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Three UTEP Football Players Named First Team All-C-USA

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UTEP junior offensive lineman Will Hernandez, record-breaking junior running back Aaron Jones and record-breaking senior tight end Hayden Plinke earned first team All-Conference USA honors on Tuesday, as selected by the league’s 13 head football coaches.

Junior linebacker Alvin Jones was named second team All-C-USA, while senior linebacker Nick Usher, junior punter Alan Luna and sophomore punt returner Terry Juniel earned honorable mention honors.

UTEP has now had 20 first team All-C-USA selections in 12 seasons as a league member. It’s also the first time since the 2008 season that four Miners were selected all-conference.

Jones set multiple school records during his prolific junior season. The El Paso native rushed for a single-season school-record 1,773 yards, while climbing his way to the top of the program’s career-rushing list with 4,114 yards, breaking John Harvey’s 28-year old record. Jones averaged 7.7 yards on 229 carries and scored 17 rushing touchdowns (third most in program history). Jones added three more receiving scores, while tallying 2,006 all-purpose yards (fourth best single-season performance in school history). Jones capped the 2016 campaign with a career-high 301 yards and a career-best four rushing touchdowns against North Texas. Jones’s 301-yard effort is the second most yards rushed in a single contest in UTEP history. Jones is currently ranked third in the nation with his 147.8 rushing yards per contest.

Paving the way and creating holes for Jones is Hernandez, who has started all 37 games in his career at the left guard position. Hernandez helped UTEP rushers gain 185.5 yards per game, currently ranking fourth in C-USA. UTEP tallied 20 rushing touchdowns. Hernandez’s efforts on the offensive line also yielded 22 sacks (1.83 avg.), ranking fourth least allowed in C-USA. The Las Vegas, Nev., native helped the Miners gain a season-high 384 yards rushing (most since 1983) during a dominant 52-24 victory against North Texas. UTEP also tallied a season-high 555 yards of total offense against the Mean Green. UTEP gained 323 yards rushing against Houston Baptist, while opening the season with 518 yards of total offense, including 289 rushing yards in a victory over rival NM State.

Plinke produced big numbers, as the Hillsboro, Ore., native set a UTEP tight end record by hauling in eight receiving touchdowns in 2016. Plinke led the Miners with 38 receptions, while ranking second with 456 receiving yards. Plinke led all C-USA tight ends in touchdown receptions, while his scores ranked tied sixth with three other players in C-USA. Plinke earned a John Mackey Honorable Mention following his performance at UTSA. During UTEP’s 5OT win against the Roadrunners, Plinke tallied 84 yards on four receptions, including a game-extending two-point conversion in the third overtime of the contest. Plinke also registered a career-high two touchdown receptions against Houston Baptist.

Jones is the first UTEP running back to earn first team honors since Donald Buckram (2009), Hernandez is the first UTEP offensive lineman since Mike Aguayo (2009) to earn first team honors, while Plinke is the first UTEP tight end to be named All-C-USA, while he’s also the first to be named first team since Brian Natkin earned such honors in 2000 in the Western Athletic Conference.

Alvin Jones led the Miners with 93 tackles despite missing a pair of contests due to injury. Jones produced monster numbers in a pair of contests, tallying a career-high 16 tackles against FIU, while matching that number at Rice. The El Paso native opened his junior campaign with a 12-tackle outing during a victory against rival NM State. Jones then capped the season with a 12-tackle performance in a 52-24 drubbing of North Texas.

Usher led the UTEP defense with 5.5 sacks and 8.0 tackles for loss (41 yards). The Los Angeles native ranked third on the team with 77 tackles, while adding two breakups, a team-leading five quarterback hurries and a blocked kick. Usher tallied 2.0 sacks and seven tackles at no. 11 Texas, while registering a sack and nine tackles during a 5OT win at UTSA.

Luna averaged 41.0 yards on 62 punts (2,542 yards), with a career-long 69-yard boot. The El Paso native currently ranks ninth on the program’s all-time list with 5,427 career punt yards. Luna averaged a career-best 51.0 yards against Southern Miss, while at LA Tech, placed three punts inside the 20-yard line, while two were inside the 10-yard line.

