SoCon Football Coaches Ready to Start

Wednesday, July 28, 2010 - by B.B. Branton

With college football five weeks away, coaches and players prepare for pre-season camp and then the much anticipated season opener.

For Southern Conference schools it’s all about numbers.

How many wins can a team attain. A coach’s dream of a solid 2-deep depth chart at each position. Teams look for eight, nine or 10 wins to make the NCAA playoffs.

The nine Southern Conference football coaches had their annual pre-season teleconference call on Tuesday and much of the discussion centered around numbers.

Here are a few important ones.
39 – days until the season opener (Sat. Sept. 4) for eight of the nine schools.

24 – start of the 24th season for Mike Ayers at Wofford … the dean of SoCon gridiron coaches

20 – teams chosen by the NCAA for the expanded NCAA FCS (formerly I-AA) football playoffs increased from 16 in past years. The SoCon has a legitimate chance of landing three of those 20 spots.

13 – Appalachian State players are on the 2010 SoCon pre-season first or second teams

12 – SoCon league titles for Furman; best among all schools ever in the SoCon

9 – or possibly eight wins should put a team in the NCAA tournament

6 – straight conference titles is the goal of five-time defending champ, Appalachian State
“No question, they are the gold standard in the Southern Conference,’’ said Elon coach Pete Lembo.

6 – NCAA FCS (I-AA) national titles won by current SoCon schools; Appalachian State (3), Georgia Southern (2), Furman (1)

3 – SoCon Superstars – Armanti Edwards (Appalachian State), Terrell Hudgins (Elon) and Andre Roberts – who have graduated – thankfully graduated in the opinion of most conference coaches. All three will be in NFL training camps in the next few weeks.

3 – teams will run the option this year; Georgia Southern, The Citadel, Wofford

1 – new league coach in Jeff Monken at Georgia Southern

Quote of the Day: When asked about the last time Furman played South Carolina .(the teams meet this season on Sept. 10), coach Bobby Lamb responded … “I remember the game quite well as some Furman freshman stood on the sidelines holding a clip board that day in 1982 … that freshman was me and Furman won 28-23.”

A look at the nine Southern Conference football schools as players and coaches report for pre-season camps next week. Georgia Southern will be the first to practice on Monday Aug. 2 at 1:45 p.m.

Pre-Season Reports

CHATTANOOGA

Season Opener: Sat. Sept. 4 – home vs. No. 3 Appalachian State; 3 p.m. SportSouth
First Day Pre-Season Practice: Aug. 4

Coach: Russ Huesman; 2nd season, 6-5
2009: 6-5 (4-4, tied for 4th)

Starters Returning (18): Offense (9), Defense (7), Special Teams (2)

Key Players: Buster Skrine (Sr., DB), Chris Harr (Sr., OL), B.J. Coleman (Jr. QB)

First Year of Football: 1905
All-Time Record: 102 seasons; 456-468-32
SoCon Titles (4): 1977-78-79-84

Strengths: Plenty of speed, veteran O-Line, depth at running back position and QB …

Five returning starters with three seniors … O-Line tied for third in the nation for fewest sacks allowed (9) … Harr, T.J. Hurless and Justin Gaylon are the O-Line seniors …
Seniors Errol Wynn and Bryan Fitzgerald lead the running backs and junior B.J. Coleman is the signal caller.

Wide receivers are young, bur talented led by Chris Pitchford. Junior Joel Bradford moves over from the defensive backfield and looks to catch lots of Coleman passes as he did while at McCallie School on the way to a state runner-up finish in 2006.

Sloan Allison and redshirt freshman Marlon Anthony will also look for playing time, while Garrett Hughes should be the starting tight end.

Offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield will be looking for starting fullback to replace the graduated Shaun Kermah and Courtland Ellzey and Thomas Green are among those who will battle for the starting spot during pre-season camp.

Defense Backs: Jordan Tippit (Jr. 60 tackles, 5 INTs), Buster Skrine (Sr. , 45 tackles, 2 INTs), Kadeem Wise (RS Fr.), Chris Lewis-Harris (Jr., 30 tackles) …

Linebackers are led by Ryan Consiglio (Jr. and J.D. Dothard (Jr.) who moves to LB from defensive back.

