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State college football preview: Team breakdowns

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Posted: Sunday, August 19, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 10:45 am, Fri Feb 1, 2013.

JMU

Coach: Mickey Matthews

2011 record: 8-5 overall, 5-3 conference

Returning starters: 7 offense, 7 defense

Players to watch: QB Justin Thorpe (1,457 yards, 7 TDs); RB Dae’Quan Scott (1,304 yards, 13 TDs); LB Stephen Robertson (113 tackles, 2 sacks). 

Season outlook: Last season, JMU made the NCAA playoffs for the first time in three seasons before losing at North Dakota State in the second round. This season, the Dukes were picked to finish third in the CAA, behind Towson and ODU. With four players voted to the preseason All-CAA team and the return of Thorpe — who was suspended midway through last season — a league title could be within reach.

Schedule

Sept. 1               St. Francis

Sept. 8               Alcorn State

Sept. 15             West Virginia*

Sept. 22             at Rhode Island

Oct. 6                 Towson

Oct. 13               William & Mary

Oct. 20               at Richmond

Oct. 27               Georgia State

Nov. 3               at Maine

Nov. 10             at Villanova

Nov. 17             ODU

* At Washington, D.C.

LIBERTY

Coach: Turner Gill

2011 record: 7-4 overall, 5-1 conference

Returning starters: 6 offense, 7 defense

Players to watch: WR Pat Kelly (591 yards, 3 TDs); CB/KR Kevin Fogg (45 tackles, 3 INTs, 33.5 yards per KOR); Francis Bah (11.5 tackles for loss, 4 sacks).

Season outlook: Gill replaces Danny Rocco (who left to take over at Richmond). He inherits a talented and experienced team. Liberty was picked to finish second in the Big South behind defending league champ Stony Brook. This will be the first time since 2006 that the Flames aren’t the preseason favorite.

Schedule

Sept. 1               at Wake Forest

Sept. 8               Norfolk State

Sept. 15             at Montana

Sept. 22             Lehigh

Oct. 6                 Gardner Webb

Oct. 13               at Presbyterian

Oct. 20               Concord

Oct. 27               at Coastal Carolina

Nov. 3               Charleston Southern

Nov. 10             Stony Brook

Nov. 17             at VMI

WILLIAM & MARY

Coach: Jimmye Laycock

2011 record: 5-6 overall, 3-5 conference

Returning starters: 6 offense, 6 defense

Players to watch: CB B.W. Webb (40 tackles, 2 INTs); LB Jabrel Mines (109 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 2 INT); S Brian Thompson (68 tackles, 1 INT, 1 sack).

Season outlook: Defense will be the strength. With the loss of two All-Americans to graduation (RB Jonathan Grimes and TE Alex Gottlieb) and an unsettled quarterback situation, William & Mary’s question marks figure to be on offense. The Tribe was picked to finish seventh in the 11-school CAA.

Schedule

Sept. 1               at Maryland

Sept. 8               Lafayette

Sept. 15             at Towson

Sept. 22             Delaware

Sept. 29             Georgia State

Oct. 6                 at Penn

Oct. 13               at JMU

Oct. 27               Maine

Nov. 3               at New Hampshire

Nov. 10             at ODU

Nov. 17             Richmond

RICHMOND

Coach: Danny Rocco

2011 record: 3-8 overall, 0-8 conference

Returning starters: 6 offense, 7 defense

Players to watch: FB Kendall Gaskins (650 yards, 10 TDs); LB Darius McMillan (133 tackles); DB Cooper Taylor (63 tackles, INT).

Season outlook: Rocco takes over a program that has gone just 4-12 in the CAA since former coach Mike London left for Virginia. But Rocco is no stranger to rebuilding, having taken over a Liberty program that was coming off a 1-10 season prior to his arrival. The Spiders have been picked to finish ninth in the 11-school league, in front of Rhode Island and Georgia State.

