ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Salisbury University junior quarterback Dan Griffin led a field of 12 players named to the Empire 8 All-Conference Teams, the league announced on Thursday. Griffin was not only named as a first-team performer for offense, but was also named the league's Offensive Player of the Year while Head Coach Sherman Wood was named the conference's Coach of the Year.
Griffin was a dual-purpose threat during the regular season, as he has rushed for 623 yards and 14 touchdowns while completing 42-of-73 passes for 1,073 yards and 13 touchdowns while not throwing a single interception. This is Griffin's second all-conference selection in his career.
It marks the third time in Wood's career that he has been honored as league Coach of the Year. He was twice named Atlantic Central Football Conference Coach of the Year in 2003 and 2004. Salisbury (9-1, 7-0 Empire 8) has posted its fifth nine-plus win in Wood's tenure this season.
Griffin was joined on the first team by offensive seniors Randal Smedley, Christian Emezie and Alex Smith. Emezie and Smith are both offensive linemen who have helped pave the way for Salisbury's rushing attack, which has gone for 3,402 yards, second most in the league this season. The Sea Gull offensive linemen have protected Griffin as well, allowing just 11 sacks through 10 games. Salisbury has scored 459 points this season, a program single-season record. This is the second all-conference selection for Emezie and third for Smith, it marks their first time being named to a first team.
Smedley has been part of that dominant rushing attack, going for 713 yards (6.2 yards per career) on the ground and eight touchdowns. He posted a season-best 124 yards and two touchdowns in a 65-23 win against Springfield College on Oct. 8.
The Salisbury defense has also had one of its best seasons, allowing just 16.6 points and 275 yards per game, both of which are best in the Empire 8. For their efforts through the regular season, the Sea Gull defense saw five players named to the all-conference first team.
Senior linebacker Jamey McClendon leads Salisbury this season with 72 tackles, 27 of which have been unassisted, including 5.5 sacks for a loss of 34 yards. Along with five quarterback hurries, he has recovered two fumbles. McClendon was also selected as Salisbury's Sportsman of the Year for the Empire 8.
Classmate Matt Leon, a defensive lineman, has helped to clog the opposition's rushing attacks by filling space all over the defensive line. This season, he has notched 46 tackles, an Empire 8-leading 15.5 of which have been behind the line of scrimmage, including five sacks.
Junior defensive back Chris Everett is currently second on the team with 63 total tackles. He broke up six passes and picked off a pair while registering a sack.
Junior Matt McMurdo, a linebacker, patrols the middle of the field, getting in on stopping the run and rushing the passer (registering 52 tackles and 1.5 sacks so far this year to go with three quarterback hurries) as well as dropping into coverage, breaking up three passes.
Cornerback Andre Carter, the only sophomore on the all-conference's defensive first team, picked off five passes this year, returning one of a touchdown, while recording 15 tackles. He has eight interceptions for his career.
The defensive honors are the second career all-conference nods for McClendon, Leon and Everett and the first for McMurdo and Carter. It is the first time any of the five have been named to an all-conference first team.
Junior offensive lineman Brian Mansfield and freshman defensive lineman Tommy Hawks were each named to the second team. Hawks is one of just two freshmen named to the all-conference teams along with league Rookie of the Year JD Hook from Frostburg State University.
Hawks has recorded 21 tackles and forced a fumble this season, playing in nearly every game while starting seven on the defensive line. Mansfield has been a key to Salisbury's offensive success as the starting center, with a solid center-quarterback exchange on snaps this season.
Senior linebacker Alex Akinseye (46 tackles and four sacks) was named an honorable mention all-conference selection.
Salisbury will look to build off the success of the regular season as the Sea Gulls begin play in the NCAA Division III Football Tournament this Saturday, Nov. 19. Salisbury will host Western New England University at Sea Gull Stadium. Kickoff is slated for noon.