Mountaineers favorite to win Sun Belt, 10 selections on preseason all-conference teams


Lynette Files

Quarterback Zac Thomas, this year’s Sun Belt preseason offensive player of year, (far right) leads App State onto the field before a 56-37 victory against Coastal Carolina on Sept. 28.

Silas Albright, Reporter

App State was picked to win its fifth straight Sun Belt title Tuesday when the Sun Belt conference released its preseason awards. Also at the awards, 10 players, including preseason offensive player of the year Zac Thomas, were named to preseason all-conference teams.

The Mountaineers also received nine of 10 first-place votes to win the East division and appear in their third straight Sun Belt Championship game. 

Seven Mountaineers were named to the preseason first team, while three made the second team. 

Quarterback Zac Thomas, wide receiver Corey Sutton, center Noah Hannon, right guard Baer Hunter and right tackle Cooper Hodges were named to the offensive first team. App State’s five offensive first-team selections are the most in the conference. 

Defensive lineman Demetrius Taylor and cornerback Shaun Jolly are the Mountaineers’ two defensive first-team selections.

Wide receiver Thomas Hennigan, left guard Ryan Neuzil and cornerback Shemar Jean-Charles were named to the second team. 

With Neuzil’s selection, four of App State’s five starters on the offensive line were named to preseason all-conference teams. Hannon, Hunter and Neuzil are seniors while first-team selection Hodges is a sophomore. 

Each of the first two Sun Belt Championship games have been between East division winner App State and West division winner Louisiana, who was picked to win the West again this year with seven first-place votes.

The only Sun Belt team to beat the Mountaineers in the past two years, Georgia Southern, was picked to finish second in the East division. Troy received the only first place vote that wasn’t for the Mountaineers, but was picked to finish third in the East. 

The conference’s preseason defensive player of the year pick is Troy linebacker Carlton Martial. 

In 2019, a pair of NFL Draft picks from App State swept the Sun Belt’s offensive and defensive player of the year awards. 

Running back Darrynton Evans took home offensive player of the year honors en route to a third round selection by the Tennessee Titans, while linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither won defensive player of year before being selected in the fourth round by the Cincinnatti Bengals.

Neither Evans nor Davis-Gaither was the 2019 preseason pick to take home the awards. 

App State is set to open its 2020 season Sept. 12 against Charlotte in Kidd Brewer Stadium. The start time is TBA. 

The Mountaineers’ first Sun Belt game is set to air on ESPN2 on Oct. 7 against Louisiana in Boone. The start time for that game is also TBA.