“We will be young on defense, but we have plenty of speed ... I feel we can match anyone in the league with our speed.’’ Said coach Huesman. “Our D-backs and safeties are small, athletic and can really run.”

The D-Line is anchored by sophomore Josh Williams who started as a true freshman.

Question Marks: Can running backs Errol Wynn and Bryan Fitzgerald bounce back from past injuries, and stay healthy … if so, the Mocs will be loaded at the running backs position along with Chris Awuah and J.J. Jackson … who will step up and be the starting fullback who will block for the talented running backs ? ... Will true freshman place kicker Nick Pollard match or surpass the consistent numbers put up by graduated All-American kicker Craig Camay?

New Faces: Nick Davison (DL) Jr. transfer from Alabama-Birminghaml Chris Donald (LB) Jr. transfer from Tennessee.

Notes: UTC was originally known as Grant Univ. …

Scrappy Moore Field: The Mocs have a new and improved practice facility … new scoreboard, goal posts, bathroom facilities, turf and grass field, irrigation and watering systems . “When we are all done with our improvements I believe we will have the best practice facility in the country at our level and better than some bigger schools,” said Huesman stated.

Circle the Dates: Mocs open with No. 3 Appalachian State (Sept. 4) … also host Elon on Oct. 30

APPALACHIAN STATE – 2009 SoCon Champs

Season Opener: Sat. Sept. 4 – at Chattanooga; 3 p.m. SportSpouth
First Day Pre-Season Practice: Aug. 6

Coach: Jerry Moore; 21 seasons; 189-76
2009: 11-3 (8-0, 1st)
Starters Returning: Offense (9), Defense (7), Special Teams (4)

5-time defending SoCon champs; three-time national champs, 2005-06-07
No. 3 in 2010 National Pre-Season … 20-game SoCon win streak

Key Players:
First Team All-Americans: D.J. Smith (Linebacker); Mark LeGree (Safety)

Seven Pre-Season All-Americans: Devon Moore (Sr., RB; 1,374 yds./19 TDs), Brian Quick (WR 61 catches/982 yds./4 TDs), Ben Jorden (Jr., TE; 16 catches; 226 yds./1 TD,), Jabari Fletcher (Sr., DE; 63 tackles, 6.5 sacks), Lanston Tanyi (DE; 75 tackles/7.5 sacks), plus Smith (Sr., 137 tackles/2 sacks) and LeGree (Sr., 70/7 INTs)

First Year of Football: 1928
All-Time Record: 80 seasons; 538-302-28
SoCon Titles (10): 1986-87-91-95-1999-2005-06-07-08-09

Strengths: Depth and talent at every position
Question Marks: Who will replace all-everything Armanti Edwards at quarterback ? … Junior DeAndre Presley and freshman Jamal Jackson … according to coach Moore, Presley has a little more game experience …. but both are good leaders with good arms.

Circle the Dates: Sept. 4 at Chattanooga … home against Elon

THE CITADEL

Season Opener: Sat. Sept. 4; Chowan Univ. (N.C.) (1 p.m.)
First Day Pre-Season Practice: Aug. 6

Head Coach: Kevin Higgins; 5th season 24-32
2009: 4-7 (2-6)
Key Players: Cortez Allen (Sr., DB); 57 tackles
Alex Sellars (Sr., TE); 16 receptions/159 yards/6 TDs

First Year of Football: 1905
All-Time Record: 102 seasons; 454-510-32
SoCon Titles (2): 1961, 1992

Strengths: More depth on defense than in recent years which will help in new option offense … led by DB Cortez Allen … plenty of depth and talent on O-Line for the option ... center Bobby Jarvis (6-2, 260; RS Sr.) who is agile on his feet and has a wrestling background
Sam Blaine has slight edge to replace graduated Bart Blanchard at QB … Has good receivers in Scott Harward (38 catches/363 yds./1 TD), Van Dyke Jones (20 catches/197 yds./1 TD), Luke Caldwell (11 catches/95 yds. 1 TD) … Higgins needs big, explosive plays from wide receivers to win games

Defensive line is deep with Chris Billingslea, Quinton Turner, Keith Carter …
Areas to Improve: Players need to adjust to a new system of option football and coaching staff believes the talent is in place and athletes have bought into the new system ...
Offensive tackles need to be 6-1 260 range; athletic and can move and take on linebackers and defensive backs ... guards need to be 6-3, 290 and stay in the trenches

