Curtis Steele Named C-USA Newcomer of the Year
Dec. 10, 2008
MEMPHIS, TENN. - Junior running back Curtis Steele was named Conference USA Newcomer of the Year, as voted on by the 12 coaches and announced by the league office Wednesday.
Steele, who was selected to the All-C-USA second team on Tuesday, leads the Tigers in rushing with 1,175 yards and seven touchdowns on 206 carries. He logged his sixth 100-yard rushing game with his 135-yard effort versus Tulane in the regular season finale. Steele ranks fourth all-time in single-season yardage at U of M and is the first Tiger to rush for over 1,000 yards since DeAngelo Williams did so in 2005. The transfer from Northwest Mississippi Community College is averaging 97.9 rushing yards in 12 games and has averaged 112.2 yards in his last nine contests.
In addition to the Newcomer of the Year Award, C-USA also announced its Players of the Year. Rice's Chase Clement was named the league's Most Valuable Player, while Houston's Case Keenum and Phillip Hunt were named the Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year, respectively. UCF's Joe Burnett was selected the Special Teams Player of the Year, and Houston's Bryce Beall was named the Freshman of the Year.
Clement was named the first recipient of the C-USA Most Valuable Player Award. Clement has completed 296-of-446 passes for 3,812 yards and 41 touchdowns with just seven interceptions. He threw at least one touchdown pass in his final 25 C-USA games and posted a 15-8 record as a starter in league play over the last three years. Clement set the C-USA record for career TD passes (96) and total touchdowns (120). He now holds six C-USA records and leads all C-USA signal callers with 52 total touchdowns this season. He holds all the Owls records in passing and total offense and heads into bowl action as the only quarterback in the nation to have amassed over 500 yards rushing (a career-high 621) while throwing for over 3,500 yards.
Houston sophomore QB Case Keenum was named Offensive Player of the Year, the ninth time in the last 11 years that a quarterback has won the award. He has passed for more than 300 yards in every game this season and leads the nation in total offense (4,993 yards), while ranking second in passing yards (4,768) and passing touchdowns (43). The 2007 C-USA Freshman of the Year has completed 67 percent of his passes (375-of-556) and is averaging 397.3 yards per game. With Keenum at the controls, the Cougars lead the FBS in total offense at 575.1 yards per game, while averaging 41.7 points per game. His efforts have led Houston to its fourth straight bowl game as its gets ready to face Air Force in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl on December 31 in Fort Worth, Texas.
Defensive honors went to Houston senior DE Phillip Hunt, who becomes the second Cougar to win the honor, joining Wayne Rogers, who shared the award following the 2000 season. Hunt leads Conference USA and ranks fourth nationally with 12 sacks, all solo. He is third in the league lead in tackles for loss with 16.5, totaling 110 lost yards. Hunt has posted 40 total tackles, forced a team-high three fumbles (second in C-USA), broke up one pass and blocked a field goal attempt.
The Special Teams Player of the Year award went to UCF senior kick returner/punt returner Joe Burnett. The first player in C-USA history to be named first team all-conference at three different positions, Burnett ranked 10th in C-USA in total all-purpose yards without registering a single rush or reception. He led C-USA and ranked seventh nationally in kick return yardage at 28.7. Included was a pair of kickoff returns for touchdowns. Burnett led the league in punt return yardage at 14.3 per return, nearly six yards more than any other player. He closed his career as C-USA's all-time leader in punt return yardage with 1,304 yards, ranking 19th in FBS history.
Redshirt freshman RB Bryce Beall of Houston was named the league's Freshman of the Year. He became the first freshman in school history to rush for 1,000 yards, ranking fourth in C-USA with 1,112 (92.7 ypg). Beall led Conference USA in rushing touchdowns with 12, while adding four receiving scores to rank third in the league in total touchdowns with 16. He had five 100-yard rushing games and ran for a score and caught a TD in the same game three times.