Just over a week before Tarleton State Football kicks off at McNeese, the United Athletic Conference announced their preseason honors and awards on Thursday.
Three Texans were named UAC Preseason All-Conference, voted on by head coaches across the United Athletic Conference. Tarleton State netted two on offense and one on defense, with running back Derrel Kelley III, wide receiver Darius Cooper, and linebacker Qua’Shawn Washington all earning the honor.
UAC head coaches submitted votes on who they think the top players are entering the 2023 campaign, and they were not allowed to vote for their own players.
Kelley is one of three running backs to make UAC Preseason All-Conference coming off of his 1,000 yard season in the backfield a year ago. He was Second Team All-WAC last year in his breakout season, rushing for 1,004 yards and eight touchdowns on 155 carries. Kelley averaged 91.3 yards per game and 6.5 yards per carry and saved his best for last, racing for 239 yards on 24 carries (10.0 yards per rush) and two touchdowns in the season finale against Houston Christian. His 239 yards in that game marked the fifth most rushing yards in a single-game in program history, just 30 short of the all-time mark. Across the WAC, he had the tied-most rushing touchdowns and the second most rushing yards (25th in FCS). Kelley also had the most yards per rush at 6.5, the 17th best average in the country.
Cooper is one of three wide receivers on the UAC’s Preseason All-Conference list. Last year, he also had a 1,000-yard season, finishing with 54 receptions for 1,063 yards and nine touchdowns in playing all 11 games. That boosted him to All-WAC First Team accolades. Across the WAC, he had the third most receiving yards (ninth in FCS), the third most receiving touchdowns (tied-21st in FCS), and the fourth most receptions. Cooper scored a TD in seven of Tarleton’s 11 games, including two multi-TD performances. He ended the year with three 150-plus yard games in the final four weeks.
Washington is one of three linebackers to be honored following a Second Team All-WAC campaign in 2022. Washington led the WAC in average tackles per loss (1.5, tied-11th in FCS) and tackles per game (8.2) last year. In nine games, he led the team in total tackles with 75 (37 solo), and also had a team-high 13.5 tackles for loss, plus 1.5 sacks, three quarterback hurries and a pass breakup.
Thirty-one players were selected for this inaugural group with all nine schools earning honorees.
The Texans will open the season Sept. 2 at McNeese in Lake Charles, Louisiana, at Cowboy Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. CT.
The full results of the Preseason UAC poll can be found below:
Preseason Offensive Player of the Year:
Parker McKinney (EKU)
Preseason Defensive Player of the Year:
Syrus Webster (Utah Tech)
Preseason All-Conference Offensive Team
QB *Parker McKinney (EKU)
RB Darius Hale (Central Arkansas)
RB ShunDerrick Powell (Central Arkansas)
RB Derrel Kelley III (Tarleton State)
WR Takairee Kenebrew (North Alabama)
WR Darius Cooper (Tarleton State)
WR Rickie Johnson (Utah Tech)
TE Noah Caldwell (Abilene Christian)
TE Jordan Goco (Austin Peay)
TE Chad Aune (Stephen F. Austin)
OL Reese Moore (Abilene Christian)
OL Chandler Kirton (Austin Peay)
OL Payton Collins (EKU)
OL Josiah Ezirim (EKU)
OL Keegan Holm (Stephen F. Austin)
C Lyle Santos (Southern Utah)
Preseason All-Conference Defensive Team
DL David Walker (Central Arkansas)
DL Logan Jessup (Central Arkansas)
DL Ryan Jackson (EKU)
DL Syrus Webster (Utah Tech)
LB Tyler Long (Austin Peay)
LB Qua’Shawn Washington (Tarleton State)
LB Will Leota (Utah Tech)
DB Kory Chapman (Austin Peay)
DB TaMuarion Wilson (Central Arkansas)
DB Franky West, Jr. (EKU)
DB Jeremiah Walker (Stephen F. Austin)
Preseason All-Conference Specialist Team
K Chris Campos (Stephen F. Austin)
P Chandler Caughron (Central Arkansas)
RS Jarrod Barnes (Central Arkansas)
LS Dustin Inness (Abilene Christian)
*-Denotes unanimous selection
NOTE – Ties in voting resulted in 16-member Offensive Team