If you want to win the Pioneer Football League, you better pack a lunch.
Better yet, pack that lunch in a sack.
Or at least that's what defenses are thinking this season, after quarterbacks spent a good amount of time last season dusting themselves off after getting sacked.
With four teams in the top 10 for sacks last season nationally, and five in the top 20, don't be surprised if quick-rushing defensive linemen are once again bagging quarterbacks. Oh, yes, the Pioneer League also had four of the top five individuals when it comes to rushing the passer, and three of them are back this season.
San Diego defensive end Mario Kurn is at the top of the class of pass rushers. Having bagged 17 sacks with seven more quarterback hurries, he could challenge for the NCAA record of 23.5 in a season set by Chris Gocong in 2005 (Cal Poly) if he improves in his senior season.
Dayton's Devan Langhorst (14 sacks) and Morehead State's Jerome Raymond (12) also terrorized quarterbacks last season. Jacksonville didn't have a player reach double digits, but its defense averaged 2.91 sacks per game.
While they've been able to track down opposing quarterbacks, none of those efforts have gone far enough to help a Pioneer League team earn an elusive FCS playoff berth.
Despite going 10-1 - that one loss being to Appalachian State - Jacksonville was left out of the playoffs last season. The Dolphins were ranked as high as 18th in The Sports Network/Fathead.com FCS Top 25.
This season, the Dolphins have a similar schedule and hope that if they, or any other team, can put together a showing like last season will be included in the playoff discussion.
"We feel like if we do well against this schedule, we'll have a lot to argue to have a chance to play in that playoff system," Jacksonville coach Kerwin Bell said.
Having not played each other last season, Jacksonville and Dayton shared the title. This season the conference could have that de facto title game Oct. 8 when the Flyers visit the Dolphins.
Living by the one-game-at-a-time attitude, Dayton coach Rick Chamberlin isn't looking ahead, but realizes that in order to win the title this season his defense - pass rushers included - will have to defuse the ticking bomb that is the Jacksonville offense (42.2 ppg).
"Against a high-powered offense you have to play good, sound defense that does not allow big plays," Chamberlin said. "That's when you get in trouble. Everyone has to execute their assignment on every play, and you have to have good tackling. That's how you have to be successful in this league because we have a lot of explosive offenses."
With such dangerous weapons loading up for the season, those who can defuse the attack before it's unleashed will be even more important this season.
And that is why whichever team can pressure, force bad decisions or even sack the opposing quarterback are likely to find themselves in what should be a tight Pioneer League race.
Following is a team-by-team breakdown of the 2011 Pioneer Football League race.
The Sports Network's predicted order of finish:
4. San Diego
5. Morehead State
Offensive Player of the Year: Josh McGregor, QB, Jacksonville
Defensive Player of the Year: Mario Kurn, DE, San Diego
1. JACKSONVILLE DOLPHINS (10-1 overall; 8-0 PFL)
COACH: Kerwin Bell (29-17 in four seasons at Jacksonville)
STARTERS RETURNING: 14 (6 offense/8 defense)
OFFENSIVE STAR: QB Josh McGregor, Sr. (205 of 326 for 3,042 yards, 32 TDs, 7 INT)
DEFENSIVE STAR: DB Leonard Smith, Jr. (66 TT, 2.5 TFL, 5 PBU, 2 INT)
OTHER KEY PLAYERS:
RB J.J. Laster, Sr. (95 carries for 810 yards, 7 TDs; 18 receptions for 226 yards, 1 TD)
RB Keith Dawson, Sr.
WR Tommie Rogers, Sr. (missed 2010 with injury)
WR Josh Philpart, Sr. (48 receptions for 800 yards, 12 TDs)
WR Larry Thompson, Sr. (32 receptions for 477 yards, 3 TDs)
TE Quintin Davis, Jr. (moved from LB)
OL Chad Cypher, Sr.
OL Kevin Halverson, Sr.
OL Ian Osking, Sr.
OL Mike Arndt, Jr.
OL Wisly Desire, Jr.
