South Alabama, which finished the season 5-7 a year ago, is picked to finish second in the Sun Belt Conference’s West Division, in a preseason poll released by the league on Monday.
The Jaguars, who tied for third (2-6) in the West a year ago, also received two of the 14 first-place votes, finishing behind Louisiana, which received the 12 remaining first-place votes.
The team is entering Year 2 under head coach Kane Wommack and his staff.
Appalachian State, which picked up 10 first-place votes from coaches and sports information directors who participated in the poll, is picked to win the East Division. Coastal Carolina, collecting two first-place votes, is picked to finish second in the East.
Coastal Carolina quarterback Grayson McCall was selected as the preseason Offensive Player of the Year, while teammate Josiah Stewart, a defensive lineman, was selected the preseason Defensive Player of the Year.
South Alabama is represented on the preseason All-Sun Belt preseason first team by defensive backs Darrell Luter Jr. and Keith Gallmon, the former Mobile Christian standout. Jalen Wayne, a former Spanish Fort star, was named to the second-team offense at wide receiver. They are the only South Alabama players to earn preseason All-Sun Belt honors.
The Jags received 79 total points in the preseason voting, trailing Louisiana’s 95 points in the West Division. Troy — which moves to the West Division this season following the realignment of the league that includes the addition of Southern Miss, Old Dominion, James Madison and Marshall — is picked to finish third, followed in order by Texas State, Southern Miss, Arkansas State and Louisiana-Monroe.
In the East, App State received 94 total points as the top vote-getter, with Coastal Carolina receiving 77. Georgia State, which picked up one first-place vote, is picked to finish third, followed by Marshall in fourth place. Georgia Southern, which collected the remaining first-place vote, is picked to finish fifth, followed by newcomers James Madison and Old Dominion.
In an interesting schedule note, South Alabama does not face three of the top four teams ranked in the East Division poll — No. 1 Appalachian State, No. 2 Coastal Carolina and No. 4 Marshall — during the regular season.
Troy had more preseason first-team all-conference selections than any other team, including former McGill-Toolen standout (and former Troy walk-on) Carlton Martial at linebacker. Other Troy players earning first-team status include offensive lineman Austin Stidham, wide receiver Tez Johnson and defensive linemen Javon Solomon and Will Choloh. Trojans’ defensive lineman Richard Jibnunor and defensive back TJ Harris were named to the second team.
Here’s a look at the voting for both divisions, with first-place votes in parenthesis and total points received included:
Louisiana (12) 95
So. Alabama (2) 79
Texas St. 41
Southern Miss 40
Arkansas St. 37
App. St. (10) 94
Coastal Car. (2) 77
Georgia St. (1) 68
Georgia So. (1) 35
James Madison 31
Old Dominion 25
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