CHARLOTTE – Gardner-Webb football saw three of its veterans earn preseason All-Big South Conference honors Tuesday, with linebacker Aaron Cook, linebacker Chad Geter and center Caleb Smith honored as part of the league's annual media day.
Cook (Edgefield, S.C. / Strom Thurmond HS) and Geter (Irmo, S.C. / Dutch Fork HS) each earned All-Big South Conference honors following the 2015 season. Smith (Woodruff, S.C. / Woodruff HS) made his first appearance on an All-Big South Conference squad Tuesday.
Geter and Smith were the two student-athlete representatives for Gardner-Webb at Tuesday's festivities, held at the Marriott Fairfield Inn & Suites in the Queen City.
Geter (6-2, 253, Gr.) was runner up for the Big South's Preseason Defensive Player of the Year award, finishing eight votes behind Charleston Southern defensive end Anthony Ellis.
The standout outside linebacker is coming off the best season of his career and enters preseason in tremendous physical shape – covering the 40-yard dash in 4.65 seconds during summer testing. Geter ranked third in the Big South last season with 92 total hits – leading the GWU stat sheet – and added 13.0 tackles for loss and 5.0 sacks for a defense that ranked No. 13 nationally in yardage allowed and in the top-10 in third down conversion defense and passing defense.
Geter has collected 227 career tackles (136 solo), 27.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks in 36 games played for the Runnin' Bulldogs. His impact on Gardner-Webb's team defense has been significant, with the 'Dogs finishing in the top-15 nationally in each of his two full seasons as a starter.
Cook (6-1, 235, Sr.) earned second-team All-Conference honors in 2015 and joins Geter again to form one of the most devastating outside linebacker tandems in the FCS.
Entering his third year a starter, Cook has 169 total hits over the past two seasons and has totaled 22.5 tackles for loss during his last 22 starts. Last season, he finished third on the team with 77 total stops (40 solo) and posted 3.5 quarterback sacks.
Cook has earned All-Big South honors in each of the past two seasons, landing on the first team in 2014 after leading the squad with 92 total hits.
Smith (6-3, 328, Gr.) is one of four returning starters on the offensive line for Gardner-Webb, which will be one of the program's most experienced units in several seasons.
Smith anchored an improved rushing attack in 2015, starting all 11 games at center and grading out at 74 percent. He did not allow a sack all season and helped clear a path for quarterback Tyrell Maxwell to rush for a program QB-record 794 yards at the position.
Smith's performance in the middle of the line helped that group reduced its previous season's sacks allowed total by more than 60 percent in 2015.
The veteran blocker has started 19 career games and logged nearly 1,000 snaps (994) over his first three seasons with the Runnin' Bulldogs.
Gardner-Webb opens its 2016 season on Saturday, September 3 at Elon. Kickoff is set for 3:30 pm at Rhodes Stadium.