DL Montaque Mack, So. (28 TT, 1.5 TFL)
DL Mike Mayoral, Jr. (32 TT, 3.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks)
DL Rolando Fines, Sr. (54 TT, 2.5 TFL, 5 sacks)
LB Mike Klein, So. (39 TT, 3 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 1 PBU)
LB Layne McCcombs, Sr. (40 TT, 5.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 1 PBU)
LB Taylor Marsh, Jr. (28 TT, 2.5 TFL, 1 INT)
DB Darren Johnson, Jr. (33 TT, 1.5 TFL, 5 PBU, 1 INT)
DB/KR Colby Walden, Jr. (23 TT, 4 TFL, 12 PBU, 2 INT; 25.1 KR avg., 1 TD)
DB Andre Addison, So. (16 TT, 5 PBU)
DB Ed Foley, So. (22 TT)
OUTLOOK: Last season, the Dolphins shared the Pioneer League title with Dayton and if not for a game against NAIA opponent Webber International they may have been on their way to the FCS playoffs. This season, Jacksonville returns the best quarterback-wide receiver duo in the league - and perhaps the FCS - in Josh McGregor and Josh Philpart. In addition to Philpart (800 yards, 12 TDs), McGregor also has Larry Thompson (477 yards, 3 TDs) and Tommie Rogers, who form a trio of wide receivers that could gash opponents through the air this season. However, teams can't just play the pass against Jacksonville, as J.J. Laster is a special talent at running back who should fill the void left by all-time rushing leader Rudell Small. On defense, Jacksonville returns eight starters from a unit that only allowed 20.5 points a game last season. Anchoring the defense is an athletic secondary, which is comprised of five players who are juniors or younger. The schedule is tougher than last season, and the Dolphins visit Southern Conference foe The Citadel and Western Illinois of the Missouri Valley. But Jacksonville should be the favorite to win back-to-back championships.
2. DAYTON FLYERS (10-1 overall; 8-0 PFL)
COACH: Rick Chamberlin (28-6 in three seasons at Dayton)
STARTERS RETURNING: 10 (4 offense/6 defense)
OFFENSIVE STAR: RB Taylor Harris, Sr. (77 carries for 356 yards, 13 TDs)
DEFENSIVE STAR: DL Devon Langhorst, Sr. (77 TT, 4 TFL, 14 sacks, 1 INT)
OTHER KEY PLAYERS:
QB Will Bardo, Fr.
QB Zachary Splain, So. (3 of 5 for 35 yards; 7 carries for 80 yards)
RB Brian Mack, Sr. (93 carries for 411 yards, 7 TDs)
RB Dan Jacob, Sr. (33 carries for 192 yards, 2 TDs)
WR Tyler Hujik, Sr. (32 receptions for 345 yards, 1 TD)
WR Luke Bellman, Sr. (23 receptions for 339 yards, 4 TDs)
WR Jordan Boykin, Jr. (5 receptions for 58 yards, 1 TD)
OL Tom Corcoran, So.
OL Dave Allen, Sr.
OL Bill Petraiulo, Sr.
OL Justin Griffis, Sr.
OL Dan Prindle, Sr.
DL Zach Weber, Sr. (17 TT, 1.5 TFL)
DL Phil DeBoer, Sr. (12 TT, 2 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 1 PBU)
DL Kevin Kern, So.
LB Sean Belanger, Sr. (30 TT, 4 PBU)
LB Bryan Bailin, Sr. (14 TT, 1 sack)
LB Joe Janasek, So. (4 TT, 1 PBU)
DB Matt Pflegler, Sr. (48 TT, 2 TFL, 10 PBU, 4 INT)
DB Kyle Sebetic, So. (51 TT, 2 TFL, 4 PBU, 1 INT)
DB Ben Welsh, Sr. (missed 2010 with injury)
DB Eric Robbe, Sr. (45 TT, 1.5 TFL, 5 PBU, 1 INT)
KR Gary Hunter, So. (28.2 KR avg., 1 TD)
OUTLOOK: Other than a four-point loss to Duquesne in the second week of the season, the Flyers were perfect last season, outscoring their opponents by almost two touchdowns (14.1 points) a game. This season, Dayton could once again run the table in the Pioneer League, but will require a strong performance in an Oct. 8 contest at Jacksonville. While returning only four starters on offense, Dayton is likely to be a run-first group with three senior running backs who combined for 22 touchdowns last season. In order for that trio of running backs to have success, Dayton will need either Will Bardo or Zachary Splain to quickly take control of the offense which lost starting quarterback Steve Valentino (2,218 yards, 16 TDs) to graduation. The defense is a slightly more experienced group, retuning more than half of last season's starters, including Devon Langhorst, a monster at defensive end who recorded 14 sacks last season. The linebackers and secondary are both senior-laden groups which should have strong showings this season.
