ST. LOUIS –
Led by first-team selections Malik Earl
, Deion Holliman
and Colby Isbell
, Missouri State placed five players on the Missouri Valley Football Conference 2017 Preseason Team, the 10-member conference announced Monday. Additionally, Coleman Clanton
and McNeece Egbim
picked up honorable mention recognition from the league's coaches, media and sports information directors.
Earl was named a first-team wide receiver and Isbell picked up top preseason honors as a defensive lineman, while Holliman garnered the same distinction as a return specialist. Both Clanton (offensive lineman) and Egbim (linebacker) earned honorable mention spots on the Valley's distinguished list as well.
A senior from Oklahoma City, Earl hauled in a team-high 41 receptions for 534 yards and three touchdowns for MSU in 2016 to earn honorable mention All-MVFC recognition. He recorded 29 receptions for 407 yards in MVFC play, ranking fifth among all Valley receivers in receptions per game (4.7) and seventh in receiving yards (58.1 ypg.). For the season, he ranked sevehth overall in the MVFC in receptions (4.1) and eighth in receiving yards per game (53.4).
Holliman has been a first-team All-MVFC pick as one of the top FCS return specialists in each of the last two seasons. The Camden, Ark., product ranked seventh in the FCS in combined kick return yardage (950) last fall and second in the MVFC in kickoff returns (23.5) and third in all-purpose yardage (119.6 ypg.) after topping the 100-yard mark for kickoff returns in four different contests. Holliman brought the season's opening kick back 91 yards for a touchdown and returned a punt 57 yards for a score vs. Southern Illinois, making him the only FCS returner to record both a kickoff and punt return for a touchdown in each of the last two seasons.
For the second year in a row, Isbell started all 11 games on the Bears' defensive line last fall, logging 33 total tackles and team highs of 6.5 sacks, 12.0 tackles for loss and six quarterback hurries. He also broke up three passes and forced a fumble, while ranking sixth in both TFLs and sacks among all MVFC defenders to earn a second-team All-MVFC citation. Isbell, a Rogers, Ark., native, made a career-high seven tackles against both Indiana State and Southwestern, including 5.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks in the latter.
Clanton, a sophomore offensive lineman, started all 11 games of the 2016 as the Bears' left tackle and was named to the MVFC's All-Newcomer Team. He helped lead a unit that allowed just 16 sacks for the year, which ranked second overall in the MVFC and 31st nationally. The Olathe, Kan., native recorded 42 knockdown blocks in his initial college campaign and was an integral part of the Bears' offensive turnaround that included an 80-percent spike in passing yards per game and a 38-percent improvement in total offense per game from the previous season.
Egbim made seven starts at linebacker as a redshirt freshman in 2016, finishing as the Bears' No. 2 tackler with 76 stops for the season. His season tackle total marked the best by a Missouri State rookie since 2011 and earned the Rowlett, Texas, product honorable mention All-MVFC and Valley All-Newcomer recognition. Egbim recorded double-digit tackle efforts in two games while ranking 12th overall (6.9) in tackles per game in the Valley.
The MVFC will announce its annual preseason poll on Tuesday (July 25). The Bears will return 41 lettermen and 17 total offensive and defensive starters under third-year head coach Dave Steckel
, following a 4-7 campaign in 2016. MSU players report to campus Wednesday for preseason camp in preparation for the team's Sept. 2 season opener at Mizzou in Columbia.
Season tickets for the Bears' 2017 season are available now by calling (417) 836-8899 or visiting MissouriStateBears.com