Three WKU Football players were honored as the Conference USA released their preseason awards Tuesday selected by the league’s 14 coaches.
Senior punter John Haggerty was named preseason Special Teams Player of the Year, senior defensive end DeAngelo Malone was named to repeat as Defensive Player of the Year, and senior offensive guard Jordan Meredith was also named to the C-USA Preseason All-Conference team along with his teammates.
The Hilltoppers have had two players previously named Preseason C-USA Player of the Year since joining the conference in 2014. Quarterback Mike White and kick returner Kylen Towner were named offensive and special teams player of the year in 2017, and White also received offensive player of the year recognition in 2015.
2019 C-USA Defensive Player of the Year Malone will look to repeat after a stellar junior season. Malone is WKU’s first league defensive player of the year since linebacker Xavius Boyd and defensive end Quanterus Smith won the same award in the Sun Belt Conference in 2013 and 2012, respectively.
In 2019 Malone tied for fourth in the nation with 21 tackles for loss and 11th in the nation with just over 11 sacks. The outstanding pass rusher set the WKU Football Subdivision era record in tackles for loss while becoming only the fourth defender in school history to rack up double digit quarterback takedowns.
Haggerty was quick to have an impact in his first season on The Hill. The Sydney, Australia native boomed 45 punts for a gross average of 45.9 yards, ranking first in C-USA, while setting a single season program record for the Hilltoppers.
“It’s good to have, but I don’t play football for the awards I play to win,” Haggerty said. “I’ve been working on my holding a lot as well – that’s very important to get points on the board.”
As part of one of the most effective offensive lines in the country last season, Meredith continued his streak of starting in 25 consecutive games for the Hilltoppers.
In WKU’s 13 games last season, he compiled 912 offensive snaps at right guard. Graded by Pro Football Focus, Meredith’s pass blocking grade led the nation among guards, while his run blocking grade ranked 14th and his overall grade stood at 12th.
Head coach Tyson Helton spoke highly of his standout upperclassmen Tuesday after practice.
“The main thing for those guys is to always have a chip on their shoulder,” Helton said. “That’s how they played last year, and they’re doing that right now. It’s nice for those guys to have preseason awards, but they don’t mean anything.”
Helton was again asked about the starting quarterback position and who may have the upper hand, but gave no hints as to whom the most reps are going to.
“By the middle of this week, I’ve already talked to coach Ellis, we’ll have to give the majority of the reps to two guys,” Helton said. “We’re getting there, but we’re still repping all five.”
WKU’s season inches closer as the Hilltoppers get set to head to the University of Louisville for their season opener on Sept. 12.
Football beat reporter Casey Warner can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @thecaseywarner.