The Stony Brook University Seawolves demonstrated a competitive fire from their first day as a Big South football affiliate member, and they’ll leave (they join CAA football in 2013) as the conference’s best team. Liberty remains a challenger for the top and the rest of the Big South prepares to make their own noise.
By Myron Hosea
CSN So South Columnist
College Sporting News
's returning star Miguel Maysonet and Iowa transfer Marcus Coker will continue coach Chuck Priore’s string of combo power at running back. Maysonet rushed for 1,633 yards and 15 touchdowns last year. Coker will take the spot of departed Brock Jackolski (1,418 yards and 16 touchdowns rushing). Quarterback Kyle Essington (1,919 passing yards and 20 touchdowns) keeps defenses from fully committing to trying to stop the run. Receivers Jordan Gush and Kevin Norrell caught 41 passes each. Big man Michael Bamiro (6-8, 350) anchors the offensive line.
Stony Brook not only had the league’s best offense, it had the best defense, too (336 yards per game). Linebacker Jawara Dudley (71 tackles) and defensive back Dominick Reyes (68) lead the Seawolves defenders. In fact, the Seawolves return the top five tacklers from 2011, including safety Dan Mulrooney. Wes Skiffington enters his fourth season as the Seawolves’ kicker (93 points in 2011).
University Flames have been a consistent winner for several seasons though playoff spots have eluded the program. Danny Rocco, coach during the recent string of success, moved on to Richmond, and Turner Gill was named to take over the Liberty program. Gill’s head coaching experience has been on the FBS level at Buffalo and Kansas. He found a sound a roster in Lynchburg that includes 15 starters.
Among the returnees is multi-talented defensive back Kevin Fogg. As a kick returner, Fogg averaged 33.5 per return, taking three back for touchdowns. He made three interceptions and 45 tackles from the secondary. He’s joined on defense by fellow defensive backs Walt Aikens, Chris Mayo, and Brent Vinson. Nick Sigmon and Scott Hyland return at linebacker after combining for 106 tackles last season. Leaders up front include Francis Bah (four sacks, 11.5 tackles for loss), Cory Freeman, and Greg Schuster.
While Gill is looking for guys who can run and throw to step up at quarterback, he can count on two of the league’s better running backs. Aldreakis Allen and SirChauncey Holloway qualify for more than an all-name team. Allen ran for 612 yards and eight touchdowns while adding 21 catches and two touchdowns in the passing game. Holloway likely will get more touches after averaging 5.5 yards a carry and scoring four touchdowns. They’ll run behind an experienced line featuring seniors Malcolm Boyd, Aaron Lundy, Stan Herring, and Jay Weatherington. How well the Flames replace quarterback Mike Brown and wide receiver Chris Summers will have a lot of impact on their success this season. Liberty’s long-time kicking duo of placekicker Matt Bevins and punter Mike Larsson has moved on, so new players will be stepping into those roles.
The 10th season of Coastal Carolina
University football marks a new chapter with the beginning of Joe Moglia’s turn as Chanticleers head coach. The successful businessman – he’s still Chairman of the Board of TD Ameritrage – returned to coaching after a three-decade hiatus and comes to Conway after a season as head coach of the Omaha Nighthawks of the United Football League.
To his advantage, he inherited an experienced lineup with 19 returning starters. One of them is quarterback Aramis Hillary, who threw for 1,749 yards and 14 touchdowns (against five picks) while rushing for another seven scores. He’ll have three running backs - Jeremy Height, Travis Small, and Marcus Whitener – who combined for 947 yards last year. Wide receiver Matt Hazel (32 receptions) is considered one of the best in the Big South. Tight end David Duran returns from an injury but has All-American credentials. Offensive lineman Jamey Cheatwood is an all-conference performer and will get help up front from Chad Hamilton and Pat Williams.
The Chanticleer defense lost some key players (Josh Norman, Marcus Lott, Desmond Steward) but possesses the pieces for a solid unit. A healthy Andrae Jacobs at linebacker will make the defense even stronger. Safeties Johnnie Houston and Philip George are important elements to the secondary. End Quinton Davis and Chris Thomas and nose tackler Jeffery Salley man the front wall. Both kickers – placekicker Grant Clayton and punter Austin Cain – return, and Niccolo Mastromatteo was second-team Big South as a return specialist.
