Keena, McClain Earn All-Conference Recognition
Keena Earns First Team Nod, McClain Second, While Seven Are Named Honorable Mention
IRVING, Texas - Conference USA announced its 2016 All-Conference football teams today, as selected by the league’s 13 head football coaches. Senior punter Eric Keena was named to the conference’s first team, while junior safety Kishawn McClain earned second team plaudits. Seven other Mean Green student-athletes earned honorable mention recognition in senior offensive lineman Sam Rice, sophomore offensive lineman Jordan Murray, junior linebacker Joshua Wheeler, junior defensive back Eric Jenkins, sophomore defensive back Nate Brooks, junior kicker Trevor Moore and freshman kick returner Tyler Wilson.
Keena (Keller, Texas) is one of the best punters in the country, and finished the regular season averaging 43.8 yards per punt this season on 69 attempts. He had a season-long of 68, while placing 20 inside the opponent’s 20 yard-line, and has 21 punts of 50-plus yards. Keena was on the Ray Guy Award watch list and ranks 11th nationally among active punters with a 44.2 yards per punt over his career. Keena is also an impact player for the Mean Green on kickoffs, booming 32 touchbacks on 54 kickoffs.
A preseason All-Conference USA selection, McClain (Rosenberg, Texas) certainly lived up to the billing. For the second straight season, McClain led the team in tackles with 86 (62 solo) to go along with one-and-a-half sacks, five tackles for loss, three interceptions, two forced fumbles and three pass break-ups in the regular season. McClain has been a leader in the secondary and was named Conference USA Defensive Player of the Week after his Week 4 performance at Rice.
Rice (Coppell, Texas) has been a versatile staple for the Mean Green offensive line, starting all 12 regular season games and has spent time at both guard and center, after starting center Creighton Barr went down with an injury midway through the season. Rice and the North Texas offensive line helped pave the way for junior running back Jeffery Wilson’s career year, and the Mean Green rushed for over 1600 yards (1640) in the regular season and scored 23 rushing touchdowns after only seven a year ago.
Murray (Coppell, Texas) has seen action in regular season 11 games this season, making nine starts. He has shown his versatility and ability to play multiple positions along the North Texas offensive line, starting at both left tackle, and playing at guard.
Wheeler (Grand Prairie, Texas) excelled from his jack linebacker position in 2016, his first season in Denton. He ranked eighth in Conference USA in sacks with five-and-a-half, and has also added 34 tackles (20 solo) to go along with his six-and-a-half stops for loss and two forced fumbles through the regular season. He has been a terror applying pressure to opposing quarterbacks and is a vital component of the revamped defensive unit for the Mean Green that has held opponents to 8.0 points per game fewer than it did in 2015.
Jenkins (New Orleans) has been a huge boost defensively in the secondary for the Mean Green in 2016. The junior college transfer intercepted three passes, which tied for second-most on the team with McClain, and Jenkins brought two of those interceptions back for touchdowns. A Conference USA Defensive Player of the Week selection on October 24, Jenkins leads C-USA in passes defensed, at 1.3 per game (13 total).
Brooks (Whitehouse, Texas) has had a tremendous sophomore campaign in a starting role at corner. He leads the team and ranks 27th in the country with four interceptions. He was named Conference USA Defensive Player of the Week in Week 12 after his performance in the win over Southern Miss. He is the team’s fourth-leading tackler with 52 stops (34 solo), the four picks, four pass break-ups, a sack and a pair of forced fumbles. North Texas only had four interceptions as a team in 2015, a feat that Brooks has equaled himself.
Moore (Edmond, Oklahoma) made 37-of-37 extra points during the regular season, extending his own school record for consecutive PATs to 95 straight. Additionally, Moore has made 8-for-12 field goals, including a career-long 51-yarder vs. Louisiana Tech on November 5. Moore was named Conference USA Special Teams Player of the Week after his Week 12 performance in a win over Southern Miss.
Wilson (Arlington, Texas) averaged a team-best 21.7 yards per kick return through the regular season and had a season-best return of 66 yards. Wilson was also named Conference USA Special Teams Player of the Week after a big performance at Rice on September 24 in a win.
The Mean Green, in their first year under rookie head coach Seth Littrell, made one of the biggest turnarounds in the nation, going from 1-11 in 2015 to 5-7 in 2016. The Mean Green are slated to oppose Army in the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl on Tuesday, December 27, 2016 at the Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas.
Bowl-game tickets are on sale now through the North Texas Ticket Office, and ticket information is available at www.meangreenbowlgame.com.
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