Written by Chris Pendleton and Sean Dahlin
BUENA VISTA, Va.—USA College Sports, Inc., today announced its 20th Annual USA College Football NAIA Pre-Season All-America teams honoring three Southern Virginia University football scholar-athletes.
Junior-to-be linebacker Dakoda Winsor (West Richland, Wash.) was selected to the NAIA Pre-Season All-America First Team while senior-to-be defensive lineman Luke Herndon (Mechanicsville, Va.) and sophomore-to-be running back Jerry Washington (Gloucester, Va.) were voted to the NAIA Pre-Season All-America Third Team.
Winsor had a solid season defensively in 2011, wreaking havoc in opponents' backfields with 48 total tackles (30 assisted, 18 unassisted), 7.5 tackles-for-loss and 7 quarterback sacks.
In last year's Nov. 11 season finale, Winsor's speed as a kickoff returner helped Southern Virginia pull out a thrilling 27-24 comeback victory at home over Ave Maria. After the Knights fell behind 10-0 to the winless Gyrenes mid-way through the second quarter, Winsor broke off a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and completely changed the game's momentum. Winsor's touchdown return was one of the most exciting plays of Southern Virginia's season, as well as the Knights' first kickoff return for a touchdown since 2004 and only the second in program history.
In 2012, Winsor will move from outside linebacker—where he played last season—to middle linebacker filling the hole left behind by last year's senior defensive captain Tommy Davidson's (Paradise, Calif.). During his senior campaign last season, Davidson set both Southern Virginia's single-season tackles record (133) and career tackles record (342) on route to becoming the program's first NAIA Independent Defensive Player of the Year.
Despite having big shoes to fill with Davidson's graduation, fourth-year Head Coach DeLane Fitzgerald believes that Winsor will not only fill in at the middle linebacker position, but that he can also increase the overall speed and quickness of Southern Virginia's defense.
"Dakota [Winsor] is incredibly mobile for his size, which is why he returns kickoffs for us," Fitzgerald explained. "Moving him to the middle linebacker position will help us play with gap integrity and speedy pursuits."
Along with Winsor, Fitzgerald also expects Herndon to be a key fixture on a solid Southern Virginia defense in 2012. As a three-year starter, senior-to-be Herndon will bring both experience and grit to the Knights' defensive line.
"Luke [Herndon] is one of the best defensive players we've ever had and he has a chance to set a lot of records this season," said Fitzgerald. "I expect him to give opposing offensive lines fits this season."
Herndon earned NAIA All-Independent Second Team honors last season after finishing second on the team in total tackles (62), trailing only Davidson. He was also the Knights' only defensive player to earn USCAA national academic honors in 2011.
Entering his senior campaign, Herndon already ranks second all-time in Southern Virginia football history in quarterback sacks (7.0), fourth all-time in tackles-for-loss (17.5) and fifth all-time in assisted tackles (55).
On the offensive side of the ball, Washington had a particularly stellar rookie campaign last season in Southern Virginia's backfield leading the team with 928 rushing yards—second-most single-season rushing yards in program history—on 205 attempts, while also breaking the program's single-season record with 15 rushing touchdowns on route to becoming the program's first freshman to earn NAIA All-Independent Second Team honors.
"Even though he rushed for 900-plus yards last year, I don't think people realize how good Jerry Washington is or how good he can be," said Fitzgerald. "Jerry's going to have a big, big year for us at the tailback position. He's very deceptive and very competitive."
Members of the 20th Annual USA College Football NAIA Pre-season All-America team were selected by coaches, sports information directors, certified players' agents, pro scouts, national media reporters and the staff of USA Football News.
"It's great to see our players get this type of recognition," said Fitzgerald. "There aren't more deserving young men than Dakota [Winsor], Luke [Herndon] and Jerry [Washington], who all work hard on the field and in the classroom."