Aplin wins SBC Player of Year, again; Red Wolves dominate awards
JONESBORO - Arkansas State senior quarterback Ryan Aplin earned Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year honors for the second consecutive year, wide receiver J.D. McKissic was named Freshman of the Year and 10 Red Wolves made the all-conference squad announced Wednesday by the league office.
Arkansas State saw at least 10 players earn All-Sun Belt Conference recognition for the third consecutive year and the sixth time overall since the league's inaugural 2001 season. A-State had five offensive, four defensive and one special teams players earn a spot on the team, and its 10 total players selected were the most in the league.
Aplin became just the second player in Sun Belt history to be named the conference's Player of the Year two times, joining former North Texas defensive lineman Brandon Kennedy (2002-03). Along with former running back Danny Smith (2002), Aplin is one of two ASU?players to ever earn the conference's highest football honor.
Aplin helped lead Arkansas State to a 9-3 regular-season record and a 7-1 Sun Belt mark to claim its second straight league title and a spot in the GoDaddy.com Bowl. The Red Wolves are receiving votes in both major Top 25 polls and are listed No. 34 and No. 37 in the CBSSports.com 124 and BCS rankings, respectively.
Aplin finished the regular season ranked No. 1 in the conference in total offense (3,572 yards) and passing efficiency (155.8) and No. 2 in passing yards (3,129). He broke his school record for passing touchdowns with 23 and was named the Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Week three straight times to end the regular season. Aplin is already the Sun Belt Conference's all-time leader in career total offense and passing yards, and he needs just seven completions in the bowl game to break the league record as well.
McKissic becomes the second Arkansas State player to ever be named the Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year, joining former running back Reggie Arnold (2006). McKissic currently has 92 receptions, the most ever by an ASU or Sun Belt freshman, and needs just two more to break the school record for a single season. He ranks No. 2 in the league in receptions per game (7.7) and No. 5 in receiving yards (909). McKissic needs 81 yards in ASU's bowl game to become the third player in school history to record 1,000 receiving yards in a season.
Joining Aplin as A-State first-team selections were junior running back David Oku, senior offensive lineman Zach McKnight, junior defensive lineman Ryan Carrethers and senior linebacker Nathan Herrold.
Oku is ranked second in the league in rushing yards with 1,024, making him the 13th ASU player to ever record a 1,000-yard rushing season. McKnight has helped lead ASU to a school-record 481.8 yards of total offense per game and is part of an offensive line that is ranked 16th in the nation in sacks allowed. Carrethers has posted 63 tackles this season for the most among all interior linemen in the conference.
Herrold, who was a strong candidate for Defensive Player of the Year, ended the regular season with 109 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, three interceptions, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. Herrold's 109 tackles are the third most in the conference and the most by an ASU player since former safety Tyrell Johnson had 112 in 2005.
Joining McKissic as second-team choices for the Red Wolves were senior defensive end Tim Starson and junior kicker Brian Davis. Starson record 67 tackles, the most this year by a Sun Belt defensive lineman and the most by an ASU defensive lineman since 2002. He also posted a team-high 12.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks.
Davis was a Lou Groza Award semifinalist this year and named the league's Special Teams Player of the Week twice. He has posted a school-record 99 points by kicking and his 16 field goals made are the fifth most in ASU history.
Senior wide receiver Taylor Stockemer and sophomore linebacker Qushaun Lee were both named Honorable Mention. Stockemer will end his career as ASU's all-time leader in career touchdown receptions and he is currently fifth all-time in receptions (127). He has 2,130 career receiving yards, the third most in Arkansas State history.
Lee ended the regular season as A-State's second leading tackler (87) and ranked eighth in the Sun Belt Conference in the stat. He was named a Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Week and also has an interception, three pass break-ups, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery to his credit.
ASU will play No. 25 Kent State in the GoDaddy.com Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala., on Jan. 6 at 8 p.m. in an ESPN-televised game. Fans are strongly encouraged to purchase GoDaddy.com Bowl tickets only through the ASU Ticket Office to directly support the Red Wolves and to ensure they receive priority seating within the designated A-State area.
Bowl tickets are only $45 per ticket when purchased through the ASU Ticket Office. Fans can go to AStateRedWolves.com to order tickets, and the ASU Ticket Office, located at the Convocation Center's lower red entrance, is taking walk-up and telephone (870-972-ASU1 or 888-278-3267) orders.