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Football: National college football magazines high on UL, Mitchell

Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, July 29, 2020

In college football’s magazine world, the 2020 preseason publications sure do like the Ragin’ Cajuns – and especially Cajuns running back Elijah Mitchell.

Four major magazines in bookstores now – Street & Smith’s, Athlon, Lindy’s and Phil Steele’s – all pick UL to win the Sun Belt Conference’s West Division for a third straight season.

All four also predict Appalachian State will win the Sun Belt East and that Arkansas State will finish second behind the Cajuns in the West – if, that is, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic responsible for infecting more than four million and killing more than 148,000 in the United States alone does not result in the season being canceled.

Opinion on who will place second in the East is mixed, with three of the four going with Georgia Southern and one – Athlon – tapping Troy.

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UL running back Elijah Mitchell is a consensus first team preseason All-Sun Belt Conference pick according to four national college football preview magazines.

There is also is consensus on who will wind up last in the East, with all four going with Coastal Carolina. But there’s disagreement on who finish last in the West, as three of the four picked Texas State and one – Lindy’s – said South Alabama.

East winner Appalachian State and West winner UL have met in the past two Sun Belt championship games, with the Mountaineers winning both times.

The national magazines also picked several Cajuns for various preseason teams and other honors.

UL’s Billy Napier was Athlon’s Choice for Sun Belt Coach of the Year after he led UL to an 11-3 record including a LendingTree Bowl win over Miami (Ohio) last season.

“Napier is a coach on the rise … (and) is also regarded for his work on the recruiting trail, as the Ragin’ Cajuns have reeled in the top class in the Sun Belt in back-to-back years,” the magazine said.

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Lindy’s picked UL senior running back Mitchell as its preseason Offensive Player of the Year, with Appalachian State quarterback Zac Thomas picked as the league’s preseason Most Valuable Player.

Thomas is the first team preseason All-Sun Belt QB for all four publications.

Mitchell, who is on the national watch list for the Doak Walker Award, is a consensus preseason first team all-Sun Belt selection at running back.

He also was Street & Smith’s pick for the league’s top “Heisman Hopeful” and was ranked No. 5 by Lindy’s among “Top 10 NFL Talent” from the Sun Belt, a list that had Coastal Carolina defensive end Tarron Jackson No. 1, UL Monroe tight end Josh Pederson No. 2, Troy linebacker Carlton Martial No. 3 and Troy receiver Kaylon Geiger No. 4.

Mitchell, an Erath High product, rushed for a team-high 1,147 yards and 16 touchdowns last season.

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Jackson also was Street & Smith’s pick for the conference’s “Top NFL Prospect,” while Martial was Lindy’s preseason Sun Belt Player of the Year and the league’s “Hardest Hitter” according to Street & Smith’s.

Cajuns junior punter Rhys Byrns, who is the Ray Guy Award national watch list, and redshirt senior outside linebacker Joe Dillon also are consensus preseason first team All-SBC picks.

Other Cajuns named to preseason All-Sun Belt first teams: defensive lineman Zi’Yon Hill (Street & Smith’s), offensive lineman Max Mitchell (Phil Steele’s and Athlon) and cornerback Eric Garror as a punt returner (Phil Steele’s and Athlon).

Hill also was a second team pick according to Athlon, Lindy’s and Phil Steele’s.

Street & Smith’s names only a first team, Lindy’s first and second teams and Phil Steele’s and Athlon pick four teams each.

UL’s Levi Lewis, who is on watch lists for both the Maxwell and Davey O’Brien awards, was the quarterback choice for all three magazines that have second teams, while running back Trey Ragas was a second team selection for all three as well.

Lewis also was Lindy’s pick for “Best Scrambler” in the league.

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Other Cajuns named to preseason All-Sun Belt second teams: Arizona State-transfer offensive lineman Zach Robertson (Phil Steele’s), Florida International-transfer defensive lineman Tayland Humphrey (Phil Steele’s) and safety Percy Butler (Phil Steele’s).

Humphrey was named “Top Transfer” in the SBC by Street & Smith’s, which also called Chris Smith of the Cajuns the league’s “Most Elusive Running Back” and UL linebacker Ferrod Garder its “Best Interview” in the Sun Belt.

Cajuns picking up third team recognition include offensive lineman O’Cyrus Torrence (Phil Steele’s and Athlon), outside linebacker Chauncey Manac (Phil Steele’s and Athlon) and Garror at defensive back (Athlon).

Cajuns tapped to fourth teams include receiver Peter LeBlanc (Phil Steele’s), receiver Jamal Bell (Athlon), tight end Johnny Lumpkin (Phil Steele’s), center Shane Vallot (Athlon), linebacker Kris Moncrief (Phil Steele’s and Athlon), cornerback Asjlin “A.J.” Washington (Athlon), safety Kam Pedescleaux (Athlon), long snapper Paul Boudreaux (Phil Steele’s) and Garror at both defensive back and punt returner (Phil Steele’s).

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