By Chuck Pool (firstname.lastname@example.org) - Senior linebacker Alex Lyons leads a group of six Rice players who have been named by Athlon Sports to its preseason All-Conference USA team, which was released on Friday.
Lyons was named to the second team, while defensive end Graysen Schantz, running back Darik Dillard, wide receiver Zach Wright, tight end Connor Cella and tackle Calvin Anderson were named to the fourth team.
Lyons, who started all 12 games as a junior will carry a 25-game starting streak into his senior year, led the Owls with a career-high 77 tackles as a junior, including 54 over the last six games. He tied his career high with ten stops vs. Army, including three on consecutive plays to force a late field goal. He has accumulated 180 tackles in his career. Shantz is looking to return to action after suffering an injury prior to the second game of the 2015 season. He was named to the conference all-freshman team in 2014.
Dillard heads into his senior year as the Owls' active career leader in rushing (1,746) and touchdowns (22) and his combined career total of 82 touchdowns with older brother Jarett is an NCAA record for siblings. Wright led the team with 39 catches, 554 yards and five touchdown catches. Cella will enter his fourth consecutive year tabbed as the starter at tight end. He caught 13 passes for 209 yards and a touchdown last season. Anderson started all 12 games as a freshman at left tackle in 2015.
Rice opens its 2016 Training Camp on Thursday, August 4 with its annual Media Day. The Owls open the 2016 season on Thursday, September 1 when they take on defending C-USA Champion Western Kentucky on the road and open the home season on Friday, September 16 against Baylor.