Backed by a talented group of newcomers in 2011, UCF football placed a league-high six players on the Conference USA All-Freshman Team as the league office announced its postseason awards Tuesday. In all, the Knights had 14 players honored, including junior defensive back Josh Robinson and freshman kick returner Rannell Hall who were voted onto the All-C-USA First Team by the league’s head coaches. Hall was the lone freshman from any school to grab a spot on either the first or second team.
The six selections to the All-Freshman Team were the most for a C-USA school since Houston had six in 2008. UCF also had six freshmen honorees in its first year in the league in 2005.
For the complete list of C-USA awards, visit ConferenceUSA.com.
Representing the Knights on the All-Freshman Team were Hall, quarterback Blake Bortles, offensive lineman Torrian Wilson, wide receiver J.J. Worton, linebacker Troy Gray and defensive back Clayton Geathers. UCF became the first school in C-USA history to place a quarterback on the All-Freshman Team in consecutive seasons (Jeff Godfrey in 2010).
Bortles finished his first-full year in a Black and Gold uniform by going 75-for-110 for 958 yards, a 68.2 completion percentage, six touchdowns and a 153.88 efficiency rating. His 75 completions tied for the fourth-most all-time among UCF freshmen, while his completion percentage set a school record for a freshman. Helping to protect Bortles, Wilson appeared in 11 games with four starts at left tackle.
Leading the Knights in receiving yards with 531 in 2011, Worton set a UCF freshman record with 41 receptions and ranked fourth with four touchdown receptions. He became the first Knight since Mike Sims-Walker in 2006 to collect at least 10 catches in a game when Worton had 11 at Southern Miss, which also was just the second time a UCF freshman posted 10 or more receptions (Sean Beckton had 11 vs. Liberty in 1987).
Defensively, Gray started the final nine games at outside linebacker, registering 30 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss as well as his first-collegiate sack against Memphis. And Geathers started all 12 games at strong safety, ranking second on the team with 67 tackles while breaking up six passes.
On special teams, Hall became the third Knight in the past four seasons to serve as the All-C-USA First Team kick returner (Joe Burnett in 2008, Quincy McDuffie in 2010). He is also the first freshman KR since Louisville’s Broderick Clark in 2002 to be voted onto the First Team, and was the first UCF freshman overall to make an appearance on the First Team since Burnett (as a defensive back and a punt returner) in 2005.
During the season, Hall did not start returning kicks until game six at SMU when UCF ranked 104th in the nation in kickoff returns. As of Dec. 6, the Knights rank No. 3 in the country as Hall climbed to seventh individually. The Miami native recorded 23 returns for 714 yards, and his 31.0 average ranked second in UCF single-season history. Hall amassed at least 138 yards in returns in four different games in 2011.
Joining Hall on the first team, Robinson once again scared off opposing quarterbacks from throwing in his direction, yet he still recorded 48 tackles and two interceptions to receive his second-straight All-C-USA First-Team honor. Meanwhile, his 15 break-ups were tied for the second-most by a Knight, and Robinson will enter 2012 needing just two more break-ups to tie Asante Samuel for UCF’s career record of 38.
Earning second-team accolades, senior right tackle Nick Pieschel started the final 11 games of the year after missing the season-opener due to an injury. He appeared in 49 games during his career with 43 starts. And Charley Hughlett saw time in all 51 games from 2008-11 as the Knights’ long snapper. He was on the C-USA All-Freshman Team in 2008 and was on the second team in 2010 as well.
And picking up honorable-mention status for the Knights were junior offensive linemen Theo Goins and Jordan Rae, senior tight end Adam Nissley, sophomore defensive lineman Victor Gray and junior defensive back Kemal Ishmael.
C-USA’s top individual award winners will be announced Wednesday.
UCF’s All-Conference USA Honorees
UCF’s Conference USA All-Freshman Team Members