FCS Season Preview: CAA

Chris Whitney is the reigning CAA first-team quarterback.
CAA Football, the premier conference in the Football Championship Subdivision, has had a different school reach the national championship game in each of the last four seasons, and five schools (including Delaware twice) in the last seven seasons.

The merry-go-round of success suggests that Villanova could find this season to be tougher than last, despite the defending FCS champion returning a veteran squad. That's because each Wildcat will wear a bull's-eye on his jersey every time he hits the field.

"Absolutely. Villanova will find that out this year," said Mickey Matthews the head coach of CAA rival James Madison. "In talking to Mike London (head coach of Richmond's 2008 national champions) and talking to Coach (K.C.) Keeler at Delaware (the FCS champion in 2003), when you're the defending champion, you're going to get everyone's best shot the next year. That's just the way it is.

"They're going to get everyone's best shot. We found that out in '05."

Latrell Scott, Richmond's new head coach, concurs. "When I was an assistant at Richmond before and (James) Madison went out and won the national championship, I think everybody was gunning for Mickey and his team," he said. "And I imagine it was a very similar situation with Mike (London) and those guys. I think the difference is in this league everybody's gunning for everybody week in and week out."

In some ways, conference play for CAA teams is as difficult as the national playoffs. All four CAA teams that were in the playoffs last season - Villanova, William & Mary, Richmond and New Hampshire - reached the national quarterfinals. Villanova eliminated New Hampshire and William & Mary en route to winning its first national title.
Preseason CAA All-Conf Team
First-Team Offense

QB- Chris Whitney, Villanova
RB- John Griffin, Massachusetts
RB- Jonathan Grimes, William & Mary
FB- Kendall Gaskins, Richmond
WR- Tre Gray, Richmond
WR- Kevin Grayson, Richmond
WR- Matt Szczur, Villanova
TE- Emil Igwenagu, Massachusetts
OL- Brant Clouser, Villanova
OL- Keith Hill Jr., William & Mary
OL- Ben Ijalana, Villanova
OL- Drew Lachenmayer, Richmond
OL- Theo Sherman, James Madison

First-Team Defense

DL- Ronnell Brown, James Madison
DL- Yaky Ibia, Towson
DL- Brian McNally, New Hampshire
DL- Martin Parker, Richmond
LB- Tyler Holmes, Massachusetts
LB- Eric McBride, Richmond
LB- Terence Thomas, Villanova
LB- Jake Trantin, William & Mary
S- Anthony Bratton, Delaware
S- John Dempsey, Villanova
CB- Justin Rogers, Richmond
CB- Dino Vasso, New Hampshire

First-Team Specialists

RS- Matt Szczur, Villanova
PK- Nick Yako, Villanova
P- David Miller, William & Mary

So while the Wildcats are favored to repeat as national champions, they first have to figure out how to survive the CAA in one piece.

The news that the Wildcats wanted in the offseason came when All-America Matt Szczur decided to return for his senior season following his signing with the Chicago Cubs. A wide receiver, kickoff returner and game-changer when he runs the team's Wildcat offense, Szczur was the MVP of last year's 23-21 win over Montana in the national title game.

Szczur was named the CAA's preseason offensive player of the year. The Wildcats' roster also includes senior linebacker Terence Thomas, the CAA's preseason defensive player of the year; reigning CAA first-team quarterback Chris Whitney; the conference's top offensive lineman, left tackle Ben Ijalana, who is expected to be the first FCS player taken in the 2011 NFL Draft; and three other all-conference preseason choices, offensive guard Brant Clouser, safety John Dempsey and place-kicker Nick Yako.

"In my particular feeling, the (2009) season was phenomenal," Villanova head coach Andy Talley said. "We had talent, we also had a certain amount of luck. We stayed pretty injury-free, and had the ability to maybe take that thing the whole way. And everything broke just right for us. Going into 2010, we have the same mixture of players. We have a good team that could be capable of defending. However, the question remains if we have the chemistry to do what we did last year and if this team will come together. The league is so good that you're going to be challenged very strongly within the league."

William & Mary lost a 14-13 heartbreaker at Villanova in the national semifinals, but faces Villanova on Oct. 2 at home in Williamsburg, Va., in one of the regular season's biggest games. Villanova's other chief competitors for the CAA title are Delaware, which also plays a home game against the Wildcats and returns standout quarterback Pat Devlin, and New Hampshire, the only team to beat the Wildcats during their 14-1 season a year ago.

