Four Jacksonville State football players were named 2019 Preseason All-Americans by HERO Sports, which released its teams on Thursday.
Wide Receiver Josh Pearson, safety Marlon Bridges and long snapper Josh Brady were First Team selections, while quarterback Zerrick Cooper was a Third Team pick.
The national outlet also released its Preseason Top 25 this week, which had the Gamecocks sixth. JSU is coming off a 9-4 record, and its Ohio Valley Conference-record fifth-straight conference title. It finished 10th in the final STATS poll from 2018 and 13th in the AFCA FCS Coaches Poll.
All four Gamecocks named to HERO Sports' Preseason All-America Team received postseason All-America honors of some sort last season. Pearson was a First Team All-American by Phil Steele, STATS, and the Associated Press and was a Second Team All-American by HERO. Bridges was an AFCA First Team All-American while grabbing Second Team honors from AP and Third-Team from Phil Steele. HERO Sports named Brady a Second-Team All-American and Cooper a Sophomore All-American.
Pearson led all Division I players with 17 touchdown receptions during the regular season. The Decatur, Ala., native caught six more touchdown passes in a season than any other player in school history, while his 67 catches and 1,123 yards were each second-most in a season in JSU history.
The All-America honors came following the junior's naming as an All-Ohio Valley Conference performer and after he was named one of 25 finalists for the Walter Payton Award, given annually to the Offensive Player of the Year in FCS.
Bridges added to his trophy case with his three All-America awards in 2018 after garnering first-team accolades from the AFCA and second-team honors from the Associated Press earlier this offseason. He was named to the second team in 2017, his fifth All-America nod of the season, following being named a preseason All-American by STATS, HERO Sports, Athlon and Lindy's. The safety was named a first team All-OVC defender for a third consecutive year following the 2018 campaign.
Despite fighting through an early season injury that held him off the field in parts of games at the beginning of the Gamecocks' slate, the junior from Lanett, Ala., had 52 stops, 1.5 for a loss, an interception and a forced fumble in the regular season. He totaled eight tackles against Maine and nine against ETSU during the FCS playoffs, including pick-six for 32 yards against the Bucs in the first round. He was a candidate for the Buck Buchanan Award, given to the top defensive player in the FCS.
Brady grabbed his first career All-America honor last year after appearing on the HERO Sports Preseason All-America team prior to the 2018 season. The Chattanooga, Tenn., native was a key part in the Gamecock special teams, snapping every punt, PAT and field goal try in a season that saw the Gamecocks score 520 points, the third-most in a season in school history.
Cooper had the best passing season in school history in 2018, setting new school records with 3,416 yards, 32 touchdown passes, and 251 completions. His 290.9 yards of total offense per game are also a new school record.
The Jonesboro, Ga., native ranked third nationally in touchdown passes and fourth in passing yards in 2018, while also finishing among the national leaders in passing efficiency (13th- 147.6) and total offense (15th- 290.9). With just one season under his belt at JSU, he already ranks seventh in school history in career touchdown passes and 10th in career passing yards.
The Gamecocks will play a school-record seven home games during the 2019 regular season, beginning with a Sept. 7 home opener vs. Chattanooga. Also visiting in non-conference play are preseason No. 7 Eastern Washington on Sept. 14.