James Madison was picked to finish atop the Sun Belt East Division in the Sun Belt Conference Football Preseason Coaches Poll, while Coastal Carolina QB Grayson McCall and Old Dominion LB Jason Henderson were named preseason offensive and defensive players of the year.
The hotly-contested race—with the top four teams separated by just 10 points—saw the Dukes claim 4-of-14 first-place votes, with App State (4), Coastal Carolina (3), Marshall (2) and Georgia Southern (1) also receiving nods.
Reigning Sun Belt champion Troy was picked to repeat as the Sun Belt West Division champion and join Louisiana (4), App State (3) and Coastal Carolina (2) as a multi-time qualifier for the Hercules Tires Sun Belt Football Championship Game. The Trojans earned 10-of-14 first-place votes, with in-state rival South Alabama (4) receiving the other four.
Troy defeated Coastal Carolina, 45-26, in the 2022 Hercules Tires Sun Belt Football Championship Game—keeping the home team undefeated in the five-year history of the postseason contest.
The Sun Belt is coming off a banner campaign in 2022—the conference’s first year as a 14-team football league—in which it defeated four autonomy five programs, hosted ESPN’s College GameDay for the second time in conference history and produced a conference-record seven Bowl Season participants—tied for the most among non-autonomy conferences and trailing only the SEC, ACC, Big Ten and Big 12.
Sun Belt Football Media Days will be held Tuesday, July 25, and Wednesday, July 26 at the Sheraton in downtown New Orleans. The West Division head coaches and student-athletes will appear on Tuesday, with the East Division to follow on Wednesday.
|EAST||School (1st-place votes)||Total Points|
|1.||James Madison (4)||78|
|2.||App State (4)||75|
|3.||Coastal Carolina (3)||71|
|5.||Georgia Southern (1)||52|
|WEST||School (1st-place votes)||Total Points|
|2.||South Alabama (4)||85|
Coastal Carolina redshirt senior quarterback Grayson McCall was named the Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, while Old Dominion junior linebacker Jason Henderson was dubbed the Preseason Defensive Player of the Year.
McCall—a three time All-Sun Belt First Team honoree—has been named the Sun Belt Player of the Year in 2020, 2021 and 2022, becoming the first Sun Belt football student-athlete to three-peat as the conference’s Player of the Year. McCall was also named the Sun Belt Preseason Offensive Player of the Year in 2021 and 2022. Henderson was an All-Sun Belt First Team selection in 2022, after leading the country with 186 tackles on the year.
South Alabama paced all conference programs with nine Preseason All-Sun Belt picks. The Jaguars were closely followed by in-state rival and reigning Sun Belt champion Troy (8), Coastal Carolina (6), Georgia State (6) and Marshall (6). All 14 Sun Belt programs were represented by at least one student-athlete across the two Preseason All-Sun Belt teams.
Coastal Carolina and Marshall led all teams with four First Team picks apiece, while James Madison, Southern Miss and Troy each produced three First Team honorees. South Alabama produced a conference-high seven Second Team selections, followed by five from Troy and four from Georgia State.
Preseason Offensive Player of the Year
Grayson McCall, Coastal Carolina (RS Sr., QB – Indian Trail, N.C.)
Preseason Defensive Player of the Year
Jason Henderson, Old Dominion (Jr., LB – Dingmans Ferry, Pa.)
Preseason All-Sun Belt First Team Offense
QB – Grayson McCall, Coastal Carolina (RS Sr., QB – Indian Trail, N.C.)
RB – La’Damian Webb, South Alabama (Sr., RB – Opelika, Ala.)
RB – Frank Gore Jr., Southern Miss (Jr., RB – Miami, Fla.)
OL – Isaiah Helms, App State (Sr., OL – Hudson, N.C.)
OL – Khalil Crowder, Georgia Southern (6th Yr., OL – Carrollton, Ga.)
OL – Travis Glover, Georgia State (RS Sr., OL – Vienna, Ga.)
OL – Nick Kidwell, James Madison (RS Sr., OL – Knoxville, Md.)
OL – Logan Osburn, Marshall (RS Jr., OL – Ona, W.Va.)
TE – Neal Johnson, Louisiana (Sr., TE – Mesquite, Texas)
WR – Jared Brown, Coastal Carolina (RS So., WR – Lilburn, Ga.)
WR – Sam Pinckney, Coastal Carolina (Super Sr., WR – Greenwood, S.C.)
WR – Khaleb Hood, Georgia Southern (5th Yr., WR – McDonough, Ga.)
