CARBONDALE — SIU's Raphael Leonard and Anthony Knighton were named to the Missouri Valley Football Conference's All-Newcomer Team on Tuesday.
The team featured 11 players on offense and 11 on defense. Leonard, a 6-foot-2, 194-pound junior from East Mississippi Community College, was one of three receivers on the team, along with freshman Cade Johnson of South Dakota State and freshman Isaiah Weston of Northern Iowa.
Knighton, a 6-2, 246-pound redshirt freshman defensive end, was one of three defensive linemen on the team. Junior Justus Reed of Youngstown State and freshman Nathan Schultz of South Dakota also made the list.
Leonard caught 34 passes for 530 yards and five touchdowns in 11 games, seven of them starts. His 15.6 yards per catch average ranked second on the team for guys that caught at least 10 passes. His five touchdown receptions were three behind team leader Darrell James' eight.
Knighton, a finalist for the Jerry Rice Award as one of the top freshmen in the country, started all 11 games for one of the youngest front fours in the country. Knighton led the Salukis with 11 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks and six quarterback hurries. His 39 tackles ranked sixth-best on the team.
Leonard and Knighton gave SIU six players on the All-Newcomer Team in the last two years. Safety Jeremy Chinn, running back D.J. Davis, cornerback Craig James and quarterback Josh Straughan made the squad last year. Chinn was a second team all-conference pick this year, and Davis was an honorable mention selection.
North Dakota State linebacker Jabril Cox, who led the Bison with 52 tackles and nine sacks, was the MVFC freshman of the year and newcomer of the year. He became only the third player in league history to sweep both awards, joining former Northern Iowa quarterback Sawyer Kollmorgen (2012) and former Youngstown State running back Martin Ruiz (2013).