ECU freshman RB named AAC Rookie of the Year; three other Pirates recognized

Sports

Rahjai Harris (ECU Sports Information photo)

IRVING, TEXAS — East Carolina running back Rahjai Harris has been named the American Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year and a first-team all-conference selection the league office announced Tuesday.

Cornerback Ja’Quan McMillian and receiver/return specialist Tyler Snead earned second-team all-conference accolades, while linebacker Xavier Smith earned honorable mention status.

Ja’Quan McMillian

Harris, who is the first ECU true freshman to be named a first-teamer since Travis Williams in 2004, rushed for 624 yards with four touchdowns in eight games where he averaged 4.9 yards per carry and stood third in The American in rushing per game (78.0 ypg). The Duncan, S.C. native ran for 100-plus yards in three consecutive games (115/USF, 172/Navy, 118/Tulsa), becoming the first Pirate running back since Tay Cooper (2012) to reach that standard. His 172 yards against the Midshipmen were the most in a game since Breon Allen racked up 211 yards against North Carolina in 2014, and it was the second-highest ever turned in by an ECU freshman following Scott Harley’s 175-yard outing against Temple in 1995. Harris also caught six passes out of the backfield for 31 yards and one score.

Tyler Snead

McMillian, a two-year starter, picked off a team-best four passes while booking 33 tackles (27 solo) during his sophomore campaign. It marked the second-straight season he led the unit in picks (three in 2019) with his pass thefts against Georgia State, Tulane and his two in the fourth quarter during the Pirates’ 52-38 win against SMU. The Winston-Salem, N.C. native booked multiple tackles in eight of nine games in 2020, which included a season-high five on three occasions.

Snead, who earned all-conference honors as a receiver and return specialist, led the team in receptions (53), punt returns and yards (12 for 144), kickoff returns and yards (18 for 409) and all-purpose yards 1,145. He reached the endzone seven times on the year (5/rcv, 1/rush, 1/KOR) and threw for a score in the season finale against SMU. The Raleigh, N.C. native authored a pair of 100-yard receiving games (105/Georgia State, 108/Tulsa) and topped 100-plus all-purpose yards four times, including 231 at Georgia State and 244 at Temple. Snead’s lone special teams touchdown came during the second quarter against the Owls when he returned his second career kickoff 95 yards earning him AAC Special Teams Player-of-the-Week accolades.

Xavier Smith

For the second-straight season, Smith was the top tackler on the team by booking 72 stops, an average of 8.0 per contest to stand fifth in The American. He also led the unit in TFLs (8.0/-30 yards) and pass breakups (six), while ranking second in sacks (2.5/-22 yards). The Stafford, Va. native closed out the season with six stops against SMU, which pushed his current streak to 21-straight games with multiple tackles. Against Navy, he logged a personal-best 15 tackles, marking the fourth time in his career with double-digit stops.

2020 AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE FOOTBALL AWARDS

AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati

AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa *

AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Chris Naggar, K, SMU

AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE ROOKIES OF THE YEAR

Rahjai Harris, RB, East Carolina

Ulysses Bentley IV, RB, SMU

AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE COACH OF THE YEAR

Luke Fickell, Cincinnati

ALL-CONFERENCE FIRST TEAM

Pos.PlayerSchoolCl.Ht.Wt.Hometown
WRJaylon RobinsonUCFSo.5-9163Fort Worth, Texas
WRMarlon WilliamsUCFSr.6-0215Mobile, Ala.
WRCalvin Austin IIIMemphisJr.5-9162Memphis, Tenn.
OTJames HudsonCincinnatiJr.6-5310Toledo, Ohio
OTTyler SmithTulsaRFr.6-5332Fort Worth, Texas
OGCole Schneider 1 2UCFJr.6-4312Fort Myers, Fla.
OGPeter NestrowitzNavySr.6-3282Washington, N.J.
CMatthew LeeUCFRFr.6-4290Oviedo, Fla.
TEKylen Granson 2SMUSr.6-3235Austin, Texas
QBDesmond RidderCincinnatiJr.6-4215Louisville, Ky.
RBGerrid DoaksCincinnatiSr.6-0230Indianapolis, Ind.
RBRahjai HarrisEast CarolinaFr.5-10228Duncan, S.C.
RBUlysses Bentley IVSMURFr.5-10184Houston, Texas
DLMyjai SandersCincinnatiJr.6-5258Jacksonville, Fla.
DLO’Bryan Goodson HMemphisSr.6-1297Batesville, Miss.
DLCameron SampleTulaneSr.6-3280Snellville, Ga.
DLJaxon PlayerTulsaJr.6-0290Waco, Texas
LBJarell WhiteCincinnatiSr.5-10205Cincinnati, Ohio
LBGrant Stuard 2HoustonSr.6-1225Conroe, Texas
LBPatrick Johnson 2 2TulaneSr.6-3255Chattanooga, Tenn.
LBZaven Collins *TulsaJr.6-4260Hominy, Okla.
CBAhmad Gardner 1CincinnatiSo.6-2188Detroit, Mich.
CBCoby BryantCincinnatiSr.6-1198Cleveland, Ohio
SRichie Grant * 1 1UCFSr.6-0194Fort Walton Beach, Fla.
SJames Wiggins 2CincinnatiSr.6-0205Miami, Fla.
KChris NaggarSMUSr.6-1195Arlington, Texas
PRyan WrightTulaneJr.6-3245San Ramon, Calif.
RSMarcus JonesHoustonJr.5-8185Enterprise, Ala.

