BOONE, N.C. — Athlon Sports’ preseason All-Sun Belt football teams include a league-leading eight first-team selections from Appalachian State, which has 15 total selections.
A winner of three straight Sun Belt championships, App State will be led in 2019 by first-year head coach Eliah Drinkwitz. The Mountaineers’ first-team preseason selections are junior quarterback Zac Thomas, junior running back Darrynton Evans, junior receiver Corey Sutton, senior offensive tackle Victor Johnson and junior center Noah Hannon from the offense and senior linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither, senior safety Josh Thomas and senior safety Desmond Franklin from the defense.
The second-team choices include senior tight end Collin Reed and senior linebacker Jordan Fehr. Evans (kick returner) and junior Thomas Hennigan (punt returner) are listed as third-team specialists, while the fourth team includes junior offensive guard Ryan Neuzil, junior running back Marcus Williams Jr. and junior defensive lineman Demetrius Taylor.
Zac Thomas is the reigning Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year, Evans was the Sun Belt rushing champion during a 2018 season in which he was named MVP of the league’s inaugural championship game and Sutton is one of only three returning FBS receivers who had at least 10 touchdown receptions while averaging 17.5 yards per catch in 2018.
Johnson, Hannon and Neuzil were part of an offensive line that ranked in the top 25 nationally in both rushing yards per game (No. 14 at 240.4) and fewest sacks allowed (No. 20 at 18) for the fifth straight year in 2018. Reed, meanwhile, enters his senior year with nine career touchdown catches.
As linebackers, Davis-Gaither and Fehr were the No. 1 and No. 3 tacklers for a group that ranked No. 4 nationally in scoring defense and set a Sun Belt record by allowing only 20 defensive touchdowns. Josh Thomas and Franklin combined for eight interceptions last season while helping the Mountaineers tie for first place nationally by allowing just eight passing touchdowns as a team.
Evans and Hennigan both scored touchdowns as returners in 2018, and Williams has rushed for 1,061 yards in two seasons. In 25 career games, Taylor has amassed 6.5 sacks among his 9.5 tackles for loss.
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