Red Wolves football place eight on preseason all-conference team
The 2017 Preseason All-Sun Belt Conference Team, announced Friday by the league office, featured
seven Arkansas State players, including senior defensive end Ja’Von Rolland-Jones as the Defensive Player of the Year.
The Red Wolves had eight total selections, including senior cornerback Blaise Taylor as a first-team return specialist and second-team defensive back. Joining Taylor and Rolland-Jones as first-team choices were senior tight end Blake Mack, senior linebacker Kyle Wilson and junior defensive back Justin Clifton.
Representing A-State on the second team were senior wide receiver Dijon Paschal and senior defensive lineman Dee Liner, in addition to Taylor. The Red Wolves eight total selections were the third most in the league behind Appalachian State’s 12 and Troy’s nine. The three programs were the top three picks in the Sun Belt Conference Preseason Coaches’ Poll, announced July 20. A-State was
tabbed third in the poll, while Appalachian State was the favorite and Troy was picked second.
Rolland-Jones became in 2016 just the second player in the history of the Sun Belt Conference to be named the league’s Player of the Year. He is on the 2017 Bednarik Award and Nagurski Award watch lists and enters his senior season needing 13.5 sacks to tie the NCAA FBS career record, currently held by Terrell Suggs (Arizona State, 2000-02).
Mack has found a place on this year’s Mackey Award Watch List and has been named a Preseason First Team All-Sun Belt choice by five different football publications. Taylor, A-State’s all-time leader in career punt return yards, is an Allstate AFCA Good Works Team nominee and a member of the Hornung Award and Wuerrfel Trophy watch lists.
A member of the 2016 All-Sun Belt Conference Newcomer Team, Wilson has also been named first team preseason all-conference by Lindy’s and Athlon. Clifton has been placed on the Jim Thorpe Award watch list after recording a career-high 87 tackles, 8.0 tackles for
loss, five pass break-ups and two interceptions as a sophomore.
The Red Wolves’ second-team preseason All-Sun Belt picks, Paschal and Liner, have also earned early 2017 recognition from several publications. Paschal enters his senior season tied for eighth in school history with 10 career touchdown receptions and ninth for receiving yards with 1,491 to his credit. Liner is Phil Steele’s No. 40-ranked “Top NFL Draft Eligible Defensive Tackle” in the nation.