Trojans earn preseason All-Conference honors

Published 12:41 pm Thursday, May 25, 2023

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As the summer draws closer, various outlets will begin releasing their preseason All-Conference honors and this week, Athlon Sports named 10 Troy Trojans to it’s Preseason All-Sun Belt Team.

Defensive end TJ Jackson, bandit Richard Jibunor and cornerback Reddy Steward each earned first-team honors, while running back Kimani Vidal, bandit Javon Solomon, cornerback O’shai Fletcher and safety Dell Pettus each took second-team honors. Offensive lineman Grant Betts, linebacker Jayden McDonald and receiver Jabre Barber also earned third-team honors, while Barber earned fourth-team honors as a kick returner.

Jackson is coming off a career season in 2022 that saw him earn All-Sun Belt honors as he tallied 55 tackles, 14.5 tackles-for-loss, eight sacks and two forced fumbles. Jibunor has earned All-Sun Belt honors three straight years and last season totaled 41 tackles, 11 tackles-for-loss, 7.5 sacks and one interception. Steward also took All-Sun Belt honors for the second straight season as he notched 63 tackles, one tackle-for-loss, three interceptions and 15 pass breakups.

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Vidal earned hits third straight All-Sun Belt selection last season after breaking 1,000 yards rushing for the first time in his career and becoming just the second Trojan to ever rush for 200 yards or more in back-to-back games. His 242 yards against ULM was the second-most in a game in school history. He ended the season with 1,132 yards and 10 touchdowns rushing. Solomon is a three-time All-Sun Belt selection and last season, he totaled 44 tackles, 7.5 tackles-for-loss and 4.5 sacks. Fletcher is coming off a career season that saw him earn 40 tackles, three tackles-for-loss and eight pass breakups. Pettus has earned All-Sun Belt honorable mention twice and was a 2020 All-Sun Belt selection, as well. Last season he tallied 66 tackles, one tackle-for-loss and two pass breakups.

Betts has started 37 consecutive games for the Trojans and is one of the key returners of the Trojan offensive line this season. McDonald, a Kansas State transfer in 2020, has seen his past two seasons cut short due to injury. He played in just three games last season, netting 13 tackles and two tackles-for-loss before a knee injury put an end to his season. He’s expected to be one of the players to replace the production lost by the departures of inside linebackers Carlton Martial and KJ Robertson. Barber also saw his 2022 season end prematurely after suffering an ankle injury in the sixth game of the season. He was Troy’s leading receiver when he went down with injury, totaling 25 catches for 351 yards and two touchdowns. He also returned five kickoffs for 130 yards.