Juniel opened his UTEP career by tallying 104 yards on six punt returns with a long of 42 yards in the season-opening victory against rival NM State – it was the most return yards in a single game since the 2006 season, while it was the single-game high in C-USA. The Surprise, Ariz., native currently ranks third in C-USA in punt return average (9.2), while his 22 returns and 203 yards led the league.

2016 C-USA FOOTBALL ALL-CONFERENCE TEAMS

FIRST TEAM

OFFENSE

QB – Ryan Higgins, Sr., Louisiana Tech

RB – I’Tavius Mathers, Sr., Middle Tennessee

RB – Aaron Jones, Jr., UTEP

OL – Darrell Brown, Sr., Louisiana Tech

OL – Cameron Tom, Sr., Southern Miss

OL – Will Hernandez, Jr., UTEP

OL – Max Halpin, Sr., WKU

OL – Forrest Lamp, Sr., WKU

TE – Hayden Plinke, Sr., UTEP

WR – Carlos Henderson, Jr., Louisiana Tech

WR – Trent Taylor, Sr., Louisiana Tech

WR – Richie James, So., Middle Tennessee

WR – Taywan Taylor, Sr., WKU

DEFENSE

DL – Larry Ogunjobi, Sr., Charlotte

DL – Trey Hendrickson, Sr., Florida Atlantic

DL – Jaylon Ferguson, So., Louisiana Tech

DL – Dylan Bradley, Sr., Southern Miss

LB – TJ Ricks, Sr., Old Dominion

LB – Emmanuel Ellerbee, Jr., Rice

LB – Josiah Tauaefa, Fr., UTSA

LB – Keith Brown, Sr., WKU

DB – Xavier Woods, Sr., Louisiana Tech

DB – Jeremy Cutrer, Sr., Middle Tennessee

DB – D’Nerius Antoine, Sr., Southern Miss

DB – Branden Leston, Sr., WKU

SPECIAL TEAMS

K – Canon Rooker, Jr., Middle Tennessee

P – Eric Keena, Sr., North Texas

KR – Carlos Henderson, Jr., Louisiana Tech

PR – Nacarius Fant, Jr., WKU

LS – William Eads, Sr., Middle Tennessee

SECOND TEAM

OFFENSE

QB – Mike White, Jr., WKU

RB – Ito Smith, Jr., Southern Miss

RB – Anthony Wales, Sr., WKU

OL – Joseph Brunson, Sr., Louisiana Tech

OL – O’Shea Dugas, So., Louisiana Tech

OL – Daniel Stephens, Sr., Middle Tennessee

OL – Troy Butler, Sr., Old Dominion

OL – Darrell Williams, Jr., Sr., WKU

TE – Jonnu Smith, Sr., FIU

WR – Zach Pascal, Sr., Old Dominion

WR – Nicholas Norris, Sr., WKU

DEFENSE

DL – Rashaad Coward, Sr., Old Dominion

DL – Oshane Ximines, So., Old Dominion

DL – Marcus Davenport, Jr., UTSA

DL – Omarius Bryant, Sr., WKU

LB – Anthony Wint, Jr., FIU

LB – Jordan Harris, Sr., Louisiana Tech

LB – Alvin Jones, Jr., UTEP

DB – Kishawn McClain, Jr., North Texas

DB – Brandon Addison, Jr., Old Dominion

DB – Michael Egwuagu, Sr., UTSA

DB – Joe Brown, Jr., WKU

SPECIAL TEAMS

K – Jonathan Barnes, Jr., Louisiana Tech

K – Parker Shaunfield, So., Southern Miss

P – Jake Collins, So., WKU

KR – Kylen Towner, Jr., WKU

PR – Trent Taylor, Sr., Louisiana Tech

LS – Darrell Travis, Sr., Louisiana Tech

HONORABLE MENTION

OFFENSE

QB – Brent Stockstill, So., Middle Tennessee

QB – David Washington, Sr., Old Dominion

QB – Nick Mullens, Sr., Southern Miss

RB – Kalif Phillips, Sr., Charlotte

RB – Alex Gardner, Jr., FIU

RB – Devin Singletary, Fr., Florida Atlantic

