App State’s Ronald Blair Heads Up Sun Belt All-Conference Football Team

App State's Ronald Blair (Play at the Rock)Special to College Sports Journal

 

Editor’s Note: This story is courtesy of Appalachian State and Georgia Southern athletics.

 

NEW ORLEANS, LA. — Highlighted by Defensive Student-Athlete of the Year Ronald Blair and a league-high-tying five first-team honorees, 13 Appalachian State University football student-athletes earned all-Sun Belt Conference recognition, the conference office announced on Wednesday afternoon.

 

Joining Blair on the first team are offensive lineman Jesse Chapman, linebacker John Law, defensive back Latrell Gibbs and place kicker Zach Matics.

 

Running back Marcus Cox, offensive linemen Parker Collins and Davante Harris and linebacker Eric Boggs earned second-team recognition and quarterback Taylor Lamb, tight end Barrett Burns, linebacker Devan Stringer and defensive back Doug Middleton were honorable-mention selections.

 

Twelve Georgia Southern football players were honored by the league coaches and members of the media as the Sun Belt Conference announced Wednesday the selections for its all-conference teams.

 

Junior running back Matt Breida, along with senior offensive lineman Darien Foreman, senior defensive back Antonio Glover and senior return specialist Derek Keaton were chosen for first-team All-Sun Belt Conference accolades. Junior offensive lineman Andy Kwon, junior defensive lineman Bernard Dawson and junior defensive lineman Jay Ellison were voted to the second team.

 

Added to the Sun Belt All-Newcomer team was Georgia Southern freshman running back Wesley Fields. Four more Eagles, junior linebacker Ironhead Gallon, sophomore running back L.A. Ramsby, senior linebacker Antwione Williams and senior defensive back Caleb Williams earned honorable mention recognition.

 

The Sun Belt Conference’s coaches and a member of the media representing each team voted on the list of candidates for the teams with points assigned for rankings for each position. The first and second teams are compromised of 12 offensive players (1 QB, 3 WR, 2 RB, 1 TE, 5 OL), 12 defensive players (4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB, 1 at large selection) and 4 special team players (K, P, Return Specialist and All Purpose).

 

A Doak Walker Award nominee, Breida led both the nation and Sun Belt in rushing yards per carry at 8.2 and ranked second in the Sun Belt rushing chart at 128.3 yards per game. 

 

Paving the way for the nation’s most potent rushing offense, Georgia Southern’s offensive line – led by Foreman – helped the Eagles rack up 355.6 yards per game and three of the top seven single-game rushing totals in FBS in 2015. Glover is tied for the conference lead in interceptions and has tied the school record with six picks heading into the postseason. 

 

Keaton is the league’s top dual-threat return man as he leads the conference with a 15.3 average on punt returns and is second in kickoff returns, averaging 26.5 per return.

 

Landing on the second team were Kwon, Dawson and Ellison. Kwon is the anchor of the middle of the offensive line, helping the Eagles rush for a national-best 47 touchdowns in 2015. 

 

Dawson has recorded 26 tackles, but six of them have been for loss, including four sacks. Ellison, an honorable mention all-conference choice a year ago, has 29 tackles, including 3.5 for loss and 2.5 sacks, for one of the conference’s top rushing defenses.

 

Fields earned a spot on the All-Newcomer team, scoring six rushing touchdowns in his first campaign in 2015. He is one of four Eagles to eclipse 600 yards rushing as he heads into the GoDaddy Bowl with 607 yards. He also has three recpetions for 88 yards and a score.

 

Four others earned honorable mention recognition: Gallon, Ramsby, Antwione Williams and Caleb Williams. Gallon was second on the team in tackles and blocked two punts. Ramsby totaled 776 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. 

 

Antwione Williams led the squad in tackles with 97 and led the league with four forced fumbles. Caleb Williams tallied three interceptions and returned a fumble 62 yards for a touchdown at Georgia.

 

Running back Jalin Moore was Appalachian State’s representative on the Sun Belt’s all-newcomer team.

Blair is the first Mountaineer to be a conference student-athlete/player of the year since linebacker Jeremy Kimbrough was named the Southern Conference Defensive Player of the Year by the league’s coaches in 2012. 

 

Blair, a three-time all-conference selection (2014-15 – Sun Belt; 2012 – SoCon), leads the Sun Belt and ranks 11th nationally with 18 tackles for loss and is second in the Sun Belt and 43rd nationally with 7.5 sacks.

