Chants Dominate SBC Football Postseason Honors

Chants Dominate SBC Football Postseason Honors
Coastal Carolina quarterback Grayson McCall, right, hands the ball off to CJ Marable during the first half of an NCAA college football game against BYU Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020, in Conway, S.C. (Source: AP Photo/Richard Shiro)

NEW ORLEANS – The 2020 Sun Belt Conference Champions dominated the Sun Belt Conference football postseason awards, which were released today, as Coastal Carolina claimed five of the top six honors.

Redshirt quarterback Grayson McCall was named both the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year. Redshirt senior defensive end Tarron Jackson was named the Defensive Player of the Year while junior cornerback D’Jordan Strong was named the Sun Belt’s Newcomer of the Year. Coastal’s head coach Jamey Chadwell earned Coach of the Year honors for the team’s performance.

Coastal Carolina led the league in All-Sun Belt selections with 16, including 10 on the first team (five on offense, four on defense, and one on special teams), followed by Appalachian State and Louisiana having 14 each.

Grayson McCall – Player of the Year, Freshman of the Year, All-Sun Belt First Team

The starting quarterback for CCU was named the Player of the Year, Freshman of the Year, and earned a spot on the All-Sun Belt first team for his play this season.

McCall has been superb in his first season as the starting quarterback for the nationally-ranked Chanticleers. He is among the nation’s leaders with 23 passing touchdowns and just two interceptions and leads the Sun Belt in passing efficiency at 185.9 on the season. The Indian Trail, N.C. native, also leads the Sun Belt in total passing yards with 2,170 on the season and is second in completion percentage at 69.3 percent (151-of-218). He is also 10th in the Sun Belt with six rushing touchdowns and 14th in rushing with 473 rushing yards from his QB position. McCall has thrown for over 200 yards in seven of the 10 games he played in this season, missing one due to an injury, which includes a career-high 338 passing yards at Troy and 322 yards in the air versus Arkansas State. He has also tallied two passing touchdowns or more in eight games this season, including a career-high four touchdown tosses against Arkansas State and at Georgia State. A key part of the highest-scoring offense in the Sun Belt all season long, McCall guided a Chants’ offense to 500-plus total yards of offense in four Sun Belt Conference games on the season and led CCU to a pair of wins over top 25 FBS programs, both of which were the first such wins in school history. McCall is a three-time Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award’s Great 8 List selection, a three-time Manning Awards “Star of the Week” honoree, a three-time Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Week winner, a three-time FWAA “Fresh Four” selection, a Maxwell Award semifinalist, a Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award semifinalist, a Manning Award finalist, and was named to the FWAA Freshman All-American watch list.

Tarron Jackson – Defensive Player of the Year, All-Sun Belt First Team

Jackson was tabbed the Defensive Player of the Year and earned All-Sun Belt first team honors for the second-straight season.

He has been stellar again this season despite seeing double-teams on over 60 percent of the snaps he has played this year. A finalist and semifinalist for several national defensive player awards this season, he leads the team and is second in the Sun Belt in sacks with 8.5 on the year. He also leads the Chants and is third in the league in tackles-for-loss with 13.5. Jackson is the only player in the top three in the conference in both sacks and tackles-for-loss this season.

He is also tied for second in the Sun Belt with three forced fumbles on the year while also adding 49 total tackles, 18 quarterback hurries, and one fumble recovery to his resume for 2020.

A three-time SBC Defensive Player of the Week selection this season, Jackson has also been named a 2020 Bronko Nagurski Trophy finalist, a Bednarik Award semifinalist, a William V. Campbell Trophy semifinalist, a 2020-21 Senior CLASS Award candidate, and earned a spot on the Lott IMPACT Trophy and Ted Hendricks Award watch lists. He was also invited to the 2021 Reese’s Senior Bowl.

