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App State, Thomas Lead Way in Preseason All-Sun Belt Honors

App State, Thomas Lead Way in Preseason All-Sun Belt Honors

zac-thomas-photo

App State quarterback Zac Thomas rushed for two touchdowns in the win over Louisiana in last year’s Sun Belt title game.

NEW ORLEANS – App State amassed a league-high seven first-team selections, including preseason offensive player of the year Zac Thomas, as the Mountaineers were picked to win both division and conference titles in the preseason All-Sun Belt football honors announced Tuesday by the league.

Preseason all-conference awards were voted upon by the Sun Belt's 10 football head coaches and selected media representatives.

App State, which claimed a fourth straight Sun Belt title in 2019 and has won each of the first two Sun Belt Championship Games, was named the overall favorite for the league after the Mountaineers received nine of 10 first-place votes in the East Division. Louisiana registered seven first place-votes in the West Division.

App State's 10 selections on the two All-Sun Belt teams tied for the league lead, and it accounted for nearly one-third of the 22 spots reserved for first-team offensive and defensive players.

The first-team selections were Thomas (QB), Corey Sutton (WR), Noah Hannon (OL), Baer Hunter (OL), Cooper Hodges (OL), Demetrius Taylor (DL) and Shaun Jolly (DB). Thomas Hennigan (WR), Ryan Neuzil (OL) and Shemar Jean-Charles (DB) are part of the second team.

The Mountaineers return 13 of their primary 22 starters on offense and defense from their 13-win team in 2019. There are 12 returning offensive players and 13 returning defensive players who started at least one game in 2019, plus four scholarship players who spent time at running back last season and combined for 1,217 rushing yards while averaging 6.1 yards per carry.

Under the direction of first-year head coach Shawn Clark, App State is scheduled to open the 2020 season at home against Charlotte on Sept. 12.

The Mountaineers return 13 of their primary 22 starters on offense and defense from their 13-1 team in 2019. There are 12 returning offensive players and 13 returning defensive players who started at least one game in 2019, plus four scholarship players who spent time at running back last season and combined for 1,217 rushing yards while averaging 6.1 yards per carry.

Thomas, the Sun Belt's offensive player of the year in 2018 and PFF College's first-team All-Sun Belt quarterback in 2019, accounted for 35 touchdowns (28 passing) and 3,158 total yards (2,718 passing) last season. Hannon, Hunter, Neuzil and Hodges are returning starters for an offensive line that helped App State rank in the top 20 nationally in both rushing yards per game and fewest sacks allowed, while Sutton and Hennigan are tied for fifth and seventh, respectively, on the school's career touchdown receptions list.

Defensively, Taylor and Jolly are both candidates for a pair of national defensive player of the year awards, while Jean-Charles joins Jolly in forming one of the nation's top cornerback tandems. With a combined three touchdowns from Taylor and Jolly in 2019, App State tied for the FBS lead by scoring six times on defense.

The 2019 defense ranked in the top 30 nationally in touchdowns scored, third-down conversion percentage, turnovers forced, interceptions, sacks, pass efficiency defense, scoring defense, tackles for loss yardage, yards allowed per play, total defense, rushing TDs allowed, fumble recoveries, rushing defense and TDs allowed.

2020 Sun Belt Football Coaches Predicted Championship Game Winner

App State

2020 Sun Belt Football Coaches Predicted Order of Finish

First-place votes in parentheses

East Division

1. App State (9) - 49 pts

2. Georgia Southern - 36 pts

3. Troy (1) - 32 pts

4. Georgia State - 20 pts

5. Coastal Carolina - 13 pts

West Division

1. Louisiana (7) - 47 pts

2. Arkansas State (2) - 40 pts

3. South Alabama (1) - 22 pts

4. Texas State - 21 pts

5. ULM - 20 pts

2020 Sun Belt Conference Preseason Football Teams

Preseason Offensive Player of the Year: Zac Thomas, (App State, Senior)

Preseason Defensive Player of the Year: Carlton Martial (Troy, Junior)

First Team Offense

QB - Zac Thomas, App State

RB - Elijah Mitchell, Louisiana

RB - Josh Johnson, ULM

OL - Noah Hannon, App State

OL - Baer Hunter, App State

OL - Cooper Hodges, App State

OL - Jarrett Horst, Arkansas State

OL - Shamarious Gilmore, Georgia State

TE – Josh Pederson, ULM

WR – Corey Sutton, App State

WR – Jonathan Adams, Arkansas State

WR – Kaylon Geiger, Troy

First Team Defense

DL – Demetrius Taylor, App State

DL – Tarron Jackson, Coastal Carolina

DL – Raymond Johnson III, Georgia Southern

DL – Will Choloh, Troy

LB – Rashad Byrd, Georgia Southern

LB – Joe Dillon, Louisiana

LB – Carlton Martial, Troy

DB – Shaun Jolly, App State

DB – Kenderick Duncan Jr, Georgia Southern

DB – Corey Straughter, ULM

DB – Dell Pettus, Troy

First Team Special Teams

K – Blake Grupe, Arkansas State

P – Rhys Byrns, Louisiana

RS - Wesley Kennedy III, Georgia Southern

Second Team Offense

QB - Levi Lewis, Louisiana

RB - Trey Ragas, Louisiana

RB - CJ Marable, Coastal Carolina

OL - Ryan Neuzil, App State

OL - Jacob Still, Arkansas State

OL - Max Mitchell, Louisiana

OL - O'Cyrus Torrence, Louisiana

OL - TJ Fiailoa, ULM

TE – Isaiah Likely, Coastal Carolina

WR – Thomas Hennigan, App State

WR – Cornelius McCoy, Georgia State

WR – Reggie Todd, Troy

Second Team Defense

DL – Forrest Merrill, Arkansas State

DL – C.J. Brewer, Coastal Carolina

DL – Dontae Wilson, Georgia State

DL – Zi'Yon Hill, Louisiana

LB – Teddy Gallagher, Coastal Carolina

LB – Trajan Stephens-McQueen, Georgia State

LB – Riley Cole, South Alabama

DB – Shemar Jean-Charles, App State

DB – Antonio Fletcher, Arkansas State

DB – Quavian White, Georgia State

DB – Eric Garror, Louisiana

Second Team Special Teams

K – Massimo Biscardi, Coastal Carolina

P – Anthony Beck II, Georgia Southern

RS - Eric Garror, Louisiana

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