(HERO Sports) - Charleston Southern's Darius Hammond, Erik Austell, and Anthony Ellis headline five Buccaneers named to the HERO Sports FCS All-American team announced on Friday morning. The trio was a driving force in CSU's second consecutive run to the Big South Conference championship and the FCS Playoffs.
Hammond averaged a Big South single-season record 33.7 yards per return in the 2016 season in earning First Team honors at return specialist. He ranked 17th nationally in combined kick returns and 23rd in all-purpose yards, cementing his place as one of the most dynamic threats in the country. Hammond earned Big South Special Teams Player of the Year honors after pacing the conference in kickoff returns and punt returns.
The Johnston, S.C. native broke an 83-yard kickoff return at Liberty on his way to accumulating 154 return yards and earning November 14 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.
Austell was voted a team captain prior to the season and bounced back from an injury to return to his normal dominant self in his season year in earning First Team honors on the offensive line. He started 10 games and graded out at 91.4 percent while recording 84 knockdown blocks.
The Warner Robins, Ga. native earned a place on the All-Big South first-team after powering the nation's sixth best rushing attack. CSU scored 30+ points six times and tallied 500+ yards of offense four times. He finished his career with 39 starts and was an integral part of the winningest senior class in program history.
Ellis earned Big South Defensive Player of the Year accolades after leading the league in sacks (7.0) and tackles-for-loss (16.0) to earn First Team honors on the defensive line. The junior is the second player in conference history to post two seven-sack seasons.
The Apopka, Fla., native 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 of his 45 stops against Big South foes, 15 of which were solo.
Holloway led the nation in yards per carry (8.39) and averaged 88.1 rushing yards per game on the year to earn Third Team honors. Holloway became CSU's all-time leading rusher this year, doing so in 146 fewer carries than Christian Reyes, the previous record holder. The Stone Mountain, Ga., speedster posted five 100-yard rushing days and was named to the College Football Performance Awards (CFPA) FCS Performer of the Year Midseason Watch List.
McGowens earned Third Team honors after shining in key situations for the Buccaneers throughout the 2016 season. The Easley, S.C. native opened the season with a season-high six tackles, a sack, and an interception late in the fourth quarter at North Dakota State. He earned Big South Defensive Player of the Week honors for his two-interception, three-tackle outing in CSU's conference-clinching win over Kennesaw State. He added an interception and a pass breakup in the end zone against Presbyterian. McGowens ranked fourth in the league in interceptions (4) and eighth in passes defended (8).