Question Marks: who will replace Sam Keller (PK, 8-14 FGs, 29-32 PATs) and Cass Couey (39.6 yds./punt)

Start with basic Ga. Tech option model … QB will most likely be under center … “after game 3 or 4, we will know how much more work we have to do,” said coach Higgins

Circle The Dates: The option Bulldogs will see themselves in the mirror two weeks running at Ga. Southern (Oct. 23) and home against Wofford (Oct. 30)

ELON

Season Opener: Sat. Sept. 4; at Duke, 7 p.m.
First Day Pre-Season Practice: Aug. 8

Head Coach: Pete Lembo: 5th Season, 24-32
2009: 9-3 (7-1, 2nd)
Starters Returning (15): Offense (7), Defense (6), Special Teams (2)
Key Players

Scott Riddle (Sr., QB); Pre-season SoCon Offensive Player of the Year ... Also plays baseball … and even punts (39.8 avg) … while Adam Shreiner does the place kicking
(17-23 FGs, 42-44 PATs) and second on team in scoring with 93 pts. …
Brandon Ward (Sr., DL, 42 tackles, 5.5 sacks)

First Year of Football: 1905
All-Time Record: 102 seasons; 454-510-32
SoCon Titles (2): 1961, 1992

Strengths: Depth at LB, RB and WR
Improve: Coach Lembo sees that the veterans at linebacker need to step up and carry the load and have great years …

LB vets who will lead the team: Josh Jones (RS Jr.; led team in 89 tackles/2 int), Brandon Wiggins (Sr., 71 tackles), Travis Greene (RS Sr., 34 tackles) …

Offense: led by Sr. Scott Riddle … with graduation of Terrell Hudgins (123 catches/1,633 yds./16 TDs), Elon will now have receivers by committee – Lance Camp (Sr., 45 catches/585 yds./0 TDs), Sean Jeffcoat (Sr., 27 catches/366 yds./3 TDs), A.J. Harris (RS Jr., 28 catches/268 yds./1 TD), Jeremy Peterson (So., 14 catches/102 yds./2 TDs) … group has lots of potential

Running backs will also be by committee; Jamal Shuman 677 yds./3 TDs; A.J. Harris 474 yds./2 TDs), Brandon Newsome 455 yds./7 TDs)

Question Marks: Need for D-Line, DB’s to step up and a few true freshmen will have a chance to battle for playing time …

National Champs: Elon has won a pair of NAIA national championships

Circle The Date: Oct. 9 at Appalachian State ... Oct. 30 at Chattanooga … also travels to 2008 national champion Richmond (Sept. 18) …

Notes: Four opponents have won a national title; Ga Southern, Appalachian State, Furman, Richmond

FURMAN

Season Opener: Sat. Sept. 11; Colgate at home DONE
First Day Pre-Season Practice: Aug. 10

Head Coach: Bobby Lamb: 10th Season, 68-39
2009: 6-5 (5-3, 3rd) … 20th in nation in scoring offense (30.9)
Starters Returning (12): Offense (6); including Antonio Frazier from Baylor School), Defense (6), Special Teams (0)
Key Players: Adam Mims (Sr., WR & Return Specialist; 74 catches, 878 yds./4 TDs), Kadarron Anderson (Jr. LB)

First Year of Football: 1889
All-Time Record: 102 seasons; 562-421-38
SoCon Titles (12): 1978-80-81-82-83-85-86-89-90-99-2001-04

Strengths: Running game with Tersoo Uhaa (542 yds./13 TDs), Jerry Williams (483 yds./3 TDs), Mike Brown (119 yds./0 TDs)

Areas To Improve: Defense; 9th in SoCon in total defense in 2009 (431.3 yds/game); allowed 31.4 pts/game … with only eight seniors, younger players must step up.
Kadarron Anderson led team with 123 tackles

Question Marks: must replace punter and place kicker and QB Jordan Sorrells (2,337 yds/20 TDs) … who will replace QB Jordan Sorrells (2,337b yds./20 TDs) …. job will go to Chris Forcier or Cody Worley … Forcier is a little ahead entering August camp.
Must find replacements for Matthew Cesari (PK) and Trent Hawk (P)

Strategy: Coach Lamb plans to throw 20-25 times a game as opposed to 31 attempts in 2009 … look for more play action and option plays

Circle The Date: Sept. 18 … at South Carolina …last meeting was 1982 … Furman freshman QB who held the clipboard that day was current Paladin head coach Bobby Lamb … Furman won 28-23

Circle the Date II: Oct. 23 … Chattanooga at home … Furman will not have played App. State nor Elon at this point in the season … Furman intercepted Mocs B.J. Coleman on first play from scrimmage and returned it for a touchdown in a 38-20 win at Finley Stadium.