 

Appalachian State’s five first-team all-Sun Belt honorees are tied with conference champion Arkansas State for the most in the league while the Mountaineers’ 13 overall selections are second, behind only A-State’s 15.

Below are all the entire first and second team, as well as the individual awards:

 

All-Sun Belt Conference Honors

 

Student-Athlete of the Year: Nick Arbuckle (Georgia State, Sr., QB, History)

Offensive Student-Athlete of the Year: Larry Rose III (NM State, So., RB, Communications) 

Defensive Student-Athlete of the Year: Ronald Blair (Appalachian State, Sr., DL, Health Promotion)

Freshman of the Year: Penny Hart (Georgia State, Fr., WR, Exercise Science)

Coach of the Year: Trent Miles, Georgia State

 

First Team All-Sun Belt Conference Offense

Nick Arbuckle (Georgia State, Sr., QB, History)

Matt Breida (Georgia Southern, Jr., RB, Finance)

Larry Rose III (NM State, So., RB, Communications) 

Robert Davis (Georgia State, Jr., WR, Interdisciplinary Studies)

Penny Hart (Georgia State, Fr., WR, Exercise Science)

Jamal Robinson (UL Lafayette, Sr., WR, General Studies)

Gerald Everett (South Alabama, Jr., TE, Interdisciplinary Studies)

Jesse Chapman (Appalachian State, Sr., OL, Exercise Science)

Jemar Clark (Arkansas State, Jr., OL, Interdisciplinary Studies)

Colton Jackson (Arkansas State, Jr., OL, Interdisciplinary Studies)

Darien Foreman (Georgia Southern, Sr., OL, General Studies)

Joseph Scelfo (South Alabama, Jr., OL, Leisure Studies)

 

First Team All-Sun Belt Conference Defense

Ronald Blair (Appalachian State, Sr., DL, Health Promotion)

Ja’Von Rolland-Jones (Arkansas State, So., DL, Sports Management)

Quinton Bradley (Idaho, Sr., DL, Psychology)

Tyler Roberts (Troy, Sr., DL, Accounting)

John Law (Appalachian State, Jr., LB, Health Promotion)

Dominique Tovell (UL Lafayette, Sr., LB, General Studies)

Hunter Kissinger (UL Monroe, Gr., LB, Business Admin)

Blake Dees (South Alabama, Sr., LB, Interdisciplinary Studies)

Latrell Gibbs (Appalachian State, So., DB, Exercise Science)

Rocky Hayes (Arkansas State, Sr., DB, Finance)

Antonio Glover (Georgia Southern, Sr., DB, General Studies)

Tarris Batiste (Georgia State, Sr., DB, Criminal Justice)

 

First Team All-Sun Belt Conference Special Teams

Zach Matics (Appalachian State, Sr., K, Entrepreneurship)

Austin Rehkow (Idaho, Jr., P, Exercise Science and Health)

Derek Keaton (Georgia Southern, Sr., Return Specialist, Justice Studies)

J.D. McKissic (Arkansas State, Sr., All-Purpose, Interdisciplinary Studies)

 

Second Team All-Sun Belt Conference Offense

Fredi Knighten (Arkansas State, Sr., QB, Interdisciplinary Studies)

Marcus Cox (Appalachian State, Jr., RB, Management)

Michael Gordon (Arkansas State, Sr., RB, Interdisciplinary Studies)

Tres Houston (Arkansas State, Sr., WR, Interdisciplinary Studies)

J.D. McKissic (Arkansas State, Sr., WR, Interdisciplinary Studies)

Teddy Ruben (Troy, Sr., WR, Social Science)

Keith Rucker (Georgia State, Jr., TE, Speech)

Parker Collins (Appalachian State, Jr., OL, Physical Education)

Davante Harris (Appalachian State, Sr., OL, Communications Studies)

Andy Kwon (Georgia Southern, Jr., OL, Sport Management)

Chris May (South Alabama, Sr., OL, Physical Education)

Dalton Bennett (Troy, Sr., OL, Criminal Justice)

 

Second Team All-Sun Belt Conference Defense

Chris Stone (Arkansas State, Sr., DL, Sports Management)

Bernard Dawson (Georgia Southern, Jr., DL, Information Technology)

Jay Ellison (Georgia Southern, Jr., DL, General Studies)

Gerrand Johnson (UL Monroe, Gr., DL, Communication) 

Eric Boggs (Appalachian State, So., LB, Physical Education)

