Hillenmeyer, Stricker Named All-SEC by Coaches; Doster Earns Freshman of the Year Award as Cutler, Johnson, Pyle and Osemwegie Make All-SEC Frosh Team 12/10/02

Bimingham, Ala. — Vanderbilt senior middle linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer was named first-team All-SEC and Commodore tailback/return specialist Kwane Doster was named Freshman of the Year by Southeastern Conference coaches Monday.

Hillenmeyer, a native of Nashville, who led the SEC with 169 total tackles, was Vanderbilt’s only first-team selection. He was in New York City Monday to accept a “National Scholar Athlete” award from the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame.

Senior wide receiver Dan Stricker of Cincinnati, Ohio, who finished his career ffifth all-time in career receiving yards in the SEC, was named All-SEC Second Team for the third consecutive year by the coaches.

Doster, of Tampa, Fla., became the first Commodore to earn the Coaches’ Freshman of the Year award. Earlier Monday, Doster captured the SEC Offensive Player of the Year award by The Sporting News.

Doster was one of 24 freshmen or redshirt freshmen to play this season in a youth movement directed by first-year Commodore Head Coach Bobby Johnson. Doster was joined by four teammates - quarterback Jay Cutler, offensive guard Mac Pyle, outside linebacker Moses Osemwegie and punter Greg Johnson - on the all-freshmen squad. The Commodores had more players on the All-Freshmen team than any other conference member.

Hillenmeyer became the first Commodore player since Jamie Winborn in 2000 to earn first-team All-SEC status. The last four Commodores selected - Hillenmeyer, Winborn (1999-2000), Corey Chavous (1997) and Jamie Duncan (1996-97) - were defensive standouts. Hillenmeyer succeeded while switching from outside linebacker to middle linebacker. He was remarkably consistent, achieving double-digit tackles in 11 of 12 games. He ended the season as the SEC leader in solo tackles (116) and total stops (168).

The All-SEC honor continues a postseason roll for Hillenmeyer. In addition to the National Scholar Athlete ceremony Monday, the Hillenmeyer was named first-team Academic All-American on Dec. 2, the first Vanderbilt student-athlete recognized in 19 years.

Stricker had 44 receptions for 620 yards and six touchdowns in a senior season where Vanderbilt looked for a more-balanced offensive attack after having 61 and 65 catches in 2000 and 2001, respectively.

Stricker ended his Vanderbilt career with 2,880 receiving yards (fifth all-time in the SEC0 and 182 catches (eighth all-time in the SEC). He also established a school record with 21 touchdown catches.

Doster earned the SEC Freshman of the Year award on the strength of all-purpose offensive performance. He led all SEC freshmen in rushing with 798 yards and was third in the SEC (and 17th nationally) with a 25.7-yard kickoff return average. He ended the season fourth in the conference in all-purpose rushing with 1,523 total yards, an average of 138.5 yards per game.  Doster was named by the coaches as a running back and return specialist.  

Cutler started at quarterback in all 11 games he participated in this season. The Santa Claus, Ind., native passed for 1,433 yards and 10 touchdowns while rushing for 393 yards. His nine rushing touchdowns was the most by any SEC quarterback.

Cutler’s 10 touchdown passes established a freshman record at Vanderbilt. He ended the season second all-time among Vanderbilt freshmen in completions (103), attempts (212) and passing yards.

Greg Johnson had an all-American-caliber season for the Commodores, admirably handling all of the team’s kicking assignments. The Lilburn, Ga., native ended the season ranked fifth in the NCAA (and second in the SEC) in punting with a 43.8-yard average. He remained remarkably consistent through the season, booting a punt of at least 50 yards in 11 of 12 games. Johnson’s net average of 38.8 yards was fourth in the NCAA. Johnson also converted on eight of 13 field goal attempts and all 27 extra points.

A rash of injuries kept Osemwegie from a superb season. After starting the Commodores’ first two games at outside linebacker, the Nashville native played through severe knee, ankle and hand injuries the rest of the season. He ended the season as the team’s fifth leading tackler with 53 total stops, including 40 solo tackles. He also added 4.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks.

Pyle was a pleasant surprise for the Commodores. The native of Adairsville, Ga., pressed into service due to injuries to a thin offensive line, steadily improved at right guard. He ended the season with six starts.



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