July 29, 2009

By Amy Farnum

Defending NCAA champion Richmond may have been the obvious choice as the preseason favorite to win the overall CAA Football Championship this season, but with 31 letterwinners and 16 starters returning, Villanova shared the distinction at the league’s media day at the ESPNZone in Baltimore, Md., July 29.

Villanova went 7-1 in CAA action in 2008 and advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals last year, and boast four Preseason All-CAA picks, including junior wide receiver Matt Szczur, who compiled 78 carries for 449 yards and three touchdowns, 32 receptions for 511 yards and four scores, five punt returns for 43 yards, four kickoff returns for 146 yards and one touchdown.

The Spiders downed four league champions on their way to the 2008 Division I FCS title, and are led by junior linebacker Eric McBride, who shared CAA Football Preseason Co-Defensive Player of the Year honors.

CAA Football also announced its 23-game television schedule, which is highlighted by a conference-only 19-game package that will air on the Comcast Sport Group networks.  It is the nation’s largest FCS television package in 2009.

SKY’S THE LIMIT:  After winning a share of its first conference championship since 1968, Weber State will be looking to claim another Big Sky Conference title behind the running talents of senior Trevyn Smith.

Smith, who was one of three unanimous selections on the Big Sky Preseason All-Conference Team, is aiming to become the first player in league history to lead the league in rushing four straight seasons.

The Wildcats were picked second in the Big Sky Preseason Poll behind 2008 NCAA runner-up Montana.  The two teams split a pair of games last year with Weber State winning 45-28 in the regular season, and Montana avenging the loss with a 24-13 victory in the FCS quarterfinals.

PICKING FAVORITES:  With four straight Southern Conference titles under their belts, the Appalachian State Mountaineers are the overwhelming preseason favorites to capture a fifth consecutive championship with a roster that returns the league’s Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year. 

The Mountaineers will attempt to become just the second program in the SoCon’s 89-year football history to win five straight titles.  Georgia Southern won six between 1997-2002.

Quarterback Armanti Edwards, the 2008 Walter Payton Award winner, returns for his senior season and looks to repeat as the league’s Offensive Player of the Year.  Edwards compiled 3,843 yards of total offense and was responsible for 41 touchdowns during his junior campaign.  Linebacker Jacque Roman, who led the league with 130 tackles in 2008, will also vie for back-to-back honors on the defensive side.  The Mountaineers had 17 selections on the Preseason All-SoCon squads.

NOTABLE:  Texas State will be trying for its first back-to-back winning seasons since 1990-91 after the Bobcats won their first outright Southland Conference championship last year.  The Bobcats were picked first in the league preseason poll with13 returning starters on the roster.  Second-place McNeese State, the Southland champion in 2006 and 2007, missed the top spot by just three points in the coaches’ poll … Grambling State defensive lineman Christian Anthony – the MVP of last season’s Southwestern Athletic Conference championship – was voted as the league’s Preseason Defensive Player of the Year, while the Tigers were picked to repeat as conference champions.  Anthony totaled 55 tackles, including 17 for a loss and eight sacks in 2008.