2018 Sun Belt Awards
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: JUSTICE HANSEN, ARKANSAS STATE
Hansen, a two-time, All-Sun Belt first-team selection and 2017 Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year, leads the league in total offense per game (297.3), passing yards per game (264.3), passing touchdowns (27) and points responsible for (202). His 27 passing touchdowns are already the second-most in school history. Hansen enters the Red Wolves’ bowl game in the conference’s career top 10 in two categories – second in passing touchdowns (83) and sixth all-time leader in total offense (10,807). He is listed on eight major award watch lists, including the Walter Camp, Maxwell and Senior Bowl.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: RONHEEN BINGHAM, ARKANSAS STATE
Bingham paces the Sun Belt and ranks tied for 21st in nation in sacks (9.0, 0.75 per game). He also leads the league and ranks tied for 11th in tackles for loss (18.5, 1.5 per game). Bingham has been responsible for at least a 0.5 tackle for loss in 10 games and credited for multiple tackles behind the line of scrimmage in six outings. His 5.4 tackles per game ranks tied for eighth in the nation among defensive linemen. Bingham posted double-figure stops in two games, including a career-high 13 tackles against Louisiana on Oct. 27.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: ZAC THOMAS, APPALACHIAN STATE
Thomas tops the Sun Belt and ranks 13th in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision with a 79.9 QBR rating. He ranks among the nation’s best in passing efficiency (152.6), yards per attempt and yards per completion. Appalachian State is 8-1 overall and 6-0 in conference games this season in games Thomas played the full game. He threw 21 touchdowns in his sophomore campaign.
NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR: KIRK MERRITT, ARKANSAS STATE
Merritt has come up big in his first season with the Red Wolves, leading the Sun Belt in receptions per game (6.3), which sits tied for 20th nationally. He also leads the league in receptions (75) and receiving yards (939). Merritt hauled in a career-high 11 receptions at Georgia Southern on Sept. 29 and at Coastal Carolina at Nov. 10, which tied for seventh-most in a single game in school history. In the victory over the Chanticleers, his 11 catches went for a career-high 180 yards, which ranks as the ninth-most in school history.
FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR: MARCEL MURRAY, ARKANSAS STATE
Murray has made an immediate impact in his first season at Arkansas State, finishing the regular season ranked in the Sun Belt’s top 10 in two categories – fourth in rushing yards per attempt (5.8) among players with at least 100 carries and tied for eighth in rushing yards per game (66.1). He is the only freshman in the Sun Belt on offense or defense ranked among the top 10 in the league in multiple statistical categories. Murray recorded two 100-yard rushing games, including a career-high 121 yards against Louisiana.
COACH OF THE YEAR: SCOTT SATTERFIELD, APPALACHIAN STATE
Satterfield guided Appalachian State to the East Division title and the right to host the inaugural Sun Belt Football Championship Game with a 9-2 record overall and a 7-1 mark in league play. He earned his 50th win at the school with the victory over Troy on Nov. 24. Satterfield ranks third in coaching wins in program history behind Jerry Moore (215) and E.C. Duggins (57). He is tied for sixth nationally with 39 wins since 2015 and holds a 43-7 record against opponents from Group of Five conferences and a 34-6 record against Sun Belt opponents.