Cullowhee, N.C. - Highlighted by five Catamounts appearing on both honorary postseason teams including four collecting a pair of first team accolades, Western Carolina put a combined 13 football student-athletes on the 2017 All-Southern Conference teams released today by the league office.
Ten different Catamounts were honored between the first, second, and all-freshman teams as selected by the league's head coaches, while WCU had eight players honored by the voting media. Four Catamounts earned first team plaudits from both voting groups including senior RB Detrez Newsome, redshirt senior WR Terryon Robinson, junior DB Marvin Tillman, and redshirt junior P Ian Berryman. Redshirt junior OL Zach Weeks appeared on both teams, collecting first team honors from the head coaches and second team plaudits in the media vote.
Redshirt senior LB Tahjai Watt collected first team defense honors from the league's head coaches, while redshirt senior WR Steffon Hill and redshirt sophomore QB Tyrie Adams both picked up second team accolades. Rounding out the coaches' tabulations were two Catamounts -- redshirt freshman RB Donnavan Spencer and redshirt freshman LB Michael Murphy -- both who collected All-Freshman honors.
In completing the media vote, defensive players in redshirt sophomore DL Nate Link and senior LB A.J. Newman tallied second team nods, while redshirt junior OL Andrew Miles picked up second team offense honors.
WCU's 13 combined selections are tied for the third-most in program history, matching the 1984 team. WCU had 16 players recognized following the 2015 season, and 15 honored in 2014.
In the coaches' tabulations, Samford had a league-high nine all-conference selections, while Western Carolina followed with eight and Mercer and Wofford had seven each. The Catamounts put a SoCon-best six players on the first teams. WCU and Wofford had first-team selections on offense, defense and special teams.
The coaches, who could not vote for their own players, selected all-conference first and second teams and all-freshman teams on offense, defense and special teams.
On the media vote, Furman, Samford, Western Carolina, and Wofford each had eight selections apiece, while WCU and Wofford were again the only two teams to have first-team selections on offense, defense and special teams.
Headlining WCU's All-SoCon selections was running back Detrez Newsome, who put the finishing touches on his third, 1,000-yard rushing season with 107 on the ground in Chapel Hill to finish the year with 1,100 yards rushing. Posting the fourth-best, single-season in school history, Newsome's 1,100 yards ranked as the 10th-most in the NCAA FCS this year despite playing in just nine of the team's 12 regular season games. The Raeford, N.C., native led the Southern Conference with a 122.2 rushing yard per game average, third-best in the country, while scoring nine touchdowns to move him into a tie for first on WCU's all-time rushing score ledger with 37 career TDs on the ground. Newsome led the SoCon -- and the NCAA -- with an average of 170.7 all-purpose yards per game.
Newsome, who was additionally named a finalist for the 2017 Walter Payton Award voted on and presented by STATS FCS -- an honor bestowed upon the top offensive player at the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) level, finished his WCU career ranked second in the school's record books with 3,728 career yards. His 46 combined touchdowns -- 37 rushing, seven receiving, and two on kickoff returns -- are the most by a Catamount all-time.
Newsome was an All-SoCon selection all four years, earning the honor as a running back three times and was twice recognized as a return specialist including in 2014 as a freshman and 2016 when he was a second team honoree as a running back and return specialist.
Terryon Robinson earned all-conference plaudits for the third time in his career -- and the first from the league's head coaches after being a first team media (2016) and second team media (2014) honoree. A product of Decatur, Ga., Robinson hauled in 62 passes -- the second-most in the SoCon this year -- while ranking third in receptions per game at 5.2. His 896 seasonal receiving yards also ranked second in the league, as did his average of 74.7 receiving yards per game and 10 receiving touchdowns -- tied for the fifth-most in a single-season in program history.
Robinson concludes his playing career as Western Carolina's all-time leader in career receptions, finishing with 230 catches over a 46-game stretch. Both his 2,839 career receiving yards and 19 career receiving touchdowns rank fifth all-time in school history.
