Third and Long - Southern Conference - Championship calling?
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Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Chattanooga didn’t feel quite the same. Following a four-season run in which one Southern Conference team earned a spot in the I-AA National Championship game, the 2002 title game featured Western Kentucky and McNeese State, representatives from (gasp!) the Gateway and Southland Conferences, respectively. In SoCon country, where at least three teams set an annual goal of winning the national title, a one-year absence constitutes a drought.
Some pundits pointed to the league’s atypical parity as a culprit in the playoff exit. Four teams - Georgia Southern, Furman, Appalachian State, and Wofford - were ranked in the national Top 15. The bottom half of the league was no slouch either, as last-place Citadel defeated a ranked Delaware club and probably should have downed I-A Wyoming (the Bulldogs lost, 34-30). Perennial bottom-feeder VMI, in its final SoCon year before defecting to the Big South, went .500 for the first time since 1981 and counted Wofford among its six victories. Was the SoCon’s elite so beaten up from the league schedule that it ran out of gas come playoff time? In a less balanced conference, would Furman and App State have made first-round postseason exits? Could GSU have mustered the strength to get by Western Kentucky in the national semifinals?
Don’t expect the Southern Conference’s power brokers to dwell on these hypotheticals. Georgia Southern has been picked as I-AA’s 2003 preseason No. 1 by more than one organization, and Furman and App have made most Top 10s. No, the league does not appear weaker despite the addition of a fledgling Elon team and the presence of an East Tennessee State unit about to play its final season of football. But a history that includes five I-AA titles (not including four won by GSU before it was a member of the conference) suggests that the Southern, I-AA’s Conference of champions, will rise again come playoff time.
Below is a team-by-team breakdown of the 2003 Southern Conference race, with teams ranked according to The Sports Network’s predicted order of finish.
Sports Network Predicted Order of Finish:
1. GEORGIA SOUTHERN (11-3, 7-1 in Southern).
COACH (RECORD): Mike Sewak (11-3 in one season).
MAJOR DEPARTURES: SB Mark Myers (689 yards, 4 TD), SB Zzream Walden (653 yards, 6 TD), WR Derrick Owens (12 receptions), WR/RS Anthony Williams (26.1 kickoff return avg., 10.8 punt return avg.), C Charles Clarke, T James McCoy, DT Freddy Pesqueira (94 tackles, 7 sacks), DE Winston Hardison (5 sacks), LB Mike Ward (62 tackles), LB Joe Scott (116 tackles), S David Young (75 tackles), P/K Scott Shelton (11-17 FG, 37.3 punting avg.)
OFFENSIVE STAR: QB Chaz Williams (1,422 rushing yards, 27 TD, 1,022 passing yards, 9 TD, 3 INT).
DEFENSIVE STAR: S James Young (68 tackles, 3 INT).
OTHER KEY PIECES: FB Jermaine Austin (1416 yards, 8 TD), SB T.J. Anderson (224 yards), SB Kevin Davis (224 yards, 3 TD), WR Carl Kearney (15 receptions), G Leonard Daggett, T Paul Collins, G Reggie Cordy, NT Eric McIntire (61 tackles), DT Eric Hadley (6.5 sacks), DE DeShawn Jude (4.5 sacks), LB Derrick Butler (87 tackles), LB James Burchett (91 tackles), CB Aaron Whitaker (3 INT), CB Dion Stokes (20 tackles), P/K Sean Holland (1-1 XP).
NEWCOMERS OF NOTE: FB Ken Middleton (True Freshman), WR/RS Teddy Craft (Redshirt Freshman), K Anthony Pisano (Transfer/Auburn).
SCHEDULE: Savannah State (9/6) will attract Paulson Stadium’s largest crowd of the season, but the subsequent two-game road swing with McNeese State (9/13) and Wofford (9/20) will show of what the Eagles are made. The top Statesboro showdowns will be with Furman (11/8) and oft-feisty The Citadel (10/25), and the toughest second-half away trips are to Appalachian State (10/18) and East Tennessee State (11/1).
