South Carolina State has been picked to finish second in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference in 2012 behind defending champion Norfolk State. The Bulldogs, who had been given the first-place nod each of the last four seasons, received four first-place votes and 432 points, while the Spartans earned 11 first-place votes and 454 points in the poll of MEAC head coaches and sports information directors announced Friday at the league's annual Press Luncheon at the Sheraton Waterside Hotel.
Five SC State players, including one named at two positions, were voted to the preseason All-MEAC team; however, no Bulldogs made the first team.
SC State (7-4. 6-2 MEAC) tied Florida A&M for second place in the MEAC in 2011 after winning outright championships in 2008 and 2009 and sharing the crown with Bethune-Cookman and Florida A&M in 2010.
Norfolk State and SC State were followed in the poll by Bethune-Cookman, which received three first-place votes and 417 points. Next came the Rattlers of FAMU with two first-place votes and 354 points, and Hampton, one first-place vote and 268 points, rounding out the top five.
North Carolina A&T led the second five with 216 points, followed by Morgan State with 198 points, Howard with 188 points, N.C.Central with 116 points, Delaware State with 78 points and Savannah State with 73 points.
SC State head coach Buddy Pough was joined at the press luncheon by running back Asheton Jordan, the team's top rusher last year and defensive back Cortney Ingram, one of the Bulldogs' top tacklers in2011. Both are in their senior campaign.
The Bulldogs (7-4. 6-2 MEAC) tied Florida A&M for second place in the MEAC in 2011 after winning outright championships in 2008 and 2009 and sharing the crown with Bethune-Cookman and Florida A&M in 2010.
In addressing the media and MEAC Alumni throughout the conference, Pough spoke of the disappointment of not winning a fourth straight league title last season.
"We were 7-4 and finished second in the conference (6-2) last year," said Pough who is in his 11th season as Bulldogs' head coach. "But, that's not good enough around Orangeburg when you have won three straight championships and gone to the playoffs three straight times.
"In fact, it was awfully disappointing," continued Pough. "It was a long year (after not winning the title) but it gives us motivation this year to come out and do a good job and give our fans another title. We lost two games by a field goal that had we won, we would have won the conference title).
"We struggled a bit in short yardage situations and not being able to execute in those situations hurt us. But we think we have addressed this issue this year, although that remains to be seen. "
Quarterbacks Derrick Wiley, a senior and junior Richard Cue, will be the key to SC State's success on offense next year, Pough said. Wiley began the 2011 campaign as the starter but suffered a season-ending injury at Norfolk and was replace by Cue, who went 6-1 in the team's last seven games.
He also noted that running backs Jordan and sophomore Jalen "Scoot" Simmons would play major roles on offense.
"We have to have some highly-skilled play at quarterback if we are to be successful," Pough said. "(Derrick) Wiley, who started the season, appears to be back at full speed and (Richard) Cue, who took over after Derrick was injured, stepped in and played well. We have confidence in both "And, of course, the running game should be in good hands with Jordan and Simmons, two excellent running backs.
"The offensive line is young but very talented and we have some veteran wide receivers that should do a good job. We have great potential and I just hope we go out and play and get the job done."
On defense, Pough said he expected his team to be good as well, despite the loss of three players who are now on NFL rosters (safeties Christian Thompson and Dominique Ellis and linebacker Donovan Richard).
Linebacker Joe Thomas, one of five players selected to the 2012 preseason All-MEAC team will anchor the defense, along with Ingram and cornerback Darius Drummond, who earned preseason honors at both defensive back and as a return specialist.
Pough lamented the Bulldog 2012 schedule, noting his team would have to survive its toughest start in years.
S.C. State opens the season Aug. 30 in a Thursday night matchup at Georgia State, and then come home to host Bethune-Cookman Sept. 8 before hitting the road against two Football Bowl Subdivision teams – Arizona Sept. 15 and Texas &M Sept. 22, before hosting last year's champ Norfolk State Sept. 29.
"This 2012 schedule has to be one of the toughest I've faced since coming here (to SC State)," Pough said. "We got our work cut out for us, starting out on the road against Georgia State, facing Bethune-Cookman which is loaded with talent, going on the road against two FBS teams, and then taking on Norfolk State at home.
So, the first five weeks of the season will test us and test us. When it's over, we will know what kind of team we will have.
"Out motto: get a little bit better every day, every week."