While a full season of surprises awaits Magnolia State football fans, the Preseason Watch List for the 2022 C Spire Conerly Trophy features a few familiar names. Last year’s winner, Ole Miss Quarterback Matt Corral, has gone on to the NFL, but five of the 2021 nominees return to their respective schools for another year of action and a shot at winning the coveted prize. The prestigious C Spire Conerly Trophy is awarded to the top college football player in the state at the end of the regular football season.
C Spire has been the presenting title sponsor of the C Spire Conerly Trophy since its inception in 1996 and is proud to continue to recognize the outstanding college football student athletes in Mississippi. Previous winners of the C Spire Conerly Trophy have gone on to successful NFL careers including Eli Manning, Jerious Norwood, Dak Prescott, and Evan Engram. Two former recipients, Deuce McAllister and Patrick Willis, have been enshrined in the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame.
The following is a list of standout players from each football-playing university or college in the state to keep an eye on this season:
Alcorn State University: Coach Fred McNair hopes to return to SWAC domination this year and will depend in part on CJ Bolar (WR), Claudin Cherelus (LB), and Niko Duffey (RB).
Belhaven University: Kolbe Blunt (RB), Connor Fordham (LB), and Kendrioun Boatman (OL) are expected to play a major role for Blazer’s Head Coach Blaine McCorkle this season.
Delta State University: The Statesmen will be led into the season with Cole Kirk (QB) at the helm of the offense. On the defensive side of the ball, Tim Williams (DE) is expected to be a top producer for Coach Todd Cooley.
Jackson State University: Sophomore Shedeur Sanders (QB) will return to lead the Tiger offense after a record-setting freshman year earned him a spot as a 2021 C Spire Conerly finalist. He will be joined by two-way player Travis Hunter (WR/CB), the top-rated high school player in the nation last season.
Millsaps College: Coach Issac Carter’s team returns Moïse Tezzo (WR), last year’s nominee from Millsaps. Tezzo, a senior out of Texas, also returns kicks for the Majors.
Mississippi College: The Choctaws are expected to have a healthy ball carrier in Cole Fagan (RB), a senior transfer from the Air Force Academy. Blane Cannon (OL) will be opening holes for Fagan; and Nick Walker (DB), a transfer from Illinois, is expected to be a top defender.
Mississippi State University: Will Rogers (QB) was one of the top contenders for this award last season, and head coach Mike Leach is expecting great things from his junior signal caller. Leading the “Air Raid” offense, Rogers passed for 3,722 yards and 29 touchdowns. Nathan Pickering (DT) should be an anchor on the other side of the ball for the Bulldogs.
Mississippi Valley State University: Memphis native Caleb Johnson (RB) represented MVSU at the 2021 C Spire Conerly and can be found on several Preseason 1st Team Lists and Player Watch Lists for the SWAC this season. Other names to watch for this team include Ronnie Thomas (DL), Jalen Bell (DL), and Caleb Brunson (DB).
University of Mississippi: The quarterback competition for the Rebels is still underway with junior Kinkead Dent joining sophomores Luke Altmyer and Jaxson Dart in the battle. Zach Evans (RB) and Jonathan Mingo (WR) are also names to watch.
University of Southern Mississippi: Coach Will Hall begins his second year leading the Golden Eagles with several potential standouts including last year’s C Spire Conerly nominee Malik Shorts (DB). Other notables are Ty Keyes (QB), Frank Gore, Jr. (RB) and Tylan Knight (DB), a transfer from Ole Miss.