Taking A Look At 2013:
As you know, the 2013 Southern Conference football season is just around the corner, and it is time to start getting an idea of what teams will be competing for the Southern Conference title, and what teams will ultimately end up being pretenders this fall. However, the 2013 season is about more than just figuring out who will be lifting the SoCon title trophy, or who will be still playing on Thanksgiving Weekend, it is about celebrating what two schools have meant as Southern Conference members over the years, as Appalachian State and Georgia Southern are playing their final seasons as league members.
Elon will also be exiting the league following the 2013 season, as the Phoenix, who joined just a decade ago, will be matriculating to the Colonial Athletic Association. Though certainly not as big of a loss as either of the aforementioned programs, the Phoenix have certainly brought some of the league and FCS’ top performers over the past decade, including players like quarterback Scott Riddle and Terrell Hudgins, who broke all of Jerry Rice’s receiving records in 2009.
Over the next few weeks, SaturdayBlitz takes an in-depth look at all nine Southern Conference schools as teams get ready for media day, as well as the opening of fall camp in about a month.
Both schools will be joining the Sun Belt next season. So, sit back and enjoy this preview for the upcoming season as SaturdayBlitz.com looks to get your appetite in gear for football season inside the Southern Conference.
2013 Projected Order of Finish:
2. The Citadel
6. Western Carolina
*–denotes Ineligible for Southern Conference Title in 2013 per transition to FBS in 2014
2013 All-SoCon Team (Offense):
QB–Jamal Jackson (Appalachian State)
RB–Fabian Truss (Samford)
RB–Dominique Swope (Georgia Southern)
OL–Dakota Dozier (Furman)
OL–Kendall Lamm (Appalachian State)
OL–Garrett Frye (Georgia Southern)
OL–Jared Singleton (Wofford)
OL–Dorian Byrd (Georgia Southern)
TE–Faysal Shafaat (Chattanooga)
WR–Kelsey Pope (Samford)
WR–Sean Price (Appalachian State)
2013 All-SoCon First-Team Defense:
DL–Davis Tull (Chattanooga)
DL–Tarek Odom (Wofford)
DL–Ronald Blair (Appalachian State)
DL–Derek Douglas (The Citadel)
LB–Wes Dothard (Chattanooga)
LB–Courtland Carson (Western Carolina)
LB–Alvin Scioneaux (Wofford)
DB–Jaquiski Tartt (Samford)
DB–Greg Worthy (Furman)
DB–Kadeem Wise (Chattanooga)
DB–D.J. Key (Chattanooga)
PK–Ray Early (Furman)
P–Nick Pollard (Chattanooga)
RS–Tony Washington (Appalachian State)
Offensive Player of the Year: Jamal Jackson (Appalachian State)
Defensive Player of the Year: Davis Tull (Chattanooga)
Newcomer of the Year: Tolerance Shepherd (Chattanooga)
Jacobs Blocking Award Winner: Dakota Dozier (Furman)
Coach of the Year: Russ Huesman (Chattanooga)
End Of An Era:
The 2013 football season inside the Southern Conference will certainly have a different feel to it, with Appalachian State and Georgia Southern playing their final campaigns inside the tradition-rich conference.
Appalachian State, which joined the league back in 1972, has made plenty of great memories inside one of the toughest conferences inside the Football Championship Subdivision, and though both Appalachian State and Georgia Southern will both be moving on to the Sun Belt in 2014, both schools passionate fans will carry with them many of the significant moments inside the league etched in their collective memories for years to come.
The Black and Gold fan base will carry with them the memories of 12 Southern Conference championships (1986, ’87, ’91, ’95, ’99, 2005, ’06, ’07, ’08, ’09, ’10 and ’12) and three-straight national titles (2005, ’06 and ’07) and a win over FBS No. 5-ranked Michigan, 34-32, in 2007. It was a memorable run to say the least for the Mountaineers, who have a string of 19-straight winning seasons, including 27 of the last 29. The 12 league crowns are tied for the most all-time in conference titles, with only charter member Furman (12 titles) matching ASU’s feat.
On an individual level, ASU produced two of the greatest players to ever play in the Football Championship Subdivision, producing the only two-time winners of the Walter Payton Award, which is given to the top performer at the FCS level each season by The Sports Network, (QB Armanti Edwards, 2008 and ’09) and the Buck Buchanan Award (LB Dexter Coakley, 1995 and ’96), which is given to the top defensive player each season, also presented by The Sports Network.
