It’s been a fun first four weeks of the season and the Sun Belt has given us a lot to digest. We’ve seen some disappointments and the league has yet to produce a big time non-conference win. However, we’ve witnessed pleasant surprises to start the season such as the rise of New Mexico State and ULM picking up the biggest win of the Matt Viator era.
Since we’re a quarter of the way through the season, it seems like a good time to assess the Player of the Year race. Below I’ll list the top five candidates for the award at this point in the season. Remember, there is a long way to go as we have just now started league play but there are definitely individuals that have begun to separate themselves.
1.) Tyler Rogers (Quarterback, New Mexico State)
2017 stats: 65.3% completions, seven yards per attempt, 353.3 passing yards per game, 14 total touchdowns (12 passing, 2 rushing), four interceptions
The Aggies have gotten off to a fast 2-2 start as they were able to knock off their hated rivals New Mexico and UTEP for the first time in the same season since 2002. Rogers has been a big reason why as he has attempted at least 43 passes in each game and has tossed for over 330 yards in three of the four contests. Rogers has been one of the best Group of Five quarterbacks to this point of the season as the sixth year senior is playing the best football of his career. If he keeps up this high level play and the Aggies make the postseason, there is no way he isn’t the Sun Belt’s player of the year.
2.) Justice Hansen (Quarterback, Arkansas State)
2017 stats: 68.8% completions, 7.9 yards per pass attempt, 328.3 passing yards per game, 10 passing touchdowns, two interceptions
The Red Wolves have only played three games to start the season, but Hansen is much improved in his second season as the starter behind center. Blake Anderson has taken control of the offense and Hansen is reaping the benefits as he’s on pace for 40 touchdown passes. As the season goes on, expect Hansen’s rushing numbers to take a big jump and the junior will have the opportunity to post some monster numbers in Fun Belt play.
3.) Taylor Lamb (Quarterback, Appalachian State)
2017 stats: 60.8% completions, 8.3 yards per pass attempt, 248.5 passing yards per game, 131 rushing yards, 6.2 yards per carry, nine total touchdowns (eight passing, one rush)
The Mountaineers have fallen short in their two games against Power Five competition this fall but it wasn’t because of Lamb. The senior is a four-year starter at quarterback and he’s playing the best ball of his career has he’s already tossed for over 300 yards in two games. The Georgia native did not top the 300-yard passing mark once last season. Lamb is also a threat with his legs and App State is still the team to beat as Sun Belt play gets going.
4.) Caleb Evans (Quarterback, ULM)
2017 stats: 63.9% completions, seven yards per pass attempt, 167.7 passing yards per game, 227 rushing yards, 6.3 yards per rush, nine total touchdowns (two passing, seven rushing)
This may be a little bit of an overreaction at this point, but the monster performance by the sophomore at UL-Lafayette needs to be looked at. In the upset win. Evans scored five touchdowns on the ground, passed for one score, and accumulated 472 total yards. After struggling in the opener against Memphis, Evans played well against Southern Miss before the monster performance this past Saturday. This could be an emerging star in the Sun Belt.
5.) Dalton Herrington (Linebacker, New Mexico State)
2017 stats: 42 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks
We couldn’t have this list without involving a player from the defensive side of the football. Herrington, the senior from Texas, leads the league in tackles, tackles for loss, and sacks to this point in the season. The NMSU defense is much improved in 2017 and Herrington is a big reason why. The Aggies have been one of the biggest surprises in college football this season and Herrington has a lot to do with that.
Outside looking in: Aaron Duckworth (Idaho), Larry Rose III (NMSU), Jaleel Scott (NMSU), Alfonso Onunwor (Idaho), Jeremy Reaves (South Alabama)