Courtesy of Kansas Athletics
LAWRENCE, Kan. – For the second-straight year two Jayhawks picked up Preseason All-Big 12 First Team honors as sophomore Pooka Williams Jr., and junior Kyle Thompson each found their names on the list the conference office announced Tuesday afternoon. The awards are voted on by a panel of media who covers the conference. Williams, a running back, returns in 2019 as the Big 12’s leading returning rusher, while Thompson is back as the conference’s top punter.
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A New Orleans native, Williams took home 2018 Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year honors and was also named to the All-Big 12 First Team as a running back and a returner by the league coaches. He was named the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year and was a first-team honoree as an all-purpose player by the Associated Press, while taking home second-team honors at running back.
Williams rushed for a total of 1,125 yards on 161 carries, good for 102.3 yards per game, 7.0 yards per carry and seven rushing touchdowns. He added 289 yards and two scores on 33 receptions and 246 yards on 11 kick returns to lead the Big 12 and rank sixth in the FBS in all-purpose yards at 150.9 per game. Williams also threw for a touchdown—a nine-yard pass against Oklahoma.
Williams was one of two players in the Big 12 Conference to record a 100-yard rushing game (4) and a 100-yard receiving game (1) in 2018, joining TCU’s Jalen Reagor. He was also one of only two players in the league to score a touchdown by way of passing, rushing and receiving joining Texas’ Lil’ Jordan Humphrey and was one of just three true freshmen in Big 12 history to accomplish the feat.
Williams’ 1,125 rushing yards tied him for eighth place in KU’s single-season history books, ranking him second among Jayhawk freshmen on that list. His 252 rushing yards at Oklahoma rank sixth in KU’s single-game records, while his 16.8 yards per carry against the Sooners was both a Big 12 Conference and Kansas record for a game with a minimum of 15 carries. His 1,660 all-purpose yards rank third on KU’s single-season list.
Williams took home numerous national honors during his first season as a Jayhawk. He was tabbed a Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) All-America Second Team and Freshman All-America honoree as an all-purpose player and also took home Freshman All-America by The Athletic as a running back. He was named Midseason True Freshman of the Year by The Athletic and was tabbed a Midseason Freshman All-American by ESPN. He was tabbed the Big 12 Conference’s Newcomer of the Week on four occasions during the 2018 season.
Thompson, who hails from El Cajon, California, was the Big 12’s top punter in 2018, averaging 43.3 yards per punt. He recorded 17 kicks of 50 yards or longer and dropped 26 of his punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. Thompson turned in a career-long 76-yard punt in KU’s season-finale against Texas. He earned All-Big 12 Second Team honors by the league coaches following the 2018 season.
The Big 12 media preseason poll will be released on Wednesday, followed by the annual Big 12 Football Media Days to be conducted in Arlington, Texas on July 15-16. Both days will be televised live from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. CT on FS2, FCS Central and other regional affiliates. Exclusive coverage from the event will also be available on the Big 12’s digital platforms – Big12Sports.com, Twitter and Instagram and You Tube (@Big12Conference). The official hashtag for the event will be #Big12FB.
A quartet of seniors in offensive lineman Hakeem Adeniji, running back Khalil Herbert and safeties Mike Lee and Bryce Torneden, along with head coach Les Miles will represent the Jayhawks as they take part in Big 12 Football Media Days on Monday, July 15. Follow along with the KU contingent on all their social accounts: Twitter: @KU_Football; Instagram: @kufootball, and Facebook: @KansasFootball.