The Sun Belt Conference released the results of its preseason coaches’ poll on Tuesday, two days ahead of the league’s annual Football Media Day in New Orleans. The poll has a definite Mobile flavor to it as four players from the city — three of whom are former McGill-Toolen players — earned preseason All-Sun Belt honors.
Troy linebacker Carlton Martial, a former McGill standout, was tabbed as the league’s preseason Defensive Player of the Year and a first-team All-Sun Belt honoree. South Alabama wide receiver Jalen Tolbert, another former McGill standout, also earned first-team All-Sun Belt honors. Louisiana defensive back Eric Garror, another former McGill player, was named to the preseason second team defense, as was South Alabama defensive back Keith Gallmon, a former standout at Mobile Christian.
Defending Sun Belt Conference champion Coastal Carolina was tabbed as the team to beat in the league’s East Division, along with Appalachian State, both teams receiving 44 points in a vote of the coaches. Coastal picked up six first-place votes and App State received four. Georgia State was picked to finish third in the division, followed by Georgia Southern in fourth and Troy in fifth place.
In the West Division, Louisiana received nine first-place votes and took top honors, followed by Arkansas State, which received one first-place vote and finished second in the poll. South Alabama was picked to finish third in the division, with Texas State picked fourth and Louisiana-Monroe picked to finish fifth.
Martial, 5-foot-9 and 210 pounds, recorded 113 tackles in 2020 and has 239 tackles since the start of the 2019 season. He finished 2020 with 10 tackles for loss and was one of just nine players nationally to rank in the top 50 in both tackles and tackles for loss following the regular season. Martial broke up a trio of passes and intercepted Coastal Carolina’s Grayson McCall (one of just two on the year) to set up a late go-ahead score for the Trojans in the season finale.
In 2019, Martial was named to the PFF All-America second team and became just the 12th player and first underclassman in the past 20 years at the FBS level to finish a season with at least 100 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and three interceptions. He closed the year with 126 tackles, the most by a Troy player since 2000, and 18.5 tackles for loss, the fifth most in a season in Troy history, and three picks. Martial was the only player in the country to rank in the top eight nationally in tackles (10.5) and tackles for loss per game (1.54).
Martial has twice been named to the All-Sun Belt first team and was a semifinalist for the Burlsworth Trophy in 2020, which is presented to the nation’s top player who began his career as a walk-on. Earlier this summer he was selected to the PFF preseason All-America second team.
Tolbert is the lone returning 1,000-yard receiver in the Sun Belt after finishing with 1,085 yards and eight touchdowns on 64 catches last fall, as he finished second in the league in both receptions and receiving yards per contest. A two-time Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Week selection in 2020, he led the Jaguars in catches in seven games and in yards receiving on seven occasions — highlighted by a pair of 100-plus yard performances — as well as with 20 plays of 20 or more yards to be named first-team all-conference.
On Monday, Tolbert, 6-3, 195, was named to the Maxwell Award Watch List presented annually to the outstanding player in college football. He has been designated preseason first-team All-Sun Belt by four publications while receiving preseason All-America accolades from four different organizations.
Gallmon, 5-9, 205, was a third-team all-league selection a year ago, posting a career-best 84 stops and 10 passes broken up — making him the only player in the Sun Belt to rank in the top 10 in both tackles and passes defensed per game — to go along with an interception and a fumble recovery. The safety paced the Jaguars in tackles three times while recording three outings with a double-digit stop total, which included a career-high 12 in a season-opening win at Southern Mississippi as well as 11 later in the year to help USA pick up a victory at Arkansas State.
He has been named preseason All-America by both Pro Football Network and Pro Football Focus, earning third-team accolades from the former and honorable mention recognition from the latter, while also making PFF’s list of the top 10 returning safeties in the nation. Gallmon has earned preseason all-conference honors from three different publications as well.
Garror, 5-9, 176, had a strong season for the Ragin’ Cajuns last season. He played in 10 games, collecting 23 total tackles, of which 19 were solo stops. He also produced three interceptions and had three pass breakups.
South Alabama opens its season Sept. 4 at Hancock Whitney Stadium against Southern Miss in what will be Kane Wommack’s first game as the Jags’ head coach. Troy opens its season Sept. 4 at home at Veterans Memorial Stadium against Southern University, while Louisiana’s season-opener is set Sept. 4 at Texas.
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