Respect ... yeah, finally.
Coastal Carolina football took on a new role Thursday after being named the favorite in the Big South Conference preseason poll. The Chanticleers have continually lived in someone else's shadow despite winning conference championships and reaching the FCS playoffs.
Coastal edged Liberty in the six-team poll and both placed a conference-high 10 players on the Big South preseason team, announced in Charlotte.
Coastal swept the Big South's preseason player of the year awards, senior wide receiver Matt Hazel on offense and junior linebacker Quinn Backus on defense. Last season, Hazel tied the school's single-season record with 61 receptions and Backus set the single-season mark with 139 receptions.
Second-year Chanticleers coach Joe Moglia called all the news flattering, but, he added, "Nobody's going to give us a game because somebody picked us in the preseason."
The Clanticleers, though, should win their share of them in a 12-game regular season that kicks off on Aug. 31 at MEAC power South Carolina State and concludes on Nov. 23 at the University of South Carolina.
Liberty and Stony Brook have stolen plenty of attention from Coastal, perhaps some of it unwarranted. Stony Brook, which has departed for CAA Football, won at least a share of the last four titles and gained attention with playoff wins in each of the past two seasons. Liberty, which wants to leave the FCS for the FBS level, has pocketed at least a share of five of the last six conference titles.
But there has been Coastal Carolina, successfully going about its business in Conway, S.C., while everybody on the outside has expected Liberty and Stony Brook to pull away from the Chanticleers. Former coach David Bennett built the program for nine seasons from the ground up and Moglia hopes to take it to the next level, and he's off to a great start.
The Chanticleers were the first Big South team to reach the playoffs, with an at-large selection in 2006 and then with the conference's first automatic bid in 2010. And just like they did in 2010, the Chanticleers were part of a three-win tie with Liberty and Stony Brook for the conference title last season. Not only did they qualify for the playoffs with another automatic bid, they won a game over Bethune-Cookman in an 8-5 season.
"The expectations," Moglia said, "whether they be high or low, always come from the outside. And if you're going to deliver results, that's going to happen from the inside. And I think our guys know that."
The Big South has been undergoing change and possible expansion was among the topics being discussed at media day.
This is VMI's final season in the conference before it returns to the Southern Conference. Monmouth, formerly in the Northeast Conference, will replace the Keydets next year.
"We all recognize it's important for us to add a team or two or three that will compete in the league in football," Moglia said.
BIG SOUTH FOOTBALL PRESEASON POLL
Voted on by Head Coaches and Media Panel
1. Coastal Carolina (9 first-place votes), 84 points
2. Liberty (6), 80
3. Gardner Webb, 58
4. Charleston Southern, 39
5. (tie) VMI, 27
5. (tie) Presbyterian, 27
PRESEASON ALL-BIG SOUTH TEAM
Offensive Player of the Year - Matt Hazel, WR, Coastal Carolina
Defensive Player of the Year - Quinn Backus, LB, Coastal Carolina
QB- Josh Woodrum, Liberty, R-Soph.
RB- Teddy Allen, Charleston Southern, Sr.
RB- Lorenzo Taliaferro, Coastal Carolina, Sr.
WR- Matt Hazel, Coastal Carolina, Sr.
WR- Kenny Cook, Gardner-Webb, R-Jr.
WR- Niccolo Mastromatteo, Coastal Carolina, Sr.
TE- Seth Cranfill, Gardner-Webb, R-Jr.
OL- Chad Hamilton, Coastal Carolina, R-Jr.
OL- Jamey Cheatwood, Coastal Carolina, R-Sr.
OL- Hunter Steward, Liberty, R-Sr.
OL- Will Lucas, VMI, Sr.
OL- Drew Herring, Coastal Carolina, R-Sr.
DL- Preston Pemasa, Gardner-Webb, Sr.
DL- Matt Goods, Gardner-Webb, R-Sr.
DL- Cory Freeman, Liberty, R-Sr.
DL- Francis Bah, Liberty, R-Sr.
LB- Quinn Backus, Coastal Carolina, Jr.
LB- Tanner Burch, Gardner-Webb, Jr.
LB- Nick Sigmon, Liberty, R-Jr.
LB- Mike McClure, Coastal Carolina, Sr.
DB- Walt Aikens, Liberty, R-Sr.
DB- Elijah Lee, Charleston Southern, Sr.
DB- Kevin Fogg, Liberty, R-Sr.
DB- Johnnie Houston, Coastal Carolina, R-Sr.
PK- John Lunsford, Liberty, Soph.
P- Grant Bowden, Liberty, Sr.
LS- Hudson Smith, Gardner-Webb, R-Sr., and Richard Wright, Liberty, R-Sr.
KR- J.J. Hubbard, Gardner-Webb, Jr.
PR- Niccolo Mastromatteo, Coastal Carolina, Sr.