Preseason All-Sun Belt First Team Defense
DL – James Carpenter, James Madison (RS Jr., DL – Roanoke, Va.)
DL – Owen Porter, Marshall (RS Sr., DL – Huntington, W.Va.)
DL – TJ Jackson, Troy (Jr., DL – Millbrook, Ala.)
DL – Richard Jibunor, Troy (Sr., DL – Delta State, Nigeria)
LB – JT Killen, Coastal Carolina (RS Sr., LB – Lake Wylie, S.C.)
LB – Marques Watson-Trent, Georgia Southern (RS Jr., LB – Beaver Falls, Pa.)
LB – Eli Neal, Marshall (Sr., LB – Memphis, Tenn.)
LB – Jason Henderson, Old Dominion (Jr., LB – Dingmans Ferry, Pa.)
DB – Micah Abraham, Marshall (RS Sr., DB – Tampa, Fla.)
DB – Yam Banks, South Alabama (Jr., DB – Ridgeland, Miss.)
DB – Jay Stanley, Southern Miss (Sr., DB – Greenwood, Miss.)
DB – Reddy Steward, Troy (Sr., DB – Decatur, Ala.)
Preseason All-Sun Belt First Team Special Teams
K – Dominic Zvada, Arkansas State (So., K – Chandler, Ariz.)
P – Ryan Hanson, James Madison (RS Jr., P – Elgin, Texas)
RS – Milan Tucker, App State (RS Jr., RS – Lehigh Acres, Fla.)
AP – Frank Gore Jr., Southern Miss (Jr., AP – Miami, Fla.)
Preseason All-Sun Belt Second Team Offense
QB – Carter Bradley, South Alabama (Sr., QB – Jacksonville, Fla.)
RB – Rasheen Ali, Marshall (RS So., RB – Cleveland, Ohio)
RB – Kimani Vidal, Troy (Jr., RB – Marietta, Ga.)
OL – Damion Daley, App State (RS Sr., OL – Columbia, S.C.)
OL – Will McDonald, Coastal Carolina (RS Sr., OL – Matthews, N.C.)
OL – AJ Gillie, Louisiana (RS Jr., OL – Natchitoches, La.)
OL – Ethan Driskell, Marshall (RS Jr., OL – Louisville, Ky.)
OL – Daniel King, Troy (Jr., OL – Cairo, Ga.)
TE – Jjay Mcafee, Georgia Southern (6th Yr., TE – Charleston, S.C.)
WR – Tyrone Howell, ULM (6th Yr., WR – Idabel, Okla.)
WR – Caullin Lacy, South Alabama (Jr., WR – Mobile, Ala.)
WR – Devin Voisin, South Alabama (Sr., WR – Crestview, Fla.)
Preseason All-Sun Belt Second Team Defense
DL – Javon Denis, Georgia State (RS Sr., DL – Deerfield Beach, Fla.)
DL – Wy’Kevious Thomas, South Alabama (RS Jr., DL – Riverdale, Ga.)
DL – Jalen Williams, Southern Miss (Sr., DL – Tylertown, Miss.)
DL – Jordan Revels, Texas State (Sr., DL – Houston, Texas)
DL – Javon Solomon, Troy (Jr., DL – Tallahassee, Fla.)
LB – Jontrey Hunter, Georgia State (RS Sr., LB – Tampa, Fla.)
LB – Jordan Veneziale, Georgia State (Sr., LB – Dallas, Ga.)
LB – Taurus Jones, James Madison (RS Jr., LB – Portsmouth, Va.)
DB – Bryquice Brown, Georgia State (RS Sr., DB – Dorchester, Mass.)
DB – Keith Gallmon Jr., South Alabama (RS Sr., DB – Mobile, Ala.)
DB – Jaden Voisin, South Alabama (RS Jr., DB – Crestview, Fla.)
DB – Dell Pettus, Troy (Sr., DB – Harvest, Ala.)
Preseason All-Sun Belt Second Team Special Teams
K – Diego Guajardo, South Alabama (Sr., K – Spanish Fort, Ala.)
P – Ethan Duane, Old Dominion (Jr., P – Melbourne, Australia)
RS – Matthew McDoom, Coastal Carolina (So., RS – Winter Garden, Fla.)
AP – Kimani Vidal, Troy (Jr., AP – Marietta, Ga.)
About the Sun Belt Conference
The Sun Belt Conference is made up of 14 members: App State, Arkansas State, Coastal Carolina, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, James Madison, Louisiana, ULM, Marshall, Old Dominion, South Alabama, Southern Miss, Texas State and Troy.