3. DRAKE BULLDOGS (7-4 overall; 6-2 PFL)
COACH: Chris Creighton (21-12 in three seasons at Drake)
STARTERS RETURNING: 17 (10 offense/7 defense)
OFFENSIVE STAR: QB Mike Piatkowski, Sr. (161 of 278 for 1,854 yards, 15 TDs, 7 INT; 4 rushing TDs)
DEFENSIVE STAR: LB Tyler Moorehead, Sr. (62 TT, 3 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 2 FF, 1 FR)
OTHER KEY PLAYERS:
RB Pat Cashmore, Sr. (76 carries for 357 yards, 6 TDs; 15 receptions for 195 yards,1 TD)
RB Trey Morse, Jr. (92 carries for 319 yards, 1 TD)
WR Drew Blackmon, Sr. (41 receptions for 535 yards, 5 TDs)
WR Joey Orlando, Jr. (35 receptions for 440 yards, 2 TDs)
WR Nick Rosa, Jr. (17 receptions for 148 yards)
TE Ben Sabal, Sr. (14 receptions for 162 yards, 1 TD)
OL Matt Purdom, Jr.
OL Stephen Flynn, Sr.
OL Chris Wilson, Sr.
OL Dan Clinton, Sr.
OL Evan Lawrence, Sr.
DL John Sawhill, Sr. (37 TT, 6.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 1 PBU)
DL David Witkiewicz, Sr. (28 TT, 3.5 TFL, 1 sack, 4 PBU, 1 INT)
DL Anthony Gianaras, Sr. (10 TT, 1 TFL, 1 sack)
DL Brandon Coleman, Jr. (14 TT, 1 TFL, 2 sacks, 2 PBU)
LB Seth Hedman, Jr. (43 TT, 1.5 TFL, 1 PBU, 1 INT)
DB/PR Michael Lahart, Sr. (60 TT, 4 TFL, 11 PBU, 1 INT)
DB Nick Chenier, Sr. (43 TT, 6 PBU)
DB Michael Ratelle, Jr. (29 TT, 3 INT)
P/K Billy Janssen, Sr. (38.2 avg.; 33-35 XP, 3-9 FG)
OUTLOOK: In finishing third in the Pioneer League last season, Drake showed some promise as its only league losses came by single digits to co-champions Dayton and Jacksonville. With 17 starters returning this season, the Bulldogs have a chance to make some noise in the league and possibly win their first title since 2004. In May, they bonded with a trip to Tanzania, where they played the first American football game on African soil. Of the returning starters, 10 are back on the offensive side of the ball led by signal caller Mike Piatkowski who should be one of the league's best this season. Even more importantly the Bulldogs return all five starters on the offensive line, a group that will give Piatkowski all kinds of time to connect with a trio of talented receivers. The defense is a talented group, but must replace the Pioneer League defensive player of the year, Dain Taylor, who had 13.5 sacks last season. Likely filling the void left by Taylor will be a starting rotation of upperclassmen, that is backed up by an experienced secondary. With Jacksonville and Dayton heading to Drake in back-to-back weeks the title is likely to be decided at Drake Stadium - whether it's the Bulldogs hoisting the trophy or not.
4. SAN DIEGO TOREROS (5-6 overall; 5-3 PFL)
COACH: Ron Caragher (27-17 in four seasons at San Diego)
STARTERS RETURNING: 16 (8 offense/8 defense)
OFFENSIVE STAR: QB Mason Mills, Jr. (195 of 290 for 2,160 yards, 18 TDs, 8 INT)
DEFENSIVE STAR: DL Mario Kurn, Sr. (66 TT, 10 TFL, 17 sacks, 5 PBU)
OTHER KEY PLAYERS:
RB Phil Morelli, Sr. (104 carries for 461 yards, 5 TDs)
RB Matt Jelmini, Sr. (75 carries for 258 yards)
RB Kenslow Smith, Sr. (66 carries for 202 yards)
RB Sam Hoekstra, So. (23 receptions for 149 yards, 1 TD)
WR John McGough, Sr. (31 receptions for 330 yards, 3 TDs)
WR Reggie Bell, So. (20 receptions for 159 yards, 2 TDs)
WR Kyle Warren, Sr. (15 receptions for 256 yards, 3 TDs)
TE Patrick Doyle, Sr. (12 receptions for 115 yards, 1 TD)
OL Mike Arnold, Jr.
