Miners selected No. 2; defending champ UIndy unanimous No. 1.
Missouri S&T is sandwiched between the new (Indianapolis) and the old (Truman State) of its football rivalry history in the Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC) 2013 Preseason Football Coaches Poll.
Indianapolis, S&T and Truman were selected 1-2-3 in the coaches preseason poll, which was announced Wednesday during the GLVC Football Kickoff event, held on the campus of the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Meanwhile, GLVC newcomer Truman State was picked to finish third.
Indianapolis, which went unbeaten in league play to win the inaugural GLVC football crown in 2012, was the unanimous selection to repeat in this year's coaches poll.
UIndy received seven first-place votes and 49 total points. The S&T Miners received the other first-place vote (coaches couldn't vote for their own team) and was a unanimous selection for the runner-up spot with 43 points.
S&T will play UIndy Oct. 5 at Indianapolis, Ind. in the league opener for both squads.
Miner first-year head coach Tyler Fenwick is pleased with the recognition of being selected high in the preseason poll, but says it means nothing once the Miners open their preseason camp on Aug. 11.
"It's kind of what I figured," Fenwick said of UIndy's No. 1 preseason selection. "As far as us being No. 2 it's nice to have some respect from some people. But really, that's all it means."
The Truman State Bulldogs were third in the poll with 37 points followed by Saint Joseph's fourth with 28, McKendree fifth with 25, Quincy sixth with 18, William Jewell seventh with 17 and Kentucky Wesleyan eighth with seven.
Fenwick saw plenty of Truman State while he was offensive coordinator at MIAA-power Missouri Western. And he says the addition of the Kirksville, Mo. school is a positive for the GLVC.
"I kind of thought (Truman) would be thought of highly," Fenwick said. "They are used to playing MIAA teams and my experience has been they have always been a tough team to play.
"It's good for this conference that they're coming in."
S&T had its finest season in decades last fall, finishing 10-1 overall and was ranked 24th in the final American Football Coaches Association's (AFCA) 2012 rankings.
Fenwick is considered an offensive coach and with the Miners losing their top passer, receivers and rusher, he will be busy reshaping the personnel on that side of the ball.
"We're excited to get started," he said. "Everybody's anxious to get back on the field.
"There are always going to be challenges. Offensively we've got some holes, but we've got some talent and we've got to get them familiar with a new system. Defensively I've said it all summer; they're fun to watch. It should be exciting."
This year there are eight teams in the GLVC football race. While Truman State was added, both Urbana and Central State left the league. Unlike last year, when Urbana and Central State were football-only members, the eight schools in the GLVC football race are now full-fledged members of the league.
Here is a look at each GLVC team in their predicted order of finish (last season's overall and conference record in parenthesis):
1. Indianapolis (10-3, 8-0): The Greyhounds are coming off another outstanding campaign, which included a first-round victory in the NCAA Division II playoffs. UIndy ranked 15th in the AFCA Division's final poll.
Although UIndy lost the GLVC Offensive Player of the Year in graduating WR Mar'Quone Edmonds (99 receptions, 1,335 yards, 17 TDs), the team should still be potent on offense, led by senior QB Chris Mills (3,013 passing yards, 27 TDs) and senior RB Klay Flechter (1,475 rushing yards, 19 TDs), a preseason All-American selection. Also back is GLVC Special Teams Player of the Year Scott Miller as place-kicker.
2. S&T (10-1, 7-1): Fenwick will build around a veteran defense. The Miners have eight starters back from a defensive unit that ranked among the best in NCAA Division II, leading the nation in turnover margin, placing 10th in total defense and 17th in scoring defense. All-America Eddie Rascon (13 QB sacks) is back at tackle. In all five S&T defenders were named to the USA College Football Preseason All-America team, including Rascon, LBs Chris Horn and Chris Emesih and DEs Jimmy Barnhart and Freddy Dugard.
