Walt Wells named ASUN Coach of the Year

The EKU coach also won the honor in 2021
EKU coach Walt Wells patrols the sidelines during his team's 35-28 win over Southern Utah.
EKU coach Walt Wells patrols the sidelines during his team's 35-28 win over Southern Utah.(WKYT)
Published: Nov. 23, 2022 at 8:00 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Ky. (WKYT) - The ASUN announced EKU head football coach Walt Wells as the ASUN Coach of the Year and quarterback Parker McKinney as the Co-Offensive Player of the Year on Wednesday.  The conference awards and all-conference team were voted on by the league’s head coaches. In addition to McKinney, tight end Dakota Allen, offensive lineman Payton Collins, linebacker Matthew Jackson, and defensive lineman TK McLendon Jr. earned all-conference honors.

Wells earned his second consecutive ASUN Coach of the Year award, becoming the first EKU football coach to repeat as conference Coach of the Year since Roy Kidd won the OVC honor in 1990 and 1991. Despite suffering a heart attack five days before the season opener, Wells guided EKU to a 7-4 record, a share of the program’s first conference championship since 2011, and EKU’s first NCAA FCS Playoff berth since 2014.

The Colonels climbed as high as No. 16 in the national polls and defeated an FBS opponent for the first time in 16 tries, beating Bowling Green 59-57 in seven overtimes.  Named a finalist for the Walter Payton Award, McKinney leads the ASUN in every passing category. The Coalfield, Tenn., native set EKU’s single-season records for completions (278), attempts (402), passing yards (3,502), and passing touchdowns (28) this season and became EKU’s career leader in total offense, passing yards, passing touchdowns, completions, and attempts. Against ASUN competition, the redshirt junior threw 14 touchdowns against just three interceptions.

McKinney currently ranks third nationally in passing yards (3,502), passing yards per game (318.4), and total offense per game (352.2), fourth in points responsible for (226) and points responsible for per game (20.5), sixth nationally in passing touchdowns (28), eighth in completions per game (25.27) and ninth in completion percentage (.692). McKinney also rushed for 373 yards and eight touchdowns during the regular season.

Allen caught 26 passes for 353 yards and three touchdowns in five games before suffering a season-ending ACL tear against Southern Utah. His 70.6 yards per game would rank second in the ASUN, as the Lebanon, Ohio native averaged 13.6 yards per catch. In the season opener at FBS opponent Eastern Michigan, Allen hauled in nine catches for 118 yards and two touchdowns. The redshirt senior also caught four passes for 87 yards in the first half against Southern Utah.

Collins started all 11 games at left tackle, extending his streak of consecutive starts to 31. A native of Columbus, Ohio, Collins is part of offensive line that has helped EKU rank third nationally in passing offense per game (318.4), seventh in third-down conversion percentage (.511), 14th in red zone offense (.887) and total offense per game (447.1), 15th in tackles for loss allowed (4.55), 16th in scoring offense (35.7),and 24th in sacks allowed per game (1.45). The redshirt sophomore is key member of unit that allowed quarterback Parker McKinney to set EKU single-season records for passing yards, passing touchdowns, and pass completions. He also helped EKU tally highest point total since the 2014 season to date.

Jackson leads the Colonel defense with 78 tackles this season while also registering 5.5 tackles for loss, four pass breakups, two sacks, two fumble recoveries, and one forced fumble. He ranks fourth in the ASUN in tackles and fourth in tackles per game (7.8). The redshirt senior from Nashville, Tenn., posted double-digit tackles in three different contests. In EKU’s win at FBS foe Bowling Green, Jackson made 10 stops and broke up two passes. He tallied 14 tackles against Jacksonville State, then followed with a career-high 18 tackles with 3.0 tackles for loss, a sack, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery against Kennesaw State. McLendon started all 11 games in the regular season, totaling 56 tackles, 11.0 tackles for loss, six sacks, three pass breakups, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery.

Jackson ranks third in the ASUN in sacks and fifth in the conference in tackles for loss and only defensive lineman in the conference with at least 55 tackles and multiple pass breakups. A native of Soperton, Ga., McLendon notched a tackle for loss in eight different games and recorded a sack in five different contests. The senior has posted at least five tackles in five separate games. He tallied a career-high 10.0 tackles against Austin Peay and posted six tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, and a pass breakup in the win at Bowling Green. EKU returns to action to face Gardner-Webb in the first round of the NCAA FCS Playoffs on Saturday, Nov. 26 at 5:00 p.m. at CG Bank Field at Roy Kidd Stadium.