JMU #1, Spiders #7, Tribe receiving votes in season’s first FCS Top 25

The following comes directly from the CAA:

RICHMOND, Va. (August 7, 2017) – Five CAA Football teams are ranked in the 2017 STATS FCS Preseason Top 25 poll that was released on Monday afternoon, with reigning national champion James Madison earning the No. 1 spot.

Joining the Dukes in the Top 25 poll are No. 7 Richmond, No. 10 Villanova, No. 13 New Hampshire and No. 24 UAlbany. CAA Football’s five ranked teams are the second-most of any conference, trailing only the Missouri Valley Football Conference with six.

JMU returns 14 starters from last year’s 14-1 squad that captured its second straight CAA Football crown with a perfect 8-0 mark. The Dukes knocked off five-time defending champ North Dakota State in the FCS playoff semifinals and Youngstown State in the finals to claim their second FCS National Championship. Senior quarterback Bryan Schor, the 2016 CAA Offensive Player of the Year, returns to lead an offense that scored a league-record 700 points. Senior defensive lineman Andrew Ankrah and senior safety Raven Greene top a group of eight starters back on defense.

Richmond has 20 returning starters from its 10-4 squad that advanced to the quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs in 2016. New head coach Russ Huesman has eight regulars back on offense, topped by senior quarterback Kyle Lauletta and sophomore running back Deontez Thompson. There are also eight starters returning on defense, including senior defensive lineman Brandon Waller and senior safety Brendan Coniker.

There are 17 starters back on a Villanova team that went 9-4 and reached the second round of the FCS playoffs last year. The Wildcats led the nation in total defense and scoring defense in 2016, and senior safety Rob Rolle and senior linebacker Ed Shockley headline a group of six returning starters. The offense should also be strong as junior quarterback Zach Bednarczyk, junior running back Aaron Forbes and senior wide receiver Taurus Phillips are back.

New Hampshire extended the nation’s longest FCS playoff streak to 13 last season and finished with an 8-5 overall mark. The Wildcats welcome back junior quarterback Trevor Knight and top receivers Neil O’Connor and Malik Love on offense. Among a group of seven returning starters on defense are sophomore defensive backs Pop Lacey and Prince Smith, Jr.

UAlbany has 16 starters back from last year’s 7-4 team. The Great Danes’ offense features dynamic junior running back Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks, who rushed for 1,388 yards and 16 TD’s in 2016. Eight regulars return on defense, including senior defensive lineman Malachi Hoskins and junior strong safety Mason Gray.

Four other CAA teams – Delaware, Stony Brook, Maine and William & Mary – were among other teams receiving votes in the preseason Top 25 poll.

STATS FCS Preseason Top 25 Poll

1.       James Madison

2.       North Dakota State

3.       Sam Houston State

4.       South Dakota State

5.       Eastern Washington

6.       Jacksonville State

7.       Richmond

8.       North Dakota

9.       Youngstown State

10.   Villanova

11.   Wofford

12.   Chattanooga

13.   New Hampshire

14.   Charleston Southern

15.   Central Arkansas

16.   The Citadel

17.   Lehigh

18.   UNI

19.   Samford

20.   Illinois State

21.   Grambling State

22.   Fordham

23.   Cal Poly

24.   UAlbany

25.   Western Illinois

RV: Delaware, Stony Brook, Maine, William & Mary