July 23, 2012
Rice senior tight end Luke Willson leads a group of three Owls who have been named to the preseason Conference USA Football award winners, as chosen by the league's 12 head coaches. Junior placekicker Chris Boswell and sophomore cornerback Bryce Callahan were also selected. The results of the voting were announced on Monday in advance of the league's annual football media day, which will be held in Dallas on Wednesday.
UCF and SMU led the way with four players selected, while Rice, Houston, Southern Miss and East Carolina each placed three on the squad.
Willson enters his senior year as a consensus All C-USA selection and has been named to three award watch lists (Mackey, Lombardi and College Football Performance). Willson was the only tight end from Conference USA to be named to the Mackey Award watch list with is given annually to the best collegiate tight end. He was third on the team with 29 catches last year despite missing nearly two full games with injuries. He topped 100 yards receiving for the first time with 104 yards vs. Tulsa on a career-best seven catches.
Chris Boswell heads into his junior year as a solid candidate for the Lou Groza Award as he takes aim at the Rice career mark for field goals. He tied the school record as a sophomore connecting on 17 (in 21 attempts) to move into a tie for third with 28 in his career. His only misses in 2011 came from 60, 54, 45 and 38 (slipping on rain soaked field). His .810 percentage ranks third on the Rice season chart, while his .737 career mark (28 of 38) ranks second in school history.
In addition to his field goal success, he led the team with 82 points last year (9th best in school history) and has 156 point in his career tying Froggy Williams for seventh on the Owls career list. He also excelled in his first year of handling kickoffs for the Owls. Boswell averaged 63.1 on 59 kickoffs and doubled the Owls' touchbacks from 2010 (14).
In just nine games of extended action, Callahan earned Freshman All America by Sporting News and Scout.com last season after leading all FBS freshmen with his six interceptions and finishing second with 15 passes defended. He led C-USA in both categories and was tied for sixth nationally in interceptions and 14th in passes defended. He moved into an expanded playing role due an injury to Philip Gaines at Southern Miss. His six interceptions were the most for an Owl since Dan Dawson matched the school record of seven in 2000. Callahan intercepted passes in three consecutive games (four total) before being shut out in the final two games. Over those last four games, he had a total of 12 passes thrown his way. He picked off three, broke up four others and two fell incomplete. One of the three completions came on fourth down, and Callahan made the tackle short of the first down marker to turn the ball over to Rice.
The Owls will open their 2012 Training Camp on Saturday, August 4 with their annual Media Day at noon, followed by the first workout of the year later that evening. They will help kick off the 2012 college football season on August 30 when they host UCLA at Rice Stadium at 6:30.