FLORENCE, Ala. – Senior quarterback Raleigh Yeldell has been named Newberry’s first-ever finalist for the Harlon Hill Trophy, the honor given by the National Harlon Hill Award Committee to the NCAA Division II College Football Player of the Year.
Yeldell now advances to the national ballot along with eight other finalists from the initial pool of 43 nominees. The Edgefield native is joined by North Alabama quarterback Jacob Tucker from Super Region 2.
The nine finalists were selected by Sports Information Directors of football-sponsoring Division II institutions voting on regional ballots. A tie in Super Region 4 allowed three players to advance, while two players from each of the other regions were named finalists. The 171 Sports Information Directors with Division II football programs will vote to select the 31st Harlon Hill Trophy recipient.
The winner will be announced on Dec. 16 and honored at a luncheon on the campus of the University of North Alabama on Jan. 6, 2017.
Yeldell already has a South Atlantic Conference Offensive Player of the Year award, a first team all-SAC nod, four SAC Offensive Player of the Week honors, and one Eastern College Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Week awards to his credit this season. The senior played a major role in Newberry’s conference championship, sparkling 7-0 league mark and 10-2 overall record, and No. 2 seed in the 2016 Division II Football Championship.
Under his guidance, the Newberry offense established school records with 5,462 yards of total offense, 3,536 passing yards, 61 total touchdowns, and 436 points scored. The Wolves tied a school record with 10 consecutive wins, have extended their still-active school-record streak for consecutive conference victories to 10, and earned the highest playoff seed in school history.
Yeldell had arguably the best season by any offensive player to wear the scarlet and gray in 2016. He led the nation with a 70.3 percent completion rate, connecting on 260 of his 370 passes for a school-record 3,087 yards and 27 touchdowns. He added 331 yards and six scores on the ground to set a Newberry record and finish eighth in SAC history with 3,418 yards of total offense and 33 touchdowns accounted for.
He also accumulated gaudy career totals, becoming the only Newberry player to pass for 5,000 yards and rush for 1,500 in a career. He finished the season second all-time at Newberry with 11 250-yard passing games, third in total offense with 7,026 yards, third with 47 passing touchdowns, and fourth in career passing yardage at 5,499. He threw at least one touchdown in every game this season, became the first quarterback in school history to throw at least four touchdown passes in a game to different receivers, and has three of the top five passing games in school history. The Wolves have won 17 of the 21 games he started under center over the last three seasons.
In addition to rewriting the Newberry record books, Yeldell ranked among the national and conference leaders in a cornucopia of statistical categories. He topped the SAC in 11 categories and ranked inside the top 21 in Division II in nine, including finishing fifth with 26.0 completions per game, sixth with 308.7 passing yards per game and eighth with 341.8 total yards per game.
Yeldell helped the Wolves to a school-record 729 yards of total offense against Lenoir-Rhyne, one of six games in 2016 that saw Newberry roll up at least 450 yards of offense. He was one of nine Wolves’ offensive players named to all-conference teams, including three all-SAC wide receivers and six total first team offense selections.
Running back Vic Gilmore was nominated for the Harlon Hill Trophy in 1998 and Josh Stepp earned a nomination in 2006, but Yeldell is the first to advance onto the national ballot. Former Mars Hill running back Jonas Randolph became the South Atlantic Conference's only Harlon Hill Trophy winner in 2011.
2016 Harlon Hill Trophy Finalists
Garry Brown - California (Pa.) QB
Marty Carter - Grand Valley State (Mich.) RB
Justin Dvorak - Colorado-Mines QB
Austin Ekeler - Western State (Colo.) RB
Trey Heid - Augustana (S.D.) QB
Jacob Tucker - North Alabama QB
Raleigh Yeldell - Newberry (S.C.) QB
Jeff Ziemba - Shepherd (W.Va.) QB
Kyle Zimmerman - Northwest Missouri State QB