D’Jordan Strong – Newcomer of the Year, All-Sun Belt First Team

In just his first season at CCU, Strong made a huge impact on the “Black Swarm” defense and was tabbed the SBC Newcomer of the Year and earned a spot on the All-Sun Belt first team.

Strong is not only tied for the Sun Belt lead but also the nation’s lead in interceptions with five on the season. The junior cornerback, who was not tested much of the season, also totaled six pass breakups to give him 11 passes defended which are sixth in the league overall. Strong also added 26 tackles, 2.0 tackles-for-loss, and forced one fumble as part of a defensive unit that was the top scoring defense in the Sun Belt at 18.7 points per game and was tied for second in interceptions with 14.

He was one of six different players in the Sun Belt to pick up two interceptions in the same game but the only one to do it twice with two picks against both Georgia Southern and Appalachian State. He also returned one of the interceptions for a touchdown to help seal the Chants’ first-ever win over App State.

Jamey Chadwell – Coach of the Year

In a landslide, coach Chadwell was named the Sun Belt Coach of the Year, his first SBC honor and his fourth conference coach of the year honor overall.

Recently named the 2020 Werner Ladder AFCA FBS Region 2 Coach of the Year and selected to the Paul “Bear” Bryant Coach of the Year watch list earlier this season, Chadwell has led the Chants to an 11-0 overall mark thus far this year, including an 8-0 Sun Belt Conference record and CCU’s first appearance in the Sun Belt Conference Championship game. This season marked Coastal Carolina’s first-ever undefeated regular season and the first time that the Chanticleers have been ranked in either the Associated Press Top 25 Poll or the Amway Coaches Poll presented by USA Today Sports. Thus far in 2020, the Chanticleers have posted two wins over FBS top 25 nationally-ranked opponents, the first in program history, and has been ranked as high as No. 9 in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll and No. 12 in the Amway Coaches Poll.

All-Sun Belt First Team

While he didn’t win one of the individual awards, senior running back CJ Marable earned All-Sun Belt first team honors twice – as a running back and as an all-purpose specialist.

A two-time Paul Hornung Award Honor Roll selection, Marable has been the workhorse for the Chanticleers this season. The senior running back leads the Sun Belt East Division Champions with 1,176 total all-purpose yards this year - 844 rushing, 220 receiving, and 112 kick return yards. He is averaging 106.9 yards per game and has totaled 19 touchdowns on the season with 12 coming on the ground and seven via the passing game.

He leads the league in rushing yards (844), rushing touchdowns (12), total touchdowns (19), total points (114), and is tied for sixth in receiving touchdowns (7) on the season. He recorded 100 all-purpose yards or more in six of the Chants’ 11 games played and recorded 97 and 96 yards, respectively, in two others.

A key part of the highest-scoring offense in the Sun Belt all season long, Marable has found the end zone in 10-of-11 games this year, including scoring two or more touchdowns in seven contests. In fact, he finished the regular season with three-straight 100-yard rushing games and a total of eight touchdowns over the final three games of the regular season.

Joining Marable and McCall on the first-team all-conference team for offense was tight end Isaiah Likely, wide receiver Jaivon Heiligh, and offensive guard Trey Carter.

Perhaps the most explosive tight end in the nation, Likely totaled 25 catches for 517 yards and four touchdowns this season for the Chants. His 517 receiving yards were 11th in the Sun Belt overall but first among all Sun Belt tight ends, while his average yards per catch of 20.7 yards per reception was third in the Sun Belt.

Despite missing one game and playing with a lower-body injury that will require surgery at the end of the season, Likely caught at least one pass in nine of the 10 games in which he played and recorded a career-high 118 receiving yards in the win over Appalachian State. He had catches of 75, 72, and 57 yards on the season, all three of which were the longest pass plays on the season for CCU’s offense.

