RICHMOND, Va. – Elon University is well represented in the 2018 CAA Football All-Conference Awards released by the league office Tuesday, Nov. 20, with first-year running back Jaylan Thomas highlighting the honors with Offensive Rookie of the Year laurels.
Full Postseason CAA Football Honors
Joining Thomas with honors Tuesday are First Team honorees Warren Messer, CJ Toogood and Oli Udoh. Greg Liggs, Jr. earned a Second Team spot while Matt Baker, Tyler Campbell, Marcus Willoughby and Malcolm Summers all picked up Third Team awards.
Thomas leads Elon in rushing with 723 yards on 99 carries to average 103.3 yards per game and 7.3 yards per carry on the season. With the 103.3 yards per game, he leads the CAA in average and his 128.1 all-purpose yards per game rank third in the league. Though missing three games to injury, Thomas has led Elon in rushing five times. In his first-career start on Oct. 20 against Richmond, Thomas carried for 150 yards on 27 carriers with a touchdown to mark Elon’s first rookie back to run for more than 100 in a game since the 2012 season. That performance was followed up with 222 yards on just 18 carries against Rhode Island on Nov. 3 to mark the ninth-most rushing yards in a game in school history and the second-most by a rookie. During the game, he broke an 86-yard touchdown run to mark the fifth-longest carry in school history.
With the honor, Elon has now had back-to-back CAA Offensive Rookie of the Year awards with Davis Cheek taking the honor after the 2017 season.
One of the team’s defensive captains, Messer leads Elon in tackles with 86 on the season to go with an interception, 10.0 tackles for loss and 4.0 sacks. His 8.6 tackles per game this season place him third in the CAA and his 86 overall place him 46th nationally. Against Rhode Island, Messer had a season-high 14 tackles and picked off a JaJuan Lawson pass in the closing seconds of the first half and returned it 86 yards for the seventh-longest interception return in program history. The senior linebacker was named STATS FCS National Defensive Player of the Week after the performance against Rhode Island. Messer is the first player on the defensive side of the ball to earn consecutive First Team All-Conference honors since Chad Nkang in 2005 and 2006 when Elon was a member of the Southern Conference.
One of the best offensive lines in the conference, both Toogood and Udoh have helped Elon average the most rushing yards per game in the CAA and the 24th-most in the country this season with 214.4 yards per game on the ground. Additionally, Elon has run for 21 touchdowns on the year to mark the second-most in the league behind only James Madison’s 25 in 11 games. Together with the rest of the offensive line, the two only allowed 16 sacks in the 10 regular-season games to mark the second-fewest in the conference.
A first-time All-CAA honoree, Liggs leads Elon’s secondary with 58 tackles, four interceptions and eight pass breakups. With 12 passes defended on the year, that ranks him third in the league in the category and his four interceptions is the second-most in the CAA. In Elon’s home opener, Liggs recovered a fumble and returned it to the house for his first-career touchdown to set the pace in Elon’s 45-7 win over No. 21 Furman. He also had two interceptions in Elon’s 30-9 home victory over New Hampshire.
Also earning his first All-CAA honor, Baker leads Elon with 7.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss on the year. In all, the senior has 50 stops. His 7.5 sacks are the fourth-most in the CAA and 28th-most nationally. Early in the year, Baker posted back-to-back 2.0 sack games against Charleston Southern and New Hampshire and had a season-best seven stops last time out against Maine. A consistent contributor throughout the year, Baker has made at least five tackles in eight of Elon’s nine games against FCS competition thus far.
Another defensive captain, Campbell has amassed 33 tackles and 2.0 tackles for loss while intercepting two passes and breaking up four more across nine games this season. He set the tone for his season with seven stops and two pass breakups in Elon’s opener at South Florida and had back-to-back five-stop games in CAA play against Richmond and Rhode Island.
A stalwart on the defensive line, Willoughby picks up his first All-CAA honor after posting 52 tackles with 6.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks to go with seven quarterback hurries. The junior had a standout game to close September against New Hampshire when he made nine stops, including 4.5 for loss and 2.0 sacks. The performance earned him CAA Defensive Player of the Week. His 4.5 tackles for loss in the contest against the Wildcats mark the most in a game by a CAA player this season.
Rounding out Elon’s selections, Summers had a strong start to his season with 591 yards on 97 carries and three touchdowns before his senior campaign was cut short due to injury. In the five games he played, though, he averaged 118.2 yards per game and broke touchdown runs of 59 yards against James Madison and 54 yards against Furman while taking another carry 54 yards to the red zone against New Hampshire. Carrying for 185 yards against JMU, the total is the fifth-best in the league this season. At the time of his injury, Summers led both the CAA and the nation in rushing before being sidelined for the rest of the season.
Elon and its nine CAA Football All-Conference performers are back in action this weekend when they travel to Spartanburg, S.C, to face No. 12 Wofford in the first round of the FCS Playoffs on ESPN3 at 2 p.m.
CAA Offensive Rookie of the Year: Jaylan Thomas
First Team All-CAA
Oli Udoh, Offensive Line
CJ Toogood, Offensive Line
Warren Messer, Linebacker
Second Team All-CAA Football
Greg Liggs, Jr., Defensive Back
Third Team All-CAA Football
Malcolm Summers, Running Back
Matt Baker, Linebacker
Tyler Campbell, Defensive Back
Marcus Willoughby, Defensive Line