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Joey Aguilar
Joey Aguilar completed 28 of his 39 passes for 275 yards.
photo courtesy of Appalachian State Athletics

Appalachian State Football Snags 14 Players on All-Conference, Aguilar Named Newcomer of the Year

Two days before it plays in the Sun Belt Championship Game as the East Division’s title-winning representative, App State had 14 players receive All-Sun Belt recognition from a vote of league coaches and media members.

Standout quarterback Joey Aguilar was named the Sun Belt’s Newcomer of the Year on Thursday, and the Mountaineers had four first-team All-Sun Belt selections: offensive lineman Isaiah Helms, offensive lineman Bucky Williams, defensive back Tyrek Funderburk and linebacker Andrew Parker Jr.

The All-Sun Belt second team included five Mountaineers in Aguilar, tight end Eli Wilson, defensive back Ethan Johnson, linebacker Nate Johnson and kicker Michael Hughes.

Offensive lineman Jack Murphy made the All-Sun Belt third team, while honorable mention went to wide receiver Kaedin Robinson, running back Kanye Roberts, defensive back Jordan Favors and defensive lineman Santana Hopper.

Recent league expansion from 10 to 14 teams has made All-Sun Belt voting even more competitive, and App State’s 14 honorees ranked third in the league behind James Madison’s 17 and Troy’s 16. The Mountaineers tied for the second-highest number of first-team selections.

Riding a five-game winning streak, App State (8-4, 6-2) will play at West Division champion Troy (10-2, 7-1) on Saturday at 4 p.m. ET (3 p.m. CT) in a title game televised by ESPN.

The Mountaineers are seeking their fifth overall Sun Belt title and their third victory in a Sun Belt Championship Game, which was held for the first time in 2018. The only FBS programs in the country with four conference championship game appearances in the last six seasons are Alabama, App State, Boise State, Clemson, Georgia, Oregon and Utah.

Player of the Year
Jordan McCloud, James Madison

Defensive Player of the Year
Jalen Green, James Madison

Offensive Player of the Year
Kimani Vidal, Troy

Newcomer of the Year
Joey Aguilar, App State

Freshman of the Year
Jaylen Raynor, Arkansas State

Coach of the Year
Curt Cignetti, James Madison

All-Sun Belt First-Team Offense
QB – Jordan McCloud, James Madison
RB – Kimani Vidal, Troy
RB – Marcus Carroll, Georgia State
OL – Isaiah Helms, App State
OL – Bucky Williams, App State
OL – Travis Glover, Georgia State
OL – Khalil Crowder, Georgia Southern
OL – Jacob Bayer, Arkansas State
TE – Zach Horton, James Madison
WR – Caullin Lacy, South Alabama
WR – Elijah Sarratt, James Madison
WR – Reggie Brown, James Madison

All-Sun Belt First-Team Defense
DL – Jalen Green, James Madison
DL – Javon Solomon, Troy
DL – Richard Jibunor, Troy
DL – Jamree Kromah, James Madison
DL – Owen Porter, Marshall
LB – Jason Henderson, Old Dominion
LB – Andrew Parker Jr., App State
LB – Marques Watson-Trent, Georgia Southern
DB – Micah Abraham, Marshall
DB – Reddy Steward, Troy
DB – Jaden Voisin, South Alabama
DB – Tyrek Funderburk, App State

All-Sun Belt First-Team Special Teams
K – Mason Shipley, Texas State
P – William Przystup, Arkansas State
RS – Jayden Harrison, Marshall
AP – Ismail Mahdi, Texas State

All-Sun Belt Second-Team Offense
QB – Joey Aguilar, App State
RB – Rasheen Ali, Marshall
RB – Frank Gore Jr., Southern Miss
OL – Daniel King, Troy
OL – Tyler Stephens, James Madison
OL – Makilian Thomas, Arkansas State
OL – Rasheed Miller, Georgia Southern
OL – Grant Betts, Troy
TE – Eli Wilson, App State
WR – Khaleb Hood, Georgia Southern
WR – Sam Pinckney, Coastal Carolina
WR – Joey Hobert, Texas State

All-Sun Belt Second-Team Defense
DL – James Carpenter, James Madison
DL – Adin Huntington, ULM
DL – Ben Bell, Texas State
DL – Mikail Kamara, James Madison
DL – TJ Jackson, Troy
LB – Brian Holloway, Texas State
LB – Nate Johnson, App State
LB – Quentin Wilfawn, South Alabama
DB – Shemar Bartholomew, Georgia Southern
DB – Dell Pettus, Troy
DB – Ethan Johnson, App State
DB – D’Angelo Ponds, James Madison

All-Sun Belt Second-Team Special Teams
K – Michael Hughes, App State
P – Ryan Hanson, James Madison
RS – Ismail Mahdi, Texas State
AP – Frank Gore Jr., Southern Miss

