Jefferson leads Hens’ 11 CAA selections

NEWARK – Led by offensive Co-Rookie of the Year Thomas Jefferson at running back and first-team performer Ben Curtis at offensive tackle, Delaware placed 11 players on the All-Colonial Athletic Association all-star teams announced Tuesday.

Delaware’s 11 all-conference players ranked third among CAA teams as William & Mary led the way with 18 selections followed by Richmond with 13. Delaware’s total was more than James Madison (10), New Hampshire (8), and Villanova (8). William & Mary, Richmond, and James Madison shared the league title and each has earned a spot in the upcoming NCAA Tournament along with New Hampshire. The selections were made by the 12 league head coaches.

Curtis was Delaware’s lone first team selection while second team picks included senior defensive end David Tinsley, sophomore defensive tackle Blaine Woodson, sophomore linebacker Charles Bell, and junior punter Eric Enderson. Third team selections included sophomore tight end Brandon Whaley, junior offensive guard Connor Bozick, sophomore center Brody Kern, sophomore defensive tackle Bilal Nichols, and sophomore cornerback Justin Watson.

“We couldn’t be more proud of our guys for earning these awards,” said Delaware coach Dave Brock, whose team went 4-7 overall this season. “The results were not always what we wanted but our guys played hard and gave us consistently great efforts all season long and it’s nice to see them rewarded. It is great to see Bennie (Curtis) and Tins (Tinsley) go out with this recognition but it’s really exciting when you consider we will have nine all-conference players returning next year. Our future is very bright moving forward.”

Jefferson becomes the seventh Delaware player to earn conference all-rookie honors and it marks the second straight year that a Blue Hen player has earned that honor after Woodson garnered the defensive rookie award last season. Curtis, who earned second-team honors in 2014 as a junior, becomes the first UD offensive lineman to earn first-team honors since Shea Allard and current Atlanta Falcons player Gino Gradkowski were honored following the 2010 season. Enderson earned an all-conference spot for the third straight year after first team honors in 2014 and second team mention in 2013 while Woodson was a second-teamer for the second straight year.

The 11 honorees mark the highest total by a Delaware football team since 2010 when 16 Blue Hens were honored during the national championship runner-up season. The all-time high was 17 players honored during the 2000 season. Of the 11 all-conference UD players honored this season, nine are underclassmen, which matches the all-time high for a Delaware team in that category also set in 2000.

Jefferson took over the starting running back spot after standouts Wes Hills and Jalen Randolph went down with season-ending injuries early in the campaign and flourished. He finished with team-highs of 178 carries for 890 yards and seven touchdowns while averaging 5.0 yards per carry and catching 10 passes for 64 yards. He ranks eighth in the CAA in rushing yards per game (80.9) and his 890 yards are the second highest total by a rookie in UD history, trailing only 2010 CAA Offensive Rookie of the Year Andrew Pierce (1,655 yards). He currently ranks No. 3 among all FCS freshmen in yards per game.

 

Curtis started all 11 games in 2015 and opened holes for an offense that ranked No. 2 in the CAA and 17th nationally in rushing at 219.4 yards per game. He started each of the last 40 games of his career at tackle and played in 43 games overall.

Tinsley returned to action after missing all but one game in 2014 due to a torn bicep and anchored a defense front that allowed just 123.5 yards per game (20th in NCAA). He led all UD down linemen with 41 tackles and led the squad with 4.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss; and Woodson was double-teamed the entire season but still registered 29 tackles, 2 sacks, and 3.5 tackles for loss.

Bell was a first-year starter at middle linebacker and led the team with 96 tackles and ranked fourth in the CAA in that category. He also had three tackles for loss and had one interception, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery and had 10 or more tackles five times; and Enderson continued to be among the nation’s top punters as he averaged 41.1 yards per punt, had 24 punts land inside the 20 (No. 2 in CAA), and had 10 punts 50 yards or more. His career average of 43.6 ranks No. 4 among all active punters in the FCS.

Whaley took over the starting tight end spot for current Baltimore Raven Nick Boyle and played a key role in the running game while also catching three passes for 31 yards; Bozick  started all 11 games at left guard and anchored the running attack; and Kern started all 11 games and made all the calls from his center position as a second-year starter.

Nichols played a pivotal role at defensive tackle and recorded 29 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2 tackles for loss, and forced 2 fumbles; and Watson started every game at cornerback for the second straight year and had 45 tackles, two tackles for loss, and eight pass breakups.

Richmond’s Danny Rocco was named Coach of the Year; James Madison senior quarterback Vad Lee was Offensive Player of the Year; and William & Mary senior safety DeAndre Houston-Carson and Stony Brook senior defensive lineman Victor Ochi were named Co-Defensive Player of the Year.

William & Mary sophomore kick returner DeVonte Dedmon was selected as Special Teams Player of the Year; Jefferson shared Offensive Rookie of the Year honors with Villanova freshman quarterback Zach Bednarczyk; Albany freshman linebacker Julian Cox and Towson freshman linebacker Chris Tedder shared Defensive Rookie of the Year honors; and Villanova junior offensive lineman Jake Prus earned the Chuck Boone Leadership Award.

 

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