Ron Dickerson, Jr.’s second season at the helm of Gardner-Webb
University football could show significant improvement. The coach welcomes back 19 Runnin’ Bulldogs with starting experience. For example, the front wall of the offense is back with Jamie Dunaway (1st team Big South), Steve Demilio (2nd team), Jeff Harris, Harrison Martin, and Austin Sargent. They’ll block for running back Kenny Little, who rushed for 1,042 yards and seven touchdowns in just nine 2011 games. Little will be a key element of the offense given some uncertainty at quarterback and the fact that Little and Ricky Rhodes are the top returning receivers with 12 and 11 catches respectively.
The Bulldogs defense could be the strength of the team, particularly with four experienced players on the front line. Preston Pemasa and Matt Goods are all-conference players and team with Maurice Dickson and Dylan Taylor to create that wall. Kamar Morrison, Gianni Olivas, Ivan Toomer, and Keon Williams man the secondary. Some new players will have to step in at linebacker. Trever Austin earned second-team Big South honors last year as a freshman while Rhodes made the first team as the return specialist.
College Blue Hose may be the Big South team that has the widest range of possible finishing spots in the league. On the plus side, this is year four under Harold Nichols, and all those guys who came in as freshmen in 2009 are now seniors. PC also is now fully eligible as a Division I member, which should be a source of motivation, too. On the other hand, the Blue Hose are still trying to build toward the league’s elite right now and will challenge Gardner-Webb and Coastal Carolina for third at best.
The running game remains important to the Blue Hose offense, and senior Lance Byrd (910 yards, eight touchdowns) is the key rusher. Seth Moreland provides depth. Adding to the offense’s prowess is the return of the top five receivers including Michael Ruff (38 catches), Anderico Bailey (28), and Jeremiah McKie (24). Who will be calling signals, handing off, and throwing was a bit of an unknown heading into camp. James Festa and Tim Fowler are leaders on the offensive line.
Several key players are gone from the defense, including defensive back Justin Bethel and lineman Brian Davis. Among the key defenders for 2012 are linebackers L. J. Perry, Joe Wideman, and Donelle Williams (2011 Big South Freshman of the Year). End Keyadd Miller and Josh Polk anchor the front while safety Cedric Byrd is the lone returnee in the secondary. The Blue Hose have experience in the kicking game with placekicker Aaron Mayes and punter Patrick Morgano, both seniors.
With some experience on the VMI
roster, there’s optimism for Sparky Woods’ fifth year leading the Keydets. Wins have been elusive for VMI, but hope for 2012 rises from six games in Lexington and this being the third year in the team’s pass offense. Junior quarterback Eric Kordenbrock has been in the system that whole time and big things are expected after he threw for 1,792 yards last year. If he can improve his completion percentage (50.7), the offense could hum. The top two receivers and top rushers are gone, so he’ll need someone to step up. Wide receivers Stefawn Ross and Dexter Bridges and tight end Mario Thompson could be the guys.
The defense will miss linebackers A. J. Gross and Emilio Calvin as well as defensive back Byron Allen. The defensive front could be a strength. Linemen Charlie Jones, Shawn Chapman, and Justin Smith all return. Outside linebacker Logan Staib and defensive backs Michael Johnson and Mike Smith will be counted on to help the defense improve. Senior placekicker Jeff Sexton has plenty of experience but had few field goal opportunities last season.
For most of this decade, Charleston Southern
University Buccaneers football proved itself as a solid member of the league, often at or above .500. Injuries and inexperience have contributed to just three wins the last two seasons. Head coach Jay Mills thinks that a larger roster with more experience and competition all around will lead to a recovery of the Bucs program. Mills turned to Georgia Southern assistant Shawn Quinn to coordinate the defense. Quinn will lean on all-conference defensive back Charles James to lead the still youthful defense. Demaris Freeman and Zac Johnston also return to the secondary. Michael Chocholousek, Matt Hardy, and Brad Sweatt man the linebacker spots. Will Hunt and James Smith anchor the front wall.
The quarterback will be either Derek Hatcher or Malcolm Dixon. Dixon has the experience (847 yards passing in 2012). They can throw to one of the league’s top receivers, Nathan Perea (43 catches, 4 touchdowns). Teddy Allen returns as the running back after rushing for 360 yards. Leading the offensive line are Jeff Hartung and Clayton Truitt.
BIG SOUTH PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
1. Stony Brook
3. Coastal Carolina
7. Charleston Southern
BIG SOUTH TOP PERFORMERS
Offensive Player of the Year:
Miguel Maysonet, RB, Stony Brook, Sr.
Defensive Player of the Year:
Charles James, CB, Charleston Southern, Sr.
