Three Mountaineers named to preseason award lists

By Nathan Ham - [email protected]

Marcus Cox

Doug Middleton

Ronald Blair

BOONE — Marcus Cox, Doug Middleton and Ronald Blair were all chosen as preseason candidates to win four different college football awards.

Cox was named to his second watch list of the preseason. The junior was already on the Maxwell Award and is now one of 69 running backs on the Doak Walker Award list, which is given to the top running back in college football each season.

This is the second year in a row that Cox has been on the preseason Doak Walker list.

So far during his career, Cox has scampered for 2,665 yards and 34 touchdowns. Last year, Cox finished 22nd in Division 1 FBS with 1,415 yards and was 11th in the nation with 19 touchdowns.

He is one of only three representatives from the state of North Carolina on the watch list, joining NC State’s Matt Dayes and Duke’s Shaquille Powell. He is also one of six Sun Belt Conference representatives on list, joining Georgia Southern’s Matt Breida, Troy’s Brandon Burks, Arkansas State’s Michael Gordon, Texas State’s Robert Lowe and Louisiana Lafayette running back Elijah McGuire.

Middleton, a standout senior at defensive back, was named to the Thorpe Award and Wuerffel Trophy watch lists.

The Thorpe Award is given to the top defensive back in the nation each year and the Wuerffel Trophy is presented to the athletes that “best combines exemplary community service with athletic and academic achievement.”

Middleton was a first-team all-Sun Belt Conference selection in 2014 after tying for third in the conference in interceptions (4), ranking fourth in passes defended (10) and tying for 24th in total tackles (74). He was the only Sun Belt player with at least four interceptions, 10 passes defended and 70 tackles. Thanks in large part to its free safety’s efforts, Appalachian State finished with the Sun Belt’s No. 1-ranked defense last season (347.5 ypg).

The fifth-year senior has played in 37 career games with 20 starts. He can play both free and strong safety.

Middleton is one of only two representatives from the state of North Carolina on the Jim Thorpe Award watch list, joining Duke’s Jeremy Cash. He is one of four Sun Belt Conference players on the list, joining Troy’s Montres Kitchens, Louisiana Monroe’s Mitch Lane and Texas State’s David Mims II.

Off the field, Middleton has used his time to not only succeed in the classroom but in the community as well.

Middleton spent this summer working with campus leaders to lobby the North Carolina Legislature in Raleigh for a new building to house Appalachian State’s Beaver College of Health Sciences.

Middleton is one of eight representatives from the Sun Belt Conference on the Wuerffel Trophy watch list, joining Arkansas State’s Fredi Knighten, Georgia Southern’s Matt Dobson, Louisiana Lafayette’s Evan Tatford, New Mexico State’s Andrew Cunningham, South Alabama’s Aleem Sunanon, Texas State’s Brian Guendling and Troy’s Tommy Blevins.

The final Mountaineer on a preseason watch list is senior defensive end Ronald Blair. Blair’s selection to the preseason watch list for the Lombardi Award was announced on Tuesday.

The Lombardi Award is given to the best lineman (offensive or defensive) or linebacker that not only excels on the field but also values leadership, courage, desire, respect and discipline.

Blair, a fifth-year senior defensive end, has started all 38 games that he has appeared in over his first four collegiate campaigns. He was the heart and soul of the Sun Belt Conference’s top-ranked defense in 2014, when he ranked among the league’s top 10 in both sacks (six) and tackles for loss (13). His 43 total tackles were 13 more than any other Appalachian State defensive lineman and his seven quarterback hurries were tied for the most by a Mountaineer in a single season since 2011.

He has recorded 150 tackles, 13.5 sacks and 34.5 tackles for loss in his career.

Blair is one of 13 Sun Belt Conference representatives on the Lombardi Award watch list.

Nathan Ham can be reached at 336-846-7164 or followed on Twitter @NathanHam87

Marcus Cox Cox

Doug Middleton Middleton

Ronald Blair Blair

By Nathan Ham

[email protected]

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