PROGNOSIS: Following the departure of key defensive players like Pesqueira, David Young, and Scott, the burden for team success will once again fall upon GSU’s storied offensive system. No problem there, as All-Americans Williams and Austin will ensure ball movement and plenty of points. Last year’s starting slotbacks have departed, but Anderson and Davis have experience and should have little trouble filling the voids. Defensively, there is talent, especially on the line where McIntire, Hadley, and Jude will be difficult to contain. James Young will have to take on a leadership role in the secondary following the graduation of David Young, and Holland will have to be reliable in kicking the game, but there are no major holes anywhere in the starting lineup. There is speed, there is toughness, and there is the confidence that six national championships will bring. Look for GSU to claim a seventh straight SoCon title and make a trip to Chattanooga on December 19th.
2. FURMAN (8-4, 6-2 Southern).
COACH (RECORD): Bobby Lamb (8-4 in one season).
MAJOR DEPARTURES: QB Billy Napier (2475 yards, 16 TD, 8 INT), FB Eric Emerson (167 yards, 3 TD), WR Bear Rinehart (70 receptions), G Trevor Kruger, T Steven Cain, G Justin Price, DE Eddie Overdyke (41 tackles), DT LeBryan Sperling (43 tackles), CB Rodney Johnson (6 INT), S Paul Billingsly (68 tackles).
OFFENSIVE STAR: WR Isaac West (39 receptions, 7 TD).
DEFENSIVE STAR: LB Keito Whetstone (87 tackles).
OTHER KEY PIECES: QB Bo Moore (144 passing yards, 2 TD, 1 INT), RB Hindley Brigham (762 yards, 5 TD), RB Lamar Rembert (474 yards, 3 TD), FB Al Means (4 TD), WR/RS Brian Bratton (29 receptions, 5 TD, 19.6 kickoff return avg.), TE Willis Sudderth (8 receptions), C Craig Morgan, G Corey Stewart, T Ben Bainbridge, DE Brandon Poole (2 sacks), DT Justin Porter (22 tackles), NG Michael Burant (23 tackles), LB Cedrick Ritter (111 tackles), LB Mike Killian (101 tackles), S Cam Newton (6 INT), CB T.J. Wilson (40 tackles), K Danny Marshall (12-15 FG).
NEWCOMERS OF NOTE: WR/PR Grant Brigham (Transfer/Vanderbilt), WR Brian Stone (Transfer/Florida), FB Taylor Ownbey (Transfer/West Virginia), G Andrew Thornburg (Transfer/Air Force).
SCHEDULE: The Paladins head straight into conference play with the opener at home against Elon (8/30), followed by three non-league challenges against I-A Clemson (9/6), Richmond (9/20), and Gardner-Webb (9/27). In addition to Elon, the home SoCon schedule includes Appalachian State (10/11) and Wofford (11/15), but the Paladins will have to travel to Statesboro to face Georgia Southern (11/8).
PROGNOSIS: All eyes in Greenville will be upon quarterback Bo Moore, who takes over for the graduated Billly Napier under center. Moore looks to have the necessary weapons - Hindley Brigham and Rembert in the backfield, West and Bratton at receiver - to be a success despite his inexperience and some new faces on the offensive line. It’s on defense, specifically on a line that featured the worst pass rush in the league a year ago, that Lamb will have to do some tweaking. Whetstone will have to be a leader in the center of the linebacking corps, and a pair of sophomores - Maurice Duncan and Keith Johnson - will have to effectively replace the talented Johnson at right corner. If the holes are filled, and history and four straight postseason appearances suggest they will, Furman should be a dangerous playoff team once again.
3. APPALACHIAN STATE (8-4, 6-2 Southern).
COACH (RECORD): Jerry Moore (115-55 in 14 seasons at Appalachian State, 142-103-2 overall).