* unanimous selection

ALL-CONFERENCE SECOND TEAM

Pos.PlayerSchoolCl.Ht.Wt.Hometown
WRMichael Young Jr.CincinnatiJr.5-10190Saint Rose, La.
WRTyler SneadEast CarolinaSo.5-7169Raleigh, N.C.
WRKeylon StokesTulsaSr.6-0194Manvel, Texas
OTJaylon Thomas 2SMUJr.6-3312Lubbock, Texas
OTChris PaulTulsaJr.6-4331Houston, Texas
OGHayden HowertonSMUSr.6-3300Katy, Texas
OGCorey Dublin HTulaneSr.6-4312New Orleans, La.
CSincere HaynesworthTulaneSo.6-1310Pearland, Texas
TEJosh WhyleCincinnatiSo.6-6235Cincinnati, Ohio
QBDillon GabrielUCFSo.6-0186Mililani, Hawaii
RBOtis Anderson HUCFSo.6-0195Grapevine, Texas
RBStephon HudersonTulaneSr.5-9200Petal, Miss.
DLMarcus BrownCincinnatiSr.6-2297Naples, Fla.
DLElijah Ponder 1CincinnatiSr.6-3275Atlanta, Ga.
DLPayton TurnerHoustonSr.6-6270Houston, Texas
DLArnold EbiketieTempleJr.6-4240Silver Spring, Md.
LBDarrian BeaversCincinnatiSr.6-3242Cincinnati, Ohio
LBDiego Fagot 1NavyJr.6-3240Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
LBAntonio GrierUSFJr.6-1222Atlanta, Ga.
LBDorian WilliamsTulaneSo.6-1220Fort Mill, S.C.
LBJustin WrightTulsaSo.6-2234Abilene, Texas
CBAaron Robinson 2UCFSr.6-1193Deerfield Beach, Fla.
CBJa’Quan McMillianEast CarolinaSo.5-10161Winston-Salem, N.C.
SQuindell JohnsonMemphisSo.6-1195New Orleans, La.
SCristian WilliamsTulsaSr.6-0180Dallas, Texas
KZack LongTulsaSr.5-10172Pacific, Mo.
PJames Smith 1 1 2CincinnatiSr.6-5235Wangaratta, Australia
RSTre TuckerCincinnatiSo.5-9172Akron, Ohio
RSTyler SneadEast CarolinaSo.5-7169Raleigh, N.C.

ALL-CONFERENCE HONORABLE MENTION

Pos.PlayerSchoolCl.Ht.Wt.Hometown
OGLokahi PauoleUCFSo.6-4320Kapolei, Hawaii
SDarrick Forrest 1CincinnatiSr.6-0200Columbus, Ohio
OTDarius HarperCincinnatiSr.6-7308Springfield, Ohio
LBXavier SmithEast CarolinaJr.6-0246Stafford, Va.
OGBraylon JonesHoustonSr.6-4315Tyler, Texas
CBDamarion WilliamsHoustonSr.5-11180Atlanta, Ga.
TESean DykesMemphisSr.6-2224Houston, Texas
DLMorris JoesphMemphisJr.6-2275Orange, Texas
LBRichard McBrydeSMUSr.6-1232Troy, Ala.
WRJadan Blue 2TempleJr.6-0185Randallstown, Md.
OTJoey ClaybrookTulaneJr.6-6295Starkville, Miss.
OGDante BivensTulsaJr.6-3324Spring, Texas
OGDylan CouchTulsaSr.6-3299Pryor, Okla.
CBAllie Green IVTulsaSr.6-3206Austin, Texas
SKendarin RayTulsaSo.6-4200Brenham, Texas
CGerard WheelerTulsaJr.6-3331Plano, Texas

1 2 H indicates previous selections to first team, second team, or honorable mention

American Athletic Conference Offensive Players of the Year

2013        Blake Bortles, QB, UCF

2014        Shane Carden, QB, East Carolina

2015        Keenan Reynolds, QB, Navy

2016        Quinton Flowers, QB, USF

2017         McKenzie Milton, QB, UCF

2018        McKenzie Milton, QB, UCF

2019        Malcolm Perry, QB, Navy

2020        Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati

American Athletic Conference Defensive Players of the Year

2013        Marcus Smith, DE, Louisville

2014        Jacoby Glenn, CB, UCF

                Tank Jakes, LB, Memphis

2015        Tyler Matakevich, LB, Temple

2016        Shaquem Griffin, LB, UCF

2017         Ed Oliver, DT, Houston

2018        Nate Harvey, DE, ECU

2019        Quincy Roche, DE, Temple

2020        Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa *

American Athletic Conference Special Teams Players of the Year

2013        Demarcus Ayers, WR/KR, Houston

                Tom Hornsey, P, Memphis

2014        Jake Elliott, K, Memphis

2015        Jake Elliott, K, Memphis

2016        Tony Pollard, WR/RS, Memphis

2017         Tony Pollard, WR/RS, Memphis

2018        Isaiah Wright, WR/RS, Temple

2019        Dane Roy, P, Houston

                Antonio Gibson, WR/RS, Memphis

2020        Chris Naggar, K, SMU

American Athletic Conference Rookies of the Year

2013        John O’Korn, QB, Houston

2014        Marlon Mack, RB, USF

2015        Tre’Quan Smith, WR, UCF

2016        Ed Oliver, DT, Houston

2017         T.J. Carter, CB, Memphis

2018        Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati

2019        Kenneth Gainwell, RB, Memphis

2020        Rahjai Harris, RB, East Carolina

                Ulysses Bentley IV, RB, SMU

American Athletic Conference Coaches of the Year

2013        George O’Leary, UCF *

2014        Justin Fuente, Memphis *

2015        Tom Herman, Houston

                Ken Niumatalolo, Navy

2016        Ken Niumatalolo, Navy

2017         Scott Frost, UCF *

2018        Luke Fickell, Cincinnati

2019        Ken Niumatalolo, Navy

2020        Luke Fickell, Cincinnati

* unanimous selection

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