With the help of PFF grades and advanced statistics — which are now available to PFF’s CFB Premium Stats+ Subscribers — we present to you the PFF 2020 All-Sun Belt team.
First-Team: Grayson McCall, Coastal Carolina
Coastal runs a triple-option offense, but unlike most option offenses, they actually have a quarterback who is dangerous through the air. Chanticleers quarterback Grayson McCall has earned a 91.8 passing grade this season, a top-five mark among FBS signal-callers. He has also come away with a 139.4 passer rating on passes thrown 10-plus yards downfield this year, trailing only Mac Jones for the best rating in the FBS.
First-Team: Trey Ragas, Louisiana
To no surprise, Ragas and his conference-best 85.4 rushing grade grabs the first-team spot here. This was actually the third time in his collegiate career he has been the highest-graded running back in the conference. Still, this year just so happened to be the best of the bunch, both in terms of PFF grade and in the percentage of total carries that picked up a first down or touchdown (36%.
First-Team: Reese White, Coastal Carolina
White never had a monstrous game this season, as the timeshare in the Coastal backfield prevented it from ever happening, but he was still the highest-graded back on the Cleers' roster this year (85.1 rushing grade). He actually edged out Ragas in the percentage of runs that picked up a first down or touchdown at 39%, the eighth-best in the FBS.
First-Team: Jaivon Heiligh, Coastal Carolina
Heiligh was one of several Chanticleers to shock the college football landscape this season. He went from a 65.0 receiving grade in 2019 all the way up to 87.4 in 2020. He and Grayson McCall picked apart zone coverage all season long, with 17 explosive receptions of 15-plus yards against zone, the sixth-most in the FBS.
First-Team: Jonathan Adams Jr., Ark State
Adams is far from a separation-getter, but that doesn’t matter with how often the 6-foot-3, 220-pound wide receiver bodies his defender in tight coverage. He led all FBS wide receivers in receiving grade on contested targets and caught a whopping 23 contested catches, nine more than any other FBS wide receiver.
First-Team: Jalen Tolbert, South Alabama
And the receiver that was nine behind Adams for most contested catches in the FBS this season was Jalen Tolbert at 14. Covering Tolbert in single coverage is a bold strategy for defensive backs, and a lot of his opponents found that out this season. His receiving grade against single coverage was the 11th-best in the FBS in 2020.
First-Team: Isaiah Likely, Coastal Carolina
Likely hauled in 10 of his 14 contested targets this year en route to a 96.3 grade on such targets, barely behind Kyle Pitts of Florida for the best in the nation. We also saw the Coastal tight end make far more plays after the catch this year, as he averaged nearly eight yards after the catch per reception and broke 10 tackles on 25 catches.
First-Team: Austin Stidham, Troy
Stidham’s pass-protection has been a roller coaster throughout his three years at left tackle, but this year was his best yet. He went from an 82.7 pass-block grade in 2018 to a 68.5 grade in 2019 and then back to an 85.6 mark this year. Stidham lowered his 2019 pressure rate allowed from 6.4% to 2.4% this season, and on true pass sets, that rate went from 12.7% all the way down to 3.6%.
First-Team: Ryan Neuzil, App State
The best offensive linemen — regardless of position — in the entire Sun Belt conference is none other than Ryan Neuzil of App State. While the pass protection has been great, his run-blocking has been among the best in the entire country. No team in the FBS runs a zone concept more than App State, and Neuzil has been a bulldozer on those plays, helping him obtain an 85.8 run-block grade, eighth among FBS guards.
First-Team: Noah Hannon, App State
Only four FBS centers earned a PFF grade above 75.0 in both pass protection and as a run-blocker: Tyler Linderbaum (Iowa), Drake Jackson (Kentucky), Landon Dickerson (Alabama) and App State’s own Noah Hannon. That's not bad company to be in.
First-Team: Jake Andrews, Troy
Andrews finished the year with the ninth-best pass-blocking grade among all FBS right guards. And that was far beyond what anyone was expecting this season, considering he played only 172 pass-blocking snaps and recorded a poor 59.3 pass-block grade in 2019.
First-Team: Max Mitchell, Louisiana
Mitchell is one of a handful of tackles in the conference who excelled in both facets this season, but none were better than the Ragin’ Cajun when it came to run blocking.