MAJOR DEPARTURES: QB Joe Burchette (1949 passing yards, 15 TD, 8 INT), RB Jerry Beard (876 yards, 7 TD), FB Joey Hoover (163 yards, 3 TD), WR Andrew Layton (36 receptions, 3 TD), TE Jason Lemay, T Jim Vasquez, T Rodell Simon, G Brady Washburn, C Thomas Herron, G Joe Patrick, NT John Mannino (5.5 sacks), LB Brad West (70 tackles), S/LB Steve Kitchens (35 tackles), S Scott Cornatzer (96 tackles, 3 INT), K Mark Wright (15-23 FG).
OFFENSIVE STAR: WR Sterling Hayward (32 receptions, 346 yards).
DEFENSIVE STAR: DE K.T. Stovall (10 sacks).
OTHER KEY PIECES: QB Richie Williams (220 passing yards, 1 TD, 3 INT, 180 rushing yards, 3 TD), RB Sean Jackson (588 rushing yards), WR Jermane Little (26 receptions, 5 TD), WR/RS DaVon Fowlkes (36 receptions), TE Daniel Bettis (3 TD), T Michael Porter, T Grant Oliver, DE Leon Moore (3.5 sacks), LB Sam Smalls (122 tackles), LB Jerrelle Carter (63 tackles), CB Jay Lyles (17 tackles), CB Derrick Black (42 tackles), S Nygel Rogers (109 tackles), P Nate McKinney (42.2 avg.), K Erik Rockhold (1-1 XP).
NEWCOMERS OF NOTE: QB Eric Elsener (Transfer/Air Force), DL Jermale Ransby (Transfer/Scottsdale CC).
SCHEDULE: An opening road two-fer with Hawaii (8/30) and Eastern Kentucky (9/6) will be tough, but the home lid-lifter with Morehead State (9/20) offers a nice break. A league road schedule that includes The Citadel (9/27), Furman (10/11), and Wofford (10/25) looks daunting, but mighty Georgia Southern (10/18) and rival Western Carolina (11/15) will both be visiting Boone.
PROGNOSIS: App State was a relative disappointment last season, making the playoffs by the skin of its teeth, then falling to a depleted Maine club in the first round. A good portion of last year’s nucleus has graduated, leading some to believe the Mountaineers are the "Big 3" member due for a fall from grace. But Moore’s team is still in a position of strength, particularly on defense where Stovall, Smalls, Rogers, and Black are each All-America-quality players. Offense has major question marks, including at QB, where the team lacks a proven passer, and at RB, where the tiny Jackson (5-6, 155 pounds) must prove he can endure a season’s worth of punishment behind a line that features a number of new starters. If the offense can come together early (and curiously, ASU has no offensive coordinator), a sixth straight playoff appearance might well be in the cards. If the offense struggles, Wofford or Western Carolina could be poised to hurdle the Mountaineers in the SoCon standings.
4. WOFFORD (9-3, 6-2 Southern).
COACH (RECORD): Mike Ayers (90-75-1 in 15 seasons at Wofford, 101-96-2 overall).
MAJOR DEPARTURES: HB Jesse McCoy (1001 yards, 10 TD), FB Melvin Jones (717 yards, 7 TD), C Prosser Carnegie, T Jesse Blackburn, DT Anthony Jones (15.5 sacks), NT Nathan Fuqua (57 tackles), LB Chase Corn (58 tackles), LB Hondre McNeil (63 tackles), LB LaRay Benton (77 tackles), LB Robert Mathis (61 tackles), CB Roland Harris (4 INT), CB Fred Washington (38 tackles), S Brandon Ladd (95 tackles), K Todd Rhoden (3-6 FG).
OFFENSIVE STAR: FB J.R. McNair (707 yards, 9 TD).
DEFENSIVE STAR: S Matt Nelson (131 tackles).