Schedule

Sept. 1               at Virginia

Sept. 8               Gardner Webb

Sept. 15             at VMI

Sept. 22             at Georgia State

Sept. 29             ODU

Oct. 6                 at Villanova

Oct. 13               at New Hampshire

Oct. 20               JMU

Nov. 3               Rhode Island

Nov. 10             Delaware

Nov. 17             at William & Mary

VMI

Coach: Sparky Woods

2011 record: 2-9 overall, 2-4 conference

Returning starters: 5 offense, 6 defense

Players to watch: QB Eric Kordenbrock (1,658 yards, 10 TDs); WR Aaron Lewis (314 yards, 2 TDs); DB Michael Johnson (58 tackles, 1 INT).

Season outlook: The running game is a big question mark. Jabari Turner and Dexter Bridge, the Keydets’ leading returning rushers, combined for just 91 yards last season. VMI, which tied for fifth in the seven-school Big South last season, has been picked to finish sixth this season, just ahead of Charleston Southern.

Schedule

Sept. 1               at Delaware State

Sept. 8               Chowan

Sept. 15             Richmond

Sept. 22             at Navy

Oct. 6                 Presbyterian College

Oct. 13               at Charleston Southern

Oct. 20               Coastal Carolina

Oct. 27               at Gardner-Webb

Nov. 3               at Stony Brook

Nov. 10             The Citadel

Nov. 17             Liberty

OLD DOMINION

Coach: Bobby Wilder

2011 record: 10-3 overall, 6-2 conference

Returning starters: 7 offense, 7 defense

Players to watch: QB Taylor Heinicke (2,748 yards, 29 TDs); RB Angus Harper (633 yards, 10 TDs); LB Craig Wilkins (111 tackles, 3.5 sacks).

Season outlook: Since restarting football in 2009, ODU has become the winningest start-up program in FCS history with a three-year record of 27-8. Last season, the Monarchs garnered their first national ranking before a second-round playoff loss to Georgia Southern. Having only graduated eight seniors from that roster, ODU has been picked to finish second in the CAA behind Towson.

Schedule

Sept. 1               Duquesne

Sept. 8               at Hampton

Sept. 15             Campbell

Sept. 22             New Hampshire

Sept. 29             at Richmond

Oct. 13               Villanova

Oct. 20               at Towson

Oct. 27               Delaware

Nov. 3               at Georgia State

Nov. 10             William & Mary

Nov. 17             at JMU

NORFOLK STATE

Coach: Pete Adrian

2011 record: 9-3 overall, 7-1 conference

Returning starters: 8 offense, 4 defense

Players to watch: RB Takeem Hedgeman (747 yards, 3 TDs); WR Xavier Boyce (750 yards, 4 TDs); LB Jamal Giddens (70 tackles, 8 sacks).

Season outlook: Norfolk State won its first-ever MEAC title last season and has been picked to finish first this season. Replacing QB Chris Walley’s production will be a challenge — he amassed nearly 3,000 yards and had 24 TDs (19 through the air) in 2011. However, former Monticello High standout Takeem Hedgeman, who led the Spartans in rushing, is back in the fold.

Schedule

Sept. 1               Virginia State

Sept. 8               at Liberty

Sept. 15             Howard

Sept. 22             at Ohio

Sept. 29             at South Carolina State

Oct. 6                 Delaware State

Oct. 13               at Hampton

Oct. 20               at Bethune-Cookman

Oct. 27               at North Carolina A&T

Nov. 3               Savannah State

Nov. 10             Morgan State

HAMPTON

Coach: Donovan Rose

2011 record: 7-4 overall, 5-3 conference

Returning starters: 8 offense, 9 defense

Players to watch: RB Antwon Chisholm (796 yards, 8 TDs); LB Lyndell Gibson (108 tackles); LB Matthew Davis (4 sacks).

Season outlook: Hampton won four of its final five games last season — the final two by a combined margin of 84-24 — and will be looking to build on the momentum. Davis, a preseason First-Team All-MEAC selection, will lead the defense. The Pirates were only picked to finish fifth in the league this season, but they return an experienced team.

Schedule

Aug. 30              at Tennessee Tech

Sept. 8               Old Dominion

Sept. 15             at Florida A&M

Sept. 29             Bethune-Cookman

Oct. 13               Norfolk State

Oct. 18               at North Carolina Central

Oct. 27               Savannah State

Nov. 3               at Howard

Nov. 10             at Delaware State

Nov. 17             Morgan State*

* Urban League Football Classic in Bronx, N.Y.

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