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Hicks Voted SBC Offensive Player of the Year

July 26, 2001 · MT Media Relations
NEW ORLEANS, LA - One day after being picked to win the inaugural football title in the Sun Belt Conference, Middle Tennessee received more good news when it was announced this morning that five Blue Raiders were named to the preseason all-conference team. Highlighting today's announcement was junior running back Dwone Hicks being voted the league's Preseason Offensive Player of the Year.

"Every one of our players who made this team is very deserving," head coach Andy McCollum said. "It says a lot about the progress of our program, but as I said yesterday you have to take care of your business on the field. The end of the year is when you want these type honors the most because it usually means your team was very successful."

Hicks, a 2001 Doak Walker Award candidate, returns after racking up 1,247 yards on the ground in 2000 to finish 15th nationally. During his record-setting season, Hicks tallied 126 points and 21 touchdowns, while topping the 100-yard mark on eight occasions. In a win over Louisiana Tech, Hicks set a new school record with 311 yards rushing and six touchdowns.

The first preseason all-SBC team is made up of 25 players with five each coming from Middle Tennessee and Idaho. New Mexico State and North Texas saw four players on the list, while Arkansas State placed three players on the squad. Louisiana-Monroe and Louisiana-Lafayette each had two representatives.

Along with Hicks, senior wide receiver Kendall Newson and sophomore tackle Brandon Westbrook made the offensive team. Newson, an all-America candidate and one of just two wide receivers selected, enters the 2001 campaign as the schools career leader in receptions, receiving yardage, and 100-yard games. Westbrook was one of five offensive linemen earning recognition.

On defense, senior Tanaka Scott made the team as a defensive lineman. Scott, the Blue Raiders' sack leader in 2000, joined North Texas linebacker Brad Kassell as the only unanimous selections to this year's squad.

Sophomore Brian Kelly completed Middle Tennessee's honors by being tabbed as the league's top place-kicker. Kelly made 11 of 13 field goals as a freshman, including his first five attempts.

Following is a complete list of the 2001 Sun Belt Conference Preseason Team:

Offense
Offensive Line: Garry Johnson (Arkansas State); Larry Pink (Louisiana-Monroe); Brandon Westbrook (Middle Tennessee); Tony Wragge (New Mexico State); Mike Zuniga (North Texas).

Tight End: Geoff Franks (Idaho)

Wide Receivers: Chris Lacy (Idaho); Kendall Newson (Middle Tennessee)

Quarterback: John Welsh (Idaho)

Running Backs: Dwone Hicks (Middle Tennessee); Kenton Keith (New Mexico State)

Defense
Defensive Line:*Tanaka Scott (Middle Tennessee); Wil Beck (Idaho); Derrick Marshall (Louisiana-Lafayette); Corey Williams (Arkansas State)

Linebackers: *Brad Kassell (North Texas); Brad Rice (Idaho); D'Wayne Taylor (New Mexico State)

Defensive Backs: Dedrick Buckles (Louisiana-Monroe); Don McGee (North Texas); Corey Paul (New Mexico State); Charles Tillman (Louisiana-Lafayette)

Special Teams
Kicker: Brian Kelly (Middle Tennessee)
Punter: Jason Ball (North Texas)
Return Specialist: James Hickenbotham (Arkansas State)

Preseason Offensive Player of the Year: Dwone Hicks
Preseason Defensive Player of the Year: Brad Kassell

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