OTHER KEY PIECES: QB Jeff Zolman (564 rushing yards, 6 TD, 476 passing yards), HB Gabriel Jackson (305 yards, 3 TD), WR Shiel Wood (6 receptions), TE Adam Regenthal, T Chad Bentley, G Bobby Gibbs, G Eric Deutsch, DT Lee Basinger (9 sacks), NT Katon Bethay (24 tackles), LB Jim Thurman (75 tackles), LB Timmy Thrift (57 tackles), K Jay Harvey (1-2 FG), P Jimmy Miner (42.2 avg.).
NEWCOMERS OF NOTE: None.
SCHEDULE: The Terriers open on the road at Air Force (8/30), and will also have difficult journeys to Western Carolina (10/18), The Citadel (11/1), and Furman (11/15) along the way. Pivotal home contests include South Carolina State (9/6), Georgia Southern (9/20), and Appalachian State (10/25).
PROGNOSIS: Most thinking people will tell you that Wofford deserved to make the playoffs last season, and nearly as many seem to view the Terriers as a one-hit wonder that will slip back to the middle of the SoCon pack in 2003. Yes, there are major graduation losses, including a 1,000-yard rusher, two top-notch defensive linemen, and the team’s entire starting linebacker corps. But the program deserves a bit more respect than it is being given - you don’t beat Appalachian State and Georgia Southern on the road unless you have a program that is deep and strong and its core. The offense should be fine, with Zolman, McNair, and Jackson all returning as key pieces of the Terriers’ option scheme. The defense has further to go, without a doubt, but players like Nelson, Basinger, and Thurman should be able to stabilize things until the others mature. Despite the undeniable presence of youth in some areas, look for Wofford to make noise in the SoCon race and enter November with playoff hopes intact.
5. WESTERN CAROLINA (5-6, 3-5 Southern).
COACH (RECORD): Kent Briggs (5-6 in one season).
MAJOR DEPARTURES: QB Pat Cilento (1636 passing yards, 8 TD, 5 INT, 227 rushing yards), RB Fred Boateng (330 yards, 8 TD), WR Michael Banks (43 receptions), WR Brenden Roy (23 receptions), G Thomas Pruett, T Caleb Queen, DT Jeb Hall (41 tackles), LB Dunstan Kendrick (60 tackles), S Justin Fryer, CB Ahmed Green (49 tackles), S Pat Leach (65 tackles).
OFFENSIVE STAR: WR Lamont Seward (32 receptions).
DEFENSIVE STAR: DE Michale Spicer (56 tackles, 11 sacks).
OTHER KEY PIECES: QB Brian Gaither (1031 passing yards, 5 TD, 8 INT), RB Manny DeShauteurs (606 yards, 4 TD), FB John Bush, TE Todd Bargella (7 receptions), G Jason Whaley, T Jon Vaughan, C Linden Ryan, DE Nick McNeil (77 tackles), DT Luis Herron (34 tackles), LB Rod Dunlap (101 tackles), LB Lamar Barnes (16 tackles), LB James Conklin (17 tackles), CB B.J. Jessup (1 INT), CB Randy Thompson (35 tackles), S Teddy Burgis (41 tackles), S Lamont Reid (44 tackles), K Chris Vought (10-17 FG), P Stanton Horne (40.0 avg.).
NEWSOMERS OF NOTE: DE Darvin Coffin (Transfer/Lackawanna JC), CB Francis Brown (Transfer/Hudson Valley CC).
SCHEDULE: The Catamounts are the only I-AA team playing two BCS-level schools, as they’ll travel to N.C. State (8/30) and Duke (9/6) in the first two weeks. Briggs’ squad will also have to take on Georgia Southern (10/11) and Appalachian State (11/15) away from Cullowhee, but The Citadel (9/20), Furman (10/4), and Wofford (10/18) will be among those visiting Whitmire Stadium.
