Courtesy: CCU Media Relations
CONWAY – Lorenzo Taliaferro (Offensive), Quinn Backus (Defensive) and LaDarius Hawthorne (Special Teams) were voted the Big South's respective Players of the Year, as named by the league's head coaches, while a total of 15 Chanticleers were named All-Big South, the conference announced today.
Taliaferro, a Walter Payton Award Candidate, is CCU's third Big South Offensive Player of the Year, joining Patrick Hall (2004) and Tyler Thigpen (2006). Backus, a Buck Buchanan Award Candidate, earns the league's Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight season, becoming the third Big South player to accomplish the feat, and joins Andrae Jacobs (2010) as Chanticleers to win the honor. Hawthorne is the league's first recipient of the Special Teams Player of the Year Award.
The 15 All-Big South honors ties a CCU record, also accomplishing the feat in 2005, and includes first team picks Alex Ross (QB), Taliaferro (RB), Matt Hazel (WR), Jamey Cheatwood (LG), Chad Hamilton (LT), Drew Herring (RT), Backus (LB), Alex Catron (PK) and Devin Brown (KOR) while second team honorees include DeMario Bennett (WR), Calvin Hollenhorst (DE), Mike McClure (LB), Richie Sampson (FS), Denzel Rice (CB) and four-time selection as punt returner Niccolo Mastromatteo.
Mastromatteo becomes the second Big South student-athlete, with Charleston Southern's Gerald Stevenson, to earn a record five all-conference honors, a second team selection at wide receiver in 2012 in addition to his four honors as punt returner. Mastromatteo was additionally named to the All-Academic team for the second consecutive year.
Taliaferro, who was the Choice Hotels Big South Offensive Player of the Week a record five times this season, set every CCU single-season rushing and scoring record, while setting several Big South records as well. The senior leads the Big South with 12.5 points per game (2nd FCS), 23 rushing touchdowns (2nd FCS), 1,487 rushing yards (5th FCS), 123.9 rushing yards per game (7th FCS), 150 points responsible for (32nd FCS) and 133.3 all-purpose yards per game (26th FCS). Taliaferro put up his impressive numbers despite facing four teams among the FCS top 32 in rush defense. He had 157 yards versus #1 South Carolina State, 144 versus #18 Gardner-Webb, 174 versus #21 Eastern Kentucky and 151 yards versus #32 Liberty. On the Big South single-season lists, Taliaferro sits first in rushing TDs, most points scored, most rushing TDs and most multi-rushing TD games.
Quinn Backus was a three-time Big South Player of the Week and three time National honoree, leads the Big South in solo tackles (14th FCS) and for the second consecutive season total tackles (42nd FCS). He is also the only player in the Big South to rank among the league's top 10 in tackles, tackles for loss (10th with 7.0), interceptions (third-tie with 3) and passes defended (seventh-tie with 0.75/game, 9 total). Backus scored two touchdowns on defense, recovering a blocked field goal and returning it 56 yards to tie the game at South Carolina State in the third quarter and returning an interception 73 yards versus Gardner-Webb for the longest pick six in CCU history.
Hawthorne was rewarded for his spectacular play on special teams this season. The senior set a CCU record with three blocked field goals, while registering two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and five tackles on special teams alone. He opened the set by blocking a field goal at S.C. State, which was returned 56 yards for a game-tying touchdown in the third quarter. In week two versus Furman, he recovered a fumble on kick coverage which led to a CCU 14-0 lead and the Chants were able to keep at least a seven-point lead the rest of the game. In week three at Eastern Kentucky, Hawthorne forced a fumble on kick coverage that CCU recovered and eventually kicked a game-tying field goal as part of a 37-0 run. In week six versus Gardner-Webb, he broke open a scoreless game as he recovered a fumble on punt coverage, leading to a CCU 7-0 and the Chants never looked back. In week seven at Liberty, he made the play that ultimately proved to be the one which gave CCU the league's automatic berth to the playoffs by blocking a field goal in the second overtime at Liberty ot give CCU a 55-52 win. He closed Big South play with a blocked field goal versus Presbyterian to preserve a first-high shutout.
Kirby Broome, Sr., TE, Charleston Southern
Niccolo Mastromatteo, Sr., WR, Coastal Carolina
Lucas Beatty, R-Jr., QB, Gardner-Webb
Scott Hyland, Sr., LB, Liberty
Stephen Doar, R-Soph., P, Presbyterian College
Ty Garvin, R-Jr., LB, VMI
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Lorenzo Taliaferro, Sr., RB, Coastal Carolina
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Quinn Backus, Jr., LB, Coastal Carolina
SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER OF THE YEAR
LaDarius Hawthorne, Sr., DB, Coastal Carolina
FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR
Daniel Croghan III, R-Fr., QB, Charleston Southern
COACH OF THE YEAR
Jamey Chadwell, Charleston Southern