The ’07 win over Michigan set a precedent, as the two-point win at The Big House got the nation talking about Appalachian State and FCS football, which eventually allowed the Black and Gold to make the inevitable leap into the FBS waters next season. The win over the Wolverines allowed ASU to become the first FCS school in the history of the Associated Press FBS Top 25 poll.
Georgia Southern faithful, too, have reason to be proud of their Southern Conference heritage. After all, the Eagles won an unprecedented six national titles at the FCS level after only resurrected their program in 1982. It took only three years for Erk Russell’s boys to raise their first national title, and it was the beginning of a truly remarkable rise to prominence.
The Eagles would not join the Southern Conference until 1993, winning the league title in their first season as a member in the league. It would be the first of 10 Southern Conference titles (1993, ’97, ’98, ’99, ’00, ’01, ’02, ’04, ’11 and ’12) for Georgia Southern. The Eagles claimed four titles (1985, ’86, ’89 and ’90) before joining the SoCon, and claimed two as a league member, which came under current Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson in 1999 and 2000.
Like ASU, the Eagles, too, had great players. No one will soon forget Adrian Peterson, who finished as the league and FCS all-time leading rusher (6,559 yards), while claiming the 1999 Walter Payton Award. Or what about Jayson Foster’s remarkable performance in 2007, which saw him become Georgia Southern’s second winner of the prestigious individual accolade.
No teams in the 92-year history of the Southern Conference won more consecutive titles on the gridiron than either Georgia Southern or Appalachian State, which claimed at least a share of six-straight, with the Eagles claiming the feat from 1997-2002, while Appalachian State was the most recent to accomplish this rare feat from 2005-2010.
Amazingly since 1993, Appalachian State and Georgia Southern have claimed an outright or shared Southern Conference title in 16 of 19 seasons, with the last time neither did so being 2003, when Wofford was declared the outright champs. Along with the 2003 campaign, only the 1996 (Marshall) and the 1994 seasons (Marshall) did neither program claim at least a share of the SoCon prize.
Not only have Appalachian State and Georgia Southern carried the torch for the SoCon for the past two decades, they have also done so for the FCS. But, for just the fourth time in 20 seasons, neither Appalachian State or Georgia Southern will be able to claim a share of the title, with both ineligible for the league crown, adding additional scholarships to become FBS eligible in 2014 as a Sun Belt member. That deems them ineligible for postseason play, as well as the Southern Conference title, which is an automatic qualifier for the FCS playoffs.
But, Appalachian State and Georgia Southern owe a lot of gratitude to the SoCon, because it is the SoCon that helped make those programs into the tradition-rich programs they are to this day. And it is the SoCon, who should thank Appalachian State and Georgia Southern, for taking the league to places it has never been and could have never hoped for on the NCAA Division I college football map.
With the departure of Appalachian State and Georgia Southern, there will also go nine national titles, including five under the Southern Conference banner. The only school that remains in the SoCon with a national title is Furman (1988).
Returning Starters: 19 (10-defense, 9-offense)
Head Coach: Russ Huesman (23-21, 5th Year)
2012 Record: 6-5, 5-3 SoCon/tied for 4th
Top Returning Player Offense: QB-Jacob Huesman (167-of-256 passing,1,712 yds, 13 TDs, 5 INTs/904 rush yds, 7 TDs )
Top Returning Player Defense: DE-Davis Tull (56 tackles, 19.0 TFL, 12.5 sacks, 3 FFs)
Total Offense: 349.4 YPG
Total Defense: 307.9 YPG
Briefly Noting The Mocs: Chattanooga head coach Russ Huesman heads into with maybe his best team in the Scenic City, with a league-high 19 starters back from a team that has been so close to claiming a Southern Conference title last season, had it not been for some early season struggles in league play. Chattanooga returns one of the nation’s best defensive players, in Davis Tull, who will begin the season as a Buck Buchanan Award candidate. The Mocs have four Southern Conference titles since joining the SoCon in 1977, but have only one FCS playoff appearance in program history, which came way back in 1986.
