The UL Ragin’ Cajuns were nearly a unanimous selection to win the Sun Belt West division title for the fourth straight season on the 2021 Sun Belt Conference’s Preseason All-Sun Belt coaches poll and awards, announced Tuesday by the league office.
The Ragin’ Cajuns received nine first-place votes for a total of 49 points, surpassing Arkansas State, which got one first-place vote and 38 total points as the predicted West runner-up squad.
In the East, Coastal Carolina got six first-place votes and Appalachian State four, but both ended up with 44 total points to be tied for first as expected East champions.
A year ago, the Chanticleers were voted by the league’s coaches to finish dead last in the Sun Belt with just 13 points — seven points fewer than eventual winless UL-Monroe received with 20.
Instead, Coastal Carolina produced one of the greatest turnaround seasons in college football history by going 11-1 and finishing No. 12 in the final College Football Playoff poll.
Leading the charge for the Chanticleers is redshirt sophomore quarterback Grayson McCall as the preseason Offensive Player of the Year.
McCall took the league by storm last season, throwing 2,488 yards on 172-of-250 passing with 26 touchdowns and three interceptions. The athletic McCall also ran for 569 yards and seven scores.
On the other side, Troy linebacker Carlton Martial was honored as the preseason Defensive Player of the Year for the second consecutive season.
The junior linebacker collected 113 tackles, including 10 stops behind the line, last season. Martial has 239 total tackles over the past two seasons.
The East division dominated the preseason All-Sun Belt first team. The West favorite Ragin’ Cajuns received two first-place players on the first team offense and defense with sophomore guard O’Cyrus Torrence and junior safety Bralen Trahan.
In addition, punter Rhys Byrns and return specialist Chris Smith gave UL a total of four first-team selections.
No other West teams got a first-team nod. Coastal Carolina had seven first-team selections, including four on defense in defensive line duo Jeffery Gunter and CJ Brewer, linebacker Silas Kelly and defensive back D’Jordan Strong.
Appalachian State had six first-team selections, led by the defensive trio of lineman Demetrius Taylor, linebacker D’Marco Jackson and safety Shaun Jolly.
Georgia State added four first-team selections, led by running back Destin Coates and wide receiver Sam Pinckney.
Troy also had more first-team selections on both sides of the ball with offensive lineman Austin Stidham and defensive lineman Will Choloh joining Martial.
The Cajuns did receive five second-team selections. On offense, quarterback Levi Lewis was joined by offensive lineman Max Mitchell. Defensively, lineman Zi’Yon Hill, linebacker Lorenzo McCaskill and cornerback Eric Garror were recognized on the preseason second team.
2021 Sun Belt Preseason Coaches Poll
T1. Coastal Carolina (6) – 44
T1. App State (4) – 44
3. Georgia State – 24
4. Georgia Southern – 20
5. Troy – 18
1. Louisiana (9) – 49
2. Arkansas State (1) – 38
3. South Alabama – 27
4. Texas State – 25
5. ULM – 11
2021 Preseason All-Sun Belt team
FIRST TEAM OFFENSE
QB – Grayson McCall, Coastal Carolina. R-So.
RB – Camerun Peoples, App State, Jr.
RB – Destin Coates, Georgia State Sr.
OL – Baer Hunter, App State. S-Sr.
OL – Shamarious Gilmore, Georgia State, R-Sr.
OL – Cooper Hodges, App State, Jr.
OL – Austin Stidham, Troy, Jr.
OL – O’Cyrus Torrence, Louisiana, So.
TE – Isaiah Likely, Coastal Carolina, Sr.
WR – Jalen Tolbert, South Alabama, Jr.
WR – Jaivon Heiligh, Coastal Carolina, Sr.
WR – Sam Pinckney, Georgia State, R-Jr.
FIRST TEAM DEFENSE
DL – Jeffery Gunter, Coastal Carolina, R-Sr.
DL – CJ Brewer, Coastal Carolina, S-Sr.
DL – Demetrius Taylor, App State, S-Sr.
DL – Will Choloh, Troy, Jr.
LB – Carlton Martial, Troy, Jr.
LB – D’Marco Jackson, App State, Sr.
LB – Silas Kelly, Coastal Carolina, S-Sr.
DB – Derrick Canteen, Georgia Southern, R-So.
DB – Shaun Jolly, App State, Sr.
DB – D’Jordan Strong, Coastal Carolina, Sr.
DB – Bralen Trahan, Louisiana R-Jr.
FIRST TEAM SPECIAL TEAMS
K – Noel Ruiz, Georgia State, Sr.
P – Rhys Byrns, Louisiana, Jr.
RS – Chris Smith, Louisiana, R-So.
PRESEASON OFFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Grayson McCall, Coastal Carolina
PRESEASON DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Carlton Martial, Troy
SECOND TEAM OFFENSE
QB – Levi Lewis, Louisiana, Sr.
RB – JD King, Georgia Southern, Sr.
RB – Daetrich Harrington, App State, Sr.
OL – Trey Carter, Coastal Carolina, S-Sr.
OL – Max Mitchell, Louisiana, Jr.
OL – Dylan Bradshaw, Troy, Sr.
OL – Willie Lampkin, Coastal Carolina, So.
OL – Aaron Dowdell, Georgia Southern, S-Sr.
TE – Roger Carter, Georgia State, Sr.
WR – Thomas Hennigan, App State, S-Sr.
WR – Marcell Barbee, Texas State, Jr.
WR – Cornelius McCoy, Georgia State, Sr.
SECOND TEAM DEFENSE
DL – Zi’Yon Hill, Louisiana, R-Jr.
DL – Hardrick Willis, Georgia State, R-Sr.
DL – Dontae Wilson, Georgia State, Sr.
DL – Nico Ezidore, Texas State, Jr.
LB – Lorenzo McCaskill, Louisiana, R-Jr.
LB – Teddy Gallagher, Coastal Carolina, S-Sr.
LB – Brendan Harrington, App State, Jr.
DB – Antavious Lane, Georgia State, R-So.
DB – Quavian White, Georgia State, Sr.
DB – Keith Gallmon, South Alabama, Jr.
DB – Eric Garror, Louisiana, Jr.
K – Massimo Biscardi, Coastal Carolina, Sr.
P – Anthony Beck II, Georgia Southern, RS Jr.
RS – Khaleb Hood, Georgia Southern, Jr.