By: Chuck Pool (email@example.com)
IRVING, Texas - Rice senior linebacker Emmanuel Ellerbee has been named Conference USA Preseason Defensive Player of the Year and joined with fellow team captain Trey Martin in being named to the C-USA Preseason All-Conference team as selected by conferences coaches and released on Monday.
Ellerbee is the second Owl to be picked as preseason defensive player of the year, joining current Kansas City Chief Phillip Gaines, who was earned the nod in 2013. He has been named to the Nagurski Award Watch Lists.
Ellerbee led C-USA and Rice with 10.7 tackles per game, which ranked sixth nationally despite missing one game because of an injury. His average was the highest by an Owl since 14-year NFL veteran Larry Izzo averaged 11 tackles per game in 1995 (122 in 11 games). His 118 total tackles were second in the conference and matched Brian Raines' 2006 total for the 10th most in school history. His 70 solo tackles were tied for 14th in the nation.
He finished his junior season with a 14-tackle effort at Stanford, his seventh double-digit tackle game in 2016 and the most double-digit tackle games since Izzo recorded seven in 1995. He combined with Alex Lyons for 209 tackles, the most for a duo at Rice since Izzo (122) and Jay Lamy (97) combined f or 219 in 1995.
Martin, who was named to the Rimington Award Watch List, will enter his third season of anchoring the Owls' offensive line as the starting center. He was named to Phil Steele's All-Conference USA third team and was an honorable mention selection by conference coaches despite missing four games in the middle of the 2016 season because of an injury.
He made eight starts last year, grading out at 90% or better in each game. He was named a captain of the 2016 Owls in a vote of his teammates. A Sport Management major, Martin is a four-time member of the C-USA Commissioner's Honor Roll and was a 2017 Rice Scholar Athlete.
Ellerbee and Martin will represent Rice at the annual Conference USA Media Day in Irving, Texas on Wednesday.
The Owls will open the 2017 season on August 26 when they face the Stanford Cardinal in the second annual Sydney Cup in Sydney, Australia.