FCS Season Preview: Big South

Mike Brown recorded nine rushing touchdowns last season.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Stony Brook football coach Chuck Priore says his team's season-ending, 36-33 win over Big South Conference power Liberty helped his program in a lot of different ways.

"Probably the most important way is the belief that you win that game," he says.

The upset was sweet for Stony Brook as well as all of Liberty's rivals in the Big South, as it ended the Flames' 16-game conference winning streak, including perfect runs through the 2007 and '08 seasons.

It gave all of Liberty's rivals hope for 2010.

Liberty is strong again and a prohibitive favorite in the conference's preseason poll. But after Stony Brook opened that door last season, other Big South teams believe they can close in on the Flames, who were 8-3 overall last season and 26-8 over the last three seasons.

Preseason Big South All-Conf Team
First-Team Offense

QB- Mike Brown, Liberty
RB- Edwin Gowins, Stony Brook
RB- Patrick Hall, Gardner-Webb
WR- Gerald Stevenson, Charleston Southern
WR- James Perry III, Gardner-Webb
WR- Chris Summers, Liberty
TE- David Duran, Coastal Carolina
OL- Corey O'Daniel, Gardner-Webb
OL- Paul Fenaroli, Stony Brook
OL- Alex Stadler, Liberty
OL- Jordan Lancaster, Charleston Southern
OL- Jamie Dunaway, Gardner-Webb

First-Team Defense

DL- Joel Walton, Charleston Southern
DL- Asa Chapman, Liberty
DL- Josh Wine, VMI
DL- Quinton Davis, Coastal Carolina
LB- Marty Patterson, Gardner-Webb
LB- Jeffery Williams, Gardner-Webb
LB- Doncel Bolt, Liberty
LB- Emilio Calvin, VMI
DB- Josh Norman, Coastal Carolina
DB- Cedric McGowan, Gardner-Webb
DB- Brent Vinson, Liberty
DB- KaJuan Lee (tie), Liberty
DB- Chris Kuzdale (tie), Charleston Southern

First-Team Specialists

PK- Matt Bevins, Liberty
P- Marc Ray, VMI
LS- Daniel Bonifas, Coastal Carolina
KR- Tyson Petty, Gardner-Webb
PR- Gerald Stevenson, Charleston Southern

The Big South has been shut out of a FCS playoff bid since coach David Bennett took Coastal Carolina there in 2006. This season, the Big South champion will be guaranteed an automatic bid for the first time in the expanded, 20-team field.

"In terms of guaranteeing a spot, it is nice, but you have to know your vision," Bennett said. "Do you just want to make the playoffs or do you want to win? Again, if we can get to the place where we can host playoff games, that is our next step in this progression. That is the key to advancing and winning a national title."

"I hope that we are underselling ourselves right now and that the inevitability of this is that we will get more than one team in," Charleston Southern coach Jay Mills said. "I think it starts with getting this automatic bid, but, hopefully, if there are two teams who deserve to go, the credibility will be enough that they are rewarded for their efforts."

Liberty was a runaway winner in the Big South preseason - 11 of 13 first-place votes - just as their offense ran away from defenses last season. The Flames led the FCS in scoring offense with a 36.4-point average. They return the conference's preseason offensive player of the year, Mike Brown, who split time at quarterback (nine rushing touchdowns) and wide receiver (60 receptions) last season and now is the full-time quarterback. In addition, place-kicker Matt Bevins was named a first-team All-America by The Sports Network as a sophomore last season.

The Flames scored over 50 points in four of their five Big South wins.

"The key to winning the Big South title, as in most leagues, is depth at key positions and experience," Liberty coach Danny Rocco said. "We had a younger team last year that was able to carry on a now growing tradition here at Liberty and I'm excited to see what they can do this year. Most of our skill- position players are back this year and we are coming off the best spring workouts I've experienced since I've been at Liberty."

Following is a team-by-team breakdown of the 2010 Big South race, with teams ranked according to The Sports Network's predicted order of finish. Last year's records are in parentheses.

