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Sporting News, ESPN Put Apps Atop Sun Belt; 13 All Sun Belt Players for App State     

Senior safety Doug Middleton received first-team preseason all-Sun Belt recognition from Sporting News and Phil Steele. Photo courtesy Allyson Lamb / App State Sports
Senior safety Doug Middleton received first-team preseason all-Sun Belt recognition from Sporting News and Phil Steele. Photo courtesy Allyson Lamb / App State Sports

Various media outlets have begun to release their 2015 college football predictions and two of the nation’s most respected news sources — Sporting News and ESPN — have Appalachian State University football ranked atop the Sun Belt Conference.

In its 2015 college football yearbook, Sporting News picks Appalachian State to win its first Sun Belt title and appear in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl against Nevada of the Mountain West. Penned by Tim Buckley of the Lafayette (La.) Daily Advertiser, the Mountaineers are followed by UL Lafayette, Georgia Southern, Arkansas State, Texas State, Troy, South Alabama, UL Monroe, Georgia State, New Mexico State and Idaho in the Sporting News’ Sun Belt preview.

Individually, Appalachian State defensive lineman Ronald Blair (Greensboro, Ga./Greene County), linebacker John Law (Atlanta, Ga./Grady) and defensive back Doug Middleton (Winston-Salem, N.C./Parkland) received first-team preseason all-conference recognition from Sporting News.

The Mountaineers also rank first in the Sun Belt, sixth among all teams from “Group of Five” conferences and 53rd nationally in ESPN’s preseason Football Power Index (FPI) rankings. ESPN’s FPI is an estimate of team strength calculated using three major components for each FBS team: prior year’s offense, defense and special teams efficiencies; returning starters and head coach information; and recruiting rankings.

Appalachian is followed in the GPI by Georgia Southern (No. 63 overall), Arkansas State (67), Texas State (92), UL Lafayette (95), UL Monroe (106), South Alabama (114), New Mexico State (116), Georgia State (117), Troy (123) and Idaho (124).

Appalachian State returns 20 starters (10 offense, 10 defense) from last year’s squad, which won its final six games to finish 7-5 overall and 6-2 in Sun Belt play, good for a third-place finish in its first season in the league. The Mountaineers’ six-game winning streak is the fifth-longest in NCAA Division I FBS going into the 2015 campaign.

 Phil Steele’s 2015 College Football Preview has unveiled its preseason all-Sun Belt teams and 13 Mountaineers are represented on the four-team squad.

Leading the way are first-team selections Blair and Middleton. Law and running back Marcus Cox (Dacula, Ga./Dacula) are second-team honorees. Wide receiver Malachi Jones (Roswell, Ga./Central Gwinnett), tight end Barrett Burns (Woodstock, Ga./Etowah), offensive lineman Jesse Chapman (Cookeville, Tenn./Cookeville) and linebacker Kennan Gilchrist (Abbeville, S.C./Abbeville) received third-team recognition. Quarterback Taylor Lamb (Calhoun, Ga./Calhoun), offensive lineman Beau Nunn (York, S.C./York Comprehensive), linebacker Eric Boggs (Belton, S.C./Belton-Honea Path), defensive backLatrell Gibbs (Kennesaw, Ga./North Cobb) and punt returner Bobo Beathard (Haymarket, Va./Battlefield) represent App State on the fourth team.

APP STATE TRIO NAMED TO HAMPSHIRE HONOR SOCIETY: Three graduated football student-athletes — tight end Drew Bailey (Spartanburg, S.C./Dorman), offensive lineman Graham Fisher(Waynesville, N.C./Tuscola) and quarterback Logan Hallock (Ferguson, N.C./West Wilkes) — earned spots on the National Football Foundation’s prestigious 2015 Hampshire Honor Society.

To be nominated for the Hampshire Honor Society, a football student-athlete must have: just completed his final year of playing eligibility or already graduated and officially declared for the NFL Draft; been a starter or significant contributor during the 2014 season; and achieved a minimum 3.2 grade point average throughout the entire course of undergraduate study.

Bailey graduated from Appalachian State with a bachelor’s degree in marketing in May 2014 and is pursuing an MBA. Fisher and Hallock graduated magna cum laude in December 2014 with bachelor’s degrees in finance and banking and physical education, respectively.

With the Sept. 5 home opener versus Howard barely two months away, be sure to visit appstatesports.com/tickets to purchase 2015 season tickets. Full- and half-season packages remain available.

Season tickets are the only way to guarantee seats for highly anticipated games like the opener vs. Howard, homecoming vs. Wyoming (Oct. 3), nationally televised tilts vs. Georgia Southern (Oct. 22) and Arkansas State (Nov. 5), Family Weekend vs. Troy (Oct. 31) and what might turn out to be a battle with Sun Belt championship implications vs. UL Lafayette (Nov. 29).

In addition to being available online, tickets can also be purchased by phone at (828) 262-2079 or in person at the Appalachian State athletics ticket office, located at the Holmes Center.