PROGNOSIS: Western Carolina is the trendy pick as the league’s "team on the rise," a designation conferred due to the Catamounts’ 20 returning starters and last year’s close losses to Furman, Wofford, and Appalachian State. But you must be careful in expecting things from the Cats, and not just because they’re 0-12 against the "Big 3" over the past four years and haven’t won eight games in a season since 1984. The starting QB, Gaither, completed just 46.9 percent of his passes last year and threw five TD passes against eight picks. The starting RB, DeShauteurs, averaged fewer than four yards per rush. The number one offensive weapon from last year, Banks, has exhausted his eligibility. There is no questioning the skill on defense - Spicer is one of the country’s top defensive players, and McNeil and Dunlap aren’t far behind. But when you put it all together, and factor in one of the nation’s toughest road schedules, it takes a mighty leap of faith to view WCU as a playoff contender. A record of .500 or better seems safe, however.
6. EAST TENNESSEE STATE (4-8, 2-6 Southern).
COACH (RECORD): Paul Hamilton (33-34 in six seasons).
MAJOR DEPARTURES: QB Jatavis Sanders (1311 passing yards, 7 TD, 5 INT, 275 rushing yards), RB Scott Carter (306 yards), WR Cecil Moore (44 receptions, 7 TD), WR Michael Rader (21 receptions), T Mitch Hughes, DL Kai Schreckenburg (37 tackles), DL Steven Jackson (39 tackles), LB Andrew Foerster (64 tackles).
OFFENSIVE STAR: RB Gaven Varner (599 yards, 6 TD).
DEFENSIVE STAR: CB Tony Tiller (41 tackles, 1 INT).
OTHER KEY PIECES: WR Andrew Nuckolls (16 receptions), TE Scott Brumett (From LB), T Brock Pittman, G Jamie Ownbey, G Quinton Staton, C Erik Losey, NG Brandon Calton (42 tackles), DE Travis Williams (13 tackles), DE Lamar Beam (from LB) (73 tackles, 6 sacks), LB Mike Cornegay (49 tackles), LB Marco Bryant, S Gerald Sensabaugh (56 tackles), S Montreal Harkley (6 INT), CB/PR Allen Davis (52 tackles, 2 INT), P Aaron Bass (42.9 avg.), K Jonathan Godfrey (3-6 FG).
NEWCOMERS OF NOTE: QB Carl Meadows (Redshirt Freshman), LB Tate Pittman (Transfer/Oregon).
SCHEDULE: The Bucs start out with I-A Eastern Michigan (8/28) away from Johnson City, but subsequent road games against Appalachian State (10/4), Furman (10/25), and Wofford (11/8) will probably be tougher. Hamilton’s team will have its last chance to make "Mini-Dome" magic against Western Carolina (9/27), Georgia Southern (11/1), and The Citadel (11/22), among others.
PROGNOSIS: ETSU is dropping its football program at the end of the season, and you have to take your hat off to Hamilton and his players not only for the classy way they have handled the situation, but also for remaining virtually intact as a team while the buzzards have circled. If they can remain focused, and you would have to forgive them if they can’t, the Bucs have the potential to surprise. The secondary is one of the top five in I-AA, with Tiller, Harkley, and Sensabaugh looking like sure-fire All-Americans. The line, with Calton and Beam leading the way, and the linebacking corps, with Cornegay and Bryant, is also strong. The offense needs more work, with Meadows an unknown at QB and no great talent present at either running back or receiver. But an experienced line should keep the wheels moving, and the defense will give ETSU a chance to be in every game it plays. With a couple of big breaks, the Bucs could end their 80-year football history with a bang.
7. THE CITADEL (3-9, 1-7 Southern).
COACH (RECORD): Ellis Johnson (6-16 in two seasons at The Citadel, 11-22 overall).
