Southern Miss puts three players on preseason All-Sun Belt team

Published 1:12 pm Tuesday, July 25, 2023

NEW ORLEANS — Southern Miss landed three players on the preseason All-Sun Belt Conference football team as the league’s annual Media Days event opened in New Orleans.

Southern Miss junior running back Frank Gore, Jr. and senior defensive back Jay Stanley were named first-team All-Sun Belt, while senior defensive lineman Jalen Williams was a second-team selection in voting by the league’s 14 head coaches.

Gore was a first-teamer as both a running back and all-purpose player. He rushed for 1,382 yards and nine touchdowns last season, and added four touchdown receptions. His outstanding season included a school-record 329 rushing yards in a 38-24 victory over Rice in the LendingTree Bowl.

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Stanley played in all 13 games last season and recorded seven interceptions. The Greenwood native posted a career-best 64 total tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and 12 pass deflections.

Williams was named All-Sun Belt Honorable Mention last season after starting the final 11 games at nose tackle. He finished fifth on the team in tackles (50) and fifth in tackles for loss (7.5). The Tylertown product also blocked an extra point against Louisiana-Lafayette and had a season-high nine tackles against Georgia State.

In addition to the all-conference teams, the Sun Belt released its preseason awards and a predicted order of finish in voting by the league’s coaches.

Coastal Carolina quarterback Grayson McCall was selected as the preseason Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year, and Old Dominion linebacker Jason Henderson was the Defensive Player of the Year.

McCall was the Sun Belt Player of the Year in 2020, 2021 and 2022. In 11 games in 2022, McCall completed nearly 70 percent of his passes for 2,700 yards, 24 touchdowns, and just two interceptions. He also rushed 91 times for 195 yards and six touchdowns.

Henderson was an All-Sun Belt first-team selection in 2022, after leading the country with 186 tackles.

James Madison was picked by the league’s coaches to win the East Division, and Troy was picked to win the West.

James Madison, which is in its first full year in the Sun Belt, received four first-place votes and 78 points in the voting. Appalachian State also received four first-place votes, Coastal Carolina got three and Marshall two.

Troy received 10 of the 14 first-place votes to win the West, and had 92 points. South Alabama had four first-place votes and 85 points and was predicted to finish second, followed by Louisiana-Lafayette.

Southern Miss was picked to finish fourth in the West Division. Texas State was fifth, Arkansas State sixth and Louisiana-Monroe seventh.

The Sun Belt Media Days started in earnest on Tuesday with a daylong parade to the podium of West Division coaches. Southern Miss’ Will Hall, along with with players Jay Stanley and Cole Cavallo, will be featured on ESPN+ at 3 p.m.

The East Division coaches and players will take their turn Wednesday beginning at 9:30 a.m.