Lenoir-Rhyne second in SAC preseason football poll

Carson-Newman was voted by the South Atlantic Confernce head coaches as the favorite to win the conference title in 2013.

The Eagles went 9-3 overall and finished tied for second at 5-2 in the SAC last season. They earned a first-round bye in the NCAA Championship and defeated Lenoir-Rhyne the following week before falling to eventual-National Champion Valdosta St. in the quarterfinal round.

Carson-Newman was the nation’s top rushing team in 2012, averaging 378.6 yards per game on the ground. That attack was led by All-Conference First Team selection Brandon Baker, who returns as a BSN Preseason All-American at running back in 2013.

Baker is joined on the BSN Preseason All-America Team by placekicker Curt Duncan.

The Eagles received four first-place votes in the preseason poll for a total of 59 points.

They are followed in the poll by 2012 SAC Champion Lenoir-Rhyne, which also earned four first-place votes and finished just behind C-N with 55 total points.

L-R earned a selection to last year’s NCAA Championship after going 6-1 in the SAC. The Bears won their postseason opener over Fort Valley St. before falling to Carson-Newman, finishing the season 9-3 overall.

Lenoir-Rhyne ranked second in the nation in rushing offense and led the SAC in scoring defense by allowing just 17.3 points per game in 2012.

Among the Bears’ key returnees this season is linebacker Tanner Botts — an All-SAC first team selection last year and a member of the 2013 BSN Preseason All-America team — and running Back Isaiah Whitaker, a 2012 Don Hansen All-American.

Wingate is third in the SAC preseason poll with 48 points. The Bulldogs – last year’s SAC leader in total defense – went 6-5 overall and 5-2 in conference play in 2012.

Robbie Nallenweg returns under center for WU after finishing last season with 3,644 passing yards – the sixth-highest total in league history.

Mars Hill is fourth in the poll with 39 points, followed by No. 5 Newberry with 34 points.

MHU went 6-4 overall and 5-2 in the SAC last season, while the Wolves finished 5-6 overall and 3-4 in the league.

Mars Hill finished second in the SAC in total defense last season, anchored by the league’s co-Defensive Player of the Year in Troy Harris. The lineman returns in 2013 as a member of the BSN Preseason All-America Team.

Newberry’s returnees, meanwhile, include 2012 All-SAC first team wide receiver Corey Washington and All-Conference second team defensive lineman Letavious Williams.

No. 6 in the preseason poll is Tusculum, which went 2-9 overall and 1-6 in the SAC in 2012.

The Pioneers will once again be led by quarterback Bo Cordell, who became the conference’s all-time leader in passing yards and total offense last season. Cordell enters his final year on campus 2,388 yards shy of breaking Div. II’s career passing yards record.

Completing the preseason poll is No. 7 Catawba with 19 points and No. 8 Brevard with eight points. Catawba forced the second-highest number of turnovers in the SAC in 2012 and welcomes back BSN Preseason All-America return specialist L.J. McCray to this year’s roster.

Brevard – despite finishing 2-9 overall and 1-6 in the SAC – was the nation’s least-penalized team in 2012.

The Tornados return All-SAC First Team linebacker Michael Gruber, who helped BC limit opponents to just 162.7 passing yards per game last season – the second-lowest average in the conference.

2013 SAC Football Preseason Coaches’ Poll

Team, Points (1st-place votes)
1. Carson-Newman, 59 (4)
2. Lenoir-Rhyne, 55 (4)
3. Wingate, 48
4. Mars Hill, 39
5. Newberry, 34
6. Tusculum, 26
7. Catawba, 19
8. Brevard, 8