MAJOR DEPARTURES: QB Jeff Klein (2561 yards, 17 TD, 10 INT), RB Nate Mahoney (543 yards), WR Matt Healy (32 receptions), C Chad Boozer, DE Cliff Washburn (12 sacks), DT Rudy Griffin (39 tackles), LB Lamar Sales (60 tackles), FS Kevin Corley (84 tackles), DB Marcus Carter (49 tackles).
OFFENSIVE STAR: WR Scooter Johnson (69 receptions, 7 TD).
DEFENSIVE STAR: S T.J. Rose (96 tackles).
OTHER KEY PIECES: TB Nehemiah Broughton (1,038 yards), WR Bud Pough (24 receptions, 4 TD), TE Chris Franklin (2 TD), TE Ross Armstrong (19 receptions), T Dan Blary, C Kevin Olecki, G Jared Perdue, T David Friedland, T Lew Dawson, DE/LB Michael Ballentine (9 sacks), DE Fred Townsend (3 sacks), LB Travis Hodge (68 tackles), S Shawn Grant (61 tackles), CB Marcus Cohen (54 tackles), CB Dru’ Knight (36 tackles), P/K Travis Zobel (14-19 FG, 42.7 punting avg.)
NEWCOMERS OF NOTE: QB Kenwood Lattimore (Transfer/Cincinnati), QB Ryan Moody (Transfer/Navy), QB James Reiter (Redshirt Freshman)
SCHEDULE: After taking on Charleston Southern (8/30) to start the year, the Bulldogs embark on a trying three-game road stint with Delaware (9/6), Maryland (9/13), and Western Carolina (9/20) before returning to Charleston to face Appalachian State (9/27). A three-game stretch with Furman (at home on 10/18), at Georgia Southern (10/25) and Wofford (at home on 11/1) won’t be much easier.
PROGNOSIS: I-AA’s best 3-9 team in 2002, The Citadel could be in store for a frustrating repeat performance this season. It’s not just the difficulty of the team’s road games (Delaware, Maryland, and Georgia Southern are all likely to be double-digit favorites), it’s the proximity of the tough contests. After physical back-to-back games with Maryland and Delaware, will the Bulldogs be ready to play at Western Carolina the following week? Can Ellis Johnson’s club be expected to take even two games in a three-week stretch with Furman, Georgia Southern, and Wofford? Not that anyone will be especially eager to play The Citadel, with Broughton, Scooter Johnson and a quality line pacing the offense, and Rose and Hodge leading an underrated defense. The biggest decision for the coaching staff will be at QB, where at least four quarterbacks will compete for the starting job entering the fall. But the prevalent question, even if the Bulldogs find a steady QB, will be, "Who are they going to beat?" Conventional wisdom offers the answer, "Not enough teams to contend for a playoff bid or league title."
8. CHATTANOOGA (2-10, 2-6 Southern).
COACH (RECORD): Rodney Allison (First Season at Chattanooga).
MAJOR DEPARTURES: QB Ryan McCann (1173 yards, 3 TD, 10 INT), QB Justin Barnes (772 yards, 10 TD, 5 INT), RB Jason Ball (516 yards, 3 TD), WR Cortez Rankin (23 receptions, 4 TD), WR Joey Peters (23 receptions), G Heath Adams, T Aaron Deal, DE Emmanuel DeWalt (5 sacks), DT Blaz Ruzic (72 tackles), LB Josh Cain (192 tackles), S Jerrol Jackson (57 tackles), S Bryan Lamar (32 tackles), S Marcus Pendergass (31 tackles), P Travis Grubb (43.8 avg.).
OFFENSIVE STAR: RB Jason Jones (from WR) (57 receptions, 10 TD).
DEFENSIVE STAR: LB Blake Kirkland (64 tackles).
OTHER KEY PIECES: RB Mario Hain (373 yards), WR Jeremy Grier (46 receptions), WR Kwento Ikwuezunma, TE Barrett Brightwell (18 receptions), C Chris Cook, T James Clark, T Josh Shinpaugh, G Zach Davis, DE Leonard Mays (16 tackles), NG Tim Powers (19 tackles), LB Jason Jackson (51 tackles), LB Bernard Snowden (49 tackles), DB Greg Knight (50 tackles, 2 INT), S Quentin Harris (61 tackles), K Patrick Shutters (8-10 FG).