RB – Jarred Craft, Jr., Louisiana Tech

RB – Ray Lawry, Jr., Old Dominion

OL – Nate Davis, So., Charlotte

OL – Dieugot Joseph, Sr., FIU

OL – Michael Montero, Sr., FIU

OL – Dillon DeBoer, Sr., Florida Atlantic

OL – Antonyo Woods, Jr., Florida Atlantic

OL – Chandler Brewer, So., Middle Tennessee

OL – Josh Chester, Sr., Middle Tennessee

OL – Maurquice Shakir, Sr., Middle Tennessee

OL – Jordan Murray, So., North Texas

OL – Sam Rice, Sr., North Texas

OL – Calvin Anderson, So., Rice

OL – Trey Martin, Jr., Rice

OL – Jevonte Domond, Sr., UTSA

TE – Kam McKnight, So., Louisiana Tech

TE – Ryan Yurachek, Jr., Marshall

TE – Julian Allen, Jr., Southern Miss

WR – Austin Duke, Sr., Charlotte

WR – Thomas Owens, Jr., FIU

WR – Kalib Woods, Jr., Florida Atlantic

WR – Dennis Andrews, Sr., Middle Tennessee

WR – Ty Lee, Fr., Middle Tennessee

WR – Jonathan Duhart, Jr., Old Dominion

WR – Allenzae Staggers, Jr., Southern Miss

WR – Josh Stewart, Jr., UTSA

DEFENSE

DL – Brandon Banks, Sr., Charlotte

DL – Aaron Brown, Sr., Louisiana Tech

DL – Deldrick Canty, Jr., Louisiana Tech

DL – Ryan Bee, So., Marshall

DL – Gary Thompson, Sr., Marshall

DL – Chris Hale, Sr., Middle Tennessee

DL – Shaquille Huff, Sr., Middle Tennessee

DL – Jimal McBride, Sr., Middle Tennessee

DL – Steven Rhodes, Sr., Middle Tennessee

DL – Bunmi Rotimi, Jr., Old Dominion

DL – Xavier Thigpen, Jr., Southern Miss

DL – Chris Johnson, Jr., WKU

LB – Nick Cook, Sr., Charlotte

LB – Treyvon Williams, Jr., FIU

LB – Azeez Al-Shaair, So., Florida Atlantic

LB – Russell Farris, Jr., Louisiana Tech

LB – Chris Melton, So., Middle Tennessee

LB – D.J. Sanders, Jr.., Middle Tennessee

LB – Joshua Wheeler, Jr., North Texas

LB – Anthony Wilson, Sr., Old Dominion

LB – Alex Lyons, Sr., Rice

LB – Elijah Parker, Sr., Southern Miss

LB – Nick Usher, Sr., UTEP

LB – Joel Iyiegbuniwe, So., WKU

LB – T.J. McCollum, Jr., WKU

DB – Niko Gonzalez, Jr., FIU

DB – Raekwon Williams, Jr., Florida Atlantic

DB – Jalen Young, So., Florida Atlantic

DB – Secdrick Cooper, Jr., Louisiana Tech

DB – Prince Sam, Sr., Louisiana Tech

DB – Rodney Allen, Jr., Marshall

DB – Nate Brooks, So., North Texas

DB – Eric Jenkins, Jr., North Texas

DB – Tabari McGaskey, Sr., Rice

DB – Jordan Moore, Sr., UTSA

DB – Leverick Johnson, Jr., WKU

SPECIAL TEAMS

K – Austin Taylor, Sr., FIU

K – Greg Joseph, Jr., Florida Atlantic

K – Trevor Moore, Jr., North Texas

K – Skyler Simcox, So., WKU

P – Dalton Schomp, Sr., Florida Atlantic

P – Jack Fox, So., Rice

P – Tyler Sarrazin, Sr., Southern Miss

P – Alan Luna, Jr., UTEP

KR – Chris Montgomery, Jr., Charlotte

KR – Kerrith Whyte, Fr., Florida Atlantic

KR – Tyler Wilson, Fr., North Texas

PR – Terry Juniel, So., UTEP

LS – Keaston Sinicki, Sr., Charlotte

LS – Sam Medlock, Sr., FIU

LS – Reed Buce, Jr., Old Dominion

LS – Matt Bayliss, Jr., UTSA

LS – Nolan Dowling, Sr., WKU