The Sports Network's predicted order of finish:

1. Liberty
2. Stony Brook
3. Charleston Southern
4. Gardner-Webb
5. Coastal Carolina
6. Presbyterian
7. VMI

Offensive Player of the Year: Mike Brown, QB, Liberty

Defensive Player of the Year: Marty Patterson, LB, Gardner-Webb

1. LIBERTY FLAMES (8-3 overall; 5-1 Big South)

COACH: Dan Rocco (32-13 in five seasons at Liberty)

STARTERS RETURNING: 11 (5 offense/6 defense)

OFFENSIVE STAR: QB Mike Brown, Jr. (48 of 68 for 427 yards and 4 TDs; 77 carries, 442 yards, 9 TDs)

DEFENSIVE STAR: NG Asa Chapman, Jr. (40 TT, 1 FR)

TB Korrey Davis, So. (Massachusetts transfer)
TB SirChauncey Holloway, So. (54 carries, 285 yards, 7 TDs)
WR Chris Summers, Jr. (46 receptions, 603 yards, 4 TDs)
WR B.J. Hayes, Jr. (15 receptions, 119 yards)
RG Alex Stadler, Sr.
LT Justin Vargas, Sr.
RT Soeren Wendland, Sr.
DE Daryl Robertson, Sr. (37 TT, 5.5 TFL)
DE Terry Adams, Sr. (41 TT, 7 TFL)
DE Patrick Bannon, Sr. (16 TT, 2 sacks)
MLB Doncel Bolt, Sr. (62 TT, 6 TFL)
MLB Chad Brown, Sr. (51 TT)
LB Brent Vinson, So. (32 TT)
LB Kyle O'Donnell, Sr. (32 TT)
LB Donald Manns, Sr. (18 TT)
LB Randy Spann, Fr.
CB Kajuan Lee, Jr. (37 TT, 5 INTs)
FS Larry Claiborne, Jr. (39 TT, 1 INT)
SS Brandon Robinson, Jr. (22 TT, 1 INT)
PK Matt Bevins, Jr. (22 of 26 FG, 50 long)
P Mike Larsson, Jr. (36.7-yard punt average)

OUTLOOK: The new FCS playoff berth that goes to the Big South champion will motivate the experienced Flames all season, who have craved at-large bids in recent seasons. Last year, they scored a record 271 points in six Big South games. Brown will rev up the offense again, although he is better as a runner and pass receiver than as a passer. Summers is the offense's other playmaker, so Brown will look to get the ball to him. The return of Holloway and addition of Davis from UMass will take some pressure off Brown as well. The Flames probably can't count on a plus-21 turnover ratio again, so some games could be closer. But the defense appears improved with Chapman clogging the middle, Bolt and Brown back as veteran linebackers and Lee coming off a big season with five interceptions. Bevins is 34-of-42 (80.5 percent) on field goals through two seasons. The Flames' only difficult road game in the Big South is a Nov. 13 trip to Coastal Carolina. They get Stony Brook at home on Nov. 20.

2. STONY BROOK SEAWOLVES (8-3 overall; 5-1 Big South)

COACH: Chuck Priore (22-22 in four seasons at Stony Brook)

STARTERS RETURNING: 8 (4 offense/4 defense)

OFFENSIVE STAR: RB Edwin Gowins, Jr. (145 carries, 890 yards, 9 TDs)

DEFENSIVE STAR: SS Arin West, Sr. (80 TT, 3 INTs, 3 FR)

