July 26, 2016
It’s hard to believe, but we are five weeks away from football. The summer isn’t over yet, but it sure is flying by.
Last week, Georgia Southern learned that it would be forced to vacate three wins from 2013 and 2014 as a result of the NCAA’s punishment for academic infractions during those seasons. The first two games of 2013 against Savannah State and St. Francis along with the 2014 season finale against UL-Monroe were all erased from the record books because student athletes who received inappropriate academic assistance participated in those games. The Eagles’ 2014 Sun Belt Conference championship was not impacted, which is great news for Georgia Southern.
Hopefully, we can put that to bed for good now and shift our focus to the upcoming 2016 season. The Sun Belt Conference is holding its media days in New Orleans this week, so conference preseason accolades are being doled out. Honestly, preseason awards aren’t worth much in my mind — but it gives us something to talk about and an idea of the so-called experts’ expectations for the upcoming season.
With that said, league coaches picked Appalachian State (114 points, 5 first-place votes) to win the conference title with Arkansas State (110, 5 first-place votes) coming in a close second. Georgia Southern (98, 1 first-place vote) was picked third, and then there was a pretty significant drop-off to fourth-place Georgia State (73). Yes, Georgia State was picked fourth. Sure, the Panthers have gotten better, but are they that much better? And how bad is the rest of the conference expected to be if Georgia State is projected to finish fourth? Woof.
Once again, pre-season polls don’t mean squat — all that matters is what you do on the field. But in the minds of the league coaches, it’s going to be a three-horse race between Appalachian State, Arkansas State and Georgia Southern.
Troy and UL-Lafayette (70) tied for fifth, South Alabama (62) was picked seventh and Idaho (48) and New Mexico State (37) were picked eighth and ninth, respectively, in their final year of Sun Belt membership. Texas State (30) and UL-Monroe (14) round out the 11-team league.
As for individual honors, running back Matt Breida, offensive lineman Andy Kwon and defensive linemen Jay Ellison and Bernard Dawson were named first team all-conference. Defensive tackle Darrius Sapp was named to the second team.
New Mexico State junior running back Larry Rose III was named the Pre-season Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Year, while Appalachian State senior linebacker John Law was named the preseason Defensive Player of the Year.
In my mind, if there’s a front seven as talented as Georgia Southern’s in the Sun Belt, I want to see it. Three defensive linemen were named all-conference, but the linebackers didn’t get any love. And I’m kind of okay with that. I’d put the Eagle linebacking corps against anybody in the Sun Belt — and maybe now that unit will play with a little chip on their shoulder this season.
More than anything else, preseason polls and awards probably just make me ready for the season to hurry up and get here. The team reports to campus this weekend and practice starts next week.
It’s time to start taking inventory of tailgating supplies. It’ll be here before we know it.