro, Sr., Chattanooga
P Ian Berryman, So., Western Carolina
RS Dane Forlines, Sr., VMI
Second Team Offense
QB Devlin Hodges, So., Samford
RB Tyler Renew, Sr., The Citadel
RB Lorenzo Long, Sr., Wofford
OL Ryan Bednar, Sr., The Citadel
OL Josh Cardiello, Jr., Chattanooga
OL Andrew Lewis, Sr., VMI
OL Nathan Dalton, So., Western Carolina
OL Dequan Miller, Sr., Wofford
TE Sam Walker, So., Mercer
WR Kelvin McKnight, So., Samford
WR Spearman Robinson, Sr., Western Carolina
Second Team Defense
DL Tosin Aguebor, Sr., Mercer
DL Isaiah Buehler, So., Mercer
DL Xavier Forrest, Jr., Samford
DL Vantrel McMillan, Sr., Chattanooga
LB Carl Rider, Sr., Furman
LB Ryan Francis, Jr., VMI
LB Dylan Weigel, So., ETSU
DB Cedric Nettles, Sr., Chattanooga
DB Fred Payne, Sr., Western Carolina
DB Malik Diggs, Sr., The Citadel
DB Trey Morgan, Sr., Western Carolina
Second Team Specialists
PK Logan Howard, So., Western Carolina
P Austin Barnard, Jr., Samford
RS Chandler Curtis, Jr., Mercer
Important Upcoming Dates in Catamount Football:
Wednesday, Aug. 3 - Football Student-Athletes Report
Thursday, Aug. 4 - First scheduled practice of 2016 preseason (helmet only)
Monday, Aug. 8 - First scheduled practice in full pads
Monday, Aug. 8 - 2016 Catamount Football single-game tickets go on sale
Tuesday, Aug. 9 - First scheduled two-a-day practice
Wednesday, Aug. 10 - Western Carolina's Media / Photo Day
Friday, Aug. 19 - Western Carolina Freshman Move-In Day
Monday, Aug. 22 - First day of classes for the fall semester
Saturday, Sept. 3 - 2016 Catamount Football season-opener at East Carolina in Greenville, N.C.
Friday, Sept. 9 - 12th Annual Bob Waters Memorial Golf Tournament in Maggie Valley, N.C.
Saturday, Sept. 10 - 2016 Catamount Football home-opener vs. Gardner-Webb in Cullowhee, N.C.