Spartanburg, S.C. – Citadel junior center Mike Sellers and head coach Kevin Higgins were selected as individual award winners by the head coaches and media covering the Southern Conference, the league office announced on Tuesday.
Sellers received the Jacobs Blocking Award and was the lone Bulldog named to the all-conference first team while Higgins was chosen the Wallace Wade Coach of the Year by the media and shared the honor with Samford's Pat Sullivan in the coaches' balloting.
Three other Bulldogs were named to the all-conference team. Senior defensive end Chris Billingslea and senior punter Cass Couey were named to the second team by both the coaches and media while junior cornerback Brandon McCladdie joined the duo on the media second team.
Sellers (Summerville, S.C./Fort Dorchester) is on the all-conference first team for the second straight season and became the first Bulldog to receive the Jacobs Blocking Award for the Southern Conference although Carlos Avalos won the award presented to a player from the state of South Carolina in 1988.
Sellers has started the past 22 games at center after originally coming to The Citadel as a defensive lineman. This season he anchored an offensive line which enabled the Bulldogs to rush for an average of 300.6 yards per game, the fourth-highest mark in the nation, while allowing only two sacks on the year.
He led the Bulldogs with 75 knockdown blocks and earned the highest assignment grade of all Citadel offensive linemen this season. A year ago Sellers was the team's offensive MVP and is a candidate for All-America honors this season.
Higgins joins Eddie Teague (1961), Tom Moore (1984) and Charlie Taaffe (1988 and 1990) as the only Citadel coaches to win SoCon Coach of the Year honors. Higgins led the Bulldogs to a record of 7-4 and 5-3 in the SoCon, marking the first time since 2007 that the team enjoyed a winning overall and conference season. The Citadel finished fourth in the conference after being picked eighth of nine teams in the coaches' preseason poll.
Among the seven wins were victories over Top 10 opponents and perennial SoCon powers Georgia Southern and Appalachian State as part of a 3-0 start. The Citadel had not defeated a Top 10 team since 1997 and had not knocked off a pair of such teams since 1991.
The victory over then No. 3 Georgia Southern marked the highest-ranked team to fall victim to the Bulldogs since The Citadel defeated No. 1 Marshall in 1988. The Citadel nearly added a third Top 10 victim but fell just short in a 24-21 loss to Wofford.
The Bulldogs were nationally-ranked for four weeks during the season and climbed to No. 10 after their win over Appalachian State, the highest national ranking for The Citadel since finishing the 1992 season No. 1 in the country.
Billingslea (Fort Mill, S.C./Fort Mill) is on the second team for the second time. He led the Bulldogs with nine tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks and ranked fourth with 51 tackles while also breaking up two passes and forcing a pair of fumbles. He tied for third in the SoCon with 0.59 sacks per game and tied for fourth with 0.82 tackles for loss per contest.
Billingslea played in all 44 games during his career with 39 consecutive starts. He had career totals of 180 tackles, 29 tackles for loss and 13 sacks, tying for sixth in school history in the latter category.
Couey (Tampa, Fla./Freedom) was The Citadel's punter all four seasons and established himself as one of the top performers in school history at his position. A year after earning first team all-conference honors, he averaged 42.4 yards per punt to rank second in the SoCon while placing 12 of his 34 punts inside the 20 and had five of at least 50 yards.
Over the past four seasons, Couey punted 162 times for an average of 40.9, the second-highest career mark in school history. His average of 43.0 in 2011 ranked him fifth in the nation and was the second-highest season figure in The Citadel record book. Couey did not have a punt blocked during his entire college career.
McCladdie (Martinez, Ga./Evans) is on the all-conference team for the first time in his career. He had 45 tackles, the sixth-most on the team, to go along with three tackles for loss, two interceptions, four pass breakups and three forced fumbles. He tied for fourth in the SoCon with an average of 0.27 forced fumbles per game.
In his three-year career, McCladdie has played in all 33 games with 104 tackles, six interceptions and 13 passes defensed.
Riley (Mobile, Ala./Davidson) was expected to be redshirted this season but injuries to starting linebackers Carl Robinson and Rah Muhammad forced him into the lineup in week eight against national power Wofford. Riley responded with a team-leading 12 tackles, including three for losses and a sack against the Terriers.
He also had double-figure tackle games against Furman (12) and Elon (11) and finished the year ranked seventh on the team with 43 tackles.
Thomas (Brunswick, Ga./Glynn Academy) moved into the defensive line rotation in week two against Georgia Southern and made an immediate impact on the Bulldogs' pass rush. He had a sack in each of his first three games and six on the year on only nine total tackles, including one which forced a fumble that Derek Douglas returned for a touchdown against VMI.
Jeter (Rock Hill, S.C./Rock Hill) played in all 11 games and started the final four at nose tackle. He had 28 tackles including a season-high six in the finale against Furman and had six tackles for loss and four sacks.