Despite an offseason full of uncertainty regarding his exact status for the coming Kansas football season, expectations remain high for sophomore running back Pooka Williams.
A day after being cleared by KU’s athletic department to rejoin the football program after a seven-month suspension tied to a domestic battery charge, Williams picked up All-Big 12 honors on Tuesday, when the conference announced its 2019 preseason team, as voted on by the media.
Junior KU punter Kyle Thompson joined Williams, the Big 12’s leading returning rusher, on the team, giving the duo the distinction of being the only Jayhawks represented on the list, which didn’t include a second team.
Named a first-team All-Big 12 performer in 2018, following his freshman season, and voted by league coaches as the Offensive Freshman of the Year, as well as Newcomer of the Year by the Associated Press, Williams averaged 102.3 yards per game on the ground.
Williams finished his debut season with 1,125 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. The 5-foot-10, 170-pound back from Louisiana proved to be versatile within KU’s offense, also contributing 289 receiving yards, 33 catches and two TDs receptions. Plus, Williams threw a nine-yard TD pass at Oklahoma.
On special teams, Williams’ 246 yards on 11 kick returns helped him lead the conference in all-purpose yards, at 150.9 per game.
The AP named Williams the Big 12’s first-team all-purpose player in 2018, and a second-team running back. The league’s coaches voted Williams to the first team at running back following KU’s 3-9 season.
Now a sophomore, the running back’s suspension from the KU football team, which lasted from December until July, was lifted on Monday, when KU announced his reinstatement.
Head coach Les Miles suspended Williams after he was arrested and charged with domestic battery. Williams reached a diversion agreement regarding the misdemeanor charge in March.
As part of his punishment, Williams will miss KU’s season opener versus Indiana State.
Thompson, a 6-4 junior from El Cajon, Calif., averaged 43.3 yards per punt in 2018, with 17 traveling 50 or more yards. The Big 12’s coaches named him last year to the All-Big 12 second team.
Among his 69 punts a year ago, Thompson placed 26 inside the 20-yard line.
Offensive Player of the Year: Sam Ehlinger, Texas, QB,
Defensive Player of the Year: Kenneth Murray, Oklahoma, LB,
Newcomer of the Year: Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma, QB
QB - Sam Ehlinger, Texas
RB - Pooka Williams, Kansas
RB - Kennedy Brooks, Oklahoma
RB - Chuba Hubbard, Oklahoma State
WR - CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma
WR - Tylan Wallace, Oklahoma State
WR - Jalen Reagor, TCU
TE - Grant Calcaterra,
OL - Creed Humphrey, Oklahoma
OL - Lucas Niang, TCU
OL - Zach Shackelford, Texas
OL - Jack Anderson, Texas Tech
OL - Colton McKivitz, West Virginia
PK - Cameron Dicker, Texas
KR/PR - CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma
DL - James Lynch, Baylor
DL - JaQuan Bailey, Iowa State
DL - Ray Lima, Iowa State
DL - Reggie Walker, K-State
DL - Corey Bethley, TCU
LB - Clay Johnston, Baylor
LB - Marcel Spears Jr., Iowa State
LB - Kenneth Murray, Oklahoma
DB - Greg Eisworth, Iowa State
DB - A.J. Green, Oklahoma State
DB - Jeff Gladney, TCU
DB - Caden Sterns, Texas
DB - Adrian Frye, Texas Tech
P - Kyle Thompson, Kansas