Behind Buechel, Duquesne is NEC favorite

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (STATS) – Quarterback Dillon Buechel clearly left a lasting impression in the Northeast Conference with his stellar performance in Duquesne's first-ever FCS playoff appearance last November.

He passed for 423 yards and six touchdowns in the Dukes' 52-49 loss to William & Mary.

At NEC football media day Thursday, the coaches installed Buechel as the quarterback on the 2016 NEC preseason team, even though Sacred Heart standout RJ Noel has been the first-team selection after each of the past three seasons and is returning for his senior year.

Duquesne, however, appears to have momentum heading into the upcoming season. The Dukes, who return 13 starters from an 8-4 squad, were favored over Sacred Heart in the NEC preseason poll, gaining six of the seven first-place votes. Saint Francis was third followed by Bryant, Central Connecticut State, Robert Morris and Wagner.

“I just know our kids are hungry,” Duquesne coach Jerry Schmitt said. “It's kind of weird saying because we won our first (outright) championship last year and performed extremely well in the playoff game. But I think that just increased our hunger. I could sense that in the offseason.”

All seven teams had at least three selections on the NEC preseason team, led by Duquesne and Saint Francis with six each. In addition to Buechel, Duquesne features linebacker Christian Kuntz, the NEC defensive player of the year last season.

NORTHEAST CONFERENCE FOOTBALL PRESEASON POLL

Head Coaches Poll

1. Duquesne (6 first-place votes)

2. Sacred Heart (1)

3. Saint Francis

4. Bryant

5. Central Connecticut State

6. Robert Morris

7. Wagner

NORTHEAST CONFERENCE FOOTBALL PRESEASON TEAM

Offense

QB – Dillon Buechel, Duquesne, Sr.

RB – Marcus Bagley, Saint Francis, Jr.

RB – Cameron Nash, Central Connecticut State, Jr.

WR – Wayne Capers, Duquesne, Sr.

WR – Kyle Buss, Robert Morris, So.

WR – Moses Webb, Sacred Heart, Sr.

TE/HB – Ryan Owens, Wagner, Grad

OL – Jimmy Marks, Saint Francis, Sr.

OL – Tyler Cardoze, Bryant, Sr.

OL – Matt Diaz, Wagner, Sr.

OL – Sean Merrill, Sacred Heart, Sr.

OL – Ben Huss Duquesne, Jr.

Defense

DL – Ryan Cottrell, Sacred Heart, Sr.

DL – Asia Bolling, Central Connecticut State, Sr.

DL – Wesley Nagaseu, Saint Francis, Sr.

DL – Jake Radziukinas, Duquesne, Sr.

LB – Christian Kuntz, Duquesne, Sr.

LB – James Rentz, Sacred Heart, Sr.

LB – Nathan Stone, Duquesne, Jr.

LB – Randall Laguerre, Central Connecticut State, Jr.

DB – Lorenzo Jerome, Saint Francis, Sr.

DB – Marcelis Branch, Robert Morris, Sr.

DB – Chuckie Wingate, Bryant, Sr.

DB – Andy Smigiera, Robert Morris, Sr.

Special Teams

PK – Lance Geesey, Saint Francis, Sr.

P – Bryan Rafano, Wagner, Sr.

RS – Lorenzo Jerome, Saint Francis, Sr.