All-Sun Belt Third-Team Offense
QB – Gunnar Watson, Troy
RB – La’Damian Webb, South Alabama
RB – Jalen White, Georgia Southern
OL – AJ Gillie, Louisiana
OL – Jack Murphy, App State
OL – Ethan Driskell, Marshall
OL – Will McDonald, Coastal Carolina
OL – Brey Walker, Texas State
TE – Neal Johnson, Louisiana
WR – Robert Lewis, Georgia State
WR – Jabre Barber, Troy
WR – Chris Lewis, Troy

All-Sun Belt Third-Team Defense
DL – Thurman Geathers, Arkansas State
DL – Isaac Walker, Georgia Southern
DL – Elijah Alston, Marshall
DL – Wy’Kevious Thomas, South Alabama
LB – Eli Neal, Marshall
LB – Jontrey Hunter, Georgia State
LB – Aiden Fisher, James Madison
LB – Wayne Matthews, Old Dominion
DB – Yam Banks, South Alabama
DB – Clayton Isbell, Coastal Carolina
DB – Gavin Pringle, Georgia State
DB – Irshaad Davis, Troy

All-Sun Belt Third-Team Special Teams
K – Camden Wise, James Madison
P – John McConnell, Marshall
RS – Ja’Quez Cross, Arkansas State
AP – Caullin Lacy, South Alabama

All-Sun Belt Honorable Mentions (from App State)
RB – Kanye Roberts
WR – Kaedin Robinson
DL – Santana Hopper
DB – Jordan Favors

QB Joey Aguilar (All-Sun Belt second team)
School-record 33 touchdown passes are the second-most in a season in Sun Belt history to date and were third-most in the FBS regular season this year behind only LSU’s Jayden Daniels (40) and Oregon’s Bo Nix (37) … Has thrown multiple touchdowns in all but one game, with three-plus touchdowns eight times and four-plus touchdowns three times … Sun Belt’s highest-rated QB according to ESPN’s Total QBR (No. 23 nationally at 74.2) … Ranks ninth in the FBS in point responsibility, 14th in total offense, 17th in passing yards and 21st in passing efficiency … In all games, ranks top two among SBC QBs in total offense and passing efficiency, but in conference play, led the league during the regular season in total offense (321 ypg), passing (297.6 ypg), passing efficiency (167.5) and passing TDs (24).

OL Isaiah Helms
Three-year starter who was an All-Sun Belt honoree last season has continued strong play as a senior captain who has the most offensive snaps among Sun Belt offensive lineman with no sacks allowed … Totaled 878 snaps during the regular season, with no sacks allowed in 470 pass-blocking snaps and a pass-blocking grade of 78.6 from PFF … Starting center on the line for a balanced App State team that leads the league with only 15 sacks allowed, has a league-best 34 TD passes and has the third-best rushing attack in the league (179.6 yards per game).

OL Bucky Williams
After being a second-team All-Sun Belt offensive lineman last year via PFF, is the only Sun Belt starting offensive lineman this year with grades over 76 percent in both run blocking and pass blocking … No. 2 among Sun Belt starting OL (and No. 1 among guards) with an overall blocking grade of 77.1 … Has a pass-blocking grade of 78.9 for a record-setting QB along with a 76.9 run-blocking grade (No. 2 among Sun Belt starting OL, No. 1 among guards) … Just two sacks allowed in 470 pass-blocking snaps.

DB Tyrek Funderburk
Tied for the Sun Belt lead with four interceptions in the regular season and was the only Sun Belt defender with two pick-six touchdown returns (tied for No. 2 nationally in that category) … Had 11 passes defended (counting seven PBUs) in the regular season to go along with 42 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, half a sack and one forced fumble from his cornerback position … Fourth among starting Sun Belt CBs with an 80.3 overall defensive grade, according to PFF data, and fourth among starting Sun Belt CBs with coverage grade of 76.8 … Set up a pair of scores with two INTs in the win against Georgia Southern and had two other PBUs to total four passes defended to earn Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Week honors … Returned interceptions 22 yards for a TD at ULM and 18 yards for a TD at Wyoming.

LB Andrew Parker Jr.
Ranked No. 5 among Sun Belt defenders with 103 tackles in the regular season and No. 4 among Sun Belt defenders in league play with 71 stops in those eight games (8.9 per game) … Also had six tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks, 10 QB pressures and a big fumble recovery to swing momentum in the Georgia State game … During App State’s five-game winning streak to close the regular season, big games from the captain included 14 tackles against Georgia State, 13 against Southern Miss and seven in the win at JMU … Strong play one of the catalysts as App State changed its defensive scheme late in the year and led the unit as the defense was responsible for allowing 15.3 points per 60 minutes in the last four regular-season games to go 4-0 against bowl-eligible teams.