Offensively the Miners have some replacing to do, as RB Curterris Golden (836 rushing yards, 14 TDs), QB Josh Firm (2,451 passing yards, 27 TDs) and WRs Thomas Smook (92 receptions for 861 yards) and Joseph Hyman (41 receptions for 632 yards, 15 TDs) are all gone. Isaiah Culver (26 receptions, 240 yards) and Leon Moody (16 receptions, 154 yards) will be keys in the receiving game and the top runner back is sophomore Scott Hendricks (657 rushing yards, five TDs). Big Forrestal Hickman (6-8, 305) returns to anchor the offensive line. Returners Evan Merz and Reed Brown figure to be the leading candidates at QB.
The strength of schedule has increased greatly for S&T. The Miners open the season Sept. 5 at home against Chadron State (6:30 p.m.) and follow that by playing Fenwick's former team, Missouri Western, on the road Sept. 14.
3. Truman State (4-7): The Bulldogs won't find the going as tough in the GLVC as it did in the murderous Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association (MIAA). They finished 11th in the MIAA race last season but figure to be a factor in the GLVC this fall. TSU spent 100 years in the MIAA and will again be a league rival of S&T, which also came from the MIAA. All-MIAA senior WR Dallas Grier, who caught 81 passes for 1,026 yards, is back to pace the Bulldog attack along with senior QB Conrad Schottel (2,103 passing yards, 12 TDs).
4. Saint Joseph's (6-5, 5-3): The Pumas return 26 players with starting experience, including preseason All-America senior WR Julian Walker (94 receptions, 1,082 yards, 11 TDs) and senior QB Billy VandeMerkt (2,417 yards, 25 TDs passing, 443 yards, four TDs rushing). Saint Joseph's builds on one of the most potent offenses in the conference. In all the Pumas averaged more than 27 points and 390 yards per game in 2012.
5. McKendree (3-7, 3-5): First-year head coach Mike Babcock has 13 starters back from last season's squad. He hopes to bring some of the offensive spark he had as an assistant coach at Colorado State-Pueblo, which set 13 team and 15 individual offensive records last season and are currently the No. 1-ranked Division II team in national preseason polls. The Bearcats' top offensive producers last year were youngsters in freshman RB Cameron James (537 rushing yards), freshman QB Isaac Fisher (1,033 passing yards) and sophomore WR Pat Doty (39 receptions, 477 yards).
6. Quincy (3-8, 3-5): The Hawks, under second-year head coach Tom Pajic, has eight offensive and seven defensive starters back. Key players returning are senior RB LaDarion Shelby (793 rushing yards, seven TDs), senior WR Justin Dickens (43 receptions, 568 yards, 12 TDs), junior WR Jarrod Sergent (33 receptions, 471 yards) and QBs Nick Lonergan (977 passing yards, 12 TDs) and James Chmelik (504 passing yards).
7. William Jewell (2-9, 1-7): The Cardinals are still trying to restore their NAIA success at the NCAA Division II level. Head coach Jerod Kruse can build around a talented senior QB on offense, as Sean Shelton threw for 2,131 yards and 18 TDs and rushed for 332 yards in 2012. Returning for his sophomore season is RB Thomas Cook, who rushed for 572 yards and five TDs as a freshman. Seniors Jake Hartley and Billy Queisert are both three-year starters on the OL.
8. Kentucky Wesleyan (2-9, 0-8): Panther head coach Brent Holsclaw, the longest-tenured among GLVC football head coaches, saved a man from choking while on vacation with his family at Disney World this summer. It's unknown whether he can resuscitate his offensively-challenged squad this fall. Wesleyan rushed for just 424 net yards (1.9 average) in 2012 and has to replace the starting QB in 2013. The top offensive player back is Jeff Ward, who rushed for 214 yards and caught 38 passes for 426 yards, producing seven total TDs.
Here is the 2013 GLVC Preseason Coaches Poll (first-place votes in parenthesis):
1. Indianapolis (7), 49 pts
2. Missouri S&T (1), 43 pts
3. Truman State, 37 pts
4. Saint Joseph's, 28 pts
5. McKendree, 25 pts
6. Quincy, 18 pts
7. William Jewell, 17 pts
8. Kentucky Wesleyan, 7 pts