18 WKU football players receive 19 all-conference honors from C-USA

WKU redshirt senior Lucky Jackson (11) celebrates with the ball during the game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019. WKU defeated Arkansas 45-19.

Alec Jessie

Redshirt senior wide receiver Lucky Jackson, redshirt senior offensive tackle Miles Pate, junior defensive end DeAngelo Malone and junior punter John Haggerty have been voted to the 2019 All-Conference USA First Team by the conference’s 14 head football coaches, the league office announced on Tuesday afternoon.

The standout quartet headlines a WKU football team that received a total of 19 honors for 18 players from C-USA, as head coach Tyson Helton’s squad had three Second Team members, nine Honorable Mention players and three on the All-Freshman Team.

Three Hilltoppers on the All-Freshman Team tied for second in C-USA, while the four First Team members, as well as seven First and Second Team members combined, are third most in the league.

In comparison, WKU had only five First and Second Team members overall in 2017 and 2018 combined.

Jackson has tallied a league-high 77 receptions for 985 yards and three touchdowns in 12 games. His 985 yards ranks third in the conference, while his four 100-yard performances tie for second among C-USA receivers.

The Lexington native finished the regular season on fire, with 52 receptions for 772 yards and three touchdowns in the final six games after recording only 25 catches for 263 yards and zero scores in the first six contests. Jackson had an all-time program record 16 receptions at Marshall and a career-high 194 yards vs. Florida Atlantic.

Pate appears on the First Team after earning Preseason All-Conference recognition and Second Team honors in 2018. The Lawrenceville, Georgia, native played 828 offensive snaps for the Hilltoppers and was not called for one penalty all season.

Malone anchored the top scoring defense in the league, ranking tied for fourth in the country with 21 tackles for loss and 11th in the nation with 11.5 sacks.

The Atlanta native became only the fourth defender in all-time Hilltopper history with double-digit quarterback takedowns and is tied for 87th in the country with 7.5 total tackles per game, which is one and a half more than the next-best trench defender.

Haggerty made an immediate impact in his first season playing American football after coming to The Hill from Sydney, Australia. He boomed 42 punts for 1,941 yards in 12 games, for a gross average of 46.2 yards, which leads C-USA and currently stands as the all-time, single-season program record.

 He has pinned 16 punts inside the 20-yard line compared to only two touchbacks, while his 16 punts of 50-plus yards lead the league despite having only the 12th most total attempts. Additionally, WKU leads the league with a 41.7 net punting average.

The Hilltoppers’ representatives on the Second Team were redshirt junior running back Gaej Walker, junior wide receiver Jahcour Pearson and graduate senior long snapper Jared Nash.

After moving from defensive back to running back in the spring, Walker ranks second in C-USA with 226 carries and 1,115 yards, while adding a team-best eight rushing touchdowns. His seven 100-yard performances tie for the most in the league this season.

In a slot receiver role, Pearson has become a reliable and explosive target for WKU’s quarterbacks this season, ranking second on the team with 71 receptions and 772 yards, while leading the Hilltoppers with six receiving touchdowns.

After spending the majority of fall camp as a WKU Communications intern, Nash was invited to the squad less than two weeks before the season opener and has made all 105 special teams snaps for the Hilltoppers this year.

Nash and Haggerty have helped freshman kicker Cory Munson make 14 field goals and 37-of-38 extra points. The Hilltoppers are also only one of 30 teams nationally and one of two C-USA clubs with zero kicks blocked this season.

Freshman tight end Joshua Simon, freshman defensive tackle Ricky Barber and freshman offensive tackle Gunner Britton each earned All-Freshman recognition.

Simon also received Honorable Mention, making him the second-straight Hilltopper to earn both distinctions in the same season after redshirt sophomore Juwuan Jones did so in 2018. 

Junior linebacker Kyle Bailey, senior nickelback Ta’Corian Darden, junior defensive tackle Jeremy Darvin, senior defensive tackle Jaylon George, junior safety Devon Key, junior safety Antwon Kincade, junior cornerback Trae Meadows, junior offensive guard Jordan Meredith and Simon each received Honorable Mention for at least one all-conference vote.

Reporter Alec Jessie can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Alec on Twitter at @Alec_Jessie.