Lake Charles, LA - Southeastern Louisiana, which won its first league title in school history last season, was picked as the favorite heading into the 2014 season as voted on by the league’s coaches and sports information directors, the league announced Wednesday at its annual media day at L’auberge Resort.
Southeastern was the top pick by both the coaches and the SIDs, receiving nine first-place votes and 99 points total in coaches’ poll and a maximum 10 first-place votes and 100 points in the SID poll. McNeese picked up the final two first-place votes from the coaches and the remaining vote from the SIDs. Coaches and SIDs could not vote for their own team.
The Lions, who posted a perfect 7-0 mark in conference play last season, return 15 starters and 58 lettermen, including the reigning conference player of the year Bryan Bennett and two-time all-conference selection Xavier Roberson. The Lions reached the quarterfinals in its first FCS postseason trip last season. Eight offensive starters return for the Lions, who also return six defenders and one special teams player.
McNeese State, which advanced to the Division I postseason for the 15th time last season, was picked second in both polls, receiving 92 points from the coaches and 89 from the SIDs. The Cowboys return 16 starters and 51 letterwinners to a team that finished 6-1 in league play. Leading the way for McNeese is senior offensive lineman Antoine Everett, a preseason all-America selection.
Sam Houston State, which is coming off a tie for third place and its third consecutive trip to the FCS playoffs, was tabbed third in both polls, garnering 79 points from the coaches and 78 from the SIDs. The Bearkats return 53 letterwinners, including 14 starters. The Bearkats, who will be under the direction of new head coach K.C. Keeler, will be led by preseason all-American offensive lineman Donald Jackson.
Central Arkansas was slated fourth in both polls with 70 points from the coaches and 82 from the SIDs. The Bears, who tied for third last season, return 19 starters and 54 letterwinners. Kick returner Jatavious Wilson and defensive end Jonathan Woodard, both of whom earned preseason all-America accolades, will lead the Bears on the field while first-year coach Steve Campbell will direct the Bears from the sidelines.
Northwestern State is picked to fifth in both polls. The Demons, which finished in this slot last season with a 3-4 league mark, received 59 points from the coaches and 61 from the SIDs. The Demons return 20 starters and 57 letterman, including quarterback Zach Adkins, the league’s newcomer of the year last season.
Stephen F. Austin and Lamar were both picked sixth in the coaches’ poll with 52 points each while the Lumberjacks were tabbed sixth by the SIDs with 55 points and the Cardinals were slated seventh with 52 points.
SFA, which will be coached by Clint Conque this season, returns 15 starters