TE Eli Wilson
Tied for No. 2 among Sun Belt tight ends with both 29 catches and five touchdown catches during the regular season while ranking No. 3 among Sun Belt tight ends with 306 receiving yards … During five-game winning streak to close regular season, had touchdowns in wins against Southern Miss, JMU and Georgia Southern while totaling 10 catches for 162 yards in those three victories … Four games with four-plus catches, including a four-catch, 61-yard performance at JMU in which he scored once and set up another touchdown with a 27-yard reception inside the 5 … Also a key blocker in the run game for an offense that ranks third in the league in rushing.

DB Ethan Johnson
Ranked No. 2 among starting cornerbacks in the Sun Belt during the regular season with a 77.9 coverage grade, according to PFF data, and was No. 4 among Sun Belt starting CBs with an overall defensive grade of 78.1 while playing a whopping 835 snaps (second-most among Sun Belt CBs, fifth among all Sun Belt defenders) … Made a big interception and had two PBUs in the win at JMU to earn Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Week honors and had 10 PBUs during the regular season to rank in the top five in the Sun Belt with 11 passes defended … Also had 49 tackles (top five among Sun Belt CBs), including 2.5 tackles for loss … In the JMU win, was targeted with 14 passes and allowed a completion percentage of just 35.7.

LB Nate Johnson
Tied for first nationally in sacks by a freshman with 7.5 during the regular season … No other Sun Belt freshman had more than 4.0 sacks during the regular season … Has stood out after App State lost fellow outside linebackers Nick Hampton (NFL Draft) and Jalen McLeod (transfer to Auburn) following the 2022 season … In addition to 7.5 sacks, had 8.5 tackles for loss and 37 tackles during the regular season … According to PFF data, ranked in the top 10 in the Sun Belt with his 32 pressures, including 20 QB hurries … Ranks No. 5 in win percentage against his blocker among Sun Belt edge rushers … Multiple-sack games on the road against both JMU and ODU … Pass-rush grade of 79.1 from PFF.

K Michael Hughes
Made 16 of 19 field-goal attempts and all 51 PATs during the regular season to rank as the Sun Belt’s second-leading scorer among kickers … Went a perfect 8-for-8 on field goals in league games … Made both attempts of 50-plus yards this season, including a game-winning, deficit-erasing 54-yarder as time expired in a road win at ULM … Tied a career high with four made field goals at Wyoming and made two field goals in a two-overtime loss at No. 17 UNC, the overtime win at No. 18 JMU and the rivalry win against Georgia Southern.

OL Jack Murphy
Ranked No. 2 among Sun Belt starting offensive tackles with a 71.5 overall grade from PFF during the regular season, with a 73.5 run-blocking grade that was also No. 2 among starting Sun Belt tackles … Just two sacks allowed in 455 pass-blocking snaps (fourth-lowest total among full-time tackles in the Sun Belt).

WR Kaedin Robinson
In an offense that spreads the ball to nine-plus pass-catchers nearly every game, emerged as the top target and led all Sun Belt players with 10 touchdown catches during the regular season … Tops App State receivers with 53 catches and 717 yards … His 10 TD grabs are the most by a Mountaineer since 2018 and tied for fifth-most in a season in school history … Has had 100-yard games against ULM, ODU and Georgia Southern … Scored six touchdowns during the last four games of the regular season, including two apiece against James Madison and Georgia Southern in the final two games … Also scored touchdowns against Gardner-Webb, ECU, ULM and ODU.

RB Kanye Roberts
In the last six games of the regular season, had three different 109-yard rushing games as well as a 77-yard game … In Sun Belt play, ranked eighth in the league with 494 yards on 88 carries (5.6 per-carry average) … Scored four of five touchdowns during the regular season in league play, with TDs against ECU, ULM, Southern Miss, Georgia State and Georgia Southern … Finished regular season with 595 yards on 100 rushing attempts, plus 11 catches for 97 yards.

DB Jordan Favors
Tied for the Sun Belt lead with four interceptions during the regular season … Also had eight pass breakups (for 12 passes defended), 36 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, one forced fumble and one blocked extra point … Had two second-half interceptions in the 31-9 win against Marshall and a second-half interception against Georgia Southern to set up a key touchdown that helped the Mountaineers gain separation from the Eagles … Also intercepted a pass against ECU … Made a big stop on a two-point conversion in the double-overtime loss at North Carolina … Blocked an extra point, broke up a two-point pass and forced a fumble in the second half of the comeback win at ULM.

DL Santana Hopper
Started the final four games of the regular season at defensive tackle, as App State won all four games against bowl-eligible teams … During a four-game stretch against ODU, Southern Miss, Marshall and Georgia State, totaled 16 tackles and 5.5 tackles for loss, including 2.0 during the 31-9 win against Marshall … Had 1.5 sacks at ODU … Finished regular season with 31 tackles … Credited with 11 QB hurries by PFF, including a combined seven in back-to-back games against Southern Miss and Marshall.