The CAA will go from two divisions to one 10-team alignment after it lost two teams, Hofstra and Northeastern, which dropped their football programs following last season. Old Dominion will join the conference in 2011 and Georgia State will follow in 2012.

Following is a team-by-team breakdown of the 2010 CAA Football race.

The Sports Network's predicted order of finish:

1. Villanova
2. William & Mary
3. Delaware
4. Richmond
5. New Hampshire
6. James Madison
7. Maine
8. Massachusetts
9. Towson
10. Rhode Island

Offensive Player of the Year: Matt Szczur, WR/KR, Villanova

Defensive Player of the Year: Martin Parker, DT, Richmond

1. VILLAVOVA WILDCATS (14-1 overall; 7-1 CAA Football)

COACH: Andy Talley (179-102-1 in 25 seasons at Villanova; 207-120-2 in 30 seasons overall

STARTERS RETURNING: 15 (8 offense/7 defense)

OFFENSIVE STAR: WR/KR Matt Szczur, Sr. (51 receptions, 610 yards, 4 TDs; 108 carries, 813 yards, 10 TDs; 27.2-yard KO return average, 1 TD)

DEFENSIVE STAR: LB Terence Thomas, Sr. (116 TT, 11 TFL, 8.5 sacks)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Chris Whitney, Sr. (159 of 247 for 1,936 yards, 18 TDs and 5 INTs; 203 carries, 987 yards, 6 TDs) RB Aaron Ball, Sr. (165 carries, 794 yards, 6 TDs) RB Angelo Babbaro, Sr. (69 carries, 442 yards, 6 TDs) WR Dorian Wells, So. (16 receptions, 198 yards, 2 TDs) WR Norman White, Jr. (17 receptions, 251 yards, 2 TDs) LT Ben Ijalana, Sr. LG Brant Clouser, Sr. C Dan Shirey, So. RT Chidozie Ekwozor, So. DE Marlon Johnson, So. (26 TT, 1 INT, 1 FR) DL Antoine Lewis, Fr. LB Marquis Kirkland, Sr. (73 TT, 10.5 TFL, 1 INT, 1 FR) LB Jacob Wade, Sr. (33 TT, 3 INTs) LB Anthony Johnson, Sr. (28 TT) CB James Pitts, Jr. (73 TT, 4 INTs, 2 FR) CB Eric Loper, So. (40 TT, 2 INTs, 10 PBU) SS John Dempsey, Sr. (77 TT, 11.5 TFL, 6 sacks, 2 INTs, 4 FF) WS Fred Maldonado, Sr. (75 TT, 9.5 TFL, 4 sacks, 2 INTs) FS Ronnie Akins, So. (30 TT, 2 FF) DB Craig James, Jr. PK Nick Yako, So. (12 of 16 FG, 45 long) P Dominic Scarnecchia, Jr. (38-yard punt average)

OUTLOOK: It's hard to find any fault with the defending FCS champions. The Wildcats won it all for the first time last season by rushing the ball well and playing excellent defense. That shouldn't change this season. Szczur may be the nation's most dynamic player - a threat as a receiver, runner, returner and quarterback out of Villanova's version of the Wildcat. In Szczur, Whitney, Ball and Babbaro, the Wildcats' top rushers combined for 3,036 yards and 28 touchdowns last season. Up front, Ijalana and Clouser have started every game of their careers. Defensively, Thomas is the leader at LB, and the secondary is experienced. If there is a chink in the armor, the Wildcats lost two standouts on their defensive line, pass-rushing DE Tim Kukucka and NG Phil Matusz. The road schedule has some potential stumbling blocks - Temple, William & Mary, Maine and Delaware - but the Wildcats should come through with another big regular season and be sitting pretty for home playoff games.

