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Liberty Hailed as Big South Favorite
CHARLOTTE — While Liberty was the runaway choice as preseason Big South conference champion Friday, it became clear one team was very difficult to pin down.
Charleston Southern had a first-place vote and two last-place votes among the 13 ballots cast by coaches and media.
Overall, the Buccaneers were picked to finish fifth. Coastal Carolina was second while Presbyterian remains ineligible during its second year in transition from Division II.
“We’re the wild card,” Charleston Southern coach Jay Mills said. “We’ll have a good football team that has a range of possibilities. If questions get resolved, this team has the chance to be the best team yet.”
The Bucs return 16 starters from an injury-ravaged 5-6 season. Mills speculated the injuries were what led to voter confusion.
While 16 is a large number of returning starters, that figure puts the Bucs toward the bottom of the pack. Stony Brook has 18, Coastal Carolina has 19 and third-place selection Gardner-Webb has a whopping 23 starters back from 2007.
Liberty has the fewest with 12. Presbyterian returns 15 and Virginia Military has 16.
Best of the best
Liberty running back Rashad Jennings and Gardner-Webb linebacker Mario Brown were the league’s selections as preseason offensive and defensive players of the year.
Jennings rushed for 1,113 yards and a league-record 15 touchdowns in 2007. Brown, a Greenville native, enters his senior season with 221 career tackles and 20 tackles for lost. His selection marks the fourth time in six years a Gardner-Webb player was chosen as the league’s preseason defensive player of the year.
Best of the rest
Coastal Carolina placed five players on the all-Big South preseason conference team while Charleston Southern placed four.
Presbyterian’s players were not eligible for selection.
Coastal made its primary contribution to the defense with linebacker D.J. Rice, lineman Phillip Oboh and defensive back Marrio Norman. Offensive lineman Britt Leggett and tight end Scott Fambrough also made the team.
For Charleston Southern, converted running back Dee Brown was selected at wide receiver along with offensive lineman Alex Bragg, defensive lineman Jake Killeen and linebacker Josh Mitchel.
Liberty led the way with nine selections while Gardner-Webb had eight, including Greer native Cedric McGowan at defensive back. League newcomer Stony Brook had four.
Presbyterian coach Bobby Bentley announced several internal staff changes on Friday.
B.J. Connolly, who joined the Blue Hose earlier this year as the director of football operations, will take over for recently departed Reuben Wright as defensive line coach.
Tight ends coach Brandon Sarver will now serve as the team’s video coordinator.
As voted on by a 13-member panel consisting of the conference’s coaches and media.
1. Liberty (12) 77
2. Coastal Carolina 58
3. Gardner-Webb 52
4. Stony Brook 38
5. Charleston Southern (1) 30
6. VMI 18
Liberty hailed as Big South favorite
By Patrick Obley, The State (SC)