<strong>LOGAN, Utah</strong> – Twelve Utah State football players were named to the <em>Phil Steele’s College Football Preview Magazine’s</em> Preseason all-Western Athletic Conference teams in 14 spots, announced by the publication, which hits newsstands on June 5.
Senior running back/kick returner Kerwynn Williams earned three spots on the lists, on the first-team as a kick returner and the second-team list as a running back and punt returner. Williams was joined on the first team by junior center Tyler Larsen, senior linebacker Bojay Filimoeatu and junior cornerback Nevin Lawson.
In addition to Williams, the second-team list included sophomore quarterback Chuckie Keeton, senior offensive lineman Oscar Molina-Sanchez, senior defensive lineman Al Lapuaho and senior cornerback Jumanne Roberston.
The third-team list featured senior offensive lineman Eric Schultz, junior offensive lineman Patrick Ward, senior safety McKade Brady and senior punter Tyler Bennett.
Williams, a native of Las Vegas, Nev. (Valley HS), rushed for 542 yards on 81 carries in 2011, an average of 6.7 yards per carry, which is No. 3 on USU’s single-season rushing average list, and also had three rushing TDs. Williams added seven receptions for 63 yards and also had 36 kick returns for 817 yards, for an average of 22.7 ypr, which ranked fifth in the WAC and 73rd in FBS. He added seven punt returns for 98 yards, for an average of 14.0 ypr, which would have ranked second in WAC, but did not meet the minimum requirement. Overall, Williams totalled 1,520 all-purpose yards on the season, for an average of 121.5 ypg, ranking eighth in the WAC and 58th in FBS in all-purpose average.
A 2011 Hornung Award Watch List member, Williams enters his senior season with 10 different marks in the record books for not only USU, but the WAC and FBS as well, highlighted by holding the record for WAC Career Kick Return yards, currently with 3,392 yards.
Larsen, a Salt Lake City native (Jordan HS), enters his junior season with 25 consecutive starts at center, where he was a 2011 Rimington Trophy Watch List member for the award honoring the top center in collegiate football. Last season, Larsen was a first-team all-WAC selection in 2011 by not only the conference, but <em>Phil Steele’s College Football Magazine</em>, BCS Busters and College Sports Madness as well. Larsen made all the blocking calls and assignments in helping pave way for 2011 USU offense that established new school records for total offense (5,945 yards), rushing yards (3,675 yards), total points (437) and total TDs (60). USU led the WAC and ranked sixth in FBS in rushing offense (282.7 ypg), as well as ranking second in the WAC and 20th in FBS in total offense (457.3 ypg). Larsen had a season-high eight knockdowns in Auburn game while adding 7.5 at Hawai’i and 6.5 at Idaho.
Filimoeatu, who hails from of West Valley City, Utah (Granger HS/Mt. San Antonio College), played both linebacker and defensive
end, but is expected to return to outside linebacker this season. He is the Aggie defense’s leading returning player in tackles for loss, ranking second on the team overall last year with 11, tying for 10th in the WAC. He totalled 41 tackles (20 solo, 21 assists), and added three sacks, four QB hurries, one pass break-up, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. In the Aggies’ wild win at Idaho last season, Filimoeatu posted a career-best seven tackles, while forcing and recovering a fumble on the same play.
A Lauderhill, Fla. (Piper HS) native, Lawson, ranks second among the Aggie returning defenders for tackles, ranking fourth overall last season with 73 tackles (56 solo, 17 assists), while ranking second on the team with 10 pass break-ups. Lawson snared one of USU’s four interceptions last season and also added one forced fumble and one recovered fumble. His interception was in the New Mexico State game, the same contest that he added two pass break-ups, posting a season-best three PBU’s in the Hawai’i game. Larsen made a career-high nine tackles in the Nevada game while adding eight against San Jose State and Ohio.
Keeton, a Houston, Texas (Cypress Creek HS) native, started the Aggies’ first eight games before suffering an injury in the Hawai’i game. He finished the season ranked fourth in the WAC and 48th in the FBS in passing efficiency (137.4), completing 106-of-174 (.609) passes for 1,200 yards (109.1 ypg) with 11 TD’s and two interceptions. The freshman signal-caller also finished fourth on the team in rushing with 293 yards on 68 carries (4.3 ypc) with four TD’s. Keeton was named the WAC Offensive Player of the Week on Oct. 10 for his school-record tying performance in USU’s 63-19 rout over Wyoming, completing 16-of-21 passes for a season-high 228 yards and matched a school record with five TD passes. All five of his TD tosses came in the first half as he led USU to score on its first eight possessions of the game.
Molina-Sanchez, a native of Baldwin Park, Calif. (Baldwin Park HS), started all 13 games last season at left tackle, helping pave the way for the 2011 USU offense that established all of its school records and top rankings in the WAC and FBS. Molina-Sanchez had a season-best 10.5 knockdowns at Auburn while adding 7.5 against San Jose State. He enters his senior season with 20 career starts.