Returning Starters: 17 (9-offense, 6-defense, 2-specialist)
Head Coach: Kevin Higgins (38-51, 8th year)
2012 Record: 7-4, 5-3/tied for 4th
Top Returning Player Offense: RB-Darien Robinson (140 att, 1,007 yds, 6 TDs, 7.2 YPC)
Top Returning Player Defense: DE-Derek Douglas (17 tackles, 8.0 TFL, 5.0 sacks, 1 TD)
2012 Total Offense AVG: 382.5 YPG
2012 Total Defense AVG: 383.5 YPG
Briefly Noting The Bulldogs: Excitement in Charleston is at an all-time high, as Kevin Higgins leads his Bulldogs into action this fall coming off one of the program’s best seasons since 1992, which was the last time The Citadel has won a league title. With wins over No. 3 Georgia Southern (23-21) and No. 8 Appalachian State (55-28), as well as winning at Furman (41-24) for the first time since 1998, the Bulldogs claimed just their second seven win season since that ’92 campaign. Senior QB Ben Dupree returns to lead an offense that ranked No. 4 in the nation in rushing yards per game last season, averaging 284.0 yards on the ground per game in 2012.
3. Wofford At-a-Glance
Returning Starters: 12 (5-offense, 5-defense, 2-specialists)
Head Coach: Mike Ayers (182-136-2, 28th year)
2012 Record:9-4, 6-2 SoCon/tied for Southern Conference Title
Top Returning Player Offense: RB-Donovan Johnson (73 rush att, 473 yds, 3 TDs, 6.5 YPC)
Top Returning Player Defense: LB-Alvin Scioneaux (70 tackles, 14.0 TFL, 7.0 sacks, 2 INTs)
2012 Total Offense AVG: 400.7 YPG
2012 Total Defense AVG: 305.5 YPG
Briefly Noting The Terriers: Wofford enters the 2013 season with plenty of question marks, and with the graduation of Eric Breitenstein and the transfer of starting quarterback Brian Kass to Coastal Carolina, most of the questions are on the offensive side of the football. Add to that the Terriers lost veteran, talented defensive coordinator Nate Woody to Appalachian State, some might think that is a cause for concern. However, expect the Terriers to once again be in the thick of the Southern Conference title and FCS playoff race.
Returning Starters: 14 (8-offense, 5-defense, 1 Specialist)
Head Coach: Pat Sullivan (56-76-1, 13th year)
2012 Record: 7-4, 5-3 SoCon/tied for 4th
Top Returning Player Offense: RB-Fabian Truss (206 att, 1,063 yds, 11 TDs, 5.2 YPC)
Top Returning Player Defense: DB-Jaquiski Tartt (94 tackles, 3.0 TFL, 4 INTs, 10 PBUs, 2 FR, 2 TDs)
2012 Total Offense AVG: 351.6 YPG
2012 Total Defense AVG: 335.6 YPG
Briefly Noting The Bulldogs: Coming off its most successful season in the SoCon, head coach Pat Sullivan’s Bulldogs have their sights set on competing for a Southern Conference title this fall. With some of the best weapons at the skill positions returning, as well quarterback Andy Summerlin (2,269 pass yds, 10 TDs, 6 INTs in 2012), who won an appeal with the NCAA for an extra year of eligibility, the Bulldogs should be a supreme contender for a league title and the program’s first playoff appearance since 1991.
5. Furman At-a-Glance
Returning Starters: 15 (8-offense, 5-defense, 2-Specialist)
Head Coach: Bruce Fowler (9-13, 3rd year)
2012 Record: 3-8, 2-6 SoCon/tied for 7th
Top Returning Player Offense: LT-Dakota Dozier (Preseason First-Team All-America selection)
Top Returning Player Defense: DE/LB-Gary Wilkins(92 tackles, 5.0 TFL, 2.0 sacks, 1 FF, 1 FR, 1 TD)
2012 Total Offense AVG: 368.5 YPG
2012 Total Defense AVG: 399.9 YPG
Briefly Noting The Paladins: The Paladins head into the third season under the direction of Bruce Fowler with a quiet, yet guarded optimism. The program hasn’t reached the FCS playoffs since 2006, and the Paladins must find a way to replace two of the program’s top two offensive weapons over the past couple of seasons, in record-breaking tight end Colin Anderson and record-breaking running back Jerodis Williams. Reese Hannon (1,896 passing yds, 7 TDs, 8 INTs in 2012) leads a relatively young offense in 2013, and the Paladins have the luxury of having all five starters returning up front. Defensively is where most of the questions marks are heading into the 2013 season, although the secondary should be among the best in the SoCon this fall, returning three of four starters from last fall.
