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Playmakers end season with AAC recognition

Senior wide receiver Steven Dunbar breaks away from junior safety Jarid Ryan on the way to the end zone. Dunbar is just one of five players with AAC all-conference honors this year. | Richard Fletcher Jr/The Cougar

Five players, led by sophomore defensive lineman Ed Oliver, received honors from the American Athletic Conference after a tumultuous 7-4 season, the AAC announced this week.

Four other seniors received recognition. The Houston defense allowed 23 points per game in 2017, the 38th best in the country. Defensive players dominated the conference-team selections, but the Cougars still had senior wide receiver Steven Dunbar represent the offense in the end-of-year awards. Here is a look at the players who were honored.

Sophomore defensive tackle Ed Oliver
AAC Defensive Player of the Year, all-conference first team

The awards are rolling in for Oliver, who finished his sophomore season with comparable stats to his All-American effort last year. The Cougars didn’t get as much national attention compared to the Tom Herman era, but Oliver continued to dominate the AAC with his presence on the defensive line. He earns these two AAC honors after a year of dominance despite playing 11 games.

The Houston native is also a finalist for the the Outland Trophy and Nagurski Trophy. The awards are given to the best defensive player and interior lineman in the country.

Oliver finished the season with 69 tackles, 5.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for a loss. He averaged 6.3 tackles per game, ranking him fourth in the nation among all defensive lineman.

Senior linebacker D’Juan Hines
All-conference first team

Linebacker D’Juan Hines’ hard work has paid off this season after leading the team in tackles and making the most of his senior year with a breakout effort. Hines joins the all-conference team in his last year of eligibility.

The 6-foot-1 senior recorded more than twice as many tackles this year, going from 44 to 104. He also tacked on eight tackles for a loss and two forced fumbles to his stat sheet this season. Hines has played with the Cougars since 2014 but hasn’t shown this type of consistency in his  career.

His size and stats from this year could catch the eyes of NFL scouts, even though he has only one high-caliber year under his belt.

Senior Safety Khalil Williams
All-conference second team

Senior safety Khalil Williams receives second-team honors after career bests in tackles for loss and passes defended this season.

He didn’t match his career bests in total tackles but still was a factor at major points throughout the year. Williams finishes the season with 50 total tackles, two sacks and eight tackles for a loss, which is the most in the AAC.

The Missouri City native appeared in 10 of 11 games this season, finishing his career at Houston with 146 total tackles, four sacks and and 15.5 tackles for a loss.

Senior wide receiver Steven Dunbar
All-conference honorable mention

Senior wide receiver Steven Dunbar began the season as the No. 2 option for the Cougars behind Steven Dunbar but finished the season with the most yards on the team.

Since joining the team in 2014, Dunbar has statistically gotten better in receptions and yards. His two best performances came in his junior and senior year with 53 receptions and 692 yards in 2016 and 66 receptions and 873 receptions in 2017.

Dunbar added three touchdowns this year despite inconsistencies at the quarterback position.

Senior safety Terrell Williams
All-conference honorable mention

Senior safety Terrell Williams spent only two years with the Cougars after starting his college football career at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M but has made an impact in his short time with the team.

This year his impact has translated into recognition from the AAC. As a junior, Williams appeared in all 13 games for the Cougars and came away with 29 total tackles.

Williams was one of the breakout players on the defense. He almost doubled his tackle total from last year with 57 and added six passes defended and four interceptions to make it a career year.

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