It was a memorable season for multiple programs across the Conference USA. The UTSA Roadrunners capped a remarkable campaign with a championship and a 12-1 record. With the conference’s focus shifting to the realignment of college football, we take a look at the 2021 All-Conference USA team and individual honors.
All-Conference USA Football Team Honors for 2021
The Conference USA was dominated by UTSA this year. The Roadrunners won 11 straight games and defeated Western Kentucky in the Championship Game. The Hilltoppers themselves saw a huge uptick in production with Zach Kittley as their offensive coordinator. He helped usher in Conference USA records in just about every major passing category for QB Bailey Zappe. As such, both teams are heavily represented in our individual award portion below.
It’s important to note that these are awards and honors from Pro Football Network for each individual’s prowess on the field this season. This is in no way a projection of their NFL Draft status nor a report on actual conference awards that were already handed out. These honors are from Pro Football Network, as judged upon by our team of college football analysts.
Let’s get to the overall awards.
- Conference USA Coach of the Year: Jeff Traylor, UTSA
- Conference USA Player of the Year: Bailey Zappe, Western Kentucky
- Conference USA Newcomer of the Year: Jerreth Sterns, Western Kentucky
- Conference USA Game of the Year: UTSA vs. UAB, Week 12
All-Conference USA Offense
If you’d believe it, the two teams that represented the conference in their championship game are going to earn the majority of recognition here. This isn’t because they’re the only teams we at Pro Football Network watched this season. It’s a testament to just how good the Roadrunners and Hilltoppers were this year.
- C-USA Offensive Player of the Year: Bailey Zappe, QB, Western Kentucky
- C-USA Quarterback of the Year: Bailey Zappe, Western Kentucky
- C-USA Running Back of the Year: Sincere McCormick, UTSA
- C-USA Wide Receiver of the Year: Jerreth Sterns, Western Kentucky
- C-USA Offensive Lineman of the Year: Spencer Burford, UTSA
- C-USA Offensive Line of the Year: UTSA Roadrunners
- C-USA Offensive Rookie of the Year: Rasheen Ali, RB, Marshall
Zappe is 4 passing touchdowns away from tying Joe Burrow’s all-time collegiate record for touchdowns in a season. If he were to throw 5 TDs in WKU’s bowl game against Appalachian State, he’d break Burrow’s record. Impressively enough, if he were to break — or even tie — Burrow’s record, he’d do it in one fewer game to boot.
Jerreth Sterns was Zappe’s preferred target. All Sterns did was lead the nation in receiving yards this year at 1,718. Sterns produced 14 receiving touchdowns, while Zappe also found Mitchell Tinsley for 1,299 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns of his own. It was quite the aerial showcase.
UTSA uses brute force to win C-USA Championship
The pick for the top offensive line was an easy choice. Sincere McCormick ran wild enough on his own, but at times, the holes he had to run through were incredibly large. From left to right, the unit of LT Spencer Burford, LGs Brandon Rolfe and Terrell Haynes, C Ahofitu Maka, RG Kevin Davis, and RT Makai Hart was easily the most dominant front five in the conference.
Fellow newcomer and freshman RB Rasheen Ali also provided a new spark to the conference. Ali chugged ahead for a national-best 20 rushing touchdowns. He ran the ball 230 times for 1,241 yards while also producing 339 receiving yards as a valuable asset out of the backfield.
First-Team All-Conference USA Offense
QB: Bailey Zappe, Western Kentucky
RB: Rasheen Ali, Marshall
RB: Sincere McCormick, UTSA
WR: Jerreth Sterns, Western Kentucky
WR: Jacob Cowing, UTEP
WR: Tyrese Chambers, Florida International
TE: Gerrit Prince, UAB
FLEX: Frank Gore Jr., Southern Mississippi
LT: Spencer Burford, UTSA
LG: Quantavious Leslie, Western Kentucky
C: Ahofitu Maka, UTSA
RG: Matthew Trehern, UAB
RT: Mason Brooks, Western Kentucky
Second-Team All-Conference USA Offense
QB: Frank Harris, UTSA
RB: DeWayne McBride, UAB
RB: DeAndre Torrey, North Texas
WR: Mitchell Tinsley, Western Kentucky
WR: Zakhari Franklin, UTSA
WR: Joshua Cephus, UTSA
TE: Zack Kuntz, Old Dominion
FLEX: Smoke Harris, Louisiana Tech
LT: Cole Spencer, Western Kentucky
LG: Desmond Noel, Florida Atlantic
C: Manase Mosa, North Texas
RG: Braedon Nutter, Rice
RT: Lyndell Hudson Jr., Florida International
Honorable Mention All-Conference USA Offense
QB: Chris Reynolds, Charlotte
RB: Johnny Ford, Florida Atlantic
RB: Marcus Williams Jr., Louisiana Tech
WR: Ali Jennings, Old Dominion
WR: Grant Dubose, Charlotte
WR: Bryce Singleton, Florida International
TE: Xavier Gaines, Marshall
FLEX: Daewood Davis, Western Kentucky
LT: Will Ulmer, Marshall
LG: Bobby DeHaro, UTEP
C: Alex Mollette, Marshall
RG: Boe Wilson, Western Kentucky
RT: Jacob Brammer, North Texas
All-Conference USA Defense
While the majority of the discussion for the 2021 C-USA season centered around the offensive prowess of UTSA and WKU, there were some pivotal defensive moments this season as well.
