2 Jaguars on All-SBC preseason 1st team
NEW ORLEANS – The preseason honors continued to roll in for the University of South Alabama football program Friday as rising senior defensive back Jeremy Reaves and junior offensive lineman Noah Fisher each earned first-team preseason all-Sun Belt Conference honors as announced by the league office.
The duo joins senior running back Xavier Johnson and linebacker Darrell Songy, who were also named to the second-team all-league as voted on by the 12 SBC head coaches.
Reaves — who was a first-team all-SBC selection both during the preseason and postseason in 2016 — continues to stack up the accolades this summer. Along with the first-team all-league honor, the Pensacola, Fla., native has also been named to both the Paycom Jim Thorpe Award and Broko Nagurski Trophy Watch Lists as well as preseason first-team all-conference accolades by five different publications during the offseason.
Last year Reaves was credited with 85 total tackles, with 5½ of those behind the line of scrimmage, and seven passes broken up to go along with three interceptions and a pair of forced fumbles. The safety will begin his final year at the collegiate level among the top five in three different statistical categories on USA's all-time record list. Reaves is tied for first with six forced fumbles, tied for second after intercepting five passes thus far in his career and he stands fifth with a total of 197 tackles.
As a sophomore, Fisher started all 13 contests, with all but one of those coming at right tackle. He received an 85 percent mark for the year after grading out at 85 percent or better on seven occasions; that included four contests with a mark above 90 percent, most on the squad. The Decatur, Ga., native recorded a team-best 36 cut blocks — 14 more than any other Jaguar up front — and was second with 30 knockdowns.
He shared team-high honors with a 95 percent grade against Air Force at the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl and earned a mark of 91 percent following South's victory over New Mexico State in the regular-season finale to help the Jaguars become bowl eligible for the second time in three years. Fisher also had eight cut blocks and an 85 percent mark to help the Jags earn their first-ever victory over a nationally-ranked opponent with defeat of No. 19 San Diego State, and led USA with seven knockdowns and a 91 percent grade at Sun Belt co-champion Arkansas State.
Like Reaves, Johnson has also received national preseason recognition for the second straight year as the Tampa, Fla., native was named to the Paul Hornung Award Watch List earlier this week. Johnson — who earned second-team preseason honors at both the running back and special teams positions — enters the 2017 campaign ranked first at South Alabama in several career categories – rushing yards per game (61.8), 100-yard rushing games (9), kickoff return average (25.32), kickoff return touchdowns (2) and all-purpose yards per game (93.6), while ranking in the top five in several other categories.
Johnson earned honorable mention all-SBC honors for the second consecutive season at the end of the 2016 campaign and was named second-team all-league as a running back and kick return specialist by Phil Steele Publications after leading USA with 831 yards rushing, 10 rushing touchdowns, 523 yards on kickoff returns and 1,440 all-purpose yards; he also caught 13 passes for 86 yards. As a junior, he paced the Sun Belt in all-purpose yards and was fifth in rushing, ending up among the top 100 individuals in the country in both categories, while Johnson was also among the top 10 in the conference in kickoff return average and scoring. His season totals also ranked second-most on the season record lists for rushing touchdowns, all-purpose yards and all-purpose yards per contest, third in yards rushing and total touchdowns scored, and fourth in average rushing yards per game and kickoff return yards.
In his first season with the program, Songy made an immediate impact on the defensive side of the ball as he led the Jaguars with 100 tackles, the sixth-highest season total in school history. The New Orleans, La., resident started all but one of South's 13 games and was credited with 7½ stops behind the line of scrimmage including a sack, four quarterback hurries, one fumble recovery and one pass broken up as well. The linebacker led the squad in tackles on a team-high four occasions and for his play he was named to the Sun Belt's All-Newcomer Team.
Songy's best performance of the season came in the USA's bowl game as he posted a career-high 16 tackles against Air Force, which ranked fifth on the school game record list and was the most by a Jag on the year. That total against the Falcons also included a pair of stops for a loss of five yards. Songy recorded a game-best 14 stops — with two behind the line — at Sun Belt co-champion Arkansas State, while also racking up double-digit tackle totals against Presbyterian and Louisiana-Monroe, as well.