OL Christian Fetters, Sr.
OL Matt Peleti, Jr.
OL Shane Kanie, Sr.
DL Kellan Barker, Sr. (16 TT, 1.5 TFL)
DL Levor Ross, Sr. (22 TT, 2 TFL, 3 sacks)
DL Dustin Geyer, Sr. (22 TT, 3 TFL, 5 sacks)
LB Zach Dunaj, Jr. (46 TT, 4 TFL, 1 sack, 2 PBU)
LB Joe Martin, Sr. (32 TT, 1.5 TFL, 1 sacks)
LB Montell Allen, So. (22 TT, 1.5 TFL)
DB Al-Rilwan Adeyemi, Sr. (48 TT, 1 TFL, 4 PBU, 6 INT)
DB Loka Kanongataa, Sr. (48 TT, 7 TFL, 1 PBU)
DB Jamil Wade, Sr. (14 TT, 1 PBU, 1 INT)
DB Robbie Beathard, Jr. (25 TT)
DB Joey York, Jr. (9 TT, 1 PBU)
K Mike Levine, Sr. (missed 2010 with injury)
P Ernest Collins, Jr. (JC transfer)
OUTLOOK: Back-to-back losing seasons have been a rarity for San Diego, as the Toreros had posted a 40-6 record the four years prior to last season. This season, San Diego seems in a position to climb back above the .500 mark, as 16 starters return (eight on each side of the ball), including Mario Kurn, an All-America defensive end who led his team in tackles and posted an NCAA-high 17 sacks. While Kurn is back to terrorize quarterbacks, the Toreros have some questions at linebacker, as it was more of a committee effort last season and San Diego needs to find someone to emerge from the pack. While the defense is the stalwart of this team, whether or not the offense can improve upon its paltry 21.5 ppg last season is a bigger issue. Mason Mills, a junior who threw for 2,160 yards and 18 TDs, leads the offense which will be looking to replace his favorite target from last season, Godfrey Smith (1,024 yards, 7 TDs). With a favorable schedule - including a pair of lower division teams - San Diego should reach above the .500 level and just might compete for the league title.
5. MOREHEAD STATE EAGLES (5-6 overall; 4-4 PFL)
COACH: Matt Ballard (95-47 in 17 seasons at Morehead State; 130-115-1 overall)
STARTERS RETURNING: 16 (8 offense/8 defense)
OFFENSIVE STAR: QB Zach Lewis, Jr. (260 of 423 for 2,898 yards, 15 TDs, 13 INT)
DEFENSIVE STAR: DL Jerome Raymond, Sr. (59 TT, 8 TFL, 11.5 sacks, 2 PBU)
OTHER KEY PLAYERS:
RB Adam Slumps, Jr. (21 carries for 118 yards, 1 TD; 27 receptions for 330 yards, 2 TDs)
RB Ronnie McDermott, Sr. (49 receptions for 673 yards, 1 TD)
RB Cory Jackson, Sr.
FB Desmond Cox, Sr. (120 carries for 448 yards, 2 TDs)
WR Donte Sawyer, Jr. (43 receptions for 457 yards, 2 TDs)
WR Kevin Thomas, Jr. (10 receptions for 133 yards)
WR Andre Williams, Sr. (17 receptions for 305 yards, 3 TDs)
WR Jaison Yoshimura, Jr. (22 receptions for 256 yards, 2 TDs)
OL Michael Barber, Fr.
OL Kalvin Harrington, So.
OL Joey Clegg, So.
OL Elijah Barnett, So.
OL Eric Matteson, Jr.
