The Citadel picked 8th by coaches, 9th by media in preseason SoCon polls
ASHEVILLE, N.C. – ETSU running back Jacob Saylors has been named the Southern Conference Preseason Offensive Player of the Year and Chattanooga defensive lineman Devonnsha Maxwell has been tabbed the Preseason Defensive Player of the Year in voting by the league’s nine head coaches. For the second straight season, the coaches and media both selected Chattanooga to win the SoCon title.
The coaches also selected all-conference first and second teams and were not allowed to vote for their own student-athletes or teams in the voting process. Due to ties in the voting, the first and second teams both include additional offensive linemen, the first team includes an extra placekicker and the second team includes an extra punter.
A second-team All-SoCon running back selection by the coaches and a first-team selection by the media last season, Saylors picked up preseason honors this year on the first team at both running back and return specialist. The Jasper, Tennessee, native ranked sixth in the FCS last season in all-purpose yards with 144.77 per game and sixth in combined return yards with 720. Saylors rushed for 1,019 yards, ranking 15th in the FCS, and teamed with Walter Payton Award third-place finisher Quay Holmes, who ran for 1,553 yards, to become just the 12th pair of teammates in the SoCon’s 101-year history of football to eclipse 1,000 yards in the same season. He ran for 10 touchdowns and an average of 7.13 yards per carry to rank third in the FCS and enters his senior campaign with a career average of 6.6 yards per carry, good for sixth in league history. Saylors, who earned second-team All-America honors at all-purpose from the Associated Press and third-team recognition from Stats Perform last season, helped ETSU to its first outright SoCon title and a top-10 national ranking in 2021.
Maxwell earned first-team All-America honors from Stats Perform and Phil Steele and second-team honors from the AFCA, the Associated Press and HERO Sports last season. A preseason All-America selection by Athlon Sports this season, he was the league coaches’ pick for SoCon Defensive Player of the Year and shared the honor on the media team in 2021. Maxwell’s 1.09 sacks per game ranked eighth in the FCS last season, while his 1.4 tackles for loss per game ranked 17th. He totaled 12.0 sacks on the season, a school-record 5.0 of which came in a win over then-No. 10 ETSU on Oct. 16, which earned him Stats Perform National Defensive Player of the Week honors. Maxwell had 42 total tackles on the season, 15.5 of which went for loss, and added five quarterback hurries and one forced fumble. The Valdosta, Georgia, native enters his senior season with 29.5 career sacks to his credit, putting the league record of 37.0, held by former Moc Davis Tull, well within reach. He finished 14th in voting for the Buck Buchanan Award last season.
Chattanooga is the preseason pick to win its first league title since 2015 after going 6-5 overall and 5-3 in league play last season. The Mocs, who spent eight weeks in the national rankings last season and handed ETSU its lone league loss, led Kentucky in the fourth quarter before ultimately falling by five and dropped its three league games by a combined 10 points. UTC features eight players that earned preseason all-conference recognition this season, including five on the first team, but must replace first-round NFL Draft pick Cole Strange, who became the SoCon’s first first-rounder since 1974. The Mocs claimed five first-place votes and 60 points in the coaches poll and 18 of 30 first-place votes and 256 points in the media poll. Chattanooga is ranked 12th in the Athlon Sports Preseason FCS Top 25 and 16th in the HERO Sports Preseason FCS Top 25.
Defending SoCon champion ETSU is the runner-up in both polls, holding sole possession of second in the coaches poll with two first-place votes and 54 points and sharing the No. 2 spot in the media poll with seven first-place votes and 226 points. The Bucs went 11-2 overall and 7-1 in league play last season, entering the national polls after stunning Vanderbilt in week one and never leaving, peaking at No. 7 in the AFCA FCS Coaches Top 25, where they finished the season. ETSU, which earned the No. 7 national seed in the NCAA Division I Football Championship and reached the quarterfinals in 2021, is under the direction of first-year head coach George Quarles. The Bucs had 10 players claim a league-best 11 spots on the preseason All-SoCon teams, including eight first-team positions, also a league high. ETSU enters the season ranked sixth nationally in the preseason by HERO Sports and 18th by Athlon Sports.
Mercer finished third in the preseason coaches poll and tied for second in the media poll, claiming one first-place vote and 53 points from the coaches and five first-place votes and 226 points from the media. The Bears, who finished second in the league last season at 7-3 overall and 6-2 in SoCon play, spent two weeks in the national rankings last year and put six players on the preseason All-SoCon squads. Mercer enters the season ranked 17th in the Athlon Sports Preseason FCS Top 25.
Furman, which was ranked for one week last season, picked up the remaining first-place vote in the coaches poll, finishing fourth with 43 points and combining for six preseason All-SoCon selections. The Paladins were also picked fourth by the media with 175 points.