QB Michael Coulter, Jr. (153 of 279 for 15 TDs and 10 INTs)
RB Brock Jackolski, Jr. (Hofstra transfer)
RB Miguel Maysonet, So. (Hofstra transfer)
WR Donald Porter, Sr. (25 receptions, 476 yards, 5 TDs)
WR/KR Matt Brevi, Jr. (26 receptions, 344 yards, 2 TDs; 20.6-yard KO return average)
WR Michael Lepore, Sr. (16 receptions, 214 yards)
WR Myles Campbell, R-Fr.
C Paul Fenaroli, Sr.
LG Brian Crew, Sr.
LT Joe Faiella, Jr.
RG Armand Poole, Sr. (Hofstra transfer)
DT Ryan Haber, Jr. (39 TT, 1 FF, 1 FR)
NT Michael Marino, So. (22 TT)
DE Joseph Kirkpatrick, Sr. (22 TT, 5 TFL)
OLB Julian Glenn, Sr. (6 TT; injured last season)
MLB Stephen Schwicke, Sr. (68 TT, 7.5 TFL)
MLB Craig Richardson, So. (12 TT)
OLB Kenny Tuiloma, So. (31 TT)
CB Al-Majid Hutchinson, Jr. (Rutgers transfer)
FS Dominick Reyes, So. (49 TT)
CB Sheldon Armstrong, So. (Utah State transfer)
DB Taj Johnson, R-Fr.
PK Wesley Skiffington, So. (15 of 17 FG, 43 long)
P Drew Evangelista, So. (36.7-yard punt average)

OUTLOOK: The Seawolves are hoping that this year's regular-season finale against Liberty could be worth the Big South's new automatic bid to the FCS playoffs. To set up a possible title game on Nov. 20 (like last season), the Seawolves have to overcome the loss of a conference-high 14 starters. Priore has bolstered his roster with transfers, and two of them, Jackolski and Maysonet, could spell their two-time All-Big South first-team running back, Gowins. The junior averaged 9.4 yards per carry as a freshman before being slowed by injuries last season. Coulter, whose 15 touchdown passes led the conference, tends to be overlooked. He engineered game-winning drives in the final three minutes of three games last season. The speed of the defense has improved in recent seasons, but the Seawolves have to overcome the loss of linebacker Tyler Santucci, the 2009 Big South Defensive Player of the Year. Schwicke is the new leader at linebacker. Rutgers transfer Hutchinson will combine with West to form a dynamite set of safeties. It's hard to argue with Skiffington's 15-of-17 field-goal accuracy as a freshman.

3. CHARLESTON SOUTHERN BUCCANEERS (6-5 overall; 4-2 Big South)

COACH: Jay Mills (40-38 in seven seasons at Charleston Southern; 43-59 in 10 seasons overall)

STARTERS RETURNING: 15 (8 offense/7 defense)

OFFENSIVE STAR: WR/KR Gerald Stevenson, Sr. (55 receptions, 724 yards, 3 TDs; 52 carries, 364 yards, 3 TDs; 19.2-yard KO return average)

DEFENSIVE STAR: FS Chris Kuzdale, Jr. (64 TT, 3 INTs, 6 PBU)

QB A.J. Toscano, Sr. (179 of 308 for 2,092 yards, 12 TDs and 12 INTs; 82 carries, 325 yards, 4 TDs)
QB Richard Mounce, So. (Clemson transfer)
RB DeMarcus Moon, Sr. (67 carries, 322 yards, 1 TD)
RB Savon Seward, Fr.
WR Kwame Krakue, Sr. (40 receptions, 546 yards, 3 TDs)
WR Estevan Cintron, Fr.
C Nick Kemper, So.
LT Levi McFatter, Jr.
LG Jordan Lancaster, Sr.
RG B.J. Baker, So.
RT James Nicholson, So.
DT Joel Walton, Sr. (22 TT, 6 sacks)
NT Matt Woods, Jr. (27 TT, 2.5 sacks)
DE David Jackson, Sr. (42 TT, 2 PBU, 2 PD)
LB Fred Godfrey, Sr. (67 TT, 2 PBU, 3 PD)
LB Chris Patrick, Sr. (64 TT, 10 TFL, 5 sacks)
CB Jacques Bazile, Sr. (50 TT, 4 PBU, 5 PD)
CB Kenny Johnson, So. (9 TT)
PK John Paglia, Sr. (16 of 22 FG, 51 long)
P Andy Brown, Sr. (35.5-yard punt average)

