At the USA South Media day at Maryville College, the annual coaches poll was released, and breaks down as follows:
1. North Carolina Wesleyan 45 points- 5 first place votes
2. Averett 41 points- 2 first place votes
3. Christopher Newport 40 points 1 first place vote
4. Ferrum 28 points
T5. Greensboro 21 points
Maryville 21 points
7. Shenandoah 20 points
8. Methodist 8 points
In the coaches poll, points are awarded, and first place votes are tallied. Comparing this to my predictions, its pretty clear that the Coaches poll, has the group divided into three teams that are head and shoulders above the rest, and the remaining five that are less likely to be in the mix as conference champion. I have the same three teams predicted in the top three, with Averett and CNU swapped. The largest difference comes by my selecting Shenandoah fourth, and the coaches having them seventh. The coaches have Ferrum fourth, and I have to say I hope they are correct, but I really look for the Hornets to surprise some people this year. We both have Greensboro fifth, but they have the Pride, and Maryville tied for that spot. I have the Panthers finishing sixth, and Maryville 7th. Both have Methodist in the basement.
So it has already been asked how I concluded that Ferrum would finish so low. First, let me say that I am looking for a season that has more parity this year than any other. My outlook for Ferrum was based mostly on them losing several key players. Dobson, Lucas, Goode, Hardy, Keesler, Hollingsworth, and Hinds among them. This coupled with Zach Lewis and Makaya Jackson not returning necessitates a lot of line up changes. I recognize that the Panthers do have their entire D-line returning. This is a boost to the team as they will bring back talent and experience. While I am sure that the Panthers will be competitive in all of their games, I think with the extensive holes to fill, they may struggle. I hope I am wrong. The first few games may tell the story. The Ferrum offensive backfield will again be solid, but I wait nervously to see who will take over at QB. The likely candidate is Tyler Brubaker. This rising sophomore is a local Franklin County product, and led the Eagles at quarterback while there. While he has no playing experience from last year, sources say he looks strong. I am looking for the holes on the O-line to be filled without much of a problem.
The saying is "defense wins championships" and this will be the challenge for Ferrum....especially as it relates to the secondary. Last year, Ferrum ranked 8th in the conference for pass defense, and 151st in the nation. You have to look no further than the Greensboro and Methodist games to see that the Panthers were susceptible through the air. If this area of the defense is blessed with more speed this year, and the young linebackers are effective early, then Ferrum will surprise a lot of teams. There are a lot of holes to fill, but Ferrum can compete if the pieces fall into place. Like last year, I think they will improve as the season goes on. I hope they hit the ground running, and prove me and the USA South coaches poll wrong.