Xavier Woodson-Luster (A-St., Jr., LB, Sports Management)

Joseph Peterson (Georgia State, Sr., LB, Speech)

Cody Brown (Arkansas State, Jr., DB, Communications)

Savion Brown (UL Lafayette, Jr., DB, Undeclared)

Roman Buchanan (South Alabama, Jr., DB, Exercise Science)

Jeremy Reaves (South Alabama, So., DB, Leisure Studies)

Montres Kitchens (Troy, Sr., DB, Social Science)

 

Second Team All-Sun Belt Conference Special Teams

Austin Rehkow (Idaho, Jr., K, Exercise Science and Health)

Wil Lutz (Georgia State, Sr., P, Criminal Justice)

Teddy Ruben (Troy, Sr. Return Specialist, Social Science)

Teddy Ruben (Troy, Sr., All-Purpose, Social Science)

 

Appalachian State Biographies

 

DEFENSIVE STUDENT-ATHLETE OF THE YEAR/FIRST-TEAM ALL-CONFERENCE

 

No. 49 Ronald Blair (Appalachian State, Sr., DL, health promotion)

The unquestioned leader of an Appalachian State defense that ranks among the nation’s top 30 in total (318.0 ypg – 12th in FBS), scoring (18.3 ppg – 13th in FBS), passing (184.4 ypg – 17th in FBS) and rushing (133.6 ypg – 28th in FBS) defense… leads the Sun Belt with 18.0 tackles for loss (11th nationally) and is 2nd in the league with 7.5 sacks (42nd nationally) … tied for 28th in the conference with 67 total tackles (5.6 per game) … has recorded 13 tackles for loss in eight conference games … has been in on at least one tackle for loss in 11 of 12 games … turned in perhaps his best performance of the season at now-No. 1-ranked Clemson with eight tackles, two sacks and two tackles for loss … notched a season-high 3.0 tackles for loss in win over Georgia Southern (Oct. 22) … was named Sun Belt Defensive Student-Athlete of the Week after recording seven tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and returning an interception 30 yards for a touchdown in a triple-overtime win over Troy (Oct. 31) … is only the fifth student-athlete in Appalachian State history with 50 career tackles for loss … first-team preseason all-conference … preseason Lombardi Award candidate … 2014 second-team all-conference … team co-captain.

 

FIRST-TEAM ALL-CONFERENCE

 

No. 60 Jesse Chapman (Appalachian State, Sr., OL, exercise science/pre-professional)

Former walk-on has become the heart and soul of an offensive line that ranks fourth nationally in fewest sacks allowed (9 through 12 games) and paves the way for a rushing game that ranks sixth nationally (268.8 ypg) … has started all 12 games at center … leads Appalachian State with a 90-percent season-long job grade … responsible for allowing only one sack all season … has recorded 39 knockdowns … preseason first-team all-conference selection and Rimington Award candidate … team co-captain.

 

No. 88 John Law (Appalachian State, Jr., LB, health promotion)

Finished the season ranked in among the Sun Belt’s top 25 in sacks (4.0 – t-8th), tackles for loss (9.5 – 12th) and tackles (72 – 24rd) … ranks second on the team in all three categories … is also third on the team and 11th in the Sun Belt with two interceptions … is sixth on the team with three passes defended … has started all 12 games at inside linebacker … has recorded five tackles or more eight times in 12 games … named Sun Belt Defensive Student-Athlete of the Week after recording seven tackles, a tackle for loss and an interception in shutout win at Old Dominion (Sept. 26) … one of the primary catalysts for an Appalachian State defense that ranks among the nation’s top 30 in total (318.0 ypg – 12th in FBS), scoring (18.3 ppg – 13th in FBS),  passing (184.4 ypg – 17th in FBS) and rushing (133.6 ypg – 28th in FBS) defense… first-team preseason all-conference … preseason Lombardi Award candidate … 2014 second-team all-conference.