A Biletnikoff Award watch list selection, Heiligh has taken his game to the next level this season. The junior wideout is first on the team and fifth in the Sun Belt with 52 receptions. However, he is tied for second in the league with 10 touchdown catches, third in receiving yards with 820, and fourth in receiving yards per game at 74.5. He is also tied for fourth in all of the Sun Belt in total touchdowns with 10 on the season, which is second on the team to league leader Marable and his 19 touchdowns.

Heiligh, who recorded his 100th career reception and surpassed 1,000 career receiving yards this season, hauled in at least one pass in 10 of the 11 games this season, including a season-high 11 catches in the win over Troy. He also registered three 100-yard receiving games - 108 at then-No. 21 Louisiana, 107 against Georgia Southern, and 138 at Troy - and had three games with two touchdown catches.

A fifth-year senior and co-captain, Carter has played in and started 47-straight games dating back to the 2017 season. The leader up front for the Chants, Carter has helped the offense rank first in the Sun Belt in scoring (37.5 ppg), second in total yards per game (446.8), second in total yards on the season (4,915), third in rushing (223.2 ypg), and fifth in passing yards on the year (2,460). The offense is also first in the conference and among the nation’s leaders in third-down conversion percentage (53.3), fourth-down conversion percentage (80.0), fewest penalties (37), and average time of possession per game (34:14).

The offensive line also allowed just 12 total sacks on the season which was third in the Sun Belt and totaled over 500-plus yards of offense in four Sun Belt Conference victories.

Joining Jackson and Strong on the All-Sun Belt first team defense was fellow “Black Swarm” members Jeffrey Gunter and C.J. Brewer.

While playing the bandit end for the Chants’ 3-4 defense, Gunter picked up his second All-Sun Belt first team honor having also earned the recognition in 2018.

Gunter is tied for second on the team and fourth in the Sun Belt with 6.5 sacks this season and is tied for sixth in the league with 12.5 tackles-for-loss on the year. He also leads the team and the Sun Belt with five forced fumbles on the season, to go along with one interception, and 12 quarterback hurries.

Named the Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Week in the win over No. 8 BYU, Gunter is a key part of the defensive that was the top scoring defense in the Sun Belt at 18.7 points per game, allowed the fewest touchdowns all season long with 25, led the league in sacks with 33, and was tied for second in interceptions with 14.

Brewer is tied for second on the team and fourth in the Sun Belt with 6.5 sacks this season. He is also third on the team and 10th in the league with 9.0 tackles-for-loss this year. He is fourth on the team with 57 total tackles and has also recorded six quarterback hurries, forced one fumble, and recovered a fumble on the defensive line for CCU.

He recorded a career-high 14 tackles, to go along with 3.0 tackles-for-loss and 1.5 sacks, in the win over Appalachian State, to earn Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Week honors. He also recorded 3.0 tackles-for-loss and 2.0 sacks in the season-opening win over Kansas and caught his first career touchdown pass in the win over KU.

All-Sun Belt Second Team

Earning a spot on the All-Sun Belt second team for the Chants was freshman offensive guard Willie Lampkin, redshirt senior linebacker Silas Kelly, and junior kicker Massimo Biscardi.

A 2020 FWAA Freshman All-American watch list member, Lampkin has started all 11 games for the Chanticleers this season as a true freshman. The Florida native has helped the offense rank first in the Sun Belt in scoring (37.5 ppg), second in total yards per game (446.8), second in total yards on the season (4,915), third in rushing (223.2 ypg), and fifth in passing yards on the year (2,460). The offense is also first in the conference and among the nation’s leaders in third-down conversion percentage (53.3), fourth-down conversion percentage (80.0), fewest penalties (37), and average time of possession per game (34:14).

The offensive line also allowed just 12 total sacks on the season which was third in the Sun Belt and totaled over 500-plus yards of offense in four Sun Belt Conference victories.

