Familiar faces sit atop Southern
In 2011, Eric Breitenstein rushed for at least 100 yards in 10 games and scored 19 TDs.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Two well known players in the Southern Conference -- a running back who has led the league in rushing twice and a defensive lineman who demands double teams -- once again had standout seasons in 2011.
Why would anyone expect anything different this year?
For the second time in a row, Wofford senior running back Eric Breitenstein and Georgia Southern senior defensive lineman Brent Russell were named Southern Conference Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year, respectively.
It had to be an easy choice for the coaches because both collected player of the year accolades following the 2011 season.
Breitenstein has been a dangerous force on the ground for the Terriers the last two seasons. In 2011, he rushed for at least 100 yards in 10 games and scored 19 touchdowns, and he enters 2012 needing only 368 yards to crack the SoCon all-time rushing list.
Russell, already a two-time Buck Buchanan Award finalist, had 67 tackles and 6.5 sacks last fall. He is considered one of the nation's top defensive players.
On Thursday, when coaches met in Spartanburg, S.C., for the league's annual media day, it was clear traditional league powers Georgia Southern, Appalachian State and Wofford were predicted to battle it out for the top spots, while the others try to move up the ladder from behind.
In fact, the only differences between the coaches and media polls were the order in which last year's Southern Conference playoff teams would finish. The media chose Wofford to finish second, while the coaches chose Appalachian State.
"I truly believe this is one of the top, if not the best, conferences in the nation," Appalachian State junior quarterback Jamal Jackson said. "We play against the top athletes in the nation and every week you have to be on your 'A' game. You really can't take anyone lightly."
The Mountaineers led all schools with 10 all-conference honorees: three first- team, and seven second-team selections on the day. Even with multiple preseason teammates on the lists, including his two junior wide receivers, not to mention a matchup in Week 2 against Montana for which all of FCS Nation is waiting, the Mountaineers seem to have one thing on their mind.
"This summer, our whole team's focus has been strictly on ECU," Jackson said. "We can't be distracted by our schedule or who we play down the road. We want to have success during fall camp, that's what we've been working for."
When asked about how his team could make the next big step to become one of the SoCon's premiere programs, The Citadel's all-conference center Mike Sellers said it's about finishing games.
"If you want to be the best in this league, you have to play four full quarters of football," Sellers said. "We respect the top teams because they have the ability to finish, and we want that. That's the difference between a good and great team in this conference."
Furman led all SoCon programs with five all-conference selections. Seven schools had at least three players make first team honors.
Coaches were not permitted to vote for their own team or players in the polls.
2012 SOUTHERN CONFERENCE FOOTBALL PRESEASON POLLS
1. Georgia Southern (7 first-place votes), 63 points
2. Appalachian State (2), 57
3. Wofford, 48
4. Chattanooga, 44
5. Furman, 36
6. Samford, 27
7. Elon, 24
8. The Citadel, 17
9. Western Carolina, 8
1. Georgia Southern (25 first-place votes), 266 points
2. Wofford (4), 225
3. Appalachian State (1), 223
4. Chattanooga, 163
5. Furman, 152
6. Samford, 105
7. Elon, 104
8. The Citadel, 79
9. Western Carolina, 36
PRESEASON ALL-CONFERENCE TEAM
Offensive Player of the Year - Eric Breitenstein, RB, Wofford
Defensive Player of the Year - Brent Russell, DL, Georgia Southern
QB - Jamal Jackson, Appalachian State, Jr.
RB - Jerodis Williams, Furman, Sr.
RB - Eric Breitenstein, Wofford, Sr.
OL - Mike Sellers, The Citadel, Jr.
OL - Dakota Dozier, Furman, Jr.
OL - Dorian Byrd, Georgia Southern, Jr.
OL - Ryan Dudchock, Samford, Sr.
OL - Jake Miles, Wofford, Sr.
TE - Colin Anderson, Furman, Sr.
WR - Aaron Mellette, Elon, Sr.
WR - Kelsey Pope, Samford, Jr.
DL - Chris Billingslea, The Citadel, Sr.
DL - Josh Lynn, Furman, Sr.
DL - Brent Russell, Georgia Southern, Sr.
DL - Josh Williams, Chattanooga, Sr.
LB - Jeremy Kimbrough, Appalachian State, Sr.
LB - Wes Dothard, Chattanooga, Jr.
LB - Alvin Scioneaux, Wofford, Jr.
DB - Demetrius McCray, Appalachian State, Sr.
DB - Greg Worthy, Furman, Jr.
DB - Deion Stanley, Georgia Southern, So.
DB - D.J. Key, Chattanooga, Jr.
PK - Cameron Yaw, Samford, Sr.
P - Cass Couey, The Citadel, Sr.
RS - Fabian Truss, Samford, Jr.
QB - Thomas Wilson, Elon, Sr.
RB - Darien Robinson, The Citadel, Jr.
RB - Fabien Truss, Samford, Jr.
OL - Kendall Lamm, Appalachian State, So.
OL - Blake DeBartola, Georgia Southern, Sr.
OL - Charlie Sanford, Samford, Sr.
OL - Adam Miller, Sr., Chattanooga
OL - Jared Singleton, Wofford, Jr.
OL - (tie) Calvin Cantrell, Wofford, Sr.
TE - Faysal Shafaat, Chattanooga, So.
WR - Andrew Peacock, Appalachian State, Jr.
WR - Tony Washington, Appalachian State, Jr.
DL - Ronald Blair, Appalachian State, So.
DL - Derek Douglas, The Citadel, Jr.
DL - Tony Thompson, Elon, Jr.
DL - Nick Williams, Samford, Sr.
DL - (tie) Davis Tull, Chattanooga, So.
LB - Brandon Grier, Appalachian State, Sr.
LB - Mitch McGrath, Furman, Sr.
LB - Darius Eubanks, Georgia Southern, Sr.
LB - (tie) Rock Williams, Western Carolina, Sr.
DB - Troy Sanders, Appalachian State, Sr.
DB - Alvin Hines II, Samford, Sr.
DB - Kadeem Wise, Chattanooga, Jr.
DB - Nathan Wade, Furman, Sr.
PK - Nick Pollard, Chattanooga, So.
P - Sam Martin, Appalachian State, Sr.
RS - Darreion Robinson, Georgia Southern, Sr.