Matt McCants Leads Three UAB All-Conference Picks

Jamie Bender returns an interception for a touchdown this season at East Carolina.

Dec. 6, 2011

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Senior offensive lineman Matt McCants' first-team recognition highlighted the selection of three UAB players to All-Conference USA football teams on Tuesday as announced by the league office.

Senior safety Jamie Bender earned second-team honors, while freshman kicker Ty Long was selected to the Conference USA All-Freshman Team in a vote of the league's head coaches. Four Blazers also earned honorable mention recognition.

McCants, who was also a preseason all-conference selection, was named to the All-Conference USA First Team for the second consecutive year. Arguably one of the top offensive linemen in UAB history, the Mobile, Ala., product made 42 career starts as the Blazers' left tackle.

McCants was a major reason why the Blazers surrendered just 1.5 sacks per game this season. Over the past two years, McCants and his offensive line mates yielded just 30 sacks in 24 games. The 6-foot-7, 295-pound McCants was also on the watch list for this season's Rotary Lombardi Award.

Bender led UAB with 119 tackles, the fifth-most in school history, while ranking fifth in C-USA and 24th in the nation with 9.92 tackles per game. He also forced four fumbles (0.33 per game) to rank third in the league and 19th in the country. Bender made 7.5 tackles per loss and intercepted two passes. He returned one of those picks 35 yards for a touchdown at East Carolina on his way to C-USA Defensive Player of the Week honors.

An honorable mention all-conference selection a season ago, Bender started all 24 games in his two-year UAB career. The former junior college transfer and Raleigh, Miss., product racked up 213 total tackles in those two years to rank 16th on UAB's career tackles list.

Long connected on 16 of 19 field goal attempts this fall in his rookie campaign to rank third in C-USA and tied for 24th nationally with 1.33 field goals per game. That number is tied for second-most in the country among freshman kickers.

Long's 84.2 percent success rate was second-best in C-USA this year, while his 16 made field goals are the sixth-most in a season in UAB annals. The Roswell, Ga., native connected on game-winning field goals against both UCF and then-No. 20 Southern Miss, earning C-USA Special Teams Player of the Week honors for his performance against the Knights. Long hit a season-best 49-yarder at Tulsa and never missed from closer than 43 yards.

Long was one of four Blazers to receive All-Conference USA honorable mention recognition with the release of Tuesday's awards, joining offensive lineman Chris Hubbard, defensive lineman Elliott Henigan and receiver Jackie Williams.

Hubbard, a junior from Columbus, Ga., started all 12 games for the Blazers this season at right tackle in his first year as a full-time starter. He was part of an offensive line unit that ranked in the top third of the nation in fewest sacks allowed, surrendering just 18 sacks in 12 games.

Henigan, a senior from Atlanta, Ga., again anchored the UAB defensive line. A second-team all-league selection last year, Henigan was hampered by injury early in 2011 but still managed to record 37 tackles, including three for loss. The defensive tackle finished his career with 165 total tackles and 28.5 tackles for loss (ninth-most in school history).

Williams, a sophomore from Prichard, Ala., led the Blazers with 607 receiving yards on 58 catches, the fourth-most receptions ever in a season by a UAB player. His 5.3 receptions per game ranked fifth in the league. Williams, who scored three rushing touchdowns in 2011, recorded a career-best 10 grabs in the win over UCF. He owns at least one catch in all 23 games he has played at UAB and already ranks ninth on the school's career receptions list with 88.

Conference USA West Division champion Houston led all teams Tuesday with 12 total all-conference selections, while the Cougars and SMU each had six first-team picks. C-USA will announce its individual awards on Wednesday.