Big South: Seven Big South Football Players Receive All-America Honors
12-20-2013 08:46 AM
Seven Big South football players -- Coastal Carolina teammates Quinn Backus, Lorenzo Taliaferro and Jamey Cheatwood; Gardner-Webb duo Shaquille Riddick and Kenny Cook, and Liberty tandem Richard Wright and Jacob Hagen, have been voted All-Americans for their play during the 2013 season.
The Sports Network 2013 FCS All-American Team
Walter Camp 2013 FCS All-American Team
2013 FCS AP All-America Team
Riddick has been named to the 2013 Walter Camp FCS All-America Team, as well as the Associated Press and Sports Network. He is only the second student-athlete in 44 seasons of Gardner-Webb senior college football to earn a spot on the Walter Camp All-America Team. Only 25 student-athletes are selected annually for the Walter Camp squad – 11 offensive players, 11 defensive players and three specialists, and Riddick was joined on the Walter Camp list by Backus -- the first time in Big South history that two players were honored by the Walter Camp Foundation in the same season. Former defensive end Brian Johnston also earned Walter Camp All-America honors, appearing on the team in 2007. Johnston, then a senior, went on to be selected in the 2008 NFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs.
Riddick set a Big South Conference single-season sacks record in 2013 and recorded career-high totals in several categories. He finished the season with 67 total tackles, 19.0 tackles for loss (minus-109), 8.5 sacks (minus-71), two pass break ups and 17 quarterback pressures in 11 games played.
The 6-foot-7, 240-pound standout ranked second nationally and led the Big South in tackles for loss per game and his 109 negative yards recorded was the top mark in the nation during the regular season. Riddick’s stat line against top-25 opponents in 2013 was notable. GWU went 3-1 in those four games and Riddick recorded 28 total tackles, 9.0 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and nine pressures against ranked opponents.
Riddick’s efforts also helped him finish fifth in balloting Monday for the prestigious Buck Buchanan Award – given annually by The Sports Network to the top defensive player in FCS. It marked the highest finish ever for a Big South and Gardner-Webb player in that award’s final vote. Riddick was also named to the 2013 Ted Hendricks Award Mid-Season Watch List.
Cook was named to the third-team offense, and is just the second Gardner-Webb receiver since 2001 to earn All-America honors from The Sports Network – one of five All-America teams officially recognized by the NCAA. Former GWU standout Dobson Collins was an honorable mention Sports Network All-America choice in 2008. Cook became the first receiver to lead the Big South in catches, yards and touchdown receptions since Liberty’s Chris Summers in 2011. Cook hauled in 76 passes for 1,008 yards and nine touchdowns this past season with his reception and yardage totals were the second-highest in Gardner-Webb history.
The 6-foot-4, 210-pound standout became the first Gardner-Webb receiver since 1992 to post a 1,000-yard season and just the second in program history to do so. Cook had 15 catches of 20 yards or longer, including four of his nine touchdown receptions. Cook ranked 21st nationally in receptions per game and 25th in receiving touchdowns. His impact on Gardner-Webb’s offense was more valuable than those numbers represent, however, particularly when the Runnin’ Bulldogs needed to move the chains.
Cook had a team-high 25 receptions on third down, with 23 of those going for first downs or touchdowns. He saw 19 of his 21 catches on 3rd-and-long go for first downs or touchdowns in 2013. He posted five 100-yard receiving games this past season, the most in his career. In his 23 career games at Gardner-Webb, Cook has hauled in 124 passes for 1,674 yards and 16 touchdowns. He has seven career games with at least 100-yards receiving and two with at least 10 catches. Cook ranks 12th in career receptions and yardage at Gardner-Webb in just two seasons with the program.
In addition to being on the Walter Camp All-American team, Backus was selected second team by both The Sports Network and AP. Likewise, Taliaferro was a second team pick by both The Sports Network and AP, while Cheatwood was chosen third team by both The Sports Network and AP.
Backus, who was a third team selection by The Sports Network last season, becomes the fourth Chanticleer to be an All-American in multiple seasons along with NFL veterans Josh Norman (2009 and `11), Jerome Simpson (2006 and '07) and Quinton Teal (2005 and '06). Taliaferro and Cheatwood become the 17th and 18th All-Americans in CCU's 11-year history of the program.
Backus is the two-time Big South Defensive Player of the Year (2012 and '13) - leading the league in tackles both times - and broke his own single-season record with 144 total tackles (ranked 29th in the FCS with 9.6 avg.), while setting the CCU single-season record with 85 solo tackles (ranked 16th in the FCS with avg. of 5.7). Backus scored two touchdowns in 2013, returning a blocked field goal 56 yards for a score at South Carolina State and returning an interception 73 yards for a score versus Gardner-Webb. Backus additionally set a CCU record with 127 interception return yards, which ranks second on the Big South single-season record.
He added four interceptions - second-best total in the Big South - and six pass breakups, while tallying 10.5 tackles for losses. In fact, he was one of just two players in the FCS with at least 100 tackles, 10 TFLs, 4 INTs and 5 PBU. Additionally, Backus was the only player in the Big South to rank among the league's top 10 in tackles (first, 9.6 avg.), tackles for losses (fourth, 0.7 avg.), interceptions (fourth, 0.27 avg.) and passes defended (10th, 0.67 avg.).
Backus was a three-time Big South Player of the Week, earning the honor eight times over the last two seasons, while being recognized as a National Player of the Week on three occasions as well. Despite being just a junior, Backus ranks 11th with 172 career solo tackles - being the only junior among the top 25 - on the FCS active leaders list, while ranking 12th with 314 total tackles - being one of two juniors among the top 30 - on the FCS active leaders list.
Taliaferro was named the Big South Offensive Player of the Year, setting numerous Coastal Carolina and Big South records this season. He finished 11th in voting for the Walter Payton Award. Namely, he was the Big South Offensive Player of the Week a record five times, while ranking among the NCAA FCS top 3 in rushing yards and scoring. He finished the season with a school-record 1,729 rushing yards as well as League records of 29 total touchdowns and 27 rushing TDs. Even though Taliaferro played just two seasons at Coastal and was a feature back for just one season, he stills ranks third on the CCU career rushing list (2,086 yards) and third in touchdowns scored (34).
Cheatwood was a three-time All-Big South selection in his career, missing out on a fourth opportunity as he missed the final six games of last season, and played in 44 games with 43 starts. Cheatwood did not allow a sack in 2013, graded out (89 percent or better) in 12 of 15 games, had 71 knock down blocks and played a key role in Coastal Carolina's offensive success that set Big South records for touchdowns, points and total offense. The stat the unit took the most pride in was leading the nation in fewest tackles for losses allowed (3.33 avg.). Cheatwood was part of a unit that helped CCU set 25 school records for offense and 17 Big South marks.
This is the second time Wright has been named to an All-America team during his career. In 2011, Wright was named to the CSN Fabulous Fifty FCS All-America listing. Wright earned his third career Big South First-Team All-Conference honor in 2013. The senior started 45 consecutive career games at long snapper. He snapped for four different All-Conference players (two kickers and two punters) and one All-American kicker during his four year playing career at Liberty.
Hagen earned AP All-American honors following his breakout year in 2013, ranking third on the team in tackles (61). He posted career numbers in total tackles, solo tackles (34), assisted tackles (27) and interceptions. Hagen led the Big South and ranked No. 7 nationally with six interceptions, and five of his six interceptions were recorded in conference games. He tied for the Big South lead with 13 passes defended and gained 121 yards on his six interception returns.