2. WILLIAM & MARY TRIBE (11-3 overall; 6-2 CAA Football)

COACH: Jimmye Laycock (200-141-2 in 30 seasons overall)

STARTERS RETURNING: 12 (6 offense/6 defense)

OFFENSIVE STAR: RB/KR Jonathan Grimes, Jr. (277 carries, 1,294 yards, 9 TDs; 46 receptions, 289 yards, 1 TD; 18.4-yard KO return average)

DEFENSIVE STAR: MLB Jake Trantin, Jr. (90 TT, 10 TFL, 3 INTs, 6 PBU)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Mike Paulus, Jr. (North Carolina transfer) QB Brent Caprio, R-Fr. FB Terrence Riggins, Sr. (57 carries, 290 yards, 2 TDs) RB Courtland Marriner, Sr. (93 carries, 458 yards, 7 TDs) WR Chase Hill, Sr. (34 receptions, 469 yards, 4 TDs) WR Cameron Dohse, Sr. (30 receptions, 566 yards, 2 TDs) LT Keith Hill Jr., Sr. LG Chris Sutton, Jr. LG James Johnson III, R-Fr. RG Derek Toon, Sr. RT Mike Salazar, So. DT Mike Stover, Sr. (38 TT, 12 TFL, 5.5 sacks, 4 PBU) DT Harold Robertson, Jr. (20 TT, 2 TFL) DE Ravi Pradhanang, Jr. (20 TT, 3.5 sacks) DL Brennen Glover, R-Fr. (Winston Salem-State transfer) OLB Wes Steinman, Sr. (44 TT, 11.5 TFL, 1 INT, 4 PBU) OLB Evan Francks, Sr. (89 TT, 7.5 TFL, 6 PBU, 3 FR) OLB Dante Cook, So. (28 TT) CB/PR B.W. Webb, So. (23 TT, 8 INTs, 11 PBU; 8.2-yard punt return average) CB Ben Cottingham, Sr. (32 TT, 6 PBU) FS Terrell Wells, Jr. (25 TT, 1 INT, 3 PBU) P/PK David Miller, Sr. (40.5-yard punt average)

OUTLOOK: It will be hard for last year's incredible defense to play on the same high level. The defensive line lost Sean Lissemore, Adrian Tracy and C.J. Herbert, who had more than 120 games of combined starting experience, and four of the six total tacklers overall departed after last season's national semifinal run (the Tribe bowed out with a 14-13 loss at Villanova). Still, it seems Laycock's 31st season at W&M could come close to another school record- tying 11 wins. Trantin and Francks are playmaking linebackers and Webb is a thief at cornerback (eight interceptions as the CAA Defensive Rookie of the Year). Grimes gives the Tribe dominant rushing/receiving ability and should keep getting better. Who gets him the ball will come down to the preseason battle of Paulus (once considered one of the top high school QBs in the nation) and Caprio. The formula isn't complicated: get Grimes the ball and punish other teams with defense. The Tribe can't let an Oct. 30 trip to North Carolina take too much out of them because they follow with road games at New Hampshire and James Madison and then a home finale against Richmond.

3. DELAWARE BLUE HENS (6-5 overall; 4-4 CAA Football)

COACH: K.C. Keeler (62-39 in eight seasons at Delaware; 150-60-1 in 17 seasons overall)

STARTERS RETURNING: 16 (8 offense/8 defense)

OFFENSIVE STAR: QB Pat Devlin, Sr. (220 of 344 for 2,664 yards, 16 TDs and 9 INTs; 4 rushing TDs)

DEFENSIVE STAR: LB Matt Marcorelle, Sr. (51 TT, 9 TFL, 4 sacks in 2008; injured last season)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: RB David Hayes, So. (101 carries, 409 yards, 2 TD; 12 receptions, 91 yards) RB Leon Jackson, So. (99 carries, 316 yards, 6 TDs) WR Tommy Crosby, Sr. (25 receptions, 299 yards, 2 TDs) WR Mark Mackey, Sr. (33 receptions, 374 yards, 1 TD) WR/KR Phillip Thaxton, Sr. (23 receptions, 345 yards, 1 TD) WR Nihja White, So. (21 receptions, 238 yards, 2 TDs) LT Shea Allard, Jr. C Rob McDowell, Jr. RG Gino Gradowski, Jr. RT Kevin Uhll, Sr. DE Chris Morales, Jr. (23 TT, 3 sacks) DT Siddiq Haynes, Sr. (30 TT, 1 FF) DT Matt Hardison, Sr. (Rutgers transfer) LB Paul Worrilow, So. (60 TT, 4 TFL, 2 FR) LB Bernard Makumbi, Sr. (67 TT) LB Andrew Harrison, Jr. (56 TT,6.5 TFL, 1 blocked kick) SS Anthony Bratton, Sr. (49 TT, 2 PBU) FS Anthony Walters, Sr. (55 TT, 10 PBU, 2 FF, 1 FR) CB Tyrone Grant, Sr. (25 TT, 2 FF) CB Marcus Burley, So. (51 TT, 2 FR) CB Jake Giusti, Fr. P Ed Wagner, Sr. (40-yard punt average)

