FRISCO, Texas — Twenty of the 58 Southland Conference football players who earned all-conference honors after last season earned spots on the Southland Conference preseason all-conference football teams, the league office announced Wednesday a week ahead of its media day at L’auberge Resort in Lake Charles.
Reigning conference player of the year Bryan Bennett of Southeastern Louisiana highlights a list of nine offensive players and 11 defensive players who return from last season’s all-conference squads to earn a spot on the preseason teams. Bennett is one of nine Southeastern Louisiana first-team selections.
Defending champion Southeastern leads all league schools with 15 all-conference selections, while McNeese State had 10 players on the two teams, followed by Central Arkansas with nine and Northwestern State with eight.
Nicholls State had two selections.
Southeastern returns 15 starters from a team that went 7-0 in league play and reached the quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs. First-team all-conference selections returning for the Lions are senior quarterback Bennett, running back Rasheed Harrell, offensive lineman Jonathan Braddock, all-purpose player and kick returner Xavier Roberson, defensive lineman Jacob Newman, linebackers Isiah Corbett and Drew Misita and defensive back Harlan Miller.
Bennett, one of the nation’s top returning quarterbacks and a candidate for the Walter Payton Award, ranked fourth in the nation with 4,211 total yards, helping the Lions claim their first Southland title and earn their first trip to the postseason while finishing No. 6 in the final polls.
Bennett passed for 3,165 yards and 21 touchdowns last season to go along with 1,046 yards rushing and a single-season school record 16 touchdowns.
Earning second-team honors for Southeastern are receiver Jeff Smiley, offensive lineman Joe Graves, defensive lineman A.J. Bowen, linebackers Justin Church and Kaleb Muse and defensive back Tyler Stoddard.
McNeese, which is coming off a 10-3 overall record and a return trip to the FCS playoffs, has seven first-team all-conference selections, including offensive lineman Antoine Everett and defensive lineman Everett Ellefsen, both of whom earned first-team honors last season.
Joining Everett on the first-team offense is fellow lineman Quentin Marsh, a junior, and tight end Zach Hetrick. Other first-team defense honorees for the Cowboys include junior linebacker Bo Brown, defensive back Aaron Sam and punter Jean Breaux.
Central Arkansas, Northwestern State and Sam Houston State each placed three on the first teams.
Northwestern, which finished fifth at 3-4, is represented on the first-team by defensive lineman Deon Simon and defensive backs Imoan Claiborne and Fred Thomas.
Nicholls State had a pair of second-team defenders in linebacker Davin Bovie and defensive back Byron Cobb.
Returning student-athletes who earned all-conference honors at the conclusion of last season were automatically named to the preseason teams. Head coaches from the 11 schools that play football in the Southland Conference voted for the remaining 38 positions, which included five on the first-team offense, four on the first-team defense, 14 positions on the second-team offense and 15 on the second-team defense. Coaches could not vote for their own players.
The conference’s two preseason polls will be announced July 23 at media day.
LOUISIANA TECH’S BUTLER, DIXON NAMED TO PRESEASON TEAM: In Irving, Texas, Louisiana Tech defensive lineman Vernon Butler and running back Kenneth Dixon were named to the Conference USA preseason all-conference team on Wednesday.
The Bulldogs were picked to finish fourth in the West Division in a vote of the league’s coaches, ahead of Southern Miss and UTEP.
Butler had 41 total tackles last season with three tackles for a loss, three pass break-ups and one fumble recovery. His 41 tackles lead all returning defensive linemen for the Bulldogs.
Dixon played in 10 games, rushing for 917 rushing yards and four touchdowns.
North Texas (66 points) was picked to win the West, followed by Rice (65 points), UTSA (62 points) and Louisiana Tech.
In the East, Marshall led the way with 91 points, followed by Middle Tennessee (73 points), Florida Atlantic (60), Western Kentucky and Old Dominion.