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Western Kentucky defensive end DeAngelo Malone pressures Florida International quarterback Kaylan Wiggins during the Hilltoppers’ 38-21 win Nov. 21 at Houchens-Smith Stadium.

Western Kentucky defensive end DeAngelo Malone has been named the 2021 Preseason Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year, the league announced Monday.

UTSA junior running back Sincere McCormick was selected as the Preseason C-USA Offensive Player of the Year and UTSA junior punter Lucas Dean earned Preseason Special Teams Player of the Year honors. The accolades were voted on by the league’s 14 head coaches.

Malone, an Atlanta native who was named to the 2021 Bednarik Award Watch List on Monday, has made 255 total tackles (135 solo, 120 assisted) while racking up 42.5 tackles for loss and 25 sacks in his first four seasons as a Hilltopper. Malone finished with 71 total tackles, 11 tackles for loss, six sacks, two forced fumbles, nine quarterback hurries and also blocked a pair of kicks in 2020 for the Hilltoppers in 11 appearances.

Malone earned 2019 C-USA Defensive Player of the Year honors and was named a first-team all-conference performer by the league’s head coaches in 2019 and 2020.

Malone enters his fifth season as a Hilltopper, exercising his option for an extra year of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

McCormick, who was named to the Maxwell Award Watch List on Monday, is coming off a record-setting sophomore season in 2020 that saw him eclipse UTSA’s single-season marks for rushing yards (1,467), touchdowns (11), carries (249), rushing yards per game (133.4) and all-purpose yards (1,598) en route to being named a second-team All-American by both Phil Steele and the Football Writers Association of America. The 2020 C-USA Offensive Player of the Year and first-team all-league performer finished second among FBS players in rushing yardage after logging a conference-best seven 100-yard games.

Dean earned second-team All-America accolades from the Sporting News and he was Phil Steele’s fourth-team All-America punter after a record-setting campaign in 2020. The C-USA Special Teams Player of the Year and first-team all-conference honoree shattered the program’s single-season punting average record with a 46.0 mark, which led the league and ranked sixth nationally. The Australian registered 27 punts that pinned opponents inside the 20-yard line, including 15 inside the 10 and seven inside the 5. Of his 57 total punts, 40 were not returned and he recorded 21 punts of 50-plus yards, including a career-best 67-yarder at FAU.