OUTLOOK: By improving the early-season turnover woes, the Buccaneers won their final four games last season, scoring at least 30 points in each outing. They hope to continue the momentum this season and play their first three games at home before their, ahem, business trip to the University of Hawaii. The conference schedule is difficult because the Bucs travel to Liberty, Stony Brook and Coastal Carolina. Stevenson is one of the Big South's top offensive players and Toscano gets him the ball. Walton and Kuzdale are the standouts on defense, but the depth is what fuels that side of the ball. The Bucs have a good chance at earning their third straight winning season.

4. GARDNER-WEBB RUNNIN' BULLDOGS (6-5 overall; 3-3 Big South)

COACH: Steve Patton (83-58 in 13 seasons at Gardner-Webb; 113-82-1 in 18 overall seasons)

STARTERS RETURNING: 16 (8 offense/8 defense)

OFFENSIVE STAR: James Perry III, Jr. (61 receptions, 749 yards, 3 TDs)

DEFENSIVE STAR: LB Marty Patterson, Sr. (110 TT, 14 TFL, 5 sacks, 2 INTs)

QB John Rock, So. (8 of 12 for 133 yards and 2 TDs)
RB Patrick Hall, Sr. (108 carries, 599 yards, 12 TDs)
RB Kenny Little, So. (59 carries, 294 yards, 2 TDs)
WR Marquis Sanders, Jr. (36 receptions, 459 yards, 2 TDs)
WR/KR Tyson Petty, Sr. (21 receptions, 194 yards, 1 TD; 19.1-yard KO return)
TE Josh Miller, Jr. (15 receptions, 137 yards)
C C.J. Bryant, Sr.
LG Corey O'Daniel, Sr.
LT Jamie Dunaway, So.
OL Tyler Hough-Jenkins, Fr.
DE Jordan Woods, Jr. (30 TT, 3 sacks, 6 QBH)
NG Nelson Rushing, Sr. (18 TT, 3 TFL)
DT Terry Hollingshed, Fr.
LB Jeffrey Williams, Sr. (47 TT, 5 TFL, 4 QBH)
LB Oluwadamilola Teniola, Sr. (16 TT)
LB Devon Johnson, Jr. (30 TT)
CB Cedric McGowan, Sr. (ineligible last season)
CB Bryce Nixon, Sr. (53 TT, 2 INTs, 4 PBU)
SS Keron Phelps, Jr. (25 TT)
FS Lyndrez Leslie, Jr. (21 TT)
DB Chris James, Jr. (28 TT, 2 INTs)
CB Keon Williams, Fr.
PK Ryan Gates, So. (13 of 16 FG, 44 long)
P Graham Purvis, Jr. (37-yard punt average)

OUTLOOK: The Bulldogs have finished with either five or six wins for six straight seasons. They appear to be headed there again, although their veteran defense gives them an opportunity for a bigger season. Patterson is the Big South Preseason Defensive Player of the Year and fellow linebacker Williams was a 2008 All-America who was slowed by injury last season. The Bulldogs also get back McGowan, who also earned all-conference honors in 2008. The offense lost a solid QB in Stan Doolittle, though Rock has a strong arm. If he wins the starting job, he will have a go-to receiver in Perry, who led the Big South in both receptions and receiving yards as a redshirt sophomore. Add in Sanders and the receiving game is dangerous. The left side of the offensive line (Dunaway and O'Daniel) is particularly strong as well.