A 2020 Mayo Clinic Comeback Player of the Year Award finalist after missing the last 10 games of last season due to an ACL tear in his knee, Kelly leads the team and ranks 13th in the Sun Belt with 72 total tackles, an average of 6.5 per contest, on a very well balanced defensive team. He is fourth on the team and ninth in the Sun Belt with 4.5 sacks on the season to go along with 5.5 tackles-for-loss, one interception, and one fumble recovery from his middle linebacker position all while missing all but the final series of the game versus Troy in the regular-season finale.

Kelly registered a career-high 12 tackles in the win over South Alabama and earned Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Week honors after totaling 8.0 tackles, 2.0 tackles-for-loss, and 2.0 sacks in the win over Campbell. He also had 8.0 tackles in wins at Kansas, at then-No. 21 Louisiana, and versus Georgia Southern, and added nine stops against Appalachian State.

This season, Biscardi is 9-of-10 on field goal attempts which ranks as the highest field goal percentage (.900) of any team in the Sun Belt Conference. He has also made 46 PATs, which leads the Sun Belt, and scored multiple points in every game this season for the Chanticleers. In fact, his 73 points on the season is sixth in the Sun Belt this season.

He has made four field goals of 40 yards or longer this season, including a 51-yard field goal in the win over Appalachian State and a game-winning 40-yard field goal in the final seconds of the win over then-No. 21 nationally-ranked Louisiana.

For the third time in his career, the 2018 All-Sun Belt third team pick made three field goals in the same game, as he knocked three kicks through the uprights in the Chants’ home win over South Alabama.

All-Sun Belt Third Team

Like the second team, the Chants placed three more on the all-conference third team in redshirt senior center Sam Thompson, senior linebacker in Teddy Gallagher, and redshirt junior Alex Spillum.

A 2020 Rimington Trophy watch list member and Burlsworth Trophy finalist, Thompson has helped the offense rank first in the Sun Belt in scoring (37.5 ppg), second in total yards per game (446.8), second in total yards on the season (4,915), third in rushing (223.2 ypg), and fifth in passing yards on the year (2,460). The offense is also first in the conference and among the nation’s leaders in third-down conversion percentage (53.3), fourth-down conversion percentage (80.0), fewest penalties (37), and average time of possession per game (34:14).

The offensive line has allowed just 12 total sacks on the season which was third in the Sun Belt and totaled over 500-plus yards of offense in four Sun Belt Conference victories.

The quarterback of the “Black Swarm” defense, Gallagher is second on the team and 14th in the Sun Belt with 71 tackles on the season, an average of 6.5 tackles per game. One of the most consistent Chants all season long, Gallagher has registered five tackles or more in nine of the 11 games he has played this season, including a season-high 10 stops versus Georgia Southern and nine tackles in the road win at Kansas. He also had 4.0 tackles-for-loss, 0.5 sacks, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, and four quarterback hurries the year.

Moving into the starting lineup permanently this season, Spillum has totaled 53 tackles, 1.0 tackle-for-loss, three interceptions, four pass breakups, and recovered a fumble from his safety position. His three picks are tied for sixth in the Sun Belt while his 101 return yards are third in the league on the season.

He recorded a season-high eight tackles twice and five tackles or more six times on the season while playing the last line of the CCU defensive unit that was the top scoring defense in the Sun Belt at 18.7 points per game, allowed the fewest touchdowns all season long with 25, led the league in sacks with 33, and was tied for second in interceptions with 14.

Honorable Mention

Four Chants in spur Enock Makonzo, running back Reese White, and offensive linemen Antwine Loper and Steven Bedosky were all named honorable mention.

Makonzo is third on the team with 66 tackles, 9.0 tackles-for-loss, 2.0 sacks, forced two fumbles, and recovered another one, while White has carried the ball 83 times for 468 yards and six touchdowns.

Both Loper and Bedosky started all 11 games for the shots as bookends on the offensive line that has allowed just 12 total sacks on the season which was third in the Sun Belt and totaled over 500-plus yards of offense in four Sun Belt Conference victories.

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