 

No. 5 Latrell Gibbs (Appalachian State, So., DB, exercise science)

Leads the Sun Belt and ranks 23rd nationally with 15 passes defended (six interceptions, nine pass breakups) … six INTs are tied for first in the Sun Belt and 5th nationally … five interceptions came in the Mountaineers’ first five games of the season before opposing teams began avoiding his side of the field but recorded his sixth against South Alabama (Dec. 5) in the final game of the year … returned two of the five interceptions for touchdowns … is one of 15 FBS student-athletes to return two interceptions for touchdowns this season … 91-yard interception return for touchdown against Wyoming (Oct. 3) is the 10th-longest INT return in the nation and second-longest in the Sun Belt this season … has recorded 38 tackles and two tackles for loss from his cornerback position … named Sun Belt Defensive Student-Athlete of the Week after recording four tackles and returning an interception 47 yards for a touchdown at Georgia State (Oct. 10) … blocked a field goal in win over UL Lafayette (Nov. 28) … has been one of the top performers for a defense that leads the Sun Belt and ranks among the nation’s top 30 in total (318.0 ypg – 12th in FBS), scoring (18.3 ppg – 13th in FBS),  passing (184.4 ypg – 17th in FBS) and rushing (133.6 ypg – 28th in FBS) defense.

 

No. 59 Zach Matics (Appalachian State, Sr., PK, entrepreneurship)

No. 2 in the nation in field-goal percentage this season (.929 – 13-of-14) … only miss of the season came on a 52-yard attempt at the end of the first half versus Georgia Southern on Oct. 22 … eight of his 13 made field goals have been from 38 yards or farther … is 7-of-7 between 30-49 yards and 2-of-2 between 40-49 yards … 3-for-4 from 50-59 yards … is the first kicker in Appalachian State history to make two 50-yard field goals in a game (Dec. 5 at South Alabama) and three in a season … 51-yard field goals against Wyoming (Oct. 3) and South Alabama (Dec. 5) are tied for the 23nd-longest in FBS this season … is also 57-of-57 on PAT attempts … leads Appalachian State in scoring with 96 points (8.0 per game) … ranks third in the Sun Belt and 52nd nationally in scoring … ranks second in the Sun Belt and 36th nationally in kick scoring … is averaging 62.1 yards per kickoff with 39 touchbacks … picked up six rushing yards on a fake field goal against Wyoming that led to an Appalachian State touchdown one play later.

 

SECOND-TEAM ALL-CONFERENCE

 

No. 14 Marcus Cox (Appalachian State, Jr., RB, management)

Ranks third in the Sun Belt and 18th nationally with 114.6 rushing yards per game (1,261 total) … also ranks among the conference’s top 10 in all-purpose yards (129.5 ypg) and rushing touchdowns (8) … is the first student-athlete in Appalachian State history to rush for 1,000 yards as a freshman, sophomore and junior … despite often facing defenses designed to stop him, has rushed for at least 74 yards in 12 games this season and 100 or more in 7-of-12 contests … is one of only two student-athletes to rush for 100 yards against now-No. 1-ranked Clemson this season (103 yards on Sept. 12) … ranks fourth among all active NCAA Division I FBS student-athletes and second among non-seniors with 3,926 career rushing yards … preseason Maxwell Award and Doak Walker Award candidate … preseason second-team all-conference … 2014 second-team all-conference.

 

No. 75 Parker Collins (Appalachian State, Jr., OL, physical education)

Has started all 12 games at left guard for an offensive line that ranks fourth nationally in fewest sacks allowed (9 through 12 games) and paves the way for a rushing game that ranks sixth nationally (268.8 ypg) … leads Appalachian State with a whopping 105 knockdowns through 12 games … has been responsible for allowing only one sack all season … owns an 82-percent season-long job grade … has also seen time at center.

 

No. 73 Davante Harris (Appalachian State, Sr., OL, communications studies)

Has been one of the Sun Belt’s most valuable offensive lineman as the primary protector of quarterback Taylor Lamb’s blindside at left tackle … is key cog of a unit that ranks fourth nationally in fewest sacks allowed (9 through 12 games) and paves the way for a rushing game that ranks sixth nationally (268.8 ypg) … has been responsible for allowing only one sack all season … ranks second among all Appalachian State linemen with 746 snaps … ranks third on team with 55 knockdowns … owns an 81-percent season-long job grade.