Biggest Shoes to Fill:
Mike Brown, QB, Liberty
BIG SOUTH GAMES OF THE WEEK
Sept. 1 - Wofford at Gardner-Webb
The Runnin’ Bulldogs welcome their canine brethren from not far across the state line in South Carolina for the first meeting between the teams since 2007. The Terriers made a similar week-one trip to PC last year and nearly stumbled, and Gardner-Webb would love to kick off 2012 with a big upset.
Sept. 8 - Coastal Carolina at Furman
Here’s another Big South-SoCon matchup. Furman traveled to the beach last season and dropped the opener to the Chanticleers. That likely means Coastal Carolina will have an even tougher task to tackle this year.
Sept. 15 - Liberty at Montana
Liberty has lined up good FCS competition over the past several years (such as the recently completed series with James Madison) in an effort to build a post-season-worthy resume. It hasn’t worked so far in that regard, but you have to appreciate such scheduling. This trip to Missoula will be critical to the Flames if they miss the league title and have to hope for an at-large bid.
Sept. 22 - Colgate at Stony Brook & Lehigh at Liberty
The last sentence above applies here for both Stony Brook and Liberty. The top teams in the Big South take on perennially strong FCS programs. These games represent an opportunity for the Seawolves and Flames to enhance the Big South’s football rep.
Sept. 29 - Coastal Carolina at Appalachian State
Give the Chanticleers points for challenging themselves against some of the best the SoCon has to offer. Coastal Carolina last played at the Rock in the 2006 playoffs and is 0-2 there all-time.
Oct. 6 - Presbyterian College at VMI
The Blue Hose and Keydets have been among the teams in the bottom half of league standings last few years. The winner in this early Big South game has the better opportunity to escape the bottom.
Oct. 13 - Stony Brook at Coastal Carolina
The Chanticleers still harbor designs on the league crown. They must beat Stony Brook to make those designs real.
Oct. 20 - Gardner-Webb at Stony Brook
Yes, every team is targeting the Seawolves as the must-win proof-of-it’s-our-time game. As improved as Gardner-Webb should be, winning on Long Island will be difficult.
Oct. 27 - Liberty at Coastal Carolina
Simply put, this game is sort of late in the season, and the loser may well be done in the title chase.
Nov. 3 - Coastal Carolina at Gardner-Webb
These teams have a history of playing hard-fought football games. Expect that to continue on this date in 2012.
Nov. 10 - Stony Brook at Liberty
It’s not the final week of the season, but this game still shapes up to be the one for the Big South title and the automatic playoff bid.
Nov. 17 - Presbyterian College at Gardner-Webb
One or both of these teams could be most improved in the Big South in 2012. This season finale could set the stage for making a bigger move in the standings in 2013.
BIG SOUTH FOOTBALL MEMBERS
Charleston Southern Buccaneers
Location: Charleston, SC
Stadium: CSU Stadium (4,000)
Head Coach: Jay Mills (43-57 at CSU, 46-78 overall)
Who’s Back: RB Teddy Allen, LB Michael Chocholousek, QB Malcolm Dixon, OL Jeff Hartung, DL Will Hunt, DB Charles James, DB Zac Johnston, WR Nathan Perera
Who’s Gone: OL B. J. Baker, K/P Andy Brown, RB B. J. Hackwork, DB Chris Kuzdale. TE Carson Leshin, OL Levi McFatter, DL Matt Woods
Historical Fact: The Bucs are 3-19 the past two seasons after averaging 6.5 wins a season from 2004 through 2009.
Last Year: 0-11/0-6 – The downward spiral for the Bucs got worse in 2011.
This Year: 3-8/1-5 – Charleston Southern will be a better team in 2012, but climbing out of the cellar is too much of a reach.
Coastal Carolina Chanticleers
Location: Conway, SC
Stadium: Brooks Stadium (9,372)
Head Coach: Joe Moglia (First season at Coastal Carolina and overall)
Who’s Back: OL Jamey Cheatwood, WR Matt Hazel, QB Aramis Hillary, DB Johnnie Houston, LB Andrae Jacobs, RS Niccolo Mastromatteo, DE Chris Thomas
Who’s Gone: OL Bryan Brooks, TE Jamie Childers, OL Tim Franklin, DB Marcus Lott, DB Josh Norman, LB Desmond Steward
Historical Fact: The coaching change made after the 2011 season is the first for this relatively young football program (2012 will be the school’s 10th).
Last Year: 7-4/3-3 – Chanticleers had a winning record, but .500 finish in league ended the run of the school’s first head coach.
This Year: 4-7/3-3 – Brutal non-conference schedule will challenge Coastal Carolina to post a winning record for first-year head coach.
Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs
Location: Boiling Springs, NC
Stadium: Spangler Stadium (8,000)
Head Coach: Ron Dickerson, Jr. (4-7 at Gardner-Webb and overall)
Who’s Back: PK Trever Austin, OL Steve Demilio, OL Jamie Dunaway, DL Matt Goods, RB Kenny Little, DL Preston Pemasa, RS Ricky Rhodes
Who’s Gone: TE James Dugas, DB Lyndrez Leslie, LB Marty Patterson, WR James Perry, III, DL Jordan Woods
Historical Fact: Of the 10 Preseason Big South Defensive Players of the Year the league has named, six have come from Gardner-Webb.
Last Year: 4-7/2-4 – First team under Ron Dickerson, Jr. challenged opponents but found wins tough to come by.
This Year: 4-7/3-3 – The Runnin’ Bulldogs are another 2012 Big South team that should be much better but will be held back by a tough schedule.
Location: Lynchburg, VA
Stadium: Williams Stadium (19,200)
Head Coach: Turner Gill (First season at Liberty and 25-49 overall)
Who’s Back: DB Walt Aikens, RB Aldreakis Allen, DL Francis Bah, OL Malcolm Boyd, DB/KR Kevin Fogg, RB SirChauncey Holloway, WR Pat Kelly, OL Aaron Lundy, LB Nick Sigmon
Who’s Gone: QB Mike Brown, DL Asa Chapman, WR B. J. Hayes, P Mike Larsson, TE Tommy Shaver, WR Chris Summers, OL Toney White
Historical Fact: The longest home conference win streak belongs to Liberty, which has won 15 Big South games at home in a row.
Last Year: 7-4/5-1 – The Danny Rocco era ended at Liberty yet again just shy of the playoffs.
This Year: 7-4/4-2 – The Flames will have to watch out for upsets at the hands of up-and-coming league members.
Presbyterian College Blue Hose
Location: Clinton, SC
Stadium: Bailey Memorial Stadium (6,500)
Head Coach: Harold Nichols (4-29 at Presbyterian College and overall)
Who’s Back: S Cedric Byrd, RB Lance Byrd, OL James Festa, WR Jeremiah McKie, P Patrick Morgano, WR Michael Ruff, LB Donelle Williams
Who’s Gone: DB Justin Bethel, DL Brian Davis, DL Derren Evans, LB CeeJay Harris, QB Brandon Miley, QB Ryan Singer, OL Max Travis
Historical Fact: It’s official. After a long journey, PC is now full-fledged Division I and eligible for the post-season – and the official NCAA stats page.
Last Year: 4-7/3-3 – The deliberate growth of the PC program showed promise in 2011 with a .500 finish in conference play.
This Year: 5-6/3-3 – Slowly, game-by-game and year-by-year, the Blue Hose are moving in the right direction.
Stony Brook Seawolves
Location: Stony Brook, NY
Stadium: Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium (8,136)
Head Coach: Chuck Priore (37-31 at Stony Brook, 76-40 overall)
Who’s Back: LB Jawara Dudley, QB Kyle Essington, RB Miguel Maysonet, DB Dominick Reyes, PK Wes Skiffington
Who’s Gone: WR Matt Brevi, OL Joe Faiella, DL Ryan Haber, RB/KR Brock Jackolski, DL Roosevelt Kirk
Historical Fact: Stony Brook enters its last season of Big South football with a 19-4 league record in four years.
Last Year: 9-4/6-0 – The Seawolves delivered a breakthrough season in 2011, going unbeaten in the league and scoring the Big South’s first-ever playoff win.
This Year: 8-3/5-1 – Stony Brook will capture the Big South once again and will be a tough out in the playoffs.
Location: Lexington, VA
Stadium: Alumni Memorial Field at Foster Stadium (10,000)
Head Coach: Sparky Woods (11-33 at VMI, 74-79-5 overall)
Who’s Back: WR Dexter Bridge, DL Charlie Jones, QB Eric Kordenbrock, WR Stefawn Ross, K Jeff Sexton, LB Logan Staib, TE Mario Thompson,
Who’s Gone: DB Byron Allen, OL Rob Bailey, LB Emilio Calvin, LB A. J. Gross, WR Tracy Hairston
Historical Fact: Though they’ve had only two conference wins each of the past two seasons, it’s the first time VMI has won more than one Big South game in consecutive years.
Last Year: 2-9/2-4 – The Keydets did get a pair of conference victories, but nothing else.
This Year: 4-7/2-4 – Woods’ fifth team in Lexington should be his best, but with all the teams above them improving, too, moving up will be a challenge.