5. COASTAL CAROLINA CHANTICLEERS (5-6 overall; 3-3 Big South)

COACH: David Bennett (50-29 in seven seasons at Coastal Carolina; 113-46 in 14 seasons overall)

STARTERS RETURNING: 16 (7 offense/9 defense)

OFFENSIVE STAR: TE David Duran, Jr. (19 receptions, 273 yards, 1 TD)

DEFENSIVE STAR: CB Josh Norman, Jr. (43 TT, 8 INTs)

QB Zach MacDowall, Sr. (126 of 229 for 1,664 yards, 9 TDs and 11 INTs; 77 carries, 163 yards, 3 TDs)
QB Aramis Hillary, So. (South Carolina transfer)
RB Eric O'Neal, Sr. (89 carries, 377 yards, 2 TDs; 17 receptions, 101 yards)
RB Jeremy Height, So. (59 carries, 225 yards)
LT Tim Franklin, Jr.
LG Seth Small, Sr.
RT Bryan Brooks, Jr.
RG Kenneth Page, So. (Clemson transfer)
OT Jamey Cheatwood, R-Fr.
WR Brandon Whitley, Sr. (31 receptions, 483 yards, 4 TDs)
WR Marquel Willis, Jr. (14 receptions, 145 yards)
WR Adrian Sullivan, So. (8 receptions, 120 yards, 1 TD)
NT Robert Balkunas, Sr. (33 TT, 3.5 TFL)
NT Dexter Holman, Jr.
DT Chad McField, Jr. (25 TT)
DT Johnny Hartsfield, So. (Hofstra transfer)
DE Quinton Davis, So. (33 TT, 7 TFL, 3 sacks)
LB Chris Walls, Sr. (43 TT, 2.5 sacks)
LB Desmond Stewart, Jr. (60 TT, 4.5 TFL, 1 INT)
LB E.J. Brown, Sr. (58 TT, 3 sacks, 2 INTs)
S Marcus Lott, Jr. (41 TT, 2 INTs, 5 PBU)
S Dominique Davenport, Sr. (56 TT, 3 INTs)
PK Justin Durham, Sr. (13 of 19 FG, 42 long)
P Ben Erdman, Sr. (33.1-yard punt average)

OUTLOOK: The quarterback position will get interesting if MacDowall can't fend off Hillary, the South Carolina transfer, during preseason camp. MacDowall started eight games last season and threw more interceptions than touchdowns. The offensive line suffered some important losses, so it's important for the skill-position players to raise their play. Duran is the Big South's top tight end. After being inconsistent last season, the defense should be improved. The linebackers are particularly active and Norman is one of the better cornerbacks in the FCS. Bennett has done an excellent job at Coastal Carolina, including getting the Chanticleers to the 2006 FCS playoffs. He has put together a tough non-conference schedule to get his team ready for Big South play.

6. PRESBYTERIAN BLUE HOSE (0-11 overall; 0-6 Big South)

COACH: Harold Nichols (0-11 in one season at Presbyterian)

STARTERS RETURNING: 15 (8 offense/7 defense)

OFFENSIVE STAR: RB Trandon Dendy, Sr. (133 carries, 554 yards, 5 TDs; 18 receptions, 142 yards, 1 TD)

DEFENSIVE STAR: LB Derek Brown, Sr. (60 TT, 4.5 TFL)

QB Brandon Miley, Jr. (151 of 276 for 1,736 yards, 11 TDs and 16 INTs)
RB Lance Byrd, So. (127 carries, 700 yards, 4 TDs; 22 receptions, 158 yards)
FB Shawn Armstrong, So.
WR Patrick McKoy, Jr. (47 receptions, 615 yards, 4 TDs)
WR Anderico Bailey, So.(27 receptions, 207 yards)
WR Derek Frost, So. (16 receptions, 128 yards)
TE Robert Bumgarner, Sr. (4 receptions, 38 yards, 1 TD)
TE Joel Gilkey, Fr.
C Jared Tavernier, Sr.
LT Tyler Phillips, R-Fr.
LG Grayson Sumner, Sr.
RT Max Travis, Jr.
DE Brian Leonardi, Sr. (51 TT, 8 TFL, 4 QBH)
DE Derren Evans, Jr. (34 TT, 7 TFL, 4 sacks, 2 PBU)
DE Keyadd Miller, R-Fr.
DT Xavier Boatwright, So. (10 TT)
DT Brian Davis, Jr. (26 TT, 2 PBU, 2 blocked kicks)
LB L.J. Perry, Fr. Rover J.J. Russell, So.
FS Justin Bethel, Jr. (79 TT, 4.5 TFL, 3 PBU, 3 blocked kicks)
CB Damon Lawrence, Jr. (37 TT, 2 INTs)
PK Aaron Mayes, So. 6 of 12 FG)
P Patrick Morgano, So. (37.1-yard punt average)
KR Tyler Robbins, Sr. (20.7-yard KO return)