Mitchell came in at No. 4 among Sun Belt tackles in run-block grade last year and jumped to the top spot in 2020. He didn’t see a significant amount of true pass sets, and he still lost some reps in pass protection, but he still only allowed one pressure all year.
INTERIOR DEFENSIVE LINE
First-Team: Zi'Yon Hill, Louisiana
Hill was largely unproductive as a pass-rusher in 2019, but that all changed in 2020 with a bit of a position tweak. He played virtually no snaps at nose tackle — in contrast to last year — and he raised his pass-rush grade from 61.9 to 86.9, seventh in the FBS. That made Hill one of just six interior defensive linemen to earn grades above 80.0 as a pass-rusher and against the run.
First-Team: Will Choloh, Troy
Choloh was one of the most productive defensive tackles in the pass-rush this season. Similar to Hill, he went from primarily playing 0/1-technqiue to 3-technique this season, and his pass-rush grade skyrocketed to 90.3. Not only was that the best in the conference, but it was the third-best in the FBS.
First-Team: Raymond Johnson III, Georgia Southern
This was the most hotly contested position in the conference, as four edge rushers posted near-elite pass-rush grades, but no one was better overall than Raymond Johnson III. On top of recording an 89.1 pass-rush grade, Johnson put up the highest run-defense grade among Sun Belt edge defenders at 89.6.
First-Team: Demetrius Taylor, App State
Taylor cracked the top 10 among FBS edge rushers in pass-rush grade (90.6) and win rate (21.6%) this year. He actually recorded a win rate above 25% in over half of his games played this season, which is quite frankly absurd.
First-Team: Reynard Ellis, Georgia Southern
Ellis got off to a rough start in 2020, with a sub-50.0 PFF grade in the season opener. It was smooth sailing after that, though. Ellis posted an 87.6 PFF grade (fourth in the FBS) and an elite mark above 90.0 against the run in his eight games after that poor opener.
First-Team: Carlton Martial, Troy
Martial may not have posted an elite PFF grade above 90.0 as he did in 2018 and 2019, but he was still one of the FBS' best players at the position. He recorded the 11th-best PFF grade among FBS off-ball linebackers at 82.4. The 5-foot-9, 216-pound linebacker is feisty between the tackles and gathered up 47 run stops. That’s six more than anyone else in the country.
First-Team: Shemar Jean-Charles, App State
Jean-Charles wasn’t just the best defensive back in the Sun Belt this season, but he was also one of the best defensive backs in all of college football. In 11 games, Jean-Charles was targeted 50 times yet allowed 16 of those to be caught for a 32% catch rate. More impressively, Jean-Charles broke up just as many passes as catches allowed this season.
He was a monster at the catch point all year and allowed just 73 yards in coverage over his last nine games. That, right there, is what we call a lockdown corner.
First-Team: D'Jordan Strong, Coastal Carolina
Strong came over from Northeast Mississippi Community College this past offseason and proved to be a valuable addition to the Chanticleers for 2020. He came up with an 82.9 coverage grade that featured 12 plays on the ball to just 10 first downs allowed over the course of the whole year. Coastal plays a lot of zone coverage, and Strong was in the top tier in the FBS in that area, with the third-most zone passing stops at outside corner (eight).
First-Team: Keith Gallmon, South Alabama
Whether he was done in the box trying to stop the run or roaming over the middle of the field at deep safety, Gallmon made play after play for the Jaguars this season. The 5-foot-9, 205-pound safety was the only player at his position in the entire FBS with a grade above 80.0 in both coverage and run defense.
First-Team: Bralen Trahan, Louisiana
There were a lot of playmakers in the Ragin’ Cajuns' secondary this season, but none more so than Trahan. He was a huge asset to have at free safety this year, where he came up with the third-most plays on the ball in the FBS (seven) and the second-best PFF grade behind only Keith Gallmon.
First-Team: Kenderick Duncan Jr., Georgia Southern
Duncan took a massive step forward with his coverage play in 2020. He was good in that facet relative to his counterparts in 2019, earning a 71.5 coverage grade, but he did give up a handful of big plays and four total touchdowns. This year, he raised his coverage grade to 84.7 (tied for eighth in the FBS) with only three first downs allowed on the year.