App State tops SoCon preseason poll; Citadel predicted near bottom

SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Appalachian State has been tabbed the preseason favorite to win the Southern Conference football championship in 2011 in balloting conducted by the league's head coaches.  It is the sixth consecutive year the league's coaches have chosen ASU to win the league crown.

The Mountaineers, who have won or shared six consecutive SoCon championships, received five of nine first-place votes in the balloting.  ASU returns five starters on offense to go with seven returning starters on defense.

After finishing posting a 10-5 mark in 2010 and advancing to the NCAA playoff semifinals, Georgia Southern was picked second in the coaches' preseason poll, just one point behind Appalachian State.  It is the highest the Eagles have been picked in the coaches' poll since 2005 when they were also tabbed second.  Georgia Southern picked up three first-place votes.  The Eagles return all 11 offensive and nine defensive starters from 2010.

Wofford was the third Southern Conference team to advance to the FCS Playoffs in 2010 and the Terriers were selected third in the preseason poll.  Wofford earned 49 points in the balloting.  The Terriers return the 2010 Southern Conference Defensive Player of the Year Ameet Pall and junior fullback Eric Breitenstein, the nation's fifth-leading rusher last year.

The Chattanooga Mocs (45) earned the final first-place vote from the coaches.  Head coach Russ Huesman enters his third year at the helm of his alma matter, having posted a winning mark in each of his first two seasons at UTC.

Elon (33) narrowly edged Furman (30) for fifth place in the preseason poll as both programs will have new coaches on the sidelines in 2011.  Jason Swepson takes over at Elon after spending the past four seasons at NC State.  He will have six returning starters on both offense and defense.  A 1981 graduate of Furman, Bruce Fowler takes over his alma matter this season.  Fowler served on the Paladins' staff for 16 years from 1984-2001 before spending the past nine years at Vanderbilt.

Samford was tabbed seventh with 25 points.  The Bulldogs return 12 starters, including senior quarterback Dustin Taliaferro, who has started each of the past three years under center for Samford.

The Citadel was picked eighth, while Western Carolina was slotted ninth in the preseason poll.  The Bulldogs return 18 starters in 2011, including 10 on offense.  Head coach Dennis Wagner returns for his fourth season at Western Carolina and will have nine offensive starters back this fall.

2011 SoCon Football Preseason Coaches Poll

Place                           School (First-place votes)            Points

1.   Appalachian State (5)                60

2.   Georgia Southern (3)                 59

3.   Wofford                                   49

4.   Chattanooga (1)                        45

5.   Elon                                         33

6.   Furman                                     30

7.   Samford                                   25

8.   The Citadel                               13

9.   Western Carolina                       10

NOTE: Coaches were not permitted to vote for their own team