BOONE — Appalachian State’s football is a championship favorite in four leading national magazines that preview the 2019 college football season, and their all-conference teams are filled with App State standouts.
Phil Steele, Athlon, Street & Smith and Lindy’s all break down the Sun Belt Conference with division race predictions. The Mountaineers, who are the defending Sun Belt Conference champions, return 17 of their primary 22 starters on offense and defense from an 11-2 team in 2018.
Appalachian State is picked to win the East Division by all four publications. Running back Darrynton Evans even appears on the cover of the Phil Steele magazine that will be available on the East Coast.
Evans, Zac Thomas (quarterback), Corey Sutton (receiver), Victor Johnson (offensive lineman), Noah Hannon (center), Akeem Davis-Gaither (linebacker) and Desmond Franklin (safety) were first-team selections in all four publications. Jordan Fehr (linebacker) is a first-team pick in three of the publications, and Josh Thomas (safety) joins Collin Reed (tight end) as a first-team pick in two of them.
Additionally, there was preseason all-league recognition for linebacker Noel Cook (second team in one publication), offensive lineman Ryan Neuzil (highlighted by a third-team selection), receiver Thomas Hennigan (third-team receiver and punt returner), Evans (third-team kick returner), running back Marcus Williams Jr. (fourth team), defensive end Demetrius Taylor (fourth team), defensive end Elijah Diarrassouba (fourth team), punter Clayton Howell (fourth team) and kicker Chandler Staton (fourth team).
Street & Smith named first-year head coach Eliah Drinkwitz the league’s Most Innovative Coach, Thomas the league’s best Heisman Hopeful and Best Passing QB. Evans was named the league’s Top Scholar, Davis-Gaither was name the league’s Hardest Hitter and Jalen Virgil the league’s Fastest Receiver.
Lindy’s recognized Thomas as the preseason Sun Belt MVP, Most Accurate Passer and quarterback with the Strongest Arm, while declaring Johnson the Best Pass Blocker, Sutton the Most Dangerous Deep Threat and redshirt freshman running back Camerun Peoples the league’s preseason Newcomer of the Year.
Of the Sun Belt’s top 10 “NFL Talents” from Lindy’s, App State was represented by Johnson (No. 3), Davis-Gaither (No. 4), Franklin (No. 6) and Sutton (No. 9) among upperclassmen from the 10-team league.
Athlon, which grades position groups in the Sun Belt, ranked App State’s offensive linemen and linebackers No. 1. The running backs and receivers were each No. 2.