Published November 20, 2014
The Sports Network FCS Preseason All- America Team could play one mean intrasquad game.
Such a game would look a lot like last season.
The preseason first team released on Monday returns 14 players who were named to the 2011 All-America first team by a national panel of sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries this past December.
Overall, 35 players return to the three preseason teams.
Returning to the first-team offense are running backs Shakir Bell of Indiana State and 2011 Jerry Rice Award recipient Terrance West of Towson; fullback Eric Breitenstein of Wofford; wide receivers Nicholas Edwards of Eastern Washington, Aaron Mellette of Elon and Ryan Spadola of Lehigh; and tight end Colin Anderson of Furman.
On defense, returning to the first team are defensive tackle Brent Russell of Georgia Southern; 2011 Buck Buchanan Award-winning linebacker Matt Evans of New Hampshire; cornerback Marcus Williams of North Dakota State; and safeties Kejuan Riley of Alabama State and Darnell Taylor of Sam Houston State.
Portland State place-kicker Zach Brown and Liberty kick returner Kevin Fogg also return to the preseason first team.
Among the backs, Bell was the FCS rushing leader (1,670 yards, 151.8 yards per game) last season, while West scored the most touchdowns (29). Breitenstein is the FCS' active career leader in rushing yards (3,695) and touchdowns (46).
Evans' 13.75 tackles per game last season is the highest total among all returning players in the FCS.
No returning player had more than Riley's nine interceptions. Williams grabbed seven in an electrifying season for North Dakota State's national championship squad.
Brown's 24 field goals led the FCS last season and he tied for the national high among kickers with 9.2 points per game. Fogg's 33.5-yard average and three touchdowns on kickoffs topped all returners.
Chattanooga linebacker Wes Dothard also made the All-America first team as a sophomore last season, but there's so much returning talent that 2011 second- team selections Jeremy Kimbrough of Appalachian State, Blake Peiffer of Southeast Missouri State and Keith Pough of Howard have knocked him to the preseason second team.
Southland Conference champion Sam Houston State, the national runner-up last season, clearly has the talent to get back to the NCAA Division I Football Championship Game, placing a national-high five players on the Preseason All- America Team.
Taylor, running back Timothy Flanders, who rushed for 1,644 yards and scored 24 touchdowns, and all-purpose selection Richard Sincere are on the first team. Defensive tackle J.T. Cleveland is part of the second team and cornerback Daxton Swanson is on the third team.
"This is a great honor for not only these players, but for our program as well as our university," Sam Houston State coach Willie Fritz said. "All of those guys bring something special to this team, and I am happy to see them get some national recognition for their hard work and dedication to this program."
Southern Utah, which is moving to the Big Sky Conference, follows Sam Houston State with four selections, including quarterback Brad Sorensen and center Gavin Farr on the first team. Sorensen has thrown for over 3,100 yards in each of his two seasons at Southern Utah.
The Thunderbirds' other preseason All-Americas are defensive tackle Cody Larsen on the second team and offensive guard Zach Brackus on the third team.
"I am very pleased that The Sports Network is recognizing the hard work of so many of our players. All four of these players are excellent representatives of their teammates and of Southern Utah University," Southern Utah coach Ed Lamb said.
Like Southern Utah, Appalachian State (Kimbrough and cornerback Demetrius McCray), Indiana State (Bell and defensive end Ben Obaseki) and Liberty (Fogg and offensive guard Malcolm Boyd) have two first-team selections.
Other members of the preseason first team are offensive tackles Aaron Adams of Eastern Kentucky and Blake Matthews of Norfolk State and offensive guard Earl Watford of James Madison.
On defense, joining the preseason first team are San Diego defensive end Blake Oliaro and Montana State defensive tackle Zach Minter.
Old Dominion punter Jonathan Plisco and McNeese State punt returner Darius Carey have top honors on special teams.
The Sports Network FCS Preseason All-America Team consists of 93 players over three teams. CAA Football leads all conferences with 15 selections each from nine member schools.
The Big Sky and Southland conferences have 14 selections each and the Southern Conference follows with 13. All 13 FCS conference have at least two selections and 11 conferences have at least one player on the first team.
The full team can be found at http://tinyurl.com/6wftuhx.
The 2012 Sports Network All-America Team will be announced after the regular season on Dec. 19.
The Sports Network also presents the four major awards in the division - the Walter Payton (FCS outstanding player), the Buck Buchanan (FCS outstanding defensive player), the Jerry Rice (FCS outstanding freshman player) and the Eddie Robinson (FCS coach of the year) - after the season. In addition, TSN presents the FCS's most widely recognized weekly Top 25 poll and weekly awards honoring the nation's top offensive player, defensive player, special teams player and freshman.