NEW ORLEANS – Georgia Southern's Willie Fritz was voted the Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year by his coaching peers and members of the media as the Eagle Football team claimed the 2014 conference crown, going a perfect 8-0 in its first year of membership in the league. The Sun Belt Conference announced the selections today for its all-conference team with 11 Eagle student-athletes recognized for honors following this historic inaugural year.
Sophomore running back Matt Breida, seniors Manrey Saint-Amour and Garrett Frye, both offensive linemen, and senior linebacker Edwin Jackson, were chosen for first-team All-Sun Belt Conference accolades. Sophomore quarterback Kevin Ellison and junior safety Matt Dobson were placed on the second team.
Added to the Sun Belt All-Newcomer team was Georgia Southern redshirt-freshman running back L.A. Ramsby. Four more Eagles, senior offensive lineman Logan Daves, sophomore defensive lineman Jay Ellison, senior safety Deion Stanley and junior linebacker Antwione Williams earned honorable mention recognition.
"Everyone contributed to our success in this championship season and these honors today represent what we accomplished as team," said Eagle Head Coach Willie Fritz. "I couldn't be prouder of our players and our coaching staff for their commitment and effort as we started our journey this year."
For Fritz, it is his second conference Coach of the Year honor after his 2011 Sam Houston State team went undefeated in Southland Conference play with a 7-0 record and advanced to the national championship game. With the nine wins against only three losses in 2014, his career record improves to 185-70 for a winning percentage of 72.5.
The Sun Belt Conference's coaches and a member of the media representing each team voted on the list of candidates for the teams with points assigned for rankings for each position. The first and second teams are compromised of 12 offensive players (1 QB, 3 WR, 2 RB, 1 TE, 5 OL), 12 defensive players (4 DL, 3 LB, 4 DB, 1 at large selection) and 4 special team players (K, P, Return Specialist and All Purpose).
A Doak Walker Award semifinalist, Breida led both the nation and Sun Belt in rushing yards per carry at 8.7 and ranked at the top of the Sun Belt rushing chart at 123.8 yards. per game. He had more rushing touchdowns of 50-yards or more than anyone in the nation (7) and had the second-highest rushing touchdowns in the league with 17. Paving the way for the nation's most potent rushing offense, Georgia Southern's offensive line, with 12-game starters Frye and Saint-Amour, helped the Eagles rack up 381.1 yards per game and two of the top four single-game rushing totals in FBS in 2014. Georgia Southern also set a Sun Belt Conference record for rushing TDs with 55 and added 1,409 yards to the league's previous single-season rushing record with 4,573 in 2014. The Eagles' leading tackler for the second-straight year, Jackson totaled 100 on the year and had his first first career interception at South Alabama, returning it for 48 yards to the USA 12 to set up Eagles' final score in their first-ever conference win.
Two of the toughest Eagles landed on All-Sun Belt Conference second teams with Kevin Ellison the pick for quarterback and Matt Dobson at the defensive back position. Ellison, twice named the Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Week, crossed the 1,000-yard rushing mark with 1,096 yards to go along with 1,001 passing yards on the season. He had one of his best games vs. non-conference foe Georgia Tech, directing the Eagles to 28 unanswered points and accounting for 212 yards of total offense. Dobson helped the Eagles preserve the win with a pass break up inside the one-yard line the final seconds against ULM. He also had a 100-yard interception return for a touchdown, one of his two such on the year, to set a Sun Belt Conference mark for longest return.
L.A. Ramsby earned a spot on the All-Newcomer team, scoring 12 touchdowns in his first campaign in 2014 and finishing third in rushing behind Breida and Ellison with 691 yards. He averaged 4.7 yards per carry and added 100 receiving yards on six catches.