Five UC Davis student-athletes were selected to Phil Steele’s All-Big Sky Conference team while linebacker Nick Eaton earned Freshman of the Year accolades, it was announced this week. Eaton, running back Ulonzo Gilliam, Jr., tight end Wes Preece and long snapper John Aloma each made the second team; while punter Daniel Whelan earned a spot on the third team.
This marks the second such awards for Gilliam and Preece, and the first for the remaining three Aggies. Phil Steele rolls out its all-conference team in conjunction with its FCS All-America announcement. The Phil Steele’s All-Big Sky awards are separate from the ones announced by the actual conference in November.
Eaton, also the Big Sky Freshman of the Year by the coaches’ vote and a candidate for the Jerry Rice Award, led UC Davis with 12.0 tackles for losses and 6.5 sacks. He forced five fumbles, including an intercepted pitch that led to a key touchdown against Cal Poly. Eaton ranked fourth on the team with 56 tackles.
Gilliam rushed for 1,249 yards and 11 touchdowns, leading the conference with 104.1 yards per game. He also added 57 receptions – tying his own school record for running backs and making him the first player to lead UC Davis in both rushing and receiving since 1950. Also a STATS FCS All-American, Gilliam ranks seventh on the school’s season rushing list, while his career total of 2,225 yards has him sixth all-time after just two seasons.
Preece now has five total All-Big Sky awards: three from the league itself and two from Phil Steele’s. He posted 36 receptions for 434 yards and six touchdowns as a senior. He finished with 24 career TDs – a school record for a tight end – and became just the third player at that position to amass more than 100 career catches.
Whelan ranked third in the Big Sky Conference and seventh nationally with a 44.1 gross average. Of his 57 total punts, 23 pinned opponents inside their 20-yard line, while 17 went for 50 yards or more. In the season finale against Sac State, Whelan placed five punts inside the 7-yard line, a feat that earned him conference Special Teams Player of the Year acclaim.
Aloma has earned attention for both the quickness and accuracy of his snaps, which have contributed toward Whelan’s record-breaking punting average, plus kicker Max O’Rourke’s 11-for-14 success rate on field goals.