NEWCOMERS OF NOTE: QB Matthew Lopez (Redshirt Freshman), WR Alonzo Nix (Transfer/Jones CC), LB Chivas Newell (Transfer/Georgia Military), DB Randy Craft (Transfer/Jones CC), P Jonathan Wright (True Freshman).
SCHEDULE: The Mocs have some winnable games in the non-conference portion of their schedule, including home tilts against Samford (8/28) and Tennessee Tech (9/13) and a trip to Gardner-Webb (9/20). League journeys to Georgia Southern (9/27) and Appalachian State (11/1) figure to be dicey, and a home SoCon schedule that includes Wofford (10/4) and Furman (11/22) looks challenging as well.
PROGNOSIS: The first year of the Rodney Allison era could be a struggle, as a young team tries to adapt to a new system while playing in one of I-AA’s most difficult leagues. The backfield will have its problems, as can be expected when your quarterback is a freshman and your starting tailback is a converted wide receiver. The defensive-minded Allison should improve things on that side of the ball, and it would be tough for the Mocs to get worse there after giving up 31.4 points a game a year ago. The future looks bright under the energetic new coaching regime, but the process figures to move along in small steps rather than giant leaps. The Mocs figure to take some small steps in their first year under Allison - but not enough to make a significant move up the Southern Conference ladder.
9. ELON (4-7, 2-1 in Big South).
COACH (RECORD): Al Seagraves (38-39 in seven seasons).
MAJOR DEPARTURES: FB Martin Swindell (395 yards, 3 TD), WR Arketa Banks (15 receptions, 4 TD), T Josh Rowan, T Ross Gravely, LB Jamall Scott (35 tackles).
OFFENSIVE STAR: HB Rashaud Palmer (879 yards, 9 TD).
DEFENSIVE STAR: LB Mike Warren (82 tackles).
OTHER KEY PIECES: QB James Murdaugh (140 rushing yards, 3 TD), TE Zak DeBusk, G David Ware, C Brandon Mason, DE Mark Hatch (4 sacks), DT Emerson Fazekas (25 tackles), NT Nicholas Campbell, LB Eddie Bell (43 tackles), LB Calvin Sutton (52 tackles), CB Stephen McCoy (55 tackles), CB Shaun Miller (20 tackles), S Dwayne Ijames (3 INT), S Vincent Graves (48 tackles), P/K Anthony Turowski (7-12 FG, 36.4 punting avg.).
NEWCOMERS OF NOTE: DE Mark Jetton (Transfer/Clemson).
SCHEDULE: A trip to Furman (8/30) will mark Elon’s official entry into the Southern Conference, while East Tennessee State (9/20) will take part in the first SoCon game at pretty Rhodes Stadium. Back-to-back road trips to The Citadel (10/4) and Wofford (10/11) will test the Phoenix’s strength, as will a season-ending home pair against Appalachian State (11/8) and Georgia Southern (11/15).
PROGNOSIS: When assessing Elon’s immediate prospects in the Southern Conference, one need look no further than its recent records against league teams. Since a shocking win over Furman to start the 1999 season, the Phoenix are 0-7 against the quartet of the Paladins, Georgia Southern, East Tennessee State, and Wofford, and have been outscored a combined 243-71 in those contests. The problem of late for Seagraves and company has been a lack of production from the quarterback spot, a position that has received no real upgrade for this season. Until Elon recruits some SoCon-quality offensive personnel - and top-notch facilities should make that a relatively easy pursuit - its showing in the league figures to be dismal. A solid defense should keep the Phoenix in some games, and they could even win a few, but don’t be looking for the Southern Conference’s newest member in the first division this fall.