Football Tabbed Sixth in Preseason SAC Poll; Four Named to Preseason All-SAC Teams


ROCK HILL, S.C. ( -- The South Atlantic Conference released its 2014 preseason Football poll as well as the preseason all-conference teams on Tuesday.  Catawba was picked sixth in the coaches poll while placing four players on the all-conference teams.

Carson-Newman has been voted by the SAC head coaches to win the 2014 SAC Football Championship.  The Eagles collected four first-place votes and 46 points from the panel.

The Eagles posted a 10-3 overall record and a 5-2 record in the League to finish in a tie for second in the SAC during the 2013 campaign.  Carson-Newman advanced to the NCAA Division II Football Playoffs where it defeated Newberry to move to the second round where it fell to eventual National Runner-Up Lenoir-Rhyne.  Carson-Newman averaged 343.8 rushing yards per game last season to rank No. 4 nationally.  The Eagles also amassed 485 yards of total offense per game to finish No. 16 in Division II.  Eien Jacob and Javaris Neal each earned 2014 Preseason All-American honors by USA Football.  Carson-Newman placed 11 players on the Preseason All-South Atlantic Conference teams.

Lenoir-Rhyne placed second in the voting as it picked up four top-bids and 45 total points.  The Bears won the 2013 South Atlantic Conference Football Crown as it went 13-2 overall and 7-0 in the League.  Lenoir-Rhyne received a first-round bye in the NCAA Division II Playoffs and made a run to the National Championship to finish as the 2013 NCAA Division II National Runner-Up. 

The Bears ranked No. 1 in Division II with 370.9 rushing yards per game and set the NCAA single-season rushing mark with 5,563 yard.  Preseason All-SAC first-team honoree Jarrod Spears posted 985 rushing yards a season-ago.  Defensively, the Bears ranked 12th in the country as it held opponents to 101.5 rushing yards per game and were 20th nationally as they limited their opponent’s offenses to 317.5 yards per game.  Offensive tackle Joe Ray and linebacker Tanner Botts each received bids to the 2014 (BSN) Preseason All-America First-Teams, while defensive end Blake Baker earned a spot on the second team.  Lenoir-Rhyne has won three-straight SAC Championships and will hit the field for the 2014 season under new head Coach Ian Shields.

Newberry was picked to finish third in the poll as it garnered 36 points from the head coaches.  The Wolves closed out the 2013 campaign with a 9-3 overall mark and a 5-2 record in the SAC to finish in a tie for second.  Newberry posted an at-large bid to the 2013 NCAA Division II Playoffs.  W.T. Murden returns under center for the Wolves as he finished the 2013 season ranked No. 1 in the League and 23rd in the nation with a passer rating of 149.6.  Murden threw for 17 touchdowns and 1,964 yards last season.  The Wolves had a total of 11 players named to the 2014 Preseason All-SAC teams.

Wingate came in fourth in the voting with 31 points.  The Bulldogs turned in a 4-6 overall record and a 3-4 SAC record to tie for fourth in the League.  Jordan Berry earned 2014 Second-Team Preseason All-South Atlantic Conference Accolades after finishing the 2013 season with 700 receiving yards and seven touchdowns.  Offensive lineman Will Poteat earned First-Team Preseason All-SAC accolades.

The Lions of Mars Hill placed fifth in the poll with 25 points.  Wide out Dmitri Holmes earned Second Team All-American honors from BSN after finishing the 2013 season ranked No. 2 in the nation with 144.6 receiving yards per game.  He hauled in 15 scores to rank No. 5 in Division II, while amassing 1,591 receiving yards to rank fourth.  The Lions closed out the 2013 season with a 3-8 overall record and a 1-6 Conference mark.

Catawba placed sixth in the voting with 21 total points.  The Indians tied for fourth in the South Atlantic Conference as it posted a 3-4 record in the SAC and a 6-5 overall mark a season ago.  Linebacker Jason Taylor earned 2014 First-Team Preseason All-SAC honors after averaging 9.5 tackles per game, seven tackles for loss and two sacks.  Offensively, the Indians return their top running backs in Corey Littlejohn and David Burgess.  All five starters on the offensive line also return as they are anchored by All-South Atlantic Conference Preseason honoree Taylor Fender.

