HOUSTON - Houston cornerback William Jackson and long snapper Nolan Frese were named 2015 Preseason All-Americans by Phil Steele Monday as 12 Cougars were also named to the veteran college football analyst’s preseason All-American Athletic Conference team.
Jackson was joined on the all-conference first team by running back Kenneth Farrow and safety Adrian McDonald. Defensive tackle B.J. Singleton and safety Trevon Stewart were named to the league’s second team while wide receiver Demarcus Ayers made third team. Steele had six Cougars on his American fourth team - offensive tackles Alex Cooper and Zach Johnson, linebacker Steven Taylor, cornerback Lee Hightower, kicker Kyle Bullard and punter Logan Piper.
A lockdown corner who played in man coverage most of 2014, Jackson was named to the 2014 American Athletic Conference second team after finishing second in the league with 10 pass breakups and two interceptions with 37 tackles on the year. Jackson also had one fumble recovery and one forced fumble on the year.
Frese completed his second consecutive season as Houston’s starting long snapper in 2014 after serving as a backup in 2012 to Brandon Hartson, now a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers. In his first season as a starter in 2013, Frese did not have a bad snap all season. The Roanoke, Texas, native also has six career tackles on punt coverage.
Farrow led the American in 2014 with seven 100-yard rushing games and was second in the league with 1,037 yards on the ground. Farrow led the league in scoring with 15 total touchdowns - a league-best 14 rushing TDs and one receiving TD. The two-time captain also added 18 receptions for 107 yards and a TD and was named to the 2014 American Athletic Conference second team.
McDonald was named to the 2014 American Athletic Conference first team after leading the league with eight total turnovers. The Lawton, Okla., native was third in the league with five interceptions and second with three fumble recoveries. The senior finished fifth in the league with three forced fumbles and third on the Houston team with 75 tackles.
A 2014 team captain, Stewart finished the year with 56 tackles, including two for a loss, while also tallying three interceptions. A member of the 2014 Jim Thorpe Award Watch List, Stewart is third nationally among active players with 291 career tackles and led the nation with 10 turnovers in 2013 - six fumble recoveries and four interceptions.
Singleton appeared in all 13 games in 2014, making 11 starts on the defensive line. He compiled 22 tackles, including three for a loss, and a sack on the season. The Destrehan, La., native finished 2013 second nationally with three blocked kicks.
Ayers made eight starts, while appearing in all 13 games in 2014, at receiver, pulling in 33 receptions for 335 yards and two touchdowns, an average of 10.2 yards per catch. At kick returner, Ayers had 34 returns for 592 yards, an average of 17.4 yards per return. The 2013 American Co-Special Teams Player of the Year, Ayers led The American and ranked 12th nationally with an average of 27.6 yards per kick return in 2013.
Cooper started all 13 games in 2014 at right tackle, helping the Houston offense gain 2,391 yards on the ground, the second-best total in The American, with a league-best average of 4.8 yards per rushing attempt and total 28 rushing touchdowns.
Johnson is projected to return to the Houston starting lineup after missing 2014 with a torn ACL suffered in the spring. The Norman, Okla., native was Houston’s starting right tackle in 2013 when he played a total of 848 snaps with 16 knockdown blocks.
Taylor appeared in 12 of the 13 games in 2014 for the Cougars, making 10 starts at outside linebacker. He finished the year as the team’s second-leading tackler with 76 stops, including nine tackles for a loss. He also added four sacks, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. The Cedar Hill, Texas, native ranked fourth in The American with three forced fumbles and had three double-digit tackle games in the season.
In his first season on the field with Houston after transferring from Boise State, Hightower started the first six games of 2014 at cornerback before suffering a season-ending Achilles heel injury. In those first six games, Hightower broke up three passes and returned an interception 54 yards for a touchdown in Houston’s 28-24 win at Memphis.
A Lou Groza Award semifinalist in 2014, Bullard finished fifth in The American in scoring with 90 points off 16 field goals and 42 extra points. The Boerne, Texas, native was 6-of-7 on field goals from 40 yards or longer and had a conference-best four field goals in two separate games in 2014. The former walk-on set a Houston program record with 18 consecutive successful field goal attempts after hitting his first 12 tries of 2014.
Piper totaled 43 punts for 1,691 yards, an average of 39.3 yards per attempt with six punts over 50 yards including a career-long 60-yard punt in Houston’s win over Pitt in the Armed Forces Bowl. Piper’s high-hanging punts forced returners to call 19 fair catches with 13 punts landing inside his opponents’ 20-yard line and just four touchbacks on the year.
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