OUTLOOK: With seven of their 11 games at home, the Blue Hens expect to rebound in a big way. Last season, the offense was in transition, although Devlin transferred in from Penn State and went on to lead CAA Football in passing yards (242.2 per game), including 407 yards against Villanova. He has a wealth of receivers at his disposal. Where Devlin needs additional support is in the run game, and Hayes and Jackson are more experienced after combining for 725 yards as freshmen. The offensive line also has a nice mix of veterans and young players who are ready to contribute this season. Defensively, the Blue Hens should be improved after they struggled in the second half of last season. Marcorelle was granted a sixth season of eligibility by the NCAA because of past injuries and provides a spark in the middle of the defense. The back end features the Anthonys, safeties Bratton and Walters, who are a superb duo. The Blue Hens are trying to avoid missing the FCS playoffs for three straight seasons for the first time since 1983-85.

4. RICHMOND SPIDERS (11-2 overall; 7-1 CAA Football)

COACH: Latrell Scott (first season)

STARTERS RETURNING: 7 (3 offense/4 defense)

OFFENSIVE STAR: WR Kevin Grayson, Sr. (48 receptions, 545 yards, 2 TDs)

DEFENSIVE STAR: DT Martin Parker, Sr. (75 TT, 15.5 TFL, 6.5 sacks, 10 QBH, 2 FF)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Aaron Corp, Jr., (Southern California transfer) QB John Laub, So. (9 of 18 for 122 yards and 1 INT) RB Tyler Kirchoff, Sr. (45 carries, 190 yards, 4 TDs) RB/PR Garrett Wilkins, So. (61 carries, 282 yards, 2 TDs) RB Jovan Smith, R-Fr. FB Kendall Gaskins, So. (38 carries, 93 yards, 6 TDs) WR Tre Gray, Jr. (51 receptions, 713 yards, 4 TDs) WR Donte Boston, Jr. (33 receptions, 494 yards, 4 TDs) C Drew Lachenmayer, Sr. OL Richard Muldrow, Jr. OL Kevin Westervelt, Jr. OL Mark Speir, R-Fr. NG Corey Jackson, Jr. (9 TT) DE Kerry Wynn, R-Fr. LB Eric McBride, Sr. (93 TT, 3.5 TFL, 4 FR, 4 FF) LB Patrick Weldon, Sr. (94 TT, 5.5 TFL, 2 INTs, 5 PBU) LB Darrius McMillan, So. (17 TT) LB Tyler Sullivan, Sr. (15 TT) CB/RS Justin Rogers, Sr. (30 TT, 3 INTs, 8 PBU; 18.1-yard KO return average) CB/KR Tremayne Graham, Jr. (38 TT, 2 INTs, 4 PBU; 25.2-yard KO return average, 1 TD) S Darryl Hamilton, So. (32 TT, 1 INT, 2 PBU) PK Wil Kamin, So.

OUTLOOK: The 35-year-old Scott is the third-youngest head coach in Division I. He inherits a team lacking experience as the 2008 FCS champions have only seven returning starters, the fewest in CAA Football. A former Richmond assistant (2005-07), Scott helped recruit some of the outstanding redshirt seniors on the roster - DT Parker, LB McBride and CB Rogers, who were each nominated for the Buck Buchanan Award, presented by Fathead.com. That class also features returning tackle leader Weldon. While the defense should be strong again, the Spiders are cautiously optimistic that the offense will mature quickly. A lot depends on the retooled offensive line that returned only Lachenmayer, the conference's best center. The big battle has been at quarterback, where Corp has the name recognition as a former Southern Cal starter, but Laub has the experience in the system behind former standout Eric Ward (41-12 as a starter). The Spiders are also replacing a 1,000-yard rusher in Forte, but they remain solid at the skill positions, particularly with WRs Grayson and Gray. September offers a rough schedule with an opener at Virginia (Sept. 4) against former coach Mike London and then home dates against Elon (Sept. 18) and Delaware (Sept. 25). The Spiders will play on campus for the first time in 82 years at their renovated Robins Stadium.