Tusculum came in at the No. 7 position as it finish the 2013 season with a 4-7 overall mark and a 2-5 record in South Atlantic Conference play to tie for sixth.  The Pioneers will have to replace 2013 SAC Offensive Player of the Year Bo Cordell.  Cordell finished his career at Tusculum ranked No. 1 in every passing category in both the SAC and Tusculum annals.  2014 Preseason BSN All-American second team wide receiver Justin Houston led the squad with 1,347 receiving yards and seven touch downs last season.  Teammate and BSN Preseason All-American Third Team honoree Wesley Powell returns at tight end.  Powell hauled in four touchdowns and finished with 520 yards a season ago.

The Brevard College Tornados round out the poll with seven points.  Brevard tied for sixth in the SAC as it posted a 3-8 overall record and a 2-5 SAC mark.  The Tornados were one of the most disciplined teams in the nation a season ago as it finished third in the nation with only 3.18 penalties per game.  Andre Overholt earned Preseason All-SAC plaudits at return specialist for Brevard.  Overholt tallied 1,024 yards of return during the 2013 season and accounted for 1,501 all-purpose yards.

The 2014 South Atlantic Conference football season gets underway on Thursday, Sept. 4 with Carson-Newman and Tusculum in action at 7:00pm at home.  The rest of the League’s teams kick it off on Saturday, Sept. 6.

Defending SAC Champion Lenoir-Rhyne led the way with six players on the preseason all-conference first-team, the League announced today.  The first team features 17 preseason All-Americans.

Mars Hill, Wingate and Carson-Newman each placed four players on the first teams, while Catawba, Newberry and Tusculum each earned three first-team selections.  Brevard rounded out the first team selections with two.

At the first-team quarterback position is 2014 Lindy’s preseason honorable mention All-American W.T. Murden.  Murden threw for 1,834 yards and 16 scores a season ago.

The running back corps consists of three first-team 2014 preseason All-America selections in Shaikel Davis of Mars Hill and Lenoir-Rhyne’s Jarrod Spears and Isaiah Whitaker.  Davis led the South Atlantic Conference last season with 1,254 yards on the ground.  He also chipped in eight touchdowns for the Lions.  Spears accounted for 984 rushing yards and seven scores during the 2013 campaign.  Whitaker carried in 10 TDs for the Bears and racked up 912 rushing yards a season ago.

Dimitri Holmes of Mars Hill headlines the trio of wide receivers on the first team.  Holmes, a unanimous 2014 preseason All-American, finished the 2013 season ranked No. 2 in the nation with 144.6 receiving yards per game.  He hauled in 15 scores to rank No. 5 in Division II, while amassing 1,591 receiving yards to rank fourth.  He is eight touchdowns away from the SAC career mark and is just 270 yards shy of the SAC career record.

Justin Houston and Deon Hicks from Tusculum joined Holmes on the first-team at the wide out position.  Houston, a 2014 preseason All-American, finished second in the League a season ago as he racked up 1,347 receiving yards.  He found the end zone seven times for the Pioneers.  Teammate Hicks was right behind Houston with 784 yards.  He also hit pay dirt seven times last season.

Lenoir-Rhyne’s Joe Ray anchors the first-team offensive linemen.  Ray earned 2014 preseason All-America first-team nods from and Lindy’s.  Mars Hill’s Denzell Goode, Taylor Fender of Catawba, Will Poteat from Wingate and Nick Allison of Mars Hill also captured first-team honors at offensive line.

At the tight end position, 2014 preseason All-American Wesley Powell earned first-team honors.  He hauled in 38 catches last season and amassed 520 yards receiving.  He averaged 13.7 yards per catch and scored four touchdowns.

Preseason All-American Patrick Smith was tabbed the first-team placekicker.  Dusty Nance of Carson-Newman is the first-team long snapper, while Kyle Clark of Newberry earned first-team honors at punter.

The first-team defensive line features three 2014 preseason All-Americans in Blake Baker of Lenoir-Rhyne,  Javaris Neal from Carson-Newman and Jonathan Jean of Catawba.  Baker was a unanimous selection and earned first-team honors from Lindy’s and CDFL.  Neal was also garnered first-team honors from Lindy’s.  Wingate’s Nick Napolitano joined the trio on the list of first-team defensive linemen.

Baker notched 14.5 sacks, while Neal brought down the quarterback 6.5 times.  Napolitano registered five sacks and Jean chipped in a pair of sacks.