DL Mark Hall, Sr. (55 TT, 13.5 TFL, 3 sacks, 4 PBU)
DL Kyle Manley, Sr. (31 TT, 2.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 1 PBU)
DL Aaron Meadows, So. (13 TT, 1.5 TFL)
LB Thaddeus Winston, So. (33 TT, 2.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks, 1 PBU, 1 INT)
LB David Francis, Sr. (16 TT, 1 TFL, 1 PBU)
LB Tony Bachman, Sr. (122 TT, 7.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 1 INT)
LB Keaton May, Sr. (67 TT, 9.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 1 PBU)
DB Kameron Scott, Jr. (42 TT, 1 sack, 10 PBU)
DB Steven Lester, So. (14 TT, 3 PBU)
DB Rashaad Palmer, Jr. (7 TT)
DB Sean Blair, Jr. (61 TT, 3 TFL, 2 PBU)
DB John Coleman, So. (10 TT)
DB Dexter Geohagen, Jr. (5 TT)
DB Mo Saleh, Fr. (JC transfer)
P/K Rainer Duzan, Jr. (38.4 punt avg.; 11-13 FG)
OUTLOOK: There should be at least one major celebration at Morehead State this season. How many others remains to be seen. Sitting on the cusp - five games - of reaching 100 victories on the Eagles' sideline, coach Matt Ballard is hopeful his squad can not reach five wins, but surpass it. With 16 starters back, it's not out of the question, as Morehead State's schedule is favorable to a winning season. Led by Zach Lewis, who flirted with 3,000 passing yards, but could improve his decision making from last season, the offense is pass- heavy group that returns six players who caught a touchdown pass. The defense - which had an up-and-down season last year - also returns eight starters, but is still trying to find the correct mix on the depth chart. One player who will certainly make some noise is Jerome Raymon, a 6-foot-4, 245-pound pass rusher. He made life difficult for quarterbacks last season.
6. BUTLER BULLDOGS (4-7 overall; 2-6 PFL)
COACH: Jeff Voris (28-28 in five seasons at Butler; 43-62 overall)
STARTERS RETURNING: 15 (6 offense/7 defense)
OFFENSIVE STAR: QB Andrew Huck, Sr. (189 of 322 for 1,865 yards, 12 TDs, 7 INT; 103 carries for 347 yards)
DEFENSIVE STAR: LB Jordan Ridley, Jr. (130 TT, 9.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 1 PBU, 2 INT)
OTHER KEY PLAYERS:
RB Trae Heeter, So. (16 carries for 138 yards, 1 TD)
RB Steven Depositar, Jr. (8 carries for 47 yards)
RB David Thomas, So. (10 carries for 83 yards)
WR Zach Watkins, Sr. (68 receptions for 703 yards, 3 TDs)
WR Jordan Koopman, Sr. (50 receptions for 536 yards, 3 TDs)
WR Jeff Larsen, Sr. (23 receptions for 192 yards, 1 TD)
TE Carter Walley, Sr. (4 receptions for 44 yards, 1 TD)
OL Pete Mattingly, Sr.
OL Matt Storey, Sr.
OL Nick Atkinson, Sr.
DL Grant Hunter, Sr. (22 TT, 6 TFL, 4 sacks)
DL Ross Teare, Sr. (45 TT, 4.5 TFL)
DL Larry Thomas, Sr. (15 TT, 2 TFL, 1 sack, 2 PBU)
LB Nick Caldicot, Sr. (60 TT, 7 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 1 PBU, 2 INT)
LB Robert Koteff, Sr.
DB Jack McKenna, Sr. (42 TT, 3 PBU, 2 INT)
DB Andy Dauch, Sr. (41 TT, 1 TFL, 2 PBU)
DB Sean Grady,So. (26 TT)
DB Jayme Szafranski, So. (15 TT, 1 TFL, 1 PBU)
P Michael Wilson, Jr. (38.5 avg.)
K David Lang, Sr. (14-23 FG)
OUTLOOK: After earning a berth in the Pioneer League-Northeast Conference Gridiron Classic with a school-record 11 wins in 2009, Butler's expectations were high entering last season. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, they failed to reach those high goals and struggled to a 4-7 season. Returning 15 starters from that unit, Butler's hopes lie in the hands of quarterback Andrew Huck (1,865 yards, 12 TDs), who is hoping to return to the form that allowed him to pass for 2,454 yards and 21 touchdowns in 2009 - a task which will be helped with his top two receivers from last season returning. While the offense took a step back last season, the defense has consistently limited opponents the past two season (19.2 ppg '10, 19.1 ppg '09) and that trend should continue with five of its top six tacklers returning. Having to travel to Dayton, Jacksonville and Morehead State will provide a test for the Bulldogs, who could contend for the title.