5. NEW HAMPSHIRE WILDCATS (10-3 overall; 6-2 CAA Football)

COACH: Sean McDonnell (80-53 in 11 seasons at New Hampshire)

STARTERS RETURNING: 14 (6 offense/8 defense)

OFFENSIVE STAR: QB R.J. Toman, Sr. (174 of 320 for 2,181 yards, 15 TDs and 11 INTs; 110 carries, 251 yards, 4 TDs)

DEFENSIVE STAR: CB Dino Vasso, Sr. (76 TT, 5 INTs, 6 PBU)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: RB Sean Jellison, Sr. (97 carries, 424 yards, 7 TDs) RB Dontra Peters, So. (37 carries, 207 yards, 2 TDs) SE Kevon Mason, Sr. (21 receptions, 261 yards, 1 TD) WR Terrance Fox, Sr. (36 receptions, 490 yards, 4 TDs in 2008; injured last season) FL Joey Orlando, So. (15 receptions, 281 yards, 2 TDs) TE Chris Jeannot, Jr. (11 receptions, 129 yards, 2 TDs) LT Seth Price, Sr. LG George Pecoraro, Jr. RT Mickey DiLima, So. RG Seamus O'Neill, R-Fr. C Chris Zarkoski, So. DE Brian McNally, Jr. (29 TT, 4 sacks) DE Jay Colbert, R-Fr. DT Steve Young, Sr. (39 TT, 6 TFL, 1 blocked kick) DT John Murray, Jr. (12 TT) DT Lance Mailloux, Sr. (26 TT, 3 sacks) LB Devon Jackson, Sr. (98 TT, 9 TFL, 3 sacks, 1 FF) LB Alan Buzbee, So. (27 TT) OLB Ryan McGuinness, Sr. (56 TT, 4 TFL, 1 INT, 4 PBU) FS Hugo Souza, Sr. (77 TT, 3 INTs, 8 PBU, 2 FR) PK A.J. DeLago, R-So. P Ryan Glasgow, Sr. (34.7-yard punt average)

OUTLOOK: Considering the depth of the CAA, it's been fashionable to say the Wildcats could take a step back this season. The Wildcats aren't buying it. Despite their tough schedule, McDonnell reminds his players that opponents have to play the Wildcats just like the Wildcats have to play them. They were the only team to beat Villanova last season, a 28-24 win in Durham. But the eventual FCS champion exacted revenge in the national quarterfinals, 46-7. Toman had a better sophomore season in 2008 than a year ago and has to return to a higher level because the Wildcats no longer have top RB Chad Kackert and clutch TE Scott Sicko. As they find answers at the skill positions, the experienced offensive line will be a strength from the start. While UNH teams are known for offense, this could be a defensive-led squad. Vasso, Souza, Jackson and Young are senior leaders. Incredibly, the Wildcats have five straight road wins over FBS teams (Rutgers, Northwestern, Marshall, Army and Ball State), but they will be hard-pressed to continue the streak Sept. 11 at Pittsburgh. Still, UNH will make a run at reaching the FCS playoffs for a seventh straight season.

6. JAMES MADISON DUKES (6-5 overall; 4-4 CAA Football)

COACH: Mickey Matthews (82-51 in 11 seasons at James Madison)

STARTERS RETURNING: 13 (6 offense/7 defense)

OFFENSIVE STAR: QB Drew Dudzik, Sr. (28 of 50 for 472 yards, 6 TDs and 2 INTs; 36 carries, 158 yards, 1 TD)

DEFENSIVE STAR: DT Ronnell Brown, Sr. (26 TT, 8.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks, 1 INT, 2 PBU)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Justin Thorpe, So. (82 of 145 for 1,260 yards, 6 TDs and 9 INTs; 148 carries, 654 yards, 5 TDs) TB Jamal Sullivan, Sr. (127 carries, 451 yards, 4 TDs) TB Griff Yancey, Sr. (46 carries, 149 yards) TB Scott Noble, Jr. (66 carries, 282 yards, 1 TD; 16 receptions, 235 yards, 1 TD) WR Marcus Turner, Sr. (10 receptions, 78 yards) TE Brian Barlow, So. LT Theo Sherman, Sr. C Roane Babington, Jr. RG Brandon Monroe, Sr. DT Nick Emmons, Sr. (Army transfer) DE D.J. Bryant, Jr. (32 TT, 6.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks, 4 PBU) LB Pat Williams, Jr. (87 TT, 7 TFL) LB Jamie Veney, Jr. (33 TT) WS Jon Williams, Jr. (58 TT, 5 TFL, 2 INT, 2 PBU, 2 FF) FS Jakarie Jackson, So. (41 TT, 3 INTs, 2 PBU) SS Vidal Nelson, Jr. (57 TT, 1 INT, 2 FF) CB Taveion Cuffee, Jr. (25 TT) PK Dixon Wright, Jr. (10 of 13 FG, 45 long) P Matt Goff, Sr. (37.8-yard punt average) KR/WR Kerby Long, Jr. (23.4-yard KO return average)

