Wolves tie for tops in conference with 11 preseason all-SAC picks

Wolves tie for tops in conference with 11 preseason all-SAC picks
Tuesday, August 5, 2014 | by Josh Manck, Assistant AD for Athletic Communications

ROCK HILL - Coming off of a strong season and NCAA Division II playoff berth, the Newberry Wolves tied with Carson-Newman for the most Preseason all-South Atlantic Conference picks in 2013, as the playoff foes each had 11 honorees on the annual listing.

Three Wolves were named to the preseason all-SAC first team, with special teamer Kyle Clark named to both the first and second teams. Also on the first team are quarterback W.T. Murden and linebacker Edmond Robinson.

Eight Wolves earned honor on the preseason all-SAC second team - wide receiver Byron Dickerson, offensive linemen Landon Martin and Evan Sobocinski, long snapper Andrew Smith, defensive lineman Alstevis Squirewell, linebacker Taylor McDonnell and defensive back Lance Richardson.

Kyle Clark (Beaufort, S.C.) earned first team honors as a punter and also was named to the second team as a placekicker. He led the conference with a 39.1 yards per punt average on 45 boots, including 13 punts inside the opponents' 20-yardline and seven punts over 50 yards. He had a 71-yard punt in the game against Mars Hill and also a 64-yarder against North Greenville. 

As a kicker, Clark ranks first among returning kickers with 59 points on 35-of-39 PATs and 8-of-13 field goals, including a 40-yarder against Mars Hill. He had 10 points scored in the North Greenville game and averaged 59.4 yards per kickoff with 15 touchbacks on 67 kickoffs. He was named SAC Special Teams Player of the Week three times in a row last season.

"Kyle is the best special teamers in the conference in my opinion," said Newberry head coach Todd Knight. "He's so versatile that we use him in all three kicking phases and he's a weapon in all three."

W.T. Murden (West Columbia, S.C.) earned first team preseason all-SAC honors at quarterback after a stellar junior season. He completed 147-of-234 passes for 1,964 yards and 17 touchdowns with nine interceptions. He also had 115 carries for 377 yards for three touchdowns. He had the top passer rating in the conference and ranked in the top five in every major category. Murden went over 200 yards in the air twice last season, including a 279-yard, three touchdown performance against Brevard.

For his career, he's completed 401-of-645 passes for 4,898 yards with 41 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. On the ground he's carried the ball 134 times for 827 yards and five touchdowns.

"W.T. deserves this honor and he's a great player to have as a starting quarterback," Knight said. "He's a seasoned veteran and a proven winner."

Edmond Robinson (Wadmalaw Island, S.C.) goes into his senior season as a preseason first team all-SAC linebacker. In his junior year, he had 69 total tackles with 12 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. He also had an interception, a forced fumble and five pass breakups. He was the SAC Defensive Player of the Week with seven tackles and three tackles for loss in the win at Elizabeth City State. He had a season-hihg of eight tackles in road games at Wingate and at Lenoir-Rhyne. He had 2.5 tackles for loss and an interception in the home win over Brevard.

"Edmond had a great season last year and he's displayed that he has athleticism off of the charts," Knight said. "He's a dominant leader for our defense and I look forward to him having a fantastic year." 

Byron Dickerson (Atlanta, Ga.) was named preseason second team all-SAC at wide receiver, standing ready to take over for Corey Washington after the former All-American's move to the NFL. Dickerson was Newberry's second-leading receiver in 2013 with 26 receptions for 386 yards and three touchdowns - one each against Florida Tech, Lenoir-Rhyne and North Greenville.

"Byron is a great target for our quarterbacks on the outside," Knight said. "He has a big frame and can use his vertical skills from his basketball background for the jump balls. He's going to be a bigger threat this season."

Landon Martin (Pelzer, S.C.) was a second team all-SAC offensive lineman following the 2013 season and remains in that spot for the 2014 preseason. According to coach's grades, he had an 87 percent grade in 501 snaps with 37 pancake blocks, which is the highest among Newberry's returning linemen.

"Landon will be a leader for us up front this season," Knight said. "He's a fighter and a very fierce competitor."

Also on the second team preseason all-league squad up front is Evan Sobocinski (Lexington, S.C.). A CoSIDA/Capital One Academic All-District pick in 2013, the center played 452 snaps last year with an 86 percent coach's grade and 27 pancake blocks - all despite standing only 5-foot-10.

"Evan has been told his entire career that he's been too small," Knight said. "He keeps proving them wrong and beating them again and again."

Rounding out second team offensive picks is long snapper Andrew Smith (Savannah, Ga.), who will step into the shoes of two-time all-SAC snapper Austin Crook.

"Andrew is a good athlete both as a long snapper and a receiver," Knight said. "He's good at making plays in coverage after the snap, which not every long snapper can do."

On the defensive side of the ball, defensive lineman Alstevis Squirewell (Great Falls, S.C.) has earned second team honors. He had 32 tackles last season with 6.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. He also had an interception with a 70-yard return in the Homecoming rout over Tusculum. In the season opener against Elizabeth City State, he had a key forced fumble. As a freshman in 2012, he earned SAC Defensive Player of the Week honors with an interception return for a game-winning touchdown against Catawba.

"Alstevis is a ball magnet on the line," Knight said. "He's always around the ball. You can't coach what happens with that kid, but he does it every week."

Another linebacker joins the team in the form of Taylor McDonnell (Bluffton, S.C.). As a sophomore, he had 45 tackles with 5.5 tackles for loss, including a season-high 11 stops at Lenoir-Rhyne.

"Taylor has quietly worked himself into a very good linebacker," Knight said. "He gets better at every practice and hits like a runaway truck."

The final Newberry honoree on the defensive side of the ball is safety Lance Richardson (Ware Shoals, S.C.), who is on the team after a year off due to injury. The Georgia Tech transfer had 32 tackles as a junior in 2012 along with three straight games grabbing a turnover to open that season. He had a fumble recovery against Elizabeth City State and interceptions against Shorter and Catawba. His season best of tackles in that season came against Shorter with seven stops.

"Lance has a Division I body and tons of talent," Knight said. "There's no telling what he could do this year after he knocks the rust off."

Newberry and Carson-Newman's 11 preseason all-SAC picks are the top class of the conference. Wingate had nine picks, Lenoir-Rhyne had eight, Mars Hill and Tusculum had six apiece, Catawba had four selections and Brevard rounded out the league picks with three.