- C-USA Defensive Player of the Year: Clarence Hicks, LB, UTSA
- C-USA Defensive Lineman of the Year: DeAngelo Malone, Western Kentucky
- C-USA Linebacker of the Year: Clarence Hicks, UTSA
- C-USA Defensive Back of the Year: BeeJay Williamson, Louisiana Tech
- C-USA Defensive Rookie of the Year: Gabe Taylor, CB, Rice
- C-USA Defensive Line of the Year: North Texas Mean Green
- C-USA Secondary of the Year: UTSA Roadrunners
UTSA’s Clarence Hicks was unstoppable at times. He led the conference with 10 sacks from his linebacker position while also possessing terrific coverage skills. Hicks patrolled sideline to sideline, recording an interception, 2 pass breakups, and a handful of tackles for loss.
WKU’s DeAngelo Malone continued to do what he does best in 2021. He wreaked havoc on opposing quarterbacks to the tune of 8 sacks, but that hardly tells the full story. Malone racked up pressures and QB hits all the same, proving to be too much for most teams.
Louisiana Tech’s BeeJay Williamson was up to his old antics as well, recording his second consecutive season with 3 interceptions. He returned one for a touchdown but also presented trouble to anyone throwing over the middle for the Bulldogs.
Gabe Taylor becomes a feel-good story
It was just a couple of weeks ago that Gabe Taylor announced his presence to the college football world. Through tragedy came great triumph, as Taylor recorded a game-sealing interception on the 14th anniversary of his brother’s — Sean Taylor — death. All told, Taylor recorded 5 pass breakups and 3 interceptions in his first full-time season with the Owls.
First-Team All-Conference USA Defense
EDGE: DeAngelo Malone, Western Kentucky
EDGE: Alex Wright, UAB
DI: Dion Novil, North Texas
DI: Trumane Bell II, UTSA
LB: Clarence Hicks, UTSA
LB: KD Davis, North Texas
LB: Breon Hayward, UTEP
CB: Quincy Riley, Middle Tennessee
CB: Gabe Taylor, Rice
CB: Omari Alexander, Western Kentucky
S: BeeJay Williamson, Louisiana Tech
S: Dy’vonne Inyang, UTEP
FLEX: Tariq Woolen, UTSA
Second-Team All-Conference USA Defense
EDGE: Praise Amaewhule, UTEP
EDGE: Grayson Murphy, North Texas
DI: Elijah Garcia, Rice
DI: Keenan Stewart, UTEP
LB: DQ Thomas, Middle Tennessee
LB: Jordan Young, Old Dominion
LB: Eli Neal, Marshall
CB: Steven Gilmore, Marshall
CB: Beanie Bishop, Western Kentucky
CB: Korel Smith, Florida Atlantic
S: Naeem Smith, Rice
S: Rashad Wisdom, UTSA
FLEX: Gabriel Murphy, North Texas
Honorable Mention All-Conference USA Defense
EDGE: Jordan Ferguson, Middle Tennessee
EDGE: Juwuan Jones, Western Kentucky
DI: Jeremy Darvin, Western Kentucky
DI: Davon Strickland, Florida International
LB: Trey Baldwin, Louisiana Tech
LB: Luke Martin, Charlotte
LB: Demetrius Cain, Western Kentucky
CB: Keondre Swoopes, UAB
CB: Corey Mayfield, UTSA
CB: Zyon Gilbert, Florida Atlantic
S: Teja Young, Florida Atlantic
S: Grayson Cash, UAB
FLEX: Lakevias Daniel, Southern Miss
Conference USA Special Teams
The Conference USA possessed some of the finest examples of special teams during the 2021 season.
- C-USA Kicker of the Year: Hunter Duplessis, UTSA
- C-USA Punter of the Year: Lucas Dean, UTSA
- C-USA Specialist of the Year: LaMareon James, Old Dominion
UTSA’s Hunter Duplessis was a perfect 60-for-60 on extra points this year and nailed 9 of 13 attempts from 40 or more yards. He was nearly automatic when the Roadrunners got the ball in the red zone as well.
On the other foot, Lucas Dean routinely punted the snot out of the ball for UTSA. He averaged 42.8 net yards per punt, besting the conference’s punters. Dean also knocked 21 inside the 20 and had a long of 73. ODU’s LeMareon James had a ridiculous 101-yard kick return touchdown that earned him honors here.
First-Team All-Conference USA Specialists
Kicker: Hunter Duplessis, UTSA
Kickoff Specialist: Hunter Duplessis, UTSA
Punter: Lucas Dean, UTSA
Kick Returner: LeMareon James, Old Dominion
Punt Returner: Jaylin Lane, Middle Tennessee
Special Teamer: JoJo Evans, Marshall
Second-Team All-Conference USA Specialists
Kicker: Brayden Narveson, Western Kentucky
Kickoff Specialist: Cory Munson, Western Kentucky
Punter: Matt Hayball, Florida Atlantic
Kick Returner: Camron Harrell, Southern Mississippi
Punt Returner: Sheldon Jones, UTSA
Special Teamer: Jordan Brown, North Texas
Honorable All-Conference USA Specialists
Kicker: Jacob Barnes, Louisiana Tech
Kickoff Specialist: Ethan Mooney, North Texas
Punter: Tommy Heatherly, Florida International
Kick Returner: Shadrick Byrd, Charlotte
Punt Returner: Smoke Harris, Louisiana Tech
Special Teamer: Dadrian Taylor, UTSA
Congratulations to all those players selected. For any questions regarding these selections or the process behind them, please ask on Twitter (@CamMellor).
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