OUTLOOK: After a rough first season under Nichols, the Blue Hose will try to stop a 14-game losing streak that is the longest in the FCS. They made strides by the end of last season, losing 41-37 at Coastal Carolina and 21-14 to Gardner-Webb. Their offense should trouble many opponents. Dendy is the team's top rusher, and when he got hurt last season Byrd replaced him with a school- record 274-yard performance against Charleston Southern. Miley must cut down on his interceptions, but he will benefit from the return of McKoy, the team's leading receiver. The defense has a long way to go, but will be improved after playing a lot of young players last season. The Coastal Carolina game was the Blue Hose's only one in which it did not allow at least 29 points. Their games against North Greenville (Sept. 25) and VMI (Oct. 2) offer, dare anybody say, the chance for a winning streak.

7. VMI KEYDETS (2-9 overall; 1-5 Big South)

COACH: Sparky Woods (6-16 in two seasons at VMI; 69-62-5 in 12 overall seasons)

STARTERS RETURNING: 16 (6 offense/10 defense)

OFFENSIVE STAR: QB Cam Jones, Jr. (4 of 11 for 30 yards and 1 TD)

DEFENSIVE STAR: DT Josh Wine, Sr. (63 TT, 1.5 sacks)

QB Adam Morgan, R-Fr.
RB T.J. Talley, Jr. (28 carries, 150 yards)
RB Julian Bowers, Jr.
WR Mario Scott, Sr. (14 receptions, 237 yards, 3 TDs)
WR Bryan Barnson, Sr. (11 receptions, 183 yards)
T Aaron Blue, Jr.
T Rob Bailey, Jr.
C Angelo Smith, Jr.
G Bo Wren, Jr.
G Phillip Pickens, So.
DE Ben Brandt, Sr. (34 TT, 6.5 TFL)
DE Damiso Alexander, Sr. (36 TT, 4.5 TFL, 3 PBU)
LB A.J. Gross, Jr. (76 TT, 3.5 TFL)
LB Eric Church, Jr. (55 TT, 3 FR)
LB Trae Watkins, Jr. (39 TT)
OLB Emilio Calvin, Jr. (66 TT, 9 TFL, 3 sacks, 2 PBU)
OLB Kris Ware, Sr. (34 TT, 4 sacks, 2 PBU)
CB Juan Thrasher, Jr. (62 TT, 4 PBU)
CB Greg Walker, Jr. (34 TT, 5 PBU)
FS Byron Allen, Jr. (93 TT, 1 FR)
SS Josh Sneed, Jr. (29 TT)
PK Jeff Sexton, So. (3 of 6 FG, 32 long)
P Marc Ray, Sr. (38.9-yard punt average)

OUTLOOK: The Keydets defense surrendered 30.7 points per game last season, but will be much improved with a veteran unit (10 returning starters). Wine is a terrific interior lineman and Calvin (OLB) and Allen (FS) are outstanding in their units. The problem for the struggling program could come on offense, where QB Kyle Hughes and all the top runners departed from the FCS' top rushing offense (277 ypg). The Keydets are switching from a spread option to more of a pro-style attack and though the elusive Jones isn't a sure thing at QB, his experience gives him a lift over Morgan, a redshirt freshman. The Keydets haven't had a winning season since 1981.

By Craig Haley, FCS Executive Director


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