Nicholls favored in a likely wild Southland
By CRAIG HALEY
(STATS) - Nicholls coach Tim Rebowe said he hopes all of his Southland Conference counterparts get the ending they want this season.
The Southland's preseason poll, released Thursday at media day, suggests Rebowe will be the happiest. His Colonels squad was installed as a decisive favorite to repeat as the conference champion with Central Arkansas picked second; Incarnate Word, which earned a share of the title, third; and Sam Houston State fourth among the 11 teams.
As coaches often do, though, Rebowe took the proverbial guarded position heading into the season. He pointed out that his team can't flip to the final chapter of its 2019 book or fast-forward to the end of the movie.
"Really, that's all what it is - predictions," said the fifth-year coach, whose team is coming off a 9-4 record which included the Colonels' second all-time FCS playoff win and the first since 1986.
"If that was the end of the year, we'd all be super-excited about where we're picked. But it doesn't work that way. Our guys need to know that.
"We have to go out every day and write our chapter."
The return of Southland player of the year Chase Nicholls for his fourth season as the starting quarterback is the biggest reason Nicholls was picked first in the preseason poll. He said his team playing with consistency is key because the Colonels are replacing 11 starters, more than any team in the conference. They include four starters on the offensive line plus four of the top six players in the defensive line rotation.
The Southland title race was the wildest in the FCS last season. Most weeks in conference, there was a surprising loss or two, and seven teams finished within two games of first place.
The order of teams behind Nicholls could have gone in a number of ways. Every team except playoff qualifier Lamar returns its top quarterback. Central Arkansas gets back Breylin Smith, who missed the final eight games of coach Nathan Brown's first season, while Incarnate Word features Jon Copeland, the 2018 Southland freshman of the year. The others include Abilene Christian's Luke Anthony, Sam Houston State's Ty Brock, Northwestern State's Shelton Eppler and Southeastern Louisiana's Chason Virgil.
SOUTHLAND CONFERENCE PRESEASON POLL
Head Coaches and Sports Information Directors Poll
1. Nicholls (20 first-place votes), 200 points
2. Central Arkansas, 154
3. Incarnate Word (1), 150
4. Sam Houston State, 146
5. Lamar, 123
6. McNeese, 114
7. Abilene Christian (1), 112
8. Southeastern Louisiana, 71
9. Stephen F. Austin, 63
10. Northwestern State, 56
11. Houston Baptist, 21
SOUTHLAND CONFERENCE PRESEASON TEAM
QB - Chase Fourcade, Nicholls, Sr.
RB - Carlos Blackman, Central Arkansas, Sr.
RB - Billy McCrary, Abilene Christian, Sr.
TE/HB - Bransen Schwebel, Southeastern Louisiana, Sr.
WR - Nathan Stewart, Sam Houston State, Sr.
WR - Dai'Jean Dixon, Nicholls, Jr.
WR - Juwan Petit-Frere, Southeastern Louisiana, Sr.
OL - Hunter Watts, Central Arkansas, Sr.
OL - Brandon Floores, Incarnate Word, Sr.
OL - Terence Hickman II, Incarnate Word, Sr.
OL - Grant Burguillos, McNeese, Sr.
OL - P.J. Burkhalter, Nicholls, R-Jr.
PK - Storm Ruiz, Stephen F. Austin, Sr.
P - Winston Jones, Nicholls, Sr.
DL - Sully Laiche, Nicholls, Sr.
DL - Chris Terrell, Central Arkansas, Sr.
DL - Chris Livings, McNeese, Sr.
DL - Daniel Crosley, Lamar, Sr.
LB - Jeremiah Chambers, Abilene Christian, Sr.
LB - Evan Veron, Nicholls, Sr.
LB - Allen Pittman, Nicholls, Sr.
DB - Hayden Bourgeois, Northwestern State, Jr.
DB - Zyon McCollum, Sam Houston State, Jr.
DB - Colby Burton, McNeese, Sr.
DB - Juan Jackson, Central Arkansas, Sr.
DB - Darren Evans, Nicholls, Sr.
KR - Juwan Petit-Frere, Southeastern Louisiana, Sr.
PR - Devonte Williams, Southeastern Louisiana, Sr.
QB - Jon Copeland, Incarnate Word, So.
RB - Dontrell Taylor, Nicholls, Sr.
RB - Myles Wanza, Lamar, Jr.
TE/HB - Woody Brandom, Sam Houston State, R-Sr.
WR - Tamrick Pace, Stephen F. Austin, Sr.
WR - Jerreth Sterns, Houston Baptist, So.
WR - Josh Fink, Abilene Christian, Sr.
OL - Jair Joseph, Nicholls, Jr.
OL - Chris Zirkle, Northwestern State, Sr.
OL - Toby Sanderson, Central Arkansas, Jr.
OL - Kade Parmelly, Abilene Christian, Jr.
OL - Uzoma Okere, Incarnate Word, Jr.
PK - Elvan Martinez, Lamar, Jr.
P - David Balcomb, Incarnate Word, Sr.
DL - Erick Fowler, Sam Houston State, Sr.
DL - Isaac Adeyemi-Berglund, Southeastern Louisiana, Sr.
DL - O'Shea Jackson, Northwestern State, Sr.
DL - Andre Walker, Houston Baptist, Sr.
LB - Caleb Johnson, Houston Baptist, Jr.
LB - Hunter Brown, Sam Houston State, R-Sr.
LB - Royce See, Sam Houston State, Sr.
DB - Khristian Mims, Nicholls, Sr.
DB - Bolu Onifade, Abilene Christian, Sr.
DB - Alize Ward, Stephen F. Austin, Sr.
DB - Jackie Harvell, Central Arkansas, Jr.
DB - Robert Rochell, Central Arkansas, Jr.
KR - Myles Ward, Northwestern State, So.
PR - Austin Mitchell, Southeastern Louisiana, Jr.
Updated July 18, 2019