Although he started every game the last two years as a defensive end, University of Central Florida senior Thomas Niles, a Gainesville High graduate, received a spot on the Outland Trophy Watch List, released by the Football Writers Association of America Friday. The trophy is handed out to the nation’s top interior lineman.
A total of 81 players were named to the list. The winner is chosen from three finalists who are a part of the FWAA All-America Team. Only interior linemen on offense or defense are eligible for the award, making ends such as Niles not eligible.
Niles has 33 total starts in 39 career games played entering his senior campaign in 2015. As a junior, he set personal-bests in every category: 49 tackles, 7 1/2 sacks, 13 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles.
Voted on to the 2014 All-American Athletic Conference Second Team, Niles became the first Knight in school history to post a sack in six straight games. He started that streak against Baylor in the 2014 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, then had a sack in each of the first five outings of the 2014 regular season.
In 2013, Niles was UCF’s Outstanding Defensive Lineman, and he closed out his freshman season with 3 1/2 tackles for loss and 1 1/2 sacks in the 2012 Beef O’ Brady’s Bowl.
Niles and the Knights open preseason camp on Aug. 5, in preparation for the season opener against Florida International University on Sept. 3 in Orlando, Fla.