Ashland University junior defensive end James Prater Jr. was named on Wednesday (Dec. 20) afternoon as one of the finalists for the 2017 Cliff Harris Award, presented to the top defensive player in the country representing Division II, III and NAIA colleges and universities.
In his first season as a collegiate starter this fall, Prater Jr. rewrote the Eagle football record book by collecting a program-record 23½ tackles for loss, resulting in 104 yards in losses. That total finished the 2017 campaign as the second-highest in the country.
Prater Jr. also led AU with 42 solo tackles and 10 sacks, was third with 63 total stops, and added an interception, eight pass breakups, a fumble recovery and a forced fumble.
Prater Jr. has 31 career tackles for loss, fourth all-time at Ashland, trailing only Allen Lattimore (38½), current Cleveland Browns defensive tackle Jamie Meder (35) and Devin Conwell (33).
Harris played for Ouachita Baptist in the late 1960s, and was a safety for the National Football League's Dallas Cowboys in the 1970s.
The 2017 Cliff Harris Award winner will be announced on Saturday (Dec. 23), and will be honored at the Little Rock Touchdown Club's annual awards banquet on Jan. 11. The winner also will receive the $3,000 Cliff Harris Award trophy.