OUTLOOK: The Dukes overcame a 2-5 start by winning their final four games last season. They are a wild card in the CAA race, probably better than 6-5 but not as good as when they posted 29 combined wins from 2006-08. Matthews feels his team has few question marks. He expects a huge season out of Dudzik, who split time with Thorpe before being sidelined by a foot injury after five games a year ago. Dudzik won the job again during spring practices. Yancey is a safety-turned- running back who should come on strong this season, and the running game will get a lift from one of the conference's better offensive lines, which is anchored by Sherman. Last year's defense was the best during Matthews' tenure, but it lost 2009 Buch Buchanan Award winner Arthur Moats (a Buffalo Bills draftee) up front. Still, the d-line remains a strength and Pat Williams eats up ball carriers at linebacker.

7. MAINE BLACK BEARS (5-6 overall; 4-4 CAA Football)

COACH: Jack Cosgrove (93-101 in 17 seasons at Maine)

STARTERS RETURNING: 16 (9 offense/7 defense)

OFFENSIVE STAR: TB Jared Turcotte, Jr. (rushed for 625 yards and 7 TDs and caught 25 passes in 2008; injured last season)

DEFENSIVE STAR: LB Donte Dennis, Jr. (108 TT, 8 TFL, 4 INTs, 3 PBU)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Warren Smith, Jr. (159 of 260 for 1,695 yards, 12 TDs and 13 INTs; 74 carries, 205 yards, 2 TDs) QB Chris Treister, Jr. (69 of 96 for 771 yards, 7 TDs and 4 INTs) SB/WR Derek Session, Jr. (119 carries, 479 yards, 3 TDs; 23 receptions, 176 yards) FB Conor Keating, Jr. WR Tyrell Jones, Sr. (48 receptions, 547 yards, 6 TDs) WR Derrick Johnson, R-Fr. TE Derek Buttles, Jr. (18 receptions, 182 yards) LT Josh Spearin, So. LG Matt Barber, Sr. LG Jeff Gakos, Fr. C Garrett Williamson, So. C/RG Steve Shea, Jr. NT Ryan Nani, Jr. (30 TT, 4 TFL, 2 sacks) DE Edwin Roach, Fr. DE Kris Enslen, So. (25 TT, 3 TFL) DT Kevin Phanor, Jr. (24 TT, 3 TFL) LB Mark Masterson (8 TT; injured last season) LB Vinson Givans, Jr. (66 TT, 3.5 TFL) LB Ryan McCrossan, Jr. (38 TT, 1 INT) CB/KR Steven Barker, Sr. (48 TT, 3 INTs, 10 PBU) CB Dominic Cusano, Sr. (35 TT) CB Darlos James, So. (25 TT) CB Kendall James, R-Fr. FS/PR Trevor Coston, Jr. (52 TT, 5 INTs, 2 PBU, 1 FF) SS Jerron McMillian, Jr. (55 TT, 3.5 TFL, 5 INTs, 2 FF) PK/P Jordan Waxman, Jr. (32.4-yard punt average)

OUTLOOK: Injuries to Turcotte and Masterson helped sink the Black Bears after they went 8-5 and made the FCS playoffs in 2008. However, they lost only nine players from last season, and 21 players who started at least four games are back. Turcotte's injury allowed Cosgrove to develop Session and a passing game that featured two QBs, Smith and Treister. Smith, who runs well, is the starter. The Black Bears are hoping they can replace big-play WR Landis Williams, who caught 71 passes and nine touchdowns. After Masterson's injury, Dennis came on strong at linebacker. The two standouts are part of a veteran defense. The undersized secondary could use a 6-2, 220-pound stalwart, but is adept at picking off passes. Maine is 42-22 all-time at Alfond Stadium, but this year's CAA home schedule is brutal with William & Mary (Sept. 25) New Hampshire (Oct. 2), Villanova (Oct. 16) and James Madison (Nov. 20) coming to town. The Black Bears will have to spring an upset at some point to have a winning season. Cosgrove needs seven wins for 100 in his career.

