BOCA RATON, Fla. - Conference USA revealed its All-Conference football teams on Tuesday, and 19 members of the 2017 C-USA Championship-winning Florida Atlantic University have been honored. Of the 19 Owls, seven were voted First Team, most in the league, and both numbers also represent the most in program history.
Four members of the team's vaunted high-powered offense and three defensive standouts were voted to the First Team by C-USA coaches, more than double any other squad. Only four other league members received as many as three total players to the First Team: Louisiana Tech, Marshall, Old Dominion and Southern Mississippi.
Defensively, junior linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair and the defensive back combo of fellow juniors Jalen Young and Shelton Lewis were chosen First Team. Al-Shaair leads C-USA and is fifth in the nation in tackles (134, or 11.2 per game), while Young is tied for first in FBS with seven interceptions. Young's 70 tackles is third on the team and leads the secondary, while Lewis has 47 stops as well as four picks (third in C-USA) and a team-high seven pass breakups. The team's 20 interceptions is a program record and is another FBS-leading stat.
On the offensive side of the ball, "Motor" Devin Singletary earned a top team nod, as did three-fifths of the offensive line that creates the holes for him: left tackle Reggie Bain, left guard Roman Fernandez and center Antonyo Woods. Singletary slots fourth in the nation and paces C-USA with 1,796 yards, along with an FBS-high 29 rushing touchdowns and 30 total scores. At the time of nomination, the trio in front of him had a combined 27 pancakes and 67 knockdowns, and the unit as a whole (along with right guard Jakobi Smith and right tackle Brandon Walton) has allowed just 15 sacks, with all five starting all 13 games. It is also the first time in C-USA history that three members of the same offensive line were voted First Team.
Another playmaker for the offense, tight end Harrison Bryant was chosen as C-USA Second Team. In 11 games, 10 starts, the sophomore had hauled in 32 receptions for 408 yards, ranking third and second to that point, respectively, among league tight ends. Among Owls' receivers, he still places second in receptions and third in yards, along with a team-high five touchdown catches.
Additionally, 11 Owls were bestowed Honorable Mention honors on Tuesday: Two on offense, six on defense and three on special teams. The full total of 19 FAU players recognized was also the most for any C-USA squad, ahead of Louisiana Tech's 17, 15 for Southern Miss and WKU with 13.
Redshirt junior quarterback Jason Driskel and another member of the backfield, senior "Buddy" Gregory Howell, Jr. earned Honorable Mention nods. Driskel has a 9-1 mark this year as a starter, while recording a perfect 9-for-9 record against C-USA opposition. He is tied for first in the league with a completion percentage of 65.6, 11th-highest in FBS. He is also second in passing efficiency (145.0), and both of those numbers increase (and are the league's best) in C-USA play at 68.1 and 153.5. Howell is second on the team and 10th in the conference with 690 rushing yards, and of backs with 100 or more carries, is first with a per-carry average of 6.7. He is also tied for third on the team with five total touchdowns.
The entirety of the Owls' starting defensive line - Steven Leggett, Leighton McCarthy, Hunter Snyder and Jeremiah Taleni - and two more ballhawks in the secondary, Andrew Soroh and Chris Tooley, were also recognized as Honorable Mention. Snyder paces the linemen with 52 tackles, followed by McCarthy (49), Leggett (30) and Taleni (28). The quartet has combined for 24.5 tackles for loss and 15 sacks, with Taleni leading with five in the latter category. Soroh and Tooley have 47 and 31 tackles, respectively, with Tooley adding four interceptions and five pass breakups.
Last but not least, a trio of special teamers were voted Honorable Mention: Placekicker Greg Joseph, long snapper "JR" John Clancy, Jr. and kick returner Kerrith Whyte, Jr. Joseph is third in the conference in total points scored (second among kickers) and fifth is scoring per game, and well as being the C-USA's leader in extra points (59, in 63 attempts). Clancy has been extremely successful in the unheralded role of snapper, for all 128 possible snaps this year (19 field goal attempts, 63 extra point attempts and 46 punt attempts), and for the league's top net punting team at 41.0 per. Whyte became the first Owl to ever return a kickoff for a score this year, against Louisiana Tech, and leads all C-USA returners in league play with an average of 29.5. He has returned 23 of the team's 33 kickoffs. As a comparison, Owl opponents also have 23 returns, and Whyte's total average of 24.7 is over seven yards better than the opposition's 17.3.
The Conference USA awards slate continues on Wednesday with the announcement of the league's 2017 individual honors. The conference office will reveal seven winners Wednesday afternoon: Freshman of the Year, Newcomer of the Year, Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Special Teams Player of the Year, Most Valuable Player and Coach of the Year.