Nov. 26, 2013
Cullowhee, N.C. - A combined eight Western Carolina football players were honored on Tuesday as the Southern Conference unveiled its 2013 All-Southern Conference and All-Freshman teams from both the league's head coaches and voting members of the media.
Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Karnorris Benson was the lone Catamount to garner accolades from both the conference's head coaches and the media vote, earning second team offense plaudits from both groups. Benson was joined on the coaches' honorary squad by redshirt junior defensive back Ace Clark on the second team defense, with senior linebacker Courtland Carson earning second team defensive honors in the media's tabulation.
The three All-SoCon selections for WCU were the most for the program since 2010 when it also landed one on the first team and two second team honorees.
Five Catamounts picked up SoCon All-Freshman team plaudits including tight end Michael Helms, Jr., running back Garry Lewis and wide receiver Willie Police on the offensive side with linebacker Bryson Jordan and defensive back Trey Morgan earning rookie honors on the defensive side.
All told, WCU and archrival Appalachian State shared league-high honors with five all-freshman picks apiece. The five selections were the most-ever for the Catamounts since the inaugural all-rookie squad debuted in 2008, eclipsing the previous team-high of four which was achieved twice in 2008 and 2012.
Benson finished the 2013 season ranked second in the SoCon with a 69.5 receiving yards per game average, while his 834 total receiving yards also ranked him second overall. He recorded 100-or-more yards in four games on the year including 113 at Middle Tennessee State; 116 against nationally-ranked Wofford; 129 in the home win over Elon; and the top receiving performance of any wide out in the SoCon this season with his career-high 212 yards in WCU's home win over Mars Hill back on September 21.
The Atlanta, Ga., native was the top scoring wide receiver in the SoCon, finishing with 12 receiving touchdowns - five more than the second-best SoCon receiver - that matched WCU's 30-year old school single-season record set by Eric Rasheed back in 1983. Closing with TD catches in the final five games of the regular season, Benson additionally ranked tied for ninth in WCU's record books for seasonal touchdowns scored, joining Rasheed (1983) and Fred Boateng who rushed for 12 scores in 2001.
Benson's 72 points scored were tied for the fourth-most by an individual in the SoCon this fall - and were the most by a Catamount individual since 2001 when Boateng finished with 74 points, adding a two-point conversion to his 12 rushing TDs.
Clark, named second team All-SoCon by the head coaches, earned the second post-season honor of his career from the SoCon after being named to the 2011 SoCon All-Freshman team. A preseason All-SoCon selection in 2013, Clark finished tied for 15th in the league this year with a 7.6 tackle per game average, tallying 84 total hits including 41 solo stops.
The Germantown, Md., native played in 11 of the 12 games, missing WCU's meeting with Virginia Tech. He twice tallied double-digit tackles with 11 in the season opener at Middle Tennessee and 13 on the road at Chattanooga. He had nine-or-more tackles four-times and twice led the Catamount defense while also finishing with two pass break-ups and a fumble recovery that set-up a touchdown at Middle Tennessee. With his blocked field goal in WCU's league-opener against The Citadel, the Catamounts have now blocked at least one kick on special teams in 13-straight seasons dating back to 2001.
Clark enters his final season with 262 career tackles, tallying 84-or-more in each of his first three seasons. He also has 11 passes defended with three tackles for loss.
Named to the second team defense by the voting media, Carson finished his final season for the Purple & Gold with a career-best and team-high 107 tackles including 58 solo stops and 5.5 tackles for loss. He finished fifth in the SoCon with an 8.9 tackle per game average, tallying double-digit tackles in three-straight games including a season-high 14 twice at Virginia Tech and against Mars Hill. The Charlotte, N.C., product forced a team-high three fumbles with one recovery coming at Georgia Southern.
Carson concluded his WCU career with 286 career tackles including 141 solo stops and 19 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks - 2.5 of which came in 2013. He recorded seven career pass break-ups with his two career interceptions coming as a sophomore in 2011.
Three Catamount freshman on the offensive side of the football earned top rookie honors. Police ranked third on the Catamount squad in receptions with 40 and receiving yards with 367. The speedy slot receiver found his groove late in the season, twice tallying a career-high seven catches against both Wofford and Elon in Cullowhee. Police caught four passes for a career-best 63 yards against Furman which included his career-long catch of 36 yards.
Helms Jr., caught 10 passes for 181 yards while also serving as a vital part of WCU's rushing attack as a tight end through the 2013 season. He saw action in 11 of the team's 12 games with five starts. Helms recorded his career-long reception on a punishing 65-yard pitch-and-catch at Samford, and found the end zone for the first time in his WCU career in the home win over Elon on an eight-yard strike.
Lewis was a third back in WCU's triple-headed offensive rushing attack that included junior Shaun Warren and sophomore Darius Ramsey - both of which also previously earned All-Freshman honors in 2011 and 2012, respectively. Lewis finished with 54 carries for 176 yards and two touchdowns including the first of his career on his lone touch at Chattanooga - a 12-yard romp into the end zone. He turned in his best performance, however, when the team needed it most. The Fayetteville, N.C., native sparked the Catamounts in the second half against Elon with a career-high 72 yards rushing and personal-best 58 receiving yards in helping WCU snap several ominous streaks with the home, 27-24, overtime victory.
All told, Lewis tallied 426 all-purpose yards on the season, adding 96 receiving yards on 10 catches and 159 yards on kickoff returns.
On the defensive side of the ball, Jordan ranked sixth on the Catamount squad with a freshman-high 53 tackles including 20 solo stops and two tackles for loss while Morgan finished with 45 total hits with 29 solo stops. The two started all 12 games as true freshmen, combining for six pass break-ups including four by Morgan.
Jordan recorded a career-high eight tackles against eventual SoCon-champion, Furman, while Morgan matched his career-high of six tackles twice in consecutive games against The Citadel and Mars Hill. Morgan, a native of North Augusta, S.C., pulled down his first career interception on an athletic play against Virginia Tech, out-leaping the Hokies' receiver and picking off a pass at the goal line.