LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Four South Atlantic Conference football student-athletes have been nominated for the 2018 Harlon Hill Trophy as the Division II College Football Player of the Year.
A total of 37 student-athletes from across the nation have been nominated for the award with nine nominees hailing from Super Region 1, nine from Super Region 2, eight from Super Region 3 and 11 from Super Region 4.
The sports information directors at the 166 NCAA Division II football-playing institutions nominate and vote on the award. The 37 initial candidates will be placed on regional ballots and the top two players from each of the four NCAA regions will advance to the national ballot when regional voting concludes on Monday, November 26.
The winner of the 2018 award will be announced on Friday, December 14 and the winner will be honored at the Little Rock Touchdown Club awards banquet on January 10, 2019.
Leading the way for the SAC nominees are 2018 Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year, Craig Rucker of Mars Hill and Cardell Rawlings from Wingate.
Rucker, a junior wide receiver from Orlando, Fla., finished the season ranked first in the conference in touchdowns (16), receiving yards (1,234), all-purpose yards (1,549), receiving yards per game (123.4) and receptions (82). He is ranked in the top five in NCAA Division II in receiving yards per game (No. 1), receiving yards (No. 4), receptions per game (No. 5) and receiving touchdowns (No. 5). For his efforts, Rucker was awarded SAC AstroTurf Football Offensive Player of the Week honors twice during the 2018 season.
Rawlings was a force on the defensive line this season. The senior from Smithfield, N.C., racked up 75 total tackles, including 20 tackles for loss and a conference leading 14.5 sacks. He forced three fumbles, had two fumble recoveries and broke up two passes during the year as well. Rawlings is ranked third in NCAA Division II in sacks per game, averaging 1.32 per contest. He is also ranked No. 6 in tackles for loss per game, with an average of 1.80 per game. He was named SAC AstroTurf Defensive Player of the Year once for his efforts this season.
Also nominated from the SAC were Carson-Newman's Antonio Wimbush and Newberry's Jamarcus Henderson.
Wimbush finished the season with 1,206 rushing yards to lead the South Atlantic Conference. He found the end zone seven times on the ground and once more through the air. Wimbush had a string of four straight 100-yard games at the mid-point of the season and finished the year with 100-yard rushing efforts in five of Carson-Newman's final six games.
Henderson finished the regular season with 10.5 sacks, 20.5 tackles for loss, 79 tackles, 18 quarterback hurries, and a forced fumble from his defensive end spot. He is third in Division II in tackles for loss, ninth in sacks, and was seventh in the SAC in total tackles.
The sports information directors at their respective schools initially nominate candidates. The SIDs in those Super Regions vote for their top five candidates. The winner is then determined in a nation-wide vote of the Division II sports information directors.
The group of 37 candidates includes 13 quarterbacks, nine running backs, eight wide receivers, three defensive ends, three linebackers and one defensive back.
There list features 21 seniors, 10 juniors, four sophomores and two freshmen. One nominee - Bowie State's Amir Hall, in 2017 - previously advanced to the finalist stage.
The Hill Trophy is named for the late Harlon Hill - the former University of North Alabama standout - who excelled with the Lions from 1950-53 before going on to fame in the National Football League with the Chicago Bears.