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Cincinnati Punter James Smith Named First Team All-American Athletic Conference

That and other American Athletic Conference honors for Bearcats.

NCAA Football: South Florida at Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Since the regular season of college football is over, the hardware is going to begin flowing. We got the first wave of awards today as the American Athletic Conference handed out its annual football honors.

As you might expect, the 4-8 Cincinnati Bearcats were not featured very much. But that doesn’t mean they were completely left out. For the third straight year, UC won the conference’s academic excellence award. Meanwhile, punter James Smith, Jaylyin Minor, Korey Cunningham and Marquise Copeland all picked up varying degrees of honors as well.

Smith reached the highest, as he was named All-American Athletic Conference first team punter. A freshman, Smith had plenty of chances to boot the ball, leading the entire conference in punts (64), while ranking fourth in average yards per punt (42.0). He even punted 10 times in UC’s loss to Michigan. Of course, it would be preferable that Smith didn’t see so much action, but his work kept things from getting even worse.

Cunningham and Minor were both put on the All-AAC second team. Cunningham helped anchor an offensive line that ranked 26th nationally in sacks allowed (17) while Minor was the conference’s leader in tackles (125). This marks the second-straight year a Bearcat has been tops in that statistic, as Eric Wilson was No. 1 with 129 stops in 2016.

Rounding out the Bearcat honorees was defensive lineman Marquise Copleland, who quietly had a pretty great year and was an honorable mention all-conference performer. He ranked second in tackles for loss (8.0) and led the team in sacks (3.5). That’s a big deal on a unit that tied for 10th in the league (12).

If you are looking for UC snubs, there aren’t very many. Perry Young did eclipse 100 tackles and finished as the team leader in tackles for loss. He’s probably the only other deserving member on the roster.