Aug. 4, 2010

By Amy Farnum
NCAA.com

FEAST OR FAMINE: 
After suffering through an uncharacteristic 6-4 season in 2009, Hardin-Simmons is expected to rebound from a year filled with injuries and be in the mix to compete for the American Southwest Conference title.

Senior quarterback Justin Feaster is a key reason the Cowboys are predicted to finish second in the league standings as he returns from a shoulder injury he suffered in the third game of 2009.  The native of Glen Rose, Texas, was voted the ASC Preseason Offensive Player of the Year for the third straight season.  

In 2008, Feaster threw for a league-high 3,023 yards and 31 TDs with only eight interceptions and was named a finalist for the Gagliardi Trophy, an award given to honor the most outstanding NCAA Division III football player.  Last year, he tossed five touchdowns in three games before the injury.  He was awarded a medical hardship waiver and is back for another chance to complete his senior campaign.

The Cowboys were picked behind defending co-champion Mary Hardin-Baylor, which has won at least a share of the ASC title in seven of the last eight seasons and advanced to the NCAA Division III playoffs in 2009.  HSU opens the season at Whitworth on Sept. 4.

BATTLING FOR ANOTHER TITLE:
North Carolina Wesleyan is the favorite to claim the USA South Athletic Conference title this season with 62 returning players, including seven All-Conference picks, from a squad that won the league championship last year.

The Battling Bishops cruised through the USA South with a 7-0 mark in 2009, winning their second title in the last three years.  Head coach Mark Henninger welcomes back former Offensive Rookie of the Year Teron Bush and seven starters on the defensive side of the ball as the Bishops look to make another championship run.  

"We're excited about the direction we're heading this fall," said Henninger at the league’s media day. "We have some definite holes to fill on both sides of the ball, but our coaching staff has worked hard to secure a solid recruiting class."

N.C. Wesleyan starts the season at Salisbury University on Sept. 4.

PURPLE POWER: Perennial Division III power Mount Union is the unanimous choice by both the Ohio Athletic Conference coaches and media to win the league title for the 19th straight season.

The Purple Raiders, ranked No. 1 nationally by USA Today, advanced to the Stagg Bowl for the fifth straight year in 2009, despite falling to UW-Whitewater to end the season at 14-1.

"We appreciate the respect that coaches and the media in the OAC have for our program," said head coach Larry Kehres at the league’s media day.  "We also know that playing in this conference is a tremendous challenge week in and week out."

Kehres, who has compiled a 289-22-3 career record, 20 OAC titles and 10 Division III championships, begins his 25th season as head coach of the Purple Raiders at Wisconsin-Oshkosh on Sept. 11.

MOUNTING THREAT: The College of Mount St. Joseph is expected to claim its second consecutive Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference title behind a potent offense that features a tandem of senior running backs in Jack Davis and Noah Joseph according to the league’s preseason coaches’ poll.

Davis led the HCAC in rushing with 891 yards and 12 touchdowns, while Joseph finished fourth in the conference with 689 yards and seven touchdowns, sparking MSJ to a 7-0 record in league play.

The Mount opens the 2010 season against Wilmington (Ohio) on Sept. 4.

FOR THE DIEHARDS:
  If you really want to get the scoop on more Division III football around the nation, two conferences will be conducting chats with their respective head coaches on Thursday, Aug. 5.

The College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin (CCIW) will host a live chat at 10:30 a.m. CT, concluding with an announcement of the league’s preseason poll.  Illinois Wesleyan won a share of last year’s league title, advancing to the NCAA playoffs for the first time since 1996.  To follow live or ask a question, click here:  http://www.cciw.org/fall_football/2010coacheschat.php

The Centennial Conference will also host a live chat with the league’s 10 football head coaches on Thursday beginning at 2 p.m. ET.  Johns Hopkins is the defending league champion, and returns 15 starters from a squad that advanced to the NCAA Division III quarterfinals. To follow live or ask a question, click here:  
http://centennialconference.blogspot.com/2010/07/football-coaches-chat.html