GEORGIA SOUTHERN

Season Opener: Sat. Sept. 4; home vs. Savannah State, 6 p.m.
First Day Pre-Season Practice: Aug. 2

Head Coach: Jeff Monken; 1st Season, 0-0-0 …
2009: 5-6 (4-4, 5th) …
Starters Returning (15): Offense (7), Defense (6), Special Teams (2)
Key Players: Brent Russell (RS So., NG; 48 tackles, 6 sacks)
Receivers: Jamere Valentine (51 catches/487 yds./4 TDs) … Urbano (45 catches/315 yds./0 TDs)
Defense: Dion DuBose (Jr., DE) led team with 85 tackles … Laron Scott (Jr., DB) with 57 tackles, 3 INTs), Darius Eubanks (LB

Special Teams: Adrian Mora (Jr., PK; 16-22 FGs, 19-19 PATs) led team in scoring with 67 points; Charlie Edwards (Jr., P; 39.6 avg, long of 68 yds.)

First Year of Football: 1924
All-Time Record: 46 seasons; 256-99-1
SoCon Titles (8): 1993-97-98-99-2000-01-02-04

Areas To Improve: Coach Monken brings the Ga. Tech option to Statesboro … “There are big changes this season with new coaches and new system,” said coach Monken .… “how long will it take to where this system is automatic ? … I don’t know, but probably more than one season.”

Strengths: Talented transfer QB Jaybo Shaw from Ga. Tech should win the starting job as he has been in the option system at Tech the past two years … 9.340 total yards and 127 TDs in high school …Running game should be solid with Adam Urbano (622 yds./6 TDs) and Darreion Robinson (266 yds./1 TD) …

Notes: Coach Monken and his staff believe the players are sold on the new system and want to return to the glory days of coaches Erk Russell and Paul Johnson, All-American fullback Adrian Peterson and national championships …

Circle the Dates: Ga. Southern has Elon (Sept. 25) and Appalachian State (Homecoming) Nov. 6 at home.

School Nickname: Eagles was selected by the students in 1959 …
Georgia Southern College “Eagles: 1959-present
Georgia Teachers College “The Professors” 1939-1958
South Georgia Teachers College 1929-1938
Nickname of Blue Tide was used 1924-1941

SAMFORD

Season Opener: Sat. Sept. 4 – at Florida State, 5 p.m.
First Day Pre-Season Practice: Aug. 9

Head Coach: Pat Sullivan: 4th Season, 15-18 … 1971 Heisman Trophy Winner
2009: 5-6 (3-5, 6th) …
Starters Returning (18): Offense (8), Defense (7), Special Teams (3)
Key Players: Bryce Smith (Sr., LB) ... pre-season SoCon Defensive Player of Year … led nation in 2009 in solo tackles (7.2 per game) …

First Year of Football: 1906
All-Time Record: 396-407-47
SoCon Titles: None

Strengths: Running game school’s all-time rusher in Chris Evans (3,469 yds.) ...
Will run behind veteran line (four returning starters; two sophs and two seniors) led by Thomas Gray RT … starting QB Dustin Taliaferro is back (1,692 passing yds./9 TDs) …
… special teams is solid with punter Bob Hooper (Sr., 41.5 yds. per kick), place kicker Cameron Yow So., (23-23 PATs, 12-18 FGs) and senior long snapper Chris Corley …
Defense has seven returning starters who are seniors or redshirt seniors led by LB Bryce Smith …

Areas To Improve: Coach Sullivan expects a break out year for QB Dustin Taliaferro …
“Dustin played an up tempo type game in 2008 … somehow got away from that last year, but we expect him to play at that up tempo level again in 2010.”

