CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Charleston Southern junior defensive end Anthony Ellis and senior return specialist Darius Hammond have been named Big South Conference Defensive Player of the Year and Special Teams Player of the Year, respectively, the league announced Tuesday. The awards were voted on by the Big South's head coaches and a media panel.
Ellis leads the Big South in sacks (7.0) and tackles-for-loss (13.5). The Apopka, Fla., native is also a finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award as the top defensive player in the FCS. Ellis was runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year in 2015, and this summer was named Preseason Defensive Player of the Year. He is the second player in Big South history to record two seven-sack seasons.
Ellis is the first Charleston Southern player to be voted the conference's Defensive Player of the Year since Jada Ross in 2005, and is the second consecutive defensive lineman to win the award. He had his best performance of the year in CSU's biggest game, tallying a sack and 3.5 TFL to earn Big South Defensive Player of the Week honors in a 48-26 road rout of Liberty. Ellis spearheaded a defensive effort that limited the Flames to 75 first half yards as the Bucs built a 31-6 halftime lead in the must-win game.
Ellis shined in league play as he totaled a league-best 9.5 TFL in five games (1.90 per game), and tied for the top spot with four sacks (one each against Monmouth, Presbyterian, Gardner-Webb and Liberty). He also had 24 stops against Big South foes, 15 of which were solo. Ellis received 11 first-place votes and 25 points, ahead of Gardner-Webb's Chad Geter (four first-place votes and 14 points) and Monmouth's Mike Basile (three first-place votes and eight points).
Hammond leads the nation in kickoff return average (33.7) by almost five yards, and is the Big South's top punt returner as well (11.6). The Johnston, S.C., product also earned a spot on the All-Big South Second Team at running back.
Hammond's kickoff return average is pacing ahead of the Big South single-season record of 33.5. He broke an 83-yard kickoff return at Liberty in addition to a 19-yard punt return to account for 154 return yards and earn Big South Special Teams Player of the Week honors. Hammond's returns boosted the Bucs' field position all season, highlighted by a 58-yard return in the win at Monmouth, a key 48-yard kickoff return in CSU's win at Coastal Carolina and a 65-yard return in a victory over Bucknell. He averaged 35.6 yards on eight kickoff returns in conference play.
Hammond received 16 first-place votes and 33 points, finishing ahead of Liberty kicker Alex Probert (two first-place votes and 13 points).