FOOTBALL: Tops drenched in awards

Amber North

Four Hilltoppers were rewarded with pre-season honors over the summer.

Senior punter Brian Claybourn, junior offensive linebacker Brandon Smith, senior inside linebacker Charles Thompson and senior offensive lineman Buster Ashley all earned first-team all-Gateway Conference accolades.

Claybourn earned the same honor last season after being ranked 19th in the country, averaging 41.2 yards per punt. His 40.23 average ranks third in all-time school history.

The conference selected Smith to its all-Newcomer team after he recorded 83 tackles last season. Thompson was on the second-team all-Gateway conference team, totaling 110 tackles in just 10 games.

Ashley is the fourth consecutive Hilltopper to earn first-team All-American after seven different organizations recognized him last season.

But the pre-season limelight isn’t getting to him.

“I really don’t care about all the awards,” Ashley said. “They’re nice to have, but I care about winning.”

Moore back to practice

Junior running back Lerron Moore has been out for two weeks due to an injury on his left hamstring. But the projected starting running back came back to the practice field Tuesday.

Moore injured the same hamstring last season, but he is confident that he will be completely healthy for the opener against Kansas State Sept. 4.

“It feels good, it’s just one of those nagging injuries that you have to rehabilitate,” Moore said. “It’s not an injury to rush.”

Head coach David Elson said that Moore will get a little bit of playing time for tonight’s scrimmage, depending on how Moore feels.

Smith out for the season

Just when things were looking good for Tariq Smith, the junior wide receiver tore his anterior cruciate ligament.

The injury occurred during the third practice of the pre-season camp, the first day the team spent in shoulder pads and helmets.

“It’s unfortunate for him,” Elson said. “He had a great summer and he was in the best shape of his life.”

Smith bounced around different positions last season and was settling into the wide receiver position. Elson said he made major improvements and has matured.

“It’s definitely a significant blow,” Elson said. “We expect him to play his last year next year and finish with a great career.”

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