WKU football practice

Western Kentucky offensive lineman Miles Pate (left) runs a drill with a teammate during practice Tuesday at Houchens-Smith Stadium.

Eight Western Kentucky players have been named to the Athlon Sports 2019 All-Conference USA Team, the magazine announced in its annual college football publication. 

Senior offensive tackle Miles Pate, one of the league’s highest rated offensive linemen by nearly every major outlet, was named to the first team. Pate is one of two offensive linemen, out of 10, returning from last year’s 2018 All-Conference USA squad as announced by the league office. The Lawrenceville, Ga., native has appeared in 34 games with 19 starts over his WKU career including all 12 last season.

Joining Pate on the Athlon preseason offense, senior receiver Lucky Jackson picked up a second-team selection while junior tight end Kyle Fourtenbary and junior offensive lineman Tyler Witt both appeared on the third team.

Jackson eclipsed the 100-catch mark for his career last season as well as the 1,500-yard mark, and with 38 games played in his career, he returns as one of the league’s most experienced pass catchers. With eight more receptions and 319 yards, Jackson would break into WKU’s career record book at No. 10. For his career, he is averaging 38.3 receptions and 515 yards a year.

Defensively, WKU returns 10 starters including a pair of stout defensive ends who both appeared on the team. 

Junior DeAngelo Malone and senior Ta’Corian Darden both notched second-team accolades while sophomore Juwuan Jones, a freshman All-American in 2018, and junior safety Devon Key earned fourth-team preseason mentions. 

Darden, a former walk-on from Russellville, emerged as the ideal nickelback in WKU’s 4-2-5 alignment and has started 21 games over the past two seasons at the position. Jones set WKU’s FBS-era freshmen sack record a season ago with five quarterback takedowns and looks to combine with Malone for one of WKU’s better pass rushing duos of the FBS decade this season.

The Hilltoppers, under the direction of first-year head coach Tyson Helton, kick off the 2019 season at home Aug. 29 vs. Central Arkansas. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m.

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