News & Analysis

College Football 2020: PFF's All-Sun Belt Team

Sep 12, 2020; Lawrence, Kansas, USA; Coastal Carolina Chanticleers quarterback Grayson McCall (10) throws a pass against the Kansas Jayhawks during the second half at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The 2020 college football regular season has officially come to a close, so now it’s time to recognize the nation's top players at every position by naming PFF's All-American teams.

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.

QUARTERBACK

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.

Second-Team: Layne Hatcher, Ark State
Third-Team: Levi Lewis, Louisiana
Honorable Mention: Zac Thomas, App State

RUNNING BACKS

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%.

Second-Team: Lincoln Pare, Ark State
Third-Team: Calvin Hill, Texas State
Honorable Mention: Carlos Davis, South Alabama

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.

Second-Team: Logan Wright, Georgia Southern
Third-Team: Elijah Mitchell, Louisiana
Honorable Mention: J.D. King, Georgia Southern

WIDE RECEIVERS

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.

Second-Team: Corey Rucker, Ark State
Third-Team: Dahu Green, Ark State
Honorable Mention: Thomas Hennigan, App State

Sep 7, 2019; Lawrence, KS, USA; Coastal Carolina Chanticleers wide receiver Jaivon Heiligh (6) returns a kickoff during the first half against the Kansas Jayhawks at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
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.

Second-Team: Sam Pinckney, Georgia State
Third-Team: Kawaan Baker, South Alabama
Honorable Mention: Malik Williams, App State

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.

Second-Team: Marcell Barbee, Texas State
Third-Team: Tray Eafford, Troy
Honorable Mention: Reggie Todd, Troy

TIGHT END

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.

Second-Team: Roger Carter, Georgia State
Third-Team: Giles Amos, Ark State
Honorable Mention: Josh Pederson, UL-Monroe

LEFT TACKLE

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%.

Second-Team: Brian Miller, Georgia Southern
Third-Team: Cole Garrison, App State
Honorable Mention: Dalton Cooper, Texas State

LEFT GUARD

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.

Second-Team: Aaron Dowdell, Georgia Southern
Third-Team: Willie Lampkin, Coastal Carolina
Honorable Mention: Grant Betts, Troy

CENTER

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.

Second-Team: Dylan Bradshaw, Troy
Third-Team: Sam Thompson, Coastal Carolina
Honorable Mention: Shane Vallot, Louisiana

RIGHT GUARD

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.

Second-Team: Baer Hunter, App State
Third-Team: O'Cyrus Torrence, Louisiana
Honorable Mention: Trey Carter, Coastal Carolina

RIGHT TACKLE

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.

Second-Team: Cooper Hodges, App State
Third-Team: Carlos Rubio, Louisiana
Honorable Mention: Drew Wilson, Georgia Southern

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.

Second-Team: Dontae Wilson, Georgia State
Third-Team: Thomas Gore, Georgia State
Honorable Mention: Forrest Merrill, Ark State

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.

Second-Team: C.J. Wright, Georgia Southern
Third-Team: C.J. Brewer, Coastal Carolina
Honorable Mention: Tayland Humphrey, Louisiana

EDGE DEFENDER

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.

Second-Team: Tarron Jackson, Coastal Carolina
Third-Team: Jeffrey Gunter, Coastal Carolina
Honorable Mention: Nick Hampton, App State

Sep 21, 2019; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; Appalachian State Mountaineers defensive lineman Demetrius Taylor (48) and defensive back Ryan Huff (21) knock the ball away from North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Sam Howell (7) during the second half at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
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.

Second-Team: Jordan Strachan, Georgia State
Third-Team: Hardrick Willis, Georgia State
Honorable Mention: Javon Solomon, Troy

LINEBACKER

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.

Second-Team: Rashad Byrd, Georgia Southern
Third-Team: D'Marco Jackson, App State
Honorable Mention: Trajan Stephens-McQueen, Georgia State

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.

Second-Team: Brendan Harrington, App State
Third-Team: Blake Carroll, Georgia State
Honorable Mention: Enock Makonzo, Coastal Carolina

CORNERBACK

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.

Second-Team: Eric Garror, Louisiana
Third-Team: TJ Harris, Troy
Honorable Mention: Quavian White, Georgia State

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).

Second-Team: Mekhi Garner, Louisiana
Third-Team: Reddy Steward, Troy
Honorable Mention: Asjilin Washington, Louisiana

SAFETY

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.

Second-Team: Cameron Solomon, Louisiana
Third-Team: Alex Spillum, Coastal Carolina
Honorable Mention: Antavious Lane, Georgia State

University of South Alabama's Keith Gallmon (33) stiff arms University of Louisiana at Monroe's Zach Johnson (7) after making an interception. Credit: Nicolas Galindo/The News-Star, Monroe News Star via Imagn Content Services, LLC
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.

Second-Team: Percy Butler, Louisiana
Third-Team: Brendon Luper, Texas State
Honorable Mention: Benz Josue, Georgia Southern

FLEX D

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.

Second-Team: Derrick Canteen, Georgia Southern
Third-Team: Darrell Baker Jr., Georgia Southern
Honorable Mention: Anthony Wilson, Georgia Southern

KICKER

First-Team: Noel Ruiz, Georgia State
Second-Team: Diego Guajardo, South Alabama
Third-Team: Alex Raynor, Georgia Southern
Honorable Mention: Evan Legassey, Troy

PUNTER

First-Team: Jack Brooks, South Alabama
Second-Team: Seamus O'Kelly, Texas State
Third-Team: Xavier Subotsch, App State
Honorable Mention: Jack Martin, Troy

KR/PR

First-Team: Chris Smith, Louisiana
Second-Team: Jeremiah Haydel, Texas State
Third-Team: Khaleb Hood, Georgia Southern
Honorable Mention: Roshauud Paul, Ark State

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