Stone Snyder ’23, VMI junior linebacker, was named 2021 SoCon Preseason Defensive Player of the Year, and six Keydets earned spots on the league’s all-conference preseason squads announced July 26, 2021, at the Kickoff Media Day event held at the Doubletree Hotel in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.
VMI, which enters the fall as defending SoCon football champions after winning the trophy in the spring with a 6-1 regular-season mark, was picked to finish second in the preseason media poll and third in the coaches’ poll.
Named to the All-SoCon preseason first team were Jakob Herres’22, wide receiver; Marshall Gill ’22, offensive lineman; Snyder at linebacker; and Ethan Caselberry ’22, defensive back. Seth Morgan ’23, redshirt sophomore quarterback, landed a spot on the preseason second team, along with Warren Dabney ’22, defensive lineman. The conference coaches voted on the teams.
In helping VMI last spring win its first SoCon title since 1977, Snyder emerged as one of the top defensive players in the FCS. He was named the 2020-21 Southern Conference Defensive Player of the Year in both the media and coaches’ polls after leading the league in tackles per game (11.0)—76 in seven regular-season games, including a career-high 21 versus The Citadel. Snyder had 9.5 tackles for loss (64 yards), eight sacks (62 yards), and four QB hurries. He also had 12 tackles in the first round of the playoffs against No. 1 James Madison April 24 and finished third in voting for the Buck Buchanan FCS defensive Player of the Year honor. Snyder was a multiple All-American and named to Stats Perform, Athlon, and Hero Sports first teams. He was also named State Defensive Player of the Year by VaSID, the Commonwealth’s sports information directors.
Herres earned 2020-21 Southern Conference Offensive Player of the Year in both the coaches’ and media voting. He led the Keydets in receiving during the season with 80 catches for 978 yards and eight touchdowns, averaging 12.2 yards per grab and 122.2 yards per game, all of which led the Southern Conference. Herres was a consensus All-America first team selection to include Stats Perform, AFCA, and Athlon teams. He was also one of 16 finalists for the Stats Perform Walter Payton Award for the national FCS Offensive Player of the Year and finished fourth in the voting.
Gill was named 2020-21 All-Southern Conference first team offense by the media and coaches’ teams—the only Keydet offensive lineman to get the first team double-honor. He also was selected second team All-State by Virginia College Sports Information Directors and provided a solid foundation for the offensive line at left tackle.
Caselberry is one of three returning starters in the secondary and was voted 2020-21 second-team All-Southern Conference on both the coaches and media squads. The veteran posted 44 tackles last spring and led the team with six pass breakups and intercepted two passes, which tied for fifth on the team defensive charts. He was also fourth on the team in TFL with 5.0 for 27 yards, including two sacks.
Morgan took over for the injured Reece Udinski ’21 at quarterback in mid-season and guided the Keydet offense the rest of the way to a SoCon title. He returns to the starting signal-caller role. In his first college start at Wofford March 27, he accounted for 375 yards total offense, the second-most in a single game in program history. He completed 122 of 171 passes for 1,374 yards and 10 touchdowns with just four interceptions on the season. Morgan’s .713 completion percentage ranked second in FCS, while his 153.46 pass efficiency ranked ninth in the nation. He was named SoCon Freshman of the Year and State of Virginia Freshman of the Year.
Dabney led all defensive linemen in total tackles with 28 and had 2.5 sacks for 9 yards and two sacks for 9 yards. He posted his top outing in the title-clinching game against The Citadel with a career-high nine tackles, including three solos and six assists, and a sack for 1 yard. He also had four games of at least four tackles and logged four stops in the FCS playoff game against JMU.
VMI’s preseason poll pick of second (media) and third (coaches) is the highest since the poll voting began in 1979. The Keydets previous high pick in the media poll was sixth in 1996 and tied for sixth in the coaches’ poll in 1991.
The Keydets open the season 2021 against Davidson Sept. 4 in Lexington. Tickets are on sale at vmitickets.com or by calling (540) 464-7266.
SoCon Kickoff Media Day interviews with all nine league coaches, including VMI’s Scott Wachenheim, are available for ESPN+ subscribers. To access, click here.
Editor’s Note: This article was first published by vmikeydets.com.