Marvin Tillman collected his first, first-team All-SoCon honors this year after earning all-freshman recognition back in 2015. The Durham, N.C., native finished third in the SoCon in the regular season with a 9.6 tackles per game average, recording a career single-season high 96 total tackles including 53 solo stops -- second on the team -- with three tackles for loss from his safety position. Tillman finished tied for first in the regular season with five interceptions, the most by a Catamount since 2014.
Rounding out WCU's unanimous first team selections was redshirt junior punter Ian Berryman. It's the third-straight year that Berryman has collected All-SoCon honors from both voting groups, duplicating the two first team honors he first accomplished as a freshman in 2015. The Marietta, Ga., native finished 2017 ranked second in the SoCon with a 44.45 yard per punt average on 58 total punts, the third-best, single-season average in WCU history. Berryman boomed 17 kicks of over 50 yards including a season-long of 62 yards, while downing 17 punts inside an opponents' 20-yard line with just six touchbacks
Berryman also scored the first points of his collegiate career in 2017, connecting on a 30-yard field goal in the season-opener at Hawai'i. He will enter his senior season eighth in school history with 168 career punts including 50 of 50-plus yards, while his career average of 44.3 yards per punt is the highest in program history.
Redshirt junior OL Zach Weeks collected first team honors from the league's head coaches and second team plaudits from the media. The versatile lineman played at both the guard and tackle positions during the season. A local product from Bryson City, N.C., Weeks collected the second postseason honor of his career after also earning an all-freshman nod back in 2015. Weeks and his offensive line mates were instrumental in Newsome's third-straight, 1,000-yard rushing season.
Much like Weeks, his classmate Andrew Miles collected second team honors from the voting media along the offensive line, while two Catamount defenders also earned second-team honors in LB A.J. Newman and DL Nate Link.
Newman led WCU with a career-best 101 tackles on the season, one of four SoCon defenders to eclipse the century mark in terms of tackles. A two-time, CoSIDA Academic All-District 3 selection, Newman ranked seventh with an 8.4 tackle per game average. He added two forced fumbles with one recovery going for a touchdown in the road win at Chattanooga. Link led WCU's defensive line in tackles, credited with 55 stops including 18 solo and 5.5 tackles for loss. The transfer from Crowley, La., tallied a pair of sacks and two fumble recoveries, like Newman with one at UTC.
Three Catamounts received honors from the league's head coaches alone as redshirt senior LB Tahjai Watt landed on the first team where he was joined by second team honorees in Steffon Hill and Tyrie Adams.
Converting from defensive end to outside linebacker, Watt finished with a career-high 73 tackles including 32 solo stops and team-highs with 9.5 tackles for loss and 7.0 sacks -- finishing second in the SoCon in the latter. Hill finished the year fourth in the SoCon with his single-season career-best 44 receptions and 4.0 catches per game. The Hendersonville, N.C., product finished with five receiving touchdowns, second on the squad.
Adams finished his second year ranked second in the SoCon in total offense (253.3 yds/gm), while amassing the second-most yards of total offense in the league at 3,040 -- just the second Catamount to surpass 3,000 yards in a season. The St. Petersburg, Fla., native accounted for 24 total touchdowns including a career-high 22 passing TDs and a pair of rushing scores.
Closing out WCU's 13 honorees were two named to the All-Freshman team in RB Donnavan Spencer and LB Michael Murphy. Spencer rushed for 300 yards in a reserve role in 2017, earning his first career start in the home win over ETSU where he accounted for 139 yards and matched a school-record with four rushing touchdowns, concluding the year with six scores on the ground. Murphy tallied 21 total tackles including eight solo stops, playing mostly as a defensive reserve and on special teams. The Spartanburg, S.C., native forced and recovered a fumble to seal the road win at VMI, credited with one of his two tackles for loss with a sack on the same play.
Western Carolina (7-5) finished the 2017 season with seven NCAA Division I victories, its third, seven-win season in the past four years under sixth-year head coach Mark Speir. A total of 21 seniors finished their collegiate playing careers in Cullowhee this fall.