6. Western Carolina At-a-Glance
Returning Starters: 15 (7-offense, 6-defense, 2-Specialist)
Head Coach: Mark Speir (1-10, 2nd year)
2012 Record: 1-10, 0-8 SoCon/9th
Top Returning Player Offense: RB-Darius Ramsey (111 rush att, 503 yds, 3 TDs, 4.5 YPC)
Top Returning Player Defense: LB-Courtlan Carson (97 tackles, 6.0 TFL, 1.0 sack)
2012 Total Offense AVG: 335.7 YPG
2012 Total Defense AVG: 514.4 YPG
Briefly Noting The Catamounts: Western Carolina enters the 2013 season in the SoCon in the middle of a 22-game Southern Conference losing streak, which dates back to the 2010 season, and the Catamounts are approaching VMI’s all-time mark of 28-consecutive SoCon losses from 1996-2000. But that losing streak should come to an end this fall, as the Catamounts should be one of the most improved teams in the SoCon this fall and won’t be the doormat of the league as they have been in a majority of the past seven seasons.
6. Elon At-a-Glance
Returning Starters: 14 (5-offense, 9-defense)
Head Coach: Jason Swepson (9-13, 3rd year)
2012 Record: 3-8, 1-7 SoCon/8th
Top Returning Player Offense: WR-Kierre Brown (45 rec, 642 yds, 4 TDs, 14.3 YPR)
Top Returning Player Defense: LB-Jonathan Spain (120 tackles, 5.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks)
2012 Total Offense AVG: 385.1 YPG
2012 Total Defense AVG: 386.5 YPG
Briefly Noting The Phoenix: Elon heads into their final season as a Southern Conference member before moving on to the CAA, looking to make a run at a championship. While that might seem to be a long-shot for the young Phoenix, it might be necessary for head coach Jason Swepson to not find himself squarely on the hot seat at season’s end. Elon must replace Aaron Mellette, who finished as the SoCon’s second all-time leading wideout, as well as quarterback Thomas Wilson, who helped the Phoenix lead the SoCon in passing for a seventh-consecutive season last fall. Mike Quinn is likely the signal-caller that will assume the signal-caller duties in 2013.
*Appalachian State At-a-Glance
Returning Starters: 15 (7-offense, 6-defense, 2-Specialist)
Head Coach: Scott Satterfield (1-10, 2nd year)
2012 Record: 8-4, 6-2 SoCon/tied for Southern Conference regular-season title
Top Returning Player Offense: QB-Jamal Jackson (268-of-406 passing, 3,278 yds, 21 TDs, 8 INTs)
Top Returning Player Defense: DE-Ronald Blair (60 tackles, 8.5 TFL, 3.0 sacks, 1 FR)
2012 Total Offense AVG: 464.0 YPG
2012 Total Defense AVG: 413.2 YPG
Briefly Noting The Mountaineers: Appalachian State might have the most talented team in the Southern Conference, but of course the Mountaineers are ineligible for the SoCon title and FCS playoffs in 2013 due to the program’s move to the FBS and the Sun Belt Conference in July of 2014. Sean Price (81 rec, 1,196 yds, 8 TDs, 14.8 YPR) is back at receiver and will once again give quarterback Jamal Jackson a huge target in the passing game. The biggest question marks reside on the defensive side of the football, where the Mountaineers yielded more yards per game than they ever have as a Southern Conference member. Scott Satterfield will be in his first season as the head coach for the program, succeeding the legendary Jerry Moore, who won an astounding 242 games in his coaching career, with 215 wins coming at Appalachian State in 23 seasons.
* Georgia Southern At-a-Glance
Returning Starters: 15 (7-offense, 6-defense, 2-specialist)
Head Coach: Jeff Monken (31-12, 4th year)
2012 Record: 10-4, 6-2 SoCon/tied for SoCon Title
Top Returning Player Offense: QB-Jerick McKinnon (597 pass yds, 7 TDs, 3 INTs/1,817 rush yds, 20 TDs, 6.8 YPC)
Top Returning Player Defense: DE-Javon Mention (25 tackles, 10.5 TFL, 6.5 sacks)
2012 Total Offense AVG: 467.2 YPG
2012 Total Defense AVG: 344.4 YPG
Briefly Noting The Eagles: Georgia Southern, like Appalachian State, is ineligible for the Southern Conference title this fall, but the Eagles will likely be competing with the Mountaineers for the title of best team in the SoCon this fall when the two teams face off against each other on Oct. 26. The Eagles really started to get things going offensively as the season progressed, and with Jerick McKinnon back under center along with Dominique Swope (204 rush att, 1,251 yds, 16 TDs, 6.1 YPC) in the backfield, it might be enough to give the Eagles the best backfield tandem in the nation this fall.