8. MASSACHUSETTS MINUTEMEN (5-6 overall; 3-5 CAA Football)

COACH: Kevin Morris (5-6 in one season at UMass; 29-38 in seven seasons overall)

STARTERS RETURNING: 8 (4 offense/4 defense)

OFFENSIVE STAR: TB John Griffin, Sr. (Northeastern transfer; 207 carries, 1,009 yards, 5 TDs in 2009)

DEFENSIVE STAR: LB Tyler Holmes, Jr. (110 TT, 6.5 PBU, 4 INTs, 5 PBU)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Kyle Havens, Sr. (146 of 264 for 1,908 yards, 9 TDs and 15 INTs) TB Jon Hernandez, Jr. (121 carries, 577 yards, 8 TDs; 10 receptions, 107 yards) TB Jamar Smith, R-Fr. WR/KR Julian Talley, Jr. (28 receptions, 350 yards, 1 TD; 20.1 KO return average) WR Dan Sheeran, Sr. (4 receptions, 35 yards) TE Emil Igwenagu, Jr. (23 receptions, 283 yards, 1 TD) C John Ihne, Sr. LG Josh Samuda, Jr. RG Stephane Milhim, So. RT Brian Ostaszewski, Jr. OL Nick Speller, So. (Syracuse transfer) OL Greg Niland, Sr. (Northeastern transfer) LB Perry McIntyre, So. (64 TT, 1 INT, 3 PBU) LB Stanley Andre, Fr. CB Ke'Mon Bailey, Sr. (38 TT, 4.5 TFL, 5 PBU) SS Darren Thellen, So. (39 TT, 1 INT, 2 PBU) S Shane Viveiros, Jr. (29 TT, 1 INT, 5 PBU) S Kumar Davis, So. (26 TT) DB Antoine Tharpe, Fr. P/PK Caled Violette, So. (39-yard punt average; 1 of 2 FG)

OUTLOOK: After going a combined 23-5 in 2006 and '07, the Minutemen have taken a step back the last two seasons, including a 5-6 debut for Morris after they went 0-5 on the road. This season's schedule is rough again, but the Minutemen avoid playing Villanova. They lost a lot to graduation, especially on the offensive and defensive lines. Vlad Ducasse, their All-America left tackle, was the first FCS player selected in the 2010 NFL Draft. If the o-line solidifies, the Minutemen will run the ball quite well. They replace Tony Nelson with Griffin, the All-CAA standout from Northeastern who was one of only three 1,000-yard rushers in the conference last season, and Hernandez, who also returns off a productive season. Havens had a subpar season as the starting quarterback and should be improved, though top WR Victor Cruz is gone. Defensively, Holmes is a beast at linebacker who averaged 11 tackles per game last season. McIntyre also made an impact as a true freshman alongside Holmes. This appears to be another five-, maybe six-win season.

9. TOWSON TIGERS (2-9 overall; 1-7 CAA Football)

COACH: Rob Ambrose (2-9 in one season at Towson; 5-16 in two seasons overall)

STARTERS RETURNING: 15 (7 offense/8 defense)

OFFENSIVE STAR: TB Tremayne Dameron, So. (144 carries, 588 yards, 8 TDs; 19 receptions, 105 yards)

DEFENSIVE STAR: DT Yaky Ibia, Sr. (52 TT, 9 TFL, 2.5 sacks)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Peter Athrens, So. (59 of 112 for 691 yards, 6 TDs and 12 INTs) QB Chris Hart, Jr. (Georgia Military Academy transfer) TB Dominique Booker, So. (55 carries, 218 yards, 1 TD) WR/RS Hakeem Moore, Sr. (28 receptions, 286 yards, 1 TD; 22.5-yard KO return average) WR Tom Ryan, So. (18 receptions, 190 yards) LT Erik Pike, R-Fr. LG Dan Hurley, Jr. RT Henry Glackin, Jr. RG John Esposito, Jr. RG Chris Ritter, Sr. C Steve Jordan, Sr. DE Frank Beltre, So. (43 TT, 4 TFL, 2 sacks) DE Romale Tucker, So. (54, 2.5 sacks, 2 FF) DT Marcus Valentine, Jr. (35 TT, 5 TFL 1.5 sacks) OLB Danny Collins, Jr. (66 TT, 3 PBU, 2 FR, 2 FF) MLB Chris Patterson, Jr. (4 TT) MLB Darius Hill, So. (40 TT, 1 INT) CB/PR Jeremy Gardner, Sr. (64 TT, 1 INT, 4 PBU) CB Ollie Thomas, Sr. (47 TT, 4.5 TFL, 3 PBU) SS Raymond White, Sr. (48 TT, 3 INTs) SS Jordan Dangerfield, So. (Hofstra transfer) PK Nick Wallace, Sr. (Maryland transfer)