 

No. 45 Eric Boggs (Appalachian State, So., LB, physical education)

The only two-time Sun Belt Defensive Student-Athlete of the Week this season … earned the honor after intercepting two passes and recording 11 tackles at UL Monroe (Oct. 17) and recording three sacks vs. UL Lafayette (Nov. 28) … two interceptions at ULM are tied for the second-most by an NCAA Division I FBS student-athlete in a single game this season … three sacks against UL Lafayette are the most by a Sun Belt player in a single game this season and tied for the 13th most by any FBS student-athlete … for the season, leads the team and is tied for seventh in the Sun Belt with 95 tackles (7.9 pg) … is also tied 5th in the conference with three interceptions and 17th in the league with 3.0 sacks … has tallied at least six tackles 10 times in 12 games and reached double-digit tackles three times (11 at ULM, 14 vs. Troy on Oct. 31, 15 at South Alabama on Dec. 5) … has started all 12 games at inside linebacker and helps anchor a defensive unit that ranks among the nation’s top 30 in total (318.0 ypg – 12th in FBS), scoring (18.3 ppg – 13th in FBS),  passing (184.4 ypg – 17th in FBS) and rushing (133.6 ypg – 28th in FBS) defense.

 

HONORABLE MENTION ALL-CONFERENCE

 

No. 11 Taylor Lamb (Appalachian State, So., QB, physical education)

Has quietly put together one of the best seasons by a quarterback in Sun Belt Conference and Appalachian State history … leads the Sun Belt and ranks among the top 15 nationally in five different statistical categories — passing efficiency (166.1 – 7th in FBS), touchdown passes (29 – 10th in FBS), yards per completion (14.41 – 5th in FBS), points responsible for per game (16.7 – 13th in FBS) and total points responsible for (198 – 13th in FBS) … also ranks 14th nationally in yards per pass attempt (8.81 – 2nd in Sun Belt) … owns two of the eight-highest single-game pass-efficiency ratings in the nation this season (266.05 at Old Dominion, 265.49 at UL Monroe) … has compiled a 200 passer rating four times in 12 games … has completed 70 percent of his passes four times in 12 games … 166.1 pass-efficiency rating ranks second in Sun Belt single-season history and second in Appalachian State single-season history … 29 touchdown passes rank second in school history and first in Sun Belt history … on pace to become the first in Sun Belt history to lead the league in passing efficiency as a freshman and sophomore and the second to lead the league in passing efficiency twice, regardless of class … was named Sun Belt Offensive Student-Athlete of the Week after completing 11-of-15 passes for 187 yards and four touchdowns in a driving rainstorm at Old Dominion (Sept. 26) … 2014 Sun Belt Freshman of the Year.

 

No. 85 Barrett Burns (Appalachian State, Jr., TE, psychology/pre-professional)

One of the Sun Belt’s top red-zone threats … ranks second among Sun Belt tight ends and is tied for seventh among all tight ends nationally with six touchdown receptions … six touchdown catches are tied for seventh overall in the Sun Belt and 74th nationally … half of his 12 receptions have gone for touchdowns … six touchdown catches are the most by an Appalachian State tight end since Ben Jorden in 2010 and two shy of the school record for tight ends (8 – Daniel Bettis, 2005).

 

No. 11 Devan Stringer (Appalachian State, So., LB, risk management and insurance)

Has overcome personal tragedy to rank third on the team with 7.5 tackles for loss and is fifth on the squad with 53 total tackles … easily leads the team with a whopping nine quarterback hurries, which accounts for nearly 40 percent of the squad’s 23 total hurries this season … returned a fumble 77 yards for a touchdown in shutout win at Old Dominion (Sept. 26) … has recorded multiple tackles in every game this season … has at least one quarterback hurry in 7-of-12 games … tallied seven tackles (six solo), 2.5 tackles for loss, a half sack and quarterback hurry against first-place Arkansas State (Nov. 5) … for an Appalachian State defense that ranks among the nation’s top 30 in total (318.0 ypg – 12th in FBS), scoring (18.3 ppg – 13th in FBS),  passing (184.4 ypg – 17th in FBS) and rushing (133.6 ypg – 28th in FBS) defense… has started all 12 games at outside linebacker, despite the tragic death of his 11-day-old daughter five days prior to the Mountaineers’ second game of the season at Clemson.

 

No. 21 Doug Middleton (Appalachian State, Sr., DB, graduate-public administration)

Co-captain has started all 12 games at strong safety for an Appalachian State defense that ranks among the nation’s top 30 in total (318.0 ypg – 12th in FBS), scoring (18.3 ppg – 13th in FBS),  passing (184.4 ypg – 17th in FBS) and rushing (133.6 ypg – 28th in FBS) defense… ranks seventh overall on the team and second among Appalachian State defensive backs with 48 tackles … after a relatively slow start (five tackles through three games), has recorded 43 stops over the last nine games, including 37 in seven Sun Belt games … first-team preseason all-conference … preseason Jim Thorpe Award candidate … 2014 first-team all-conference.

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