Lapuaho, a West Valley City, Utah (Granger HS/Snow JC) native, posted 31 tackles last season with 2.5 tackles for loss including one sack, adding one forced fumble. He made a season-high six stops in the Weber State game while adding five against Nevada and four game in three other games. Lapuaho’s sack came in the Weber State game while he forced a fumble in the Colorado State contest.
Phoenix, Ariz. (Deer Valley HS/Phoenix CC) native Robertson led the USU defense with 12 pass break-ups. He was third among defensive backs, as well as third among returning defenders and fifth overall in total tackles with 48 stops. The 12 pass break-ups were tied for fourth-most in the WAC while his 0.92 passed defended per game ranked tied for seventh in the league and tied for 55th in FBS. Robertson posted a career-high eight tackles in the Nevada game while adding five in the Fresno State game and made four stops in five other games.
Schultz, a native of Connell, Wash. (Connell HS), started all 13 games last year, starting at right guard in the Auburn game before shifting to right tackle for the other 12 games. He was part of the Aggies’ line that cleared the way for the 2011 USU offense that established all of its school records and top rankings in the WAC and FBS. Schultz had a season-best 12.5 knockdowns in the Auburn game, adding 10 in the BYU contest.
From Cove, Utah (Sky View HS/BYU), Brady is USU’s leading returning tackler, ranking third overall on team last season and first among defensive backs with 86 tackles (41 solo, 45 assists). He also ranked tied for third on team in pass break-ups with six, adding one tackle for loss, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. In the WAC statistics, Brady was 17th in tackles with 6.6 pg. He had three double-digit tackle outings that came in a four-game span, highlighted by career-high 16 at Idaho, while adding 13 at Hawai’i and 10 in Nevada game. Brady’s forced fumble and fumble recovery came on the same play in Fresno State game.
Bennett, a Phoenix, Ariz. (North Canyon HS/Phoenix College) native, was a Ray Guy Award Watch List member in 2011. He was third in the WAC and 16th in FBS in punting with a 43.8 yards per punt average. He had 15 punts of 50 or more yards, highlighted by a career-long 67-yarder in both the BYU and New Mexico State games, while adding a 62-yarder against Weber State and a pair of 60-yarders, one each in the Auburn and Colorado State contests. Bennett had a 21 punts inside the 20.
Ward, a Phoenix, Ariz. (South Mountain HS/Glendale CC) native, will be joining USU this summer, transferring from Glendale CC, where earned first-team all-Western States Football League (WSFL) and first-team all-Arizona Community College Athletic Conference (ACCAC) honors as offensive tackle. He started all 23 games of his two-year career with the Gauchos, helping Glendale to a No. 16 ranking in the NJCAA in 2011 with an 8-4 record in sophomore season after a No. 19 NJCAA ranking as a freshman, playing in the Valley of the Sun Bowl both years. Ward helped pave the way for a Gaucho offense that averaged 353.0 ypg and 32.3 ppg.
<em>Phil Steele’s College Football Preview</em> is the nation’s most informative preseason football magazine and has always provided a preseason All-American team as well as preseason all-Conference teams. For more information or to obtain a copy of each of the All-Conference teams, please visit PhilSteele.com.
Utah State will return 50 letterwinners (21 offense, 23 defense, six special teams) from the Aggies’ historic 2011 season in which USU posted a 7-6 record, its first seven-win season since 1993, capping its season with its first bowl appearance since 1997 with a trip to the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, losing to Ohio in a 24-23 thriller. Five of USU’s losses were by one score or less, and 10 of the Aggies’ games were decided by one score this season which were the most in the nation.
For the first time since 1996, the Aggie will open a season with back-to-back home games, hosting a pair of in-state foes in Southern Utah on Thursday, Aug. 30 and Utah on Friday, Sept. 7. Both games are slated for 6 p.m. (MT) starts from Merlin Olsen Field at Romney Stadium. The Aggies’ game against Utah will be on ESPN2. It will be the 110th meeting between USU and Utah, resuming the rivalry after a two-year hiatus. The Beehive State battle will be the Aggies’ third time in the last four seasons with a home game on national television, after hosting Boise State in 2009, BYU in 2010 and Utah in 2012.
Utah State football season ticket renewals and new sales for the 2012 season are available. Renewals are available online 24 hours a day at www.UtahStateAggies.com and clicking on the “buy/renew tickets” under the “tickets” drop down menu. Fans interested in new sales should contact the USU Ticket Office at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum or by phone by calling 1-888-USTATE-1 or (435) 797-0305.
Fans can follow the Aggie football program at twitter.com/USUFootball or on the USU football blog at usufootball.wordpress.com. Aggie fans can also follow the Utah State athletic program at twitter.com/USUAthletics or on facebook at Utah State University Athletics.