Kaufman headlines five EWU players chosen first-team
The Brandon Kaufman highlight reel is gaining speed.
Two more flew by on Tuesday: a top-of-the charts rating on ESPNU for a catch last weekend, and a unanimous spot on the All-Big Sky Conference first team.
The Eastern Washington wide receiver returned to championship form this year and is a big reason the conference co-champion Eagles have a chance to do the same.
“Brandon has shown up in every game,” Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin said. “For a receiver to do that, it’s not easy.”
Kaufman has made it look easy this year, coming back from two injuries last season season to grab 65 catches for 1,270 yards and 10 touchdowns, and is one of five Eagles to earn first-team honors, as selected by conference coaches. He is coming off a nine-catch, 161-yard performance against Portland State in which he had two sensational, highlight-reel catches after tipped balls.
Other first-team selections are senior offensive tackle Will Post, junior linebacker Ronnie Hamlin, junior cornerback T.J. Lee III and senior kicker Jimmy Pavel.
Post has started every game at right offensive tackle in 2012, with a total of 33 career starts in 42 games played. He has allowed just one sack this season (opponents have a total of 24) and consistently grades out in the high 80’s and low 90’s according to offensive line coach Aaron Best.
Hamlin has 107 tackles this season to rank 18th in school history, and his average of 9.73 per game ranks 28th in FCS and third in the Big Sky. He has had four performances of at least 11 tackles, including 15 in Eastern’s 27-24 win at Montana State on Oct. 13.
Lee ranks second on the team with 72 tackles. He also has a team-leading nine passes broken up and seven total tackles for loss.
Pavel made a 45-yard field goal against UC Davis on Nov. 10 to equal EWU’s single-season record of 16 set last year by Mike Jarrett. Pavel ranks fourth in FCS with an average of 1.45 field goals per game while making 16 of 17 attempts. His .941 percentage is the best in FCS among kickers with at least 11 attempts this season.
Second-team selections included sixth-year outside linebacker Zach Johnson, who was a second-team choice in 2010 and honorable mention as a freshman in 2008. Junior offensive guard Steven Forgette, an honorable mention selection a year ago, also earned second-team honors this season, as well as senior defensive end Jerry Ceja and safety Allen Brown.
Honorable mention honorees on offense were junior running back Demitrius Bronson, junior center Ashton Miller and senior wide receivers Nicholas Edwards and Greg Herd. Edwards was a first-team choice last season, and Herd earned second-team All-BSC honors in 2011.
Seven players on defense earned honorable mention, including senior defensive end Paul Ena, who was a repeat selection from a year ago. Also on the squad were senior inside linebacker Tyler Washburn, senior outside linebacker Grant Williams, junior defensive tackle Andru Pulu, junior cornerback Ronald Baines, sophomore defensive tackle Dylan Zylstra and freshman redshirt safety Jordan Tonani.
Also selected to the honorable mention list were senior special teams standout Chase King and freshman redshirt return specialist Shaquille Hill.
Montana State swept the top awards. Bobcats quarterback DeNarius McGhee was named Offensive Most Valuable Player, and linebacker Jody Owens was the Defensive MVP.
Southern Utah freshman linebacker Zak Browning was the Newcomer of the Year.
The Coach of the Year award will be announced today.