Florida State Game: Samford was originally known as Howard College … former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden is a Howard football alum … new Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher is a Samford football alum … Fisher was the D-III player of the year as a senior QB in 1987 under head coach Terry Bowden … Sullivan was the D-I Heisman Trophy winner at Auburn in ’71 … FSU will honor coach Bobby Bowden at the Samford-FSU opener ... Coach Sullivan said, “Opening at Florida State and having them honor coach Bowden will be great for our guys to be part of that first game ceremony.’’

Circle The Date: Sept. 4 at Florida State … lots of Samford ties to this game (see above)

WESTERN CAROLINA

Season Opener: Sat. Sept. 4 – at N.C. State (6 p.m.)
First Day Pre-Season Practice: Aug. 7

Head Coach: Dennis Wagner: 3rd Season, 5-18 …
2009: 2-9 (1-7, 8th) …
Starters Returning (12): Offense (7), Defense (5), Special Teams (2)
Key Players: Mitchell Bell (Sr., DB), Marquel Pittman (S, WR), Blake Bostic (Sr., PK), Blake Cain (Jr., P)

First Year of Football: 1931
All-Time Record: 76 seasons; 306-423-23
SoCon Titles: None

Strengths: Three returning starters in O-Line, led by senior Matt Winter … QB Zack Jaynes threw for 1,790 yds./nine TDs …. Soph. RB Michael Johnson (568 yds./4 TDs) was 2009 SoCon freshman of the year … Marquel Pittman (Sr., WR) had 50 catches/619 yds./5 TDs …Johnson had hernia surgery in the off-season and is ready to go

Areas To Improve: the entire football program needs to help change the culture in the Cullowhee community towards supporting the team … players doing the right things off the field is proven as “we are off academic probation and our team GPA has gone from 2.3 GPA when this coaching staff arrived to now above a 2.8,” said coach Wagner … “we have to win some games and we feel we are working towards that goal.”

Notes: … new video board is in place and operational at E.J. Whitmire Stadium on campus … “the board is impressive ... fans will be able to watch replays and that will create more excitement on game day … ‘’ said coach Wagner

Circle the Date: Sept. 25 ... conference home opener with Chattanooga

WOFFORD

Season Opener: Sat. Sept. 4 – at Ohio Univ. (7 p.m.)
First Day Pre-Season Practice: Aug. 9

Head Coach: Mike Ayers: 23rd Season, 144-104-1 … dean of South Carolina coaches
2009: 3-8 (2-6, tied for 7th) … 2nd in nation in rushing (270.18 yds per game) … 20th in nation in scoring offense (30.9)

Starters Returning (20): Offense (9), Defense (9), Special Teams (2)
Key Players: Adam Mims (Sr., WR & Return Specialist; 74 catches, 878 yds./4 TDs),
Pat Illig (Sr., Left Guard); Place Kicker Christian Reed led team in scoring with 47 points (5-7 FGS, 32-33 PATs).

First Year of Football: 1889
All-Time Record: 100 seasons; 463-469-36
SoCon Titles (1): 2003

Strengths: Running game with entire starting backfield returning; led by Mitch Allen (Jr. QB; 633 yds/6 TDs) Mike Rucker (Sr., RB; 602 yds./6 TDs), Michael Scott (Jr., FB; 563 yds./3 TDs)
Experienced O-Line led by seniors Pat Illig (LG), Ben Wilmoth (RG), Clark Bishop (LT) and Trey Johnson (Center).

Defense keyed by Mike Niam (Jr., LB; 23 tackles), Ameet Pall (Jr., DL; 29 tackles, 4 sacks) and Eric Eberhardt (Jr. DL, 32 tackles).

Areas To Improve: must cut down on turnovers (27; most in the league) and improve on defense … need a #2 QB who can be a role player behind junior Mitch Allen to keep a fresh guy in there ... four QBs will have the opportunity to be No. 2 … according to coach Ayers, a decision on the top two will be made early in camp.

Question Marks: need to replace punter Chris Tommie who led SoCon with 43.8 avg.

Notes: Wofford has played 100 years of football … Terriers had seven straight winning seasons before 3-8 in 2009 … O-Line tied for fifth nationally in fewest sacks allowed (9) ... Gibbs Stadium has a new scoreboard with instant replay capabilities.

Circle the Dates: Oct. 2 ... Furman in conference home opener … Nov. 20 ... Chattanooga at home … could be huge game for both schools

Contact B.B. Branton at william.branton@comcast.net


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