Defending champion Blazers tabbed league favorites in Preseason Poll

Shane Thomas | The Valdosta Daily TimesValdosta State running back Jamar Thompkins (20) carries the ball against Ferris State during the NCAA Division II National Championship game Dec. 15, 2018 in McKinney, Texas

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. –– The defending Gulf South Conference and NCAA Division II National Champion Valdosta State football team was tabbed first in the 2019 GSC Preseason Poll, released Thursday by the league office, along with the 2019 Preseason All-Conference Team. VSU had a league-best nine selections on the preseason all-conference team.

VSU, who had its first perfect season in program history at 14-0 in 2018 with its fourth national championship since 2004, garnered 64 total points and eight of nine first place votes in the poll as voted on by the league’s coaches. League teams were not able to vote for their own team in the poll. West Georgia was tabbed second with 55 points, followed by West Alabama with 49 points.

Receiving the final first place nod was West Florida, who was picked fourth with 44 points, while Florida Tech rounded out the top five with 37 points. Delta State was picked sixth with 28 points, followed by North Greenville (24 points). Mississippi College was tabbed eighth in the poll with 15 points and Shorter was ninth with eight points.

Blazer junior quarterback Rogan Wells, along with sophomore running backs Seth McGill and Jamar Thompkins, junior wide receivers Kenny Benjamin and Lio’undre Gallimore and senior offensive lineman Adonis Sealey comprised a league-high six offensive selections for the Blazers on the preseason all-conference team. On defense, senior defensive lineman Joe Mozone and sophomore linebacker Jameon Gaskin earned spots on the team, as did junior special teams utility player Pippin Davis.

Following VSU with nine selections on the preseason all-league team, West Alabama was second with seven and had five offensive honorees. West Georgia was third with four selections, including two on defense and two on special teams, while Delta State and West Florida each had three selections overall.

Wells, a native of Fort Mill, S.C., had an outstanding sophomore campaign helping lead the Blazers to a record-setting 49-47 victory over Ferris State in the national championship game in McKinney, Texas, Dec. 15, 2018. Wells tossed five touchdown passes tying a national championship game record and he caught a touchdown pass as he broke the NCAA championship game record for touchdowns responsible for in a game. Wells was named GSC Offensive Player of the Year, Super Region Two Player of the Year and was runner-up for the prestigious Harlon Hill Trophy. Wells also earned multiple All-America honors last season.

He finished second nationally in passing touchdowns with 38, while leading the nation in points responsible for (300), 12thin passing efficiency (160.6) to lead the league and 25th nationally in total offense at 271.9 yards per game to lead the GSC. His 3,075 passing yards ranked tenth nationally and first in the conference, while he finished second in the league in rushing touchdowns with 11 for 31st nationally and had 12 total touchdowns for 45th nationally and second in the conference.

Thompkins (Miami, Fla.) led the Blazers in rushing last season for 1,329 yards on 137 attempts, while scoring nine touchdowns on the ground. He earned honorable mention all-America accolades. He was named first team all-conference and earned Co-Offensive Freshman of the Year honors for the GSC. Thompkins finished third in the GSC in all-purpose yards at 99.43 per game and second in rushing yards per game at 94.9 for 37th nationally. McGill (Miami, Fla.) finished third on the team in rushing with 712 yards and tallied 10 rushing touchdowns, while Wells was second in rushing with 732 yards and 11 scores as he earned second team all-conference honors.

Benjamin (Lehigh Acres, Fla.) led the team with 40 catches this past season for 444 yards and seven touchdowns. He also had 17 kick returns for 411 yards in 2018. Gallimore (Miami Gardens, Fla.) led the team in receiving yards with 900 on 36 catches and nine scores. He earned first team all-conference honors and was a second team all-region selection in 2018. Gallimore finished third nationally in receiving yards per reception at 25.00.

Sealey (Hamer, S.C.), had an outstanding season on the line for the Blazers as he earned first team all-conference honors and All-America accolades this past season. He helped lead an offensive line blocking for Wells, while the team averaged 52.0 points per game to lead the nation and the 728 points scored for the season marked a school and conference record. Sealey and the line helped the Blazers average 523.9 yards per game for fourth nationally, while the team rushed for 134.5 yards per game for second in the GSC and averaged 261.3 yards per game passing for tops in the conference and 28th nationally.

Mozone (North Augusta, S.C.) started all 14 games on the defensive line for the Blazers and earned second team all-conference honors last season, as well as second team all-region accolades. He tallied 25 total tackles with 12 solo, seven tackles for loss for 34 yards and three sacks. Mozone had three hurries and one forced fumble on the year. He helped lead a defense to an undefeated season, along with ranking 18th nationally in tackles for loss (8.4) per game and 12thin sacks at 3..29 per contest. VSU finished third in the GSC in total defense allowing 343.7 yards per game. The Blazers finished ninth nationally in red zone defense at .652 for first in the conference.

Gaskin (Douglas, Ga.) had and outstanding freshman season as he earned Defensive Freshman of the Year honors for the GSC. He also earned second team all-region honors last season at linebacker for the Blazers. Gaskin led the team with 75 tackles, including 43 solo stops as he played in all 14 games and started 13. He had 9.5 tackles for loss for 42 yards and four sacks for 36 yards.

Davis (Barnesville, Ga.) was the long snapper for the Blazers last season as he helped VSU senior kicker Andrew Gray to a record-setting season. Gray was a school and conference-best 93 of 96 in extra-points and 17 of 23 in field goals as Gray broke the school and conference record for scoring in a season with 144 points. Davis played in 13 games last season and had two assisted tackles.

The 2019 VSU preseason camp begins Aug. 9 at 8 a.m. at the Athletic Field House as the team will have 15 practices prior to the start of the season. Check back with vstateblazers.com for a complete schedule of the preseason camp on Aug. 2.

VSU will open the 2019 regular season Saturday, Sept. 7, at 7 p.m., at Albany State in Albany, Ga. The 2019 home slate begins Saturday, Sept. 14, as the Blazers welcome Ohio Dominican to Bazemore-Hyder Stadium for a 6 p.m. kickoff.

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