BOONE — Watch lists for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy and Outland Trophy each include a pair of App State football players, while receiver Jalen Virgil ranks No. 3 nationally on the annual “Freaks List” that was released Tuesday by The Athletic.
FREAKS LIST: Jalen Virgil
Speed, strength and size — with plenty of substance.
App State senior receiver and returner Jalen Virgil has ascended to No. 3 overall on the national “Freaks List” from The Athletic, marking the third straight year he’s appeared in a ranking of the 50 most-gifted athletes in college football.
The top offensive player listed, the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Virgil is behind only Michigan defensive end Kwity Paye and Wake Forest defensive end Carlos Basham Jr. in Bruce Feldman’s annual feature that aims to “showcase guys who generate buzz inside their programs by displaying the type of rare physical abilities that wow even those folks who are used to observing gifted athletes every day.”
Virgil has produced eight plays of more than 40 yards in his career, including touchdown receptions of 73, 56 and 44 yards last season. His 57-yard kickoff return against South Carolina also set up the Mountaineers’ only offensive touchdown in a 20-15 road win against the Gamecocks.
For his career, Virgil has 985 receiving yards, with a 16.1 average on his 61 receptions.
In terms of raw speed and strength, Virgil ran 100 meters in 10.29 seconds as a late addition to the App State track team in the spring of 2018. He has measurements of 40.5 inches in the vertical jump and 10-11 in the broad jump to go along with lifts of 405 in the bench press, 345 pounds in a close-grip bench press and 600 pounds in the box squat.
Virgil appeared at No. 15 and No. 11 on the “Freaks List” earlier in his App State career.
NAGURSKI TROPHY: Shaun Jolly, Demetrius Taylor
After combining for three defensive touchdowns last season, App State senior defensive end Demetrius Taylor and junior cornerback Shaun Jolly have been named to the watch list for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy.
The Football Writers Association of America, in conjunction with the Charlotte Touchdown Club, announced the watch list for a trophy that is presented by LendingTree and goes to the national defensive player of the year. Taylor and Jolly are also on the watch list for the Bednarik Award, another method of determining the nation’s top defensive player.
Jolly already has been named a preseason All-American by the Walter Camp Football Foundation (first team), Street and Smith (second team), Sporting News (second team) and Phil Steele (fourth team). Taylor has been named a preseason All-Sun Belt choice by Street and Smith, Lindy’s, Phil Steele and Athlon, among others.
Last season, as a sophomore and first-year starter, Jolly was named a second-team All-American by PFF College, which assigned him an overall performance grade of 91.7 that tied for first place nationally among 496 qualifying FBS cornerbacks. He intercepted five passes in 2019, tied for the FBS lead with two pick-six touchdowns and added eight PBUs, 45 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss.
Taylor had 44 tackles, 13.0 tackles for loss, 7.0 sacks, eight QB hurries, four pass breakups, three forced fumbles, one interception and one fumble return for a touchdown last season. He earned several national defensive player of the week honors based on his 2019 performance against North Carolina and has 13.5 sacks among his 22.5 tackles for loss in 39 career games.
OUTLAND TROPHY: Noah Hannon, Baer Hunter
App State senior offensive linemen Noah Hannon and Baer Hunter have been named to the watch list for the 2020 Outland Trophy, which is awarded to the nation’s best interior lineman on offense or defense.
The inclusion of Hannon, a center, and Hunter, a right guard, made App State just one of three Group of Five programs with two offensive linemen on the list. After starting next to each other in every game of a 13-1 season in 2019, they have been named preseason first-team All-Sun Belt Conference selections by the Phil Steele, Athlon, Lindy’s and Street and Smith publications.
In each of the previous two years, App State’s offensive line ranked as a top-15 unit nationally on the Joe Moore Award Honor Roll. The 13-1 team ranked in the top 25 nationally by both rushing for 231.4 yards per game and allowing just 18 sacks.
Hannon has started at center in all 40 games that App State has played since he enrolled, beginning that streak as a true freshman at Georgia in 2017. Hunter has started 26 times at offensive guard during the previous two seasons — after spending most of his first two years on campus as a defensive lineman.
The Outland Trophy watch list was announced by the Football Writers Association of America.