The linebacker quartet also features three preseason All-Americans, including two first-team selections.  Lenoir-Rhyne’s Tanner Botts and Edmond Robinson of Newberry each earned first-team honors.  Botts notched 134 tackes, 3.5 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss during the 2013 season.  Robinson was in on 66 tackles, to go along with 2.5 sacks and 12 tackles for loss.  Brevard’s Michael Gruber and Jason Taylor of Catawba round the list of first-team linebackers.  Gruber is a Lindy’s preseason All-American who notched 124 tackles last season.  Taylor finished the 2013 season with 105 tackles, two sacks and seven tackles for loss.

Eien Jacob of Carson-Newman and Lenoir-Rhyne’s O’neil Blake highlight the first-team defensive backs as each earned 2014 preseason All-America honors.  Jacob posted 45 tackles a season ago and notched 11 break-ups and five interceptions.  Blake came away with 76 tackles, nine tackles for loss, three picks and 12 break-ups last season.

Jon Jimenez of Wingate and Dante Thomas from Carson-Newman also earned first-team honors at the defensive back position.  Jimenez led the Bulldogs with 88 stops, two interceptions and four break-ups.  Thomas recorded 52 tackles, eight break-ups and two interceptions.

Andre Overholt from Brevard wraps up the list of first-team selections as he earned his honor as a return specialist.  He logged 1,024 yards of return for the Tornados with a long of 57 yards.  He averaged 22.8 yards of return on kickoffs.

2014 South Atlantic Conference First and Second Team Preseason All-Conference
First Team Offense
QB – W.T. Murden, Newberry
RB – Shaikel Davis, Mars Hill
RB – Jarrod Spears, Lenoir-Rhyne
RB – Isaiah Whitaker, Lenoir-Rhyne
WR – Dimitri Holmes, Mars Hill
WR – Justin Houston, Tusculum
WR – Deon Hicks, Tusculum
OL – Denzell Goode, Mars Hill
OL – Joe Ray, Lenoir-Rhyne
OL – Taylor Fender, Catawba
OL – Will Poteat, Wingate
OL – Nick Allison, Mars Hill
TE – Wesley Powell, Tusculum
LS – Dusty Nance, Carson-Newman
P – Kyle Clark, Newberry
PK – Patrick Smith, Wingate

First Team Defense
DL – Blake Baker, Lenoir-Rhyne
DL – Javaris Neal, Carson-Newman
DL – Nick Napolitano, Wingate
DL – Jonathan Jean, Catawba
LB – Tanner Botts, Lenoir-Rhyne
LB – Edmond Robinson, Newberry
LB – Michael Gruber, Brevard
LB – Jason Taylor, Catawba
DB – Eien Jacob, Carson-Newman
DB – O’neil Blake, Lenoir-Rhyne
DB – Jon Jimenez, Wingate
DB – Dante Thomas, Carson-Newman
RS – Andre Overholt, Brevard

Second Team Offense
QB – De’Andre Thomas, Carson-Newman
RB – Kelvin Jeter, Brevard
RB – Andy Hibbett, Carson-Newman
RB – Cary Littlejohn, Catawba
WR – Jordan Berry, Wingate
WR – Anthony Eubanks, Carson-Newman
WR – Byron Dickerson, Newberry
OL – Landon Martin, Newberry
OL – Robbie Ignagni, Carson-Newman
OL – Evan Sobocinski, Newberry
OL – Billy Munker, Tusculum
OL – Mathu Gibson, Wingate
TE – Brandon Ellington, Wingate
LS – Andrew Smith, Newberry
P – Charlie Rhea, Carson-Newman
PK – Kyle Clark, Newberry

Second Team Defense
DL – William Alderman, Carson-Newman
DL – Johnny Maxey, Mars Hill
DL – Alstevis Squirewell, Newberry
DL – Steven Jacobs, Wingate
LB – Rodney Singleton, Lenoir-Rhyne
LB – Jasper Mason, Mars Hill
LB – Taylor McDonnell, Newberry
LB – Wayne Soliai, Tusculum
DB – Joe Anderson, Lenoir-Rhyne
DB – Jakeem Polk, Wingate
DB – LiRonta Archie, Tusculum
DB – Lance Richardson, Newberry
RS – TraShaun Ward, Carson-Newman

SAC Coaches Poll
1. Carson Newman (4), 46
2. Lenoir-Rhyne (4), 45
3. Newberry, 36
4. Wingate, 31
5. Mars Hill, 25
6. Catawba, 21
7. Tusculum, 13
8. Brevard, 7

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