Fullback Protheroe Lands on Athlon Sports Preseason All-America Team

Fullback Protheroe Lands on Athlon Sports Preseason All-America Team

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — Cal Poly senior fullback Joe Protheroe has been named to Athlon Sports' 2017 Preseason Football Championship Subdivision All-America Team.

A graduate of Clayton Valley Charter School in Concord, Calif., Protheroe has amassed 2,297 yards in his first three seasons as a Mustang, No. 8 on the university's all-time career rushing chart.

Last fall Protheroe became the 20th Mustang to surpass the 1,000-yard mark in rushing for a single season, accumulating 1,334 yards and scoring 13 touchdowns. The yardage total is No. 5 all-time at Cal Poly and the touchdown total is tied for No. 5.

Named Cal Poly's most valuable offensive back a year ago, Protheroe's postseason honors also include first-team All-America honors by STATS FCS and Hero Sports and first-team All-Big Sky Conference for the second straight year. He produced eight 100-yard games as a junior and has 13 for his Mustang career.

The 27-player Athlon Sports preseason All-America team includes 23 seniors, three juniors and one sophomore. Other Big Sky players honored include defensive back Cole Reyes and kick return specialist John Santiago, both of North Dakota.

Cal Poly opens fall camp July 26 in preparation for its Week Zero season opener Saturday, August 26, against Colgate at 4 p.m. inside Alex G. Spanos Stadium. The game will be televised nationally by ESPNU.

In other preseason Mustang football news:

• Athlon Sports has released its preseason FCS poll with Cal Poly listed No. 22.

"The Mustangs' triple option will rank among the nation's best rushing offenses with the return of All-America fullback Joe Protheroe, slot back Kyle Lewis and an experienced offensive line," writes Craig Haley, who has covered the FCS level since 1999 and is the national writer for www.fcs.football.

"Coach Tim Walsh's squad seeks a return to the FCS playoffs, but it needs improvement against the pass. It should come with the return of senior safety B.J. Nard," Haley adds.

North Dakota State, which claimed five consecutive FCS national titles from 2012-16 before James Madison ended the streak last fall, is ranked No. 1 in the preseason poll. From the Big Sky, North Dakota is No. 5 and Eastern Washington is No. 6. They shared the Big Sky title a year ago with 8-0 marks.

Northern Iowa, Cal Poly's third opponent of the 2017 season, is ranked No. 13.

• Cal Poly's second game of the upcoming campaign at San Jose State on Sept. 2 is listed by Athlon Sports as one of the seven potential upsets of FBS teams by FCS squads this fall.

"It's bad enough for San Jose State that it ranked 122nd out of 128 FBS teams in rushing defense last season, but it has to face a Cal Poly triple-option offense that averaged more than 343 yards on the ground," writes Haley. 

San Jose State's first-year head coach is Brent Brennan, wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator under Rich Ellerson at Cal Poly from 2001-04.

Other potential FCS upsets of FBS teams include Tennessee State at Georgia State, Fordham at Army West Point, James Madison at East Carolina, Northern Iowa at Iowa State, UT Martin at Ole Miss and Western Illinois at Coastal Carolina.

There are 98 FCS vs. FBS matchups this season. A year ago, 10 FCS teams knocked off FBS opponents, half from Power Five Conferences. The 10 upsets include Eastern Washington over Washington State. Two years ago, North Dakota defeated Wyoming while Portland State beat Washington State and North Texas.

• Former Mustang linebacker Chris Santini will be playing for the White All-Stars in the 2017 New Era Bowl on Sunday inside Oji Stadium in Kobe, Japan.

The game primarily features former players from San Jose State (White All-Stars) against UNLV (Blue All-Stars). Players from other schools have been invited as well. Santini is a graduate of Leland High School in San Jose.

Named Cal Poly's most valuable defensive player honors last fall, Santini notched a team-leading 106 tackles, 12.5 for lost yardage. He made 68 solo tackles, including 2.5 sacks, and also was the team leader with his five quarterback hurries.

One of four Mustangs named to the All-Big Sky first team in 2016, Santini was an honorable mention All-Big Sky player on special teams in 2015 and was the team's most valuable player on special teams, also in 2015. He transferred to Cal Poly from Boise State and is a younger brother of former Mustang linebacker Michael Santini.