Western Carolina is fifth in both polls, followed by Samford and VMI in the coaches poll, with those squads swapping places in the media poll. The Keydets were nationally ranked for nine weeks last season and grabbed the second-most preseason All-SoCon selections with 10, including linebacker Stone Snyder, who shared SoCon Defensive Player of the Year honors with Maxwell on the media team last season, and three first-team specialists.
The Citadel is eighth in the coaches poll and Wofford is ninth, with those teams switching positions in the media poll.
The SoCon’s 2022 season gets underway with Mercer hosting Morehead State on Saturday, Aug. 27, for a week zero game, followed by four games on Thursday, Sept. 1, and four games on Saturday, Sept. 3. Chattanooga will get its first SoCon test immediately, as it hosts Wofford to open the season on Sept. 3.
2022 Preseason Southern Conference Coaches Poll Team (1st-place votes) Total 1. Chattanooga (5) 60 2. ETSU (2) 54 3. Mercer (1) 53 4. Furman (1) 43 5. Western Carolina 38 6. Samford 26 7. VMI 23 8. The Citadel 14 9. Wofford 13
2022 Preseason All-Southern Conference Football Teams
Offensive Player of the Year: Jacob Saylors, Sr., RB, ETSU
Defensive Player of the Year: Devonnsha Maxwell, Sr., DL, Chattanooga
First team offense
QB Tyler Riddell, R-So., ETSU
RB Jacob Saylors, Sr., ETSU
RB Ailym Ford, Jr., Chattanooga
OL Tavon Matthews, Jr., ETSU
OL Anderson Tomlin, R-Sr., Furman
OL Pearson Toomey, R-Jr., Furman
OL John Thomas, Jr., Mercer
OL McClendon Curtis, Sr., Chattanooga
OL Tyler Smith, R-Jr., Western Carolina
TE Ryan Miller, 5th, Furman
WR Will Huzzie, R-Jr., ETSU
WR Raphael Williams, R-So., Western Carolina
First team defense
DL Jalen Porter, R-Jr., ETSU
DL Devonnsha Maxwell, Sr., Chattanooga
DL Jay Person, Jr., Chattanooga
DL Micheal Mason, Sr., DL, Wofford
LB Nathan East, Gr., Samford
LB Ty Boeck, Sr., Chattanooga
LB Stone Snyder, Sr., VMI
DB Destin Mack, Sr., The Citadel
DB Mike Price, R-Jr., ETSU
DB Travis Blackshear, R-Sr., Furman
DB Lance Wise, Jr., Mercer
First team specialists
PK Tyler Keltner, Jr., ETSU
PK Jerry Rice, R-Jr., VMI
P Jack Culbreath, Jr., VMI
LS Robert Soderholm, R-Sr., VMI
RS Jacob Saylors, Sr., ETSU
Second team offense
QB Seth Morgan, R-Jr., VMI
RB Dominic Roberto, R-Jr., Furman
RB TJ Jones, Sr., Western Carolina
OL Tereis Drayton, Jr., The Citadel
OL Fred Norman, R-So., ETSU
OL Joe Schreiber, R-Jr., ETSU
OL Gavin Orr, Gr., Samford
OL Colin Truett, Jr., Chattanooga
OL Jarvis Chandler, R-Jr., VMI
OL Al Hogan, 5th, Wofford
TE Aidan Twombly, Jr., VMI
WR Ty James, R-So., Mercer
WR Leroy Thomas, Sr., VMI
Second team defense
DL Carson Hatchett, Jr., The Citadel
DL Cameron Coleman, R-Sr., Furman
DL Solomon Zubairu, Jr., Mercer
DL Eric Weaver, R-Sr., VMI
LB Marquise Blount, Sr., The Citadel
LB Isaac Dowling, So., Mercer
LB Kam Jones, Sr., Chattanooga
DB Alijah Huzzie, R-So., ETSU
DB CaMiron Smith, Sr., Chattanooga
DB Aljareek Malry, Sr., VMI
DB Andreas Keaton, So., Western Carolina
Second team specialists
PK Richard McCollum, Jr., Western Carolina
P Trey Turk, So., Mercer
P Bradley Porcellato, Gr., Samford
LS Colin Springer, 5th, Wofford
RS Calvin Jones, So., Western Carolina
NOTE: Coaches were not permitted to vote for their own players or team.
2022 Preseason Southern Conference Media Poll Team (1st-place votes) Total 1. Chattanooga (18) 256 t2. ETSU (7) 226 t2. Mercer (5) 226 4. Furman 175 5. Western Carolina 125
6. VMI 119 7. Samford 106 8. Wofford 60 9. The Citadel 57
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