Georgia Southern football head coach Jeff Monken, defensive lineman Brent Russell and running back Dominique Swope on Monday earned major Southern Conference awards, as voted upon by the league's head coaches.
Monken was named 2011 SoCon Coach of the Year after guiding the Eagles to their first conference championship since 2004 in only his second season at the helm.
Monken's Eagles finished 7-1 in the SoCon. They are 9-2 overall and in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs for a second consecutive season.
"I'm really proud of the boys," Monken said Tuesday night after practice. "I'm really proud of those players that were honored and recognized. They are all very deserving. And I thought there were some guys that weren't recognized that certainly could have been; that I nominated, that I thought were worthy.
"Our kids have really played well this year, played hard and I just appreciate their effort so much. I'm just proud of the kids. It's a team game, and those things aren't important in the whole grand scheme of things. But it's nice for those kids to be recognized for their efforts and their accomplishments."
Russell, an All-America nose tackle, was named SoCon Defensive Player of the Year. He is GSU's first player to earn the award since 2001.
A finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award, which goes to the nation's top defensive player, Russell leads GSU with 12 tackles for loss. The junior is tied for the lead with five sacks and fourth in tackles with 48.
Swope, a B-back in GSU's triple-option offense, was named SoCon Co-Freshman of the Year with Chattanooga quarterback Terrell Robinson.
Swope finished the regular season with 591 yards rushing and four touchdowns on 91 carries. Swope ran for a game-high 165 yards at Wofford as GSU clinched the SoCon championship with a victory.
Saturday at Alabama, Swope ran for a team-high 153 yards, including an 82-yard touchdown, recording the most rushing yards against the top defense in the Football Bowl Subdivision this season.
Chattanooga's Robinson was 3-1 as the Mocs' starting quarterback. He was 27-of-43 passing for 336 yards and six touchdowns. He ran 90 times for 417 yards and five touchdowns.
Wofford junior running back Eric Breitenstein was named SoCon Offensive Player of the Year.
Breitenstein ran for 1,343 yards and 16 touchdowns in the regular season.
GSU senior offensive lineman Brett Moore was the only Eagle named to the SoCon's First Team Offense.
Moore started all 11 games at right tackle and was third on the team in knockdowns with 44.
GSU senior cornerback Laron Scott was named to the SoCon's First Team Defense with Russell.
Scott finished with a SoCon-best 16 passes defended, 13 breakups and three interceptions.
Scott also was named to the Specialist First Team with a league-best 33.4-yard kickoff return average and two touchdowns.
GSU senior kicker Adrian Mora, who missed one field goal all season, joined Scott on the Specialist First Team.
Mora set several records this season, including the FCS consecutive extra-point record and the GSU career field goal record. He was 51 of 51 on point-after attempts and third in the SoCon with 87 points.
GSU senior quarterback Jaybo Shaw was named to the SoCon Second Team Offense with sophomore lineman Dorian Byrd and senior lineman William Maxwell.
GSU senior defensive lineman John Douglas was the Eagles' only SoCon Second Team Defense selection. He tied Russell for the team lead in sacks with five. Douglas was second in tackles for loss with 8.5.
Joining Swope on the SoCon All-Freshman Team were offensive lineman Manrey Saint Amour and defensive back Deion Stanley.
SoCon has 3 teams in FCS playoffs
Three Southern Conference football teams — GSU, Appalachian State and Wofford — received bids to the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.
SoCon teams are 94-55, a .631 winning percentage, in the NCAA playoffs. It is the best record among FCS conferences.
GSU, which earned an automatic bid by winning the SoCon championship, is the No. 3 seed.
Sam Houston State (11-0) is the No. 1 seed. North Dakota State (10-1) is the No. 2 seed. Montana (9-2) is the No. 4 seed. Northern Iowa (9-2) is the No. 5 seed.
The championship game is Jan. 7 at Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, Texas.
GSU (9-2) won the SoCon title with a 7-1 league record and earned one of 12 first-round byes in the FCS playoffs.
The Eagles will play the winner of Saturday’s game between Old Dominion (9-2) and Norfolk State (9-2) at 1 p.m. Dec. 3 at Paulson Stadium.
GSU has never played Old Dominion or Norfolk State. Old Dominion, a member of the Colonial Athletic Conference, received an at-large bid. Norfolk State, which won the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship, earned an automatic
Tickets can be purchased online at georgiasoutherneagles.com or by calling 1-800-GSU-WINS. Students must go to the ticket office or university store to purchase tickets. Season-ticket holders had until the end of the business day Tuesday to renew their seats for the playoffs.
The Eagles will be making their 18th appearance in the playoffs. They have won an FCS-best six national championships and are 41-11 in the playoffs, a .788 winning percentage.
Last season, GSU lost at Delaware, 27-10, in the semifinals. GSU is the only team among last season’s semifinalists in the playoffs this season. Defending national champion Eastern Washington, Delaware and Villanova did not qualify.
GSU’s losses this season were to Appalachian State, 24-17, in Boone, N.C., and to Alabama, 45-21, in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
GSU did not practice Monday. The Eagles practiced at 2:45 p.m. Tuesday. Their practice schedule for the rest of the week: Today, 10:15 a.m.; Thursday, 9:45 a.m.; Friday, 9:45 a.m.; Saturday and Sunday, off.
Appalachian State (8-3) received an at-large bid. The Mountaineers, who were 6-2 in the SoCon, have a first-round bye and will play host to Maine (8-3) on Dec. 3 in Boone, N.C.
This is the Mountaineers’ seventh consecutive playoff appearance. Appalachian State is 24-15 in the FCS playoffs.
The Mountaineers won three national championships from 2005-07.
Wofford (8-3) received an at-large bid. The Terriers, who were 6-2 in the SoCon, have a first-round bye and will travel to Cedar Falls, Iowa, to play No. 5 seed Northern Iowa (9-2) on Dec. 3.
This is the Wofford’s second consecutive appearance in the FCS playoffs. The Terriers are 4-4 in the postseason.
Wofford rallied from a 21-7 halftime deficit to beat Chattanooga, 28-27, on Saturday to get into the playoffs.
Noell Barnidge can be reached at (912) 489-9408.