IRVING, Texas - East Carolina junior offensive guard Will Simmons and a pair of Pirate defenders, senior nose tackle Michael Brooks and sophomore inside linebacker Jeremy Grove, have been named to the 2012 Conference USA Football Coaches Preseason Team, according to an announcement from the league office Monday. The conference's 12 head coaches voted for the preseason award winners and all-league honorees.
Simmons established himself as the Pirates' leader on the offensive line a year ago, opening all 12 games at the right guard position. After making his initial collegiate start against South Carolina, he helped guide ECU to a No. 20 national rank in passing offense (286.1 ypg) that included 300-yard efforts in six of the last 10 contests. On the ground, his blocking played a role in 12 rushing touchdowns during a season-ending seven-game span.
Brooks concluded his junior campaign topping all Pirate linemen with 55 tackles, 18 solo hits and 37 assists in 12 starts. He was credited with five or more stops in six contests (eight/Virginia Tech, six/North Carolina, five/Navy, five/UTEP, seven/UCF, five/Marshall) and tied for the squad lead, and set a single-season career best, with 5.5 tackles for lost yardage (-19 yards). Of Brooks' overall 55 stops, 50 came on rushing plays.
During his first collegiate season in 2011, Grove set a Pirate rookie record with a team-leading 122 tackles - the third-highest total by an ECU player in the last 14 years. Grove stood third in Conference USA and 10th among all FBS defenders with 11.1 tackles per game to earn Freshman All-America honors from the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA), CBSSports.com, FOXSportsNext.com and Yahoo! Sports.
In addition, the Frederick, Md., product was selected to All-Freshman Teams by the Bleacher Report and Phil Steele Magazine. He was also the Conference USA Freshman-of-the-Year and an honorable mention all-league selection.
Earlier this summer, all three ECU players earned selection to various preseason all-conference squads by both Athlon Sports Magazine and Phil Steele's College Football Preview Magazine, while Grove and was placed on the preliminary watch list for the 2012 Rotary Lombardi Award (given to the nation's top college lineman or linebacker).
SMU senior running back Zach Line was chosen as the league's offensive player-of-the-year, while Tulane senior linebacker Trent Mackey and Southern Miss kick and punt returner Tracey Lampley were tabbed as the defensive and special teams players-of-the year, respectively. The Mustangs and UCF led the way with four all-league selections, while the Golden Eagles, Houston and Rice matched East Carolina with three preseason honorees each.
The Pirates will open the 2012 season Saturday, Sept. 1 at 12 noon when they host Appalachian State at Dowdy-Ficklin Stadium.