OUTLOOK: Last season's countless injuries played a big part in the Tigers posting their lowest win total since 1997. Perhaps the most glaring statistic in their poor season: they were outscored, 402-148. At least the Tigers return a lot of experienced players. Ibia, a preseason All-CAA selection. is a standout on the defensive interior. OLB Danzel White will miss this season, but Collins moves up from safety. That still leaves a veteran secondary, and the unit adds Dangerfield to the mix. Offensively, the Tigers have veteran running backs with Dameron and Booker. They need more consistent play at quarterback, with Athrens trying to win the preseason derby (he was hurt after six games last season). The first half of the schedule offers some excellent opportunities for wins (Coastal Carolina and at Columbia) and the lower-tier CAA opponents visit Johnny Unitas Stadium (Maine, UMass and Rhode Island). Expect an improved season with the Tigers.

10. RHODE ISLAND RAMS (1-10 overall; 0-8 CAA Football)

COACH: Joe Trainer (1-10 in one season at Rhode Island; 14-30 in four seasons overall)

STARTERS RETURNING: 16 (7 offense/9 defense)

OFFENSIVE STAR: QB Chris Paul-Etienne, Sr. (143 of 268 for 1,745 yards, 14 TDs and 7 INTs; 3 rushing TDs)

DEFENSIVE STAR: LB Rob Damon, Sr. (124 TT, 14 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 INT, 2 FR, 3 FF)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Steve Probst, Jr. (Hofstra transfer) RB Anthony Ferrer, Sr. (104 carries, 411 yards, 5 TDs) RB Ayo Isijola, So. (85 carries, 365 yards, 1 TD) WR Tyquan Bynum, So. (38 receptions, 506 yards, 2 TDs) WR/KR Ryan Lawrence, Jr. (18 receptions, 164 yards, 1 TD; 16.7-yard KO return average) WR Brandon Johnson-Farrell, So. (6 receptions, 87 yards; injured last season) WR Billy Morgan, So. (Hofstra transfer) OG Kyle Bogumil, Jr. OT Jason Foster, Jr. OT Michael Gross, Jr. OG Dave Valley, Sr. OL Kevin Mustac, Fr. DE Victor Adesanya, Sr. (34 TT, 6.5 TFL, 4 sacks, 1 INT) DT Willie McGinnis, Jr. (41 TT, 6.5 TFL, 1 INT, 1 FR) DT Matt Rae, Jr. (25 TT, 2 FR) DL James Timmins, Fr. LB Matt Hansen, Sr. (103 TT, 11.5 TFL, 4 sacks, 2 PBU, 1 FF) LB Joe Harris, Sr. (58 TT, 6.5 TFL, 1 FR, 3 FF) LB Dan O'Connell. Sr. (39 TT, 2 PBU, 1 FR) CB Robenson Alexis, Jr. (31 TT, 1 FR) CB/KR Jarrod Williams, Sr. (65 TT, 4 INTs, 2 PBU) S Jordan Dalton, So. (24 TT, 1 FR) PK Louis Feinstein, Jr. (7 of 9 FG, 39 long) DB Chris Edmond, Jr. (Hofstra transfer) P Tim Edger, Jr. (45.1-yard punt average)

OUTLOOK: The Rams' possible move to the Northeast Conference is justified in part by their lack of success in the nation's top FCS conference. They have had eight straight miserable seasons and tied for the program low with a 1-10 mark last season in Trainer's debut as head coach. Teams with a plus-10 turnover ratio aren't supposed to finish 1-10, but the Rams allowed at least 28 points in every game and a 36.9-point average over the season. They have an outstanding set of linebackers in Damon and Hansen, both of whom have All- America ability. Damon's 124 tackles led the CAA last season. Paul-Etienne has settled into running the spread offense and is backed by Hofstra transfer Probst. It will be hard to replace the departed Shawn Leonard's 11 touchdown receptions. Veterans on both lines will make a big difference. The Rams' only win last season was in the opener against Fordham. They probably should win about three games this season.

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