7. CAMPBELL FIGHTING CAMELS (3-8 overall; 2-6 PFL)
COACH: Dale Steele (7-26 in three seasons at Campbell)
STARTERS RETURNING: 18 (9 offense/9 defense)
OFFENSIVE STAR: RB Rashaun Brown, Sr. (119 carries for 673 yards, 3 TDs)
DEFENSIVE STAR: DB Jared Hart, Sr. (43 TT, 2.5 TFL, 4 PBU)
OTHER KEY PLAYERS:
QB Dakota Wolf, So. (3 of 7 for 30 yards)
QB Jordan Hildreth, Fr.
RB C.J. Oates, Sr. (83 carries for 373 yards, 3 TDs; 15 receptions for 140 yards)
RB Carl Smith, Sr. (101 carries for 502 yards, 5 TDs)
FB Jordan Cramer, Sr.
WR Harrison Jordan, Sr. (29 receptions for 334 yards, 2 TDs)
WR Paul Constantine, Sr. (20 receptions for 224 yards)
WR Kelvin Murphy, Sr.
TE Christian Rogers, Jr.
OL Sam Issermoyer, Sr.
OL Branden Burt, Sr.
OL Troy Horan, Sr.
OL Andy Johnson, Sr.
OL Jeremy Hill, Sr.
DL Taurean Lynch, So. (18 TT, 1.5 TFL, 2 sacks)
DL Randel Herring, Sr. (48 TT, 1 TFL, 1 sacks, 1 PBU)
DL Jeremiah Robinson, Sr. (34 TT, 3.5 TFL, 2 sacks)
LB Terrell Barnes, Jr. (31 TT, 1 TFL, 1 PBU)
LB Milton Brown, Sr. (71 TT, 1 sack, 1 PBU)
LB Chris Price, Sr. (31 TT, 1 INT)
LB Michael Rudisill, So. (31 TT, 1.5 TFL, 1 sack)
DB Steth Monroe, Jr. (52 TT, 3 PBU, 1 INT)
DB Erik Feliciano, Sr. (57 TT, 2 sacks, 2 PBU)
DB Steven Goldsmith, Sr. (44 TT, 3 PBU)
DB Paul Pizzuti, Jr. (62 TT, 2 TFL, 1 sack, 6 PBU, 1 INT)
P Ted Moore, Sr. (40.3 avg.)
K Adam Willets, Sr. (9-15 FG)
OUTLOOK: Campbell reincarnated its football program in 2008 after a 57-year hiatus and the Fighting Camels have only combined for seven wins since. This year, Campbell returns 18 starters and with four losses by single digits last season the Fighting Camels have hope to reach their highest win total since returning to the field in '08. One factor that will impact the win total is the quarterback competition between Dakota Wolf and Jordan Hidreth to replace Daniel Polk (1,263 yards, eight TDs). While the signal-caller will be young, the rest of the offense is comprised of nine senior starters, a group that will give either quarterback a strong supporting cast. The defense also is loaded with senior starters, a group that should improve with experience from last season. While improvement is likely, the record may not reflect the improved level of play.
8. MARIST RED FOXES (3-8 overall; 2-6 PFL)
COACH: Jim Parady (99-96-1 in 19 seasons at Marist)
STARTERS RETURNING: 13 (8 offense/5 defense)
OFFENSIVE STAR: WR Michael Rios, Sr. (28 receptions for 642 yards, 5 TDs)
DEFENSIVE STAR: DB Tyler Ramsey, Jr. (68 TT, 4 TFL, 1 PBU, 1 INT)
OTHER KEY PLAYERS:
QB Tommy Reilly, Sr. (173 of 297 for 2,383 yards, 15 TDs, 8 INT)
QB Chuckie Looney, So. (41 of 74 for 567 yards, 6 TDs, 5 INT)
QB Mike Gentile, Sr.
QB Anthony Varrichone, Jr.
RB Ryan Dinnebeil, Sr. (41 carries for 122 yards, 5 TDs)
RB Calvin McCoy, Sr. (82 carries for 281 yards, 6 TDs)
RB Matt Gray, Sr. (38 carries for 188 yards, 1 TD)
RB Atiz Lucas, So. (39 carries for 182 yards, 1 TD)
WR Kevin Fitzpatrick, Sr. (33 receptions for 424 yards, 2 TDs)
WR Bartley Leneghan, Jr. (2 receptions for 54 yards)
WR Armani Martin, So.
TE Anthony Calcagni, Jr. (3 receptions for 34 yards)
OL Brandon Pizzuti, So.
OL A.J. Borriello, So.
OL Mike Brereton, So.
OL Tim Lamezec, So.
OL Phede Celestin, Jr.
DL Darvid Toriola, Sr. (38 TT)
DL James Desautels, Sr. (14 TT, 1 TFL)
DL Terrence Fede, Jr.
DL Kevin Stark, So. (18 TT, 1 sack)
LB Mike Hagemann, Jr. (39 TT, 2 TFL, 2 PBU)
LB Darius Hill, Jr. (Towson transfer)
LB Ryan Cronan, Sr. (42 TT, 3 TFL, 2 PBU, 1 INT)
LB Alexander Killian, Sr. (34 TT, 1.5 TFL, 1 PBU)
DB Brandon Kicklighter, Sr. (24 TT, 1 PBU)
DB Jaquan Bryant, Sr. (45 TT, 6 PBU, 2 INT)
DB Jack Marston, So.
DB Nick Mainiero, Jr. (47 TT, 1 PBU, 4 INT)
DB Nick Kaszei, So. (31 TT, 3 INT)
OUTLOOK: Entering the season with a 99-96-1 in his 19 seasons at Marist, coach Jim Parady will hit the century mark this season in both wins and losses. The better question is, which milestone will come first? Another huge question looming in camp is around the quarterback position, as any number of players could be named the starter after Tommy Reilly missed spring practice with an ACL tear. While it would seem Reilly is the likely starter, Chuckie Looney, Mike Gentile and Anthony Varrichone all impressed in spring practice and in fall camp. Whoever gets the nod at quarterback will be well protected as all five starters return and with four sophomores on the offensive line, the unit could grow to be the Pioneer League's best. The defense took a step back last season, conceding almost 10 more points a game (17.1 ppg to 26.5 ppg) than in 2009. With six losses by single digits last season, improving the defense could turn those contests into victories and allow Marist to maybe, just maybe, eek out a winning record.
9. DAVIDSON WILDCATS (3-8 overall; 3-5 PFL)
COACH: Tripp Merritt (26-36 in six seasons at Davidson)
STARTERS RETURNING: 15 (offense 7/8 defense)
OFFENSIVE STAR: WR Lanny Funsten, Jr. (47 receptions for 685 yards, 6 TDs)
DEFENSIVE STAR: LB John Behm, Sr. (69 TT, 6 TFL, 5.5 sacks, 4 PBU, 1 INT)
OTHER KEY PLAYERS:
QB Jonathan Carkhuff, So. (197 of 329 for 2,002 yards, 12 TDs, 9 INT)
RB Marcus Johnston, So. (26 carries for 82 yards)
RB Clem Butler, Sr.
WR Houegnon Attenoukon, Jr.
WR Jonathan Adams, Sr. (25 receptions for 235 yards)
TE Reese Williams, So. (21 receptiosn for 193 yards)
OL Coling Wint, Sr.
OL Joe Newlon, Sr.
OL Alex Fleming, Sr.
OL Adam Kurtz, So.
OL Ethan Clark, So.
DL Mortan Popham, Sr. (42 TT, 8 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 PBU)
DL Ellis Martin, Sr. (33 TT, 7 TFL, 4.5 sacks)
DL Lewis McAlister, Jr. (19 TT, 2.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks)
LB Patrick Hunt, Sr. (24 TT, 2 TFL, 1 sack)
LB Gianni Ricci, Sr. (3 TT)
LB Patrick Moynahan, Jr. (70 TT, 6.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 1 PBU)
DB Adam Dulberger, Jr. (6 TT, 1 TFL, 1 PBU)
DB Peter Anderson, Jr. (30 TT, 2 PBU)
DB Peter Kidwell, Sr. (68 TT, 5.5 TFL, 5 PBU, 2 INT)
DB Michael Corbett, So.
DB Malcolm Moses-Hampton, Sr. (49 TT, 3 TFL, 2.5 sacks)
K Chazzo Habliston, Jr.
P Brenton Goodman, Sr.
OUTLOOK: The Wildcats haven't won a home game since the 2009 season and that hurt last season as their 0-5 record at Richardson Stadium forced Davidson to struggle to a 3-8 record. This season, Davidson will look to improve upon its home mark and with a pair of lower division teams that should happen. However, beating a pair of lower division teams won't necessarily lead to success in the Pioneer League. Sophomore quarterback Jonathan Carkhuff should have a major impact - either negative or positive - on the Wildcats' season as he looks to improve upon a strong freshman season. Carkhuff's top target will be Lanny Funsten, a junior wide receiver who had a breakout season (685 yards, 6 TDs) as a sophomore. The defense is a senior-heavy group, but having experience of allowing 30.5 ppg isn't an ideal situation. If Davidson can prove itself at home, an easier schedule makes four or five wins a realistic possibility.
10. VALPARAISO CRUSADERS (0-11 overall; 0-8 PFL)
COACH: Dale Carlson (0-11 in one season at Valparaiso; 110-114-3)
STARTERS RETURNING: 12 (6 offense/6 defense)
OFFENSIVE STAR: WR Sean McCarty, Sr. (43 receptions for 526 yards, 3 TDs)
DEFENSIVE STAR: P Greg Wood, Jr. (67 punts, 43.6 avg.)
OTHER KEY PLAYERS:
QB Eric Hoffman, Fr.
QB Nick Malantis, Sr. (13 of 38 for 198 yards, 3 INT)
RB Bobby Wysocki, Sr. (83 carries for 253 yards, 2 TDs)
RB Jabril Baker, So.
WR Tony Taibi, Fr.
WR Eric Slenk, Jr. (9 receptions for 105 yards, 1 TD)
WR Tim Bennett, Jr. (11 receptions for 49 yards)
TE Mike Gerton, Jr. (6 receptions for 83 yards)
OL Nate Blair, Sr.
OL Gavin Grillo, Sr.
OL Ferdinand Velez, Sr.
OL Bill Bodzianowski, Jr.
OL Sean Cook, Jr.
DL Grant Bushong, Sr. (59 TT, 3.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 1 PBU, 1 INT)
DL Brett Heber, Sr. (27 TT, 3 TFL)
DL Nikko Carson, Sr. (28 TT, 3 TFL, 2.5 sacks)
LB Cody Gokan, Jr. (69 TT, 2 TFL, 1 sack, 1 PBU)
LB Cole Gridley, So. (11 TT)
LB Christopher Howard, Jr. (24 TT, 1 TFL)
LB Par Derbak, So. (11 TT)
DB Bryce LaMore, So. (27 TT, 1.5 TFL, 1 sack, 1 PBU)
DB Alex Grask, Sr. (35 TT, 1.5 TFL, 2 PBU)
DB Laurence Treadaway, Sr. (missed 2010 with injury)
DB Alan Porter, Jr. (40 TT, 4 PBU)
K Mike Pando, So. (7-8 XP, 1-3 FG)
K Chris Smith, Sr. (4-4 XP, 0-2 FG)
OUTLOOK: Last season, the average score of a Valparaiso football game was 47-9 in favor of the opposing team as the Crusaders struggled to an 0-11 season - pushing their current losing streak to an FCS-high 20 games. The Crusaders have been so bad that three of those 20 losses have been to lower division teams by a combined 85 points. This season, the struggles will likely continue at Valparaiso as the Crusaders finished in the bottom three of the entire NCAA in eight statistical categories. Those numbers may have been slightly inflated - or deflated - since the Crusaders were learning new offensive and defensive schemes last season. Fortunately for the Pioneers, they return their best player, punter Greg Wood, who averaged 43.64 yards per punt on an amazing 6.09 attempts per game. But no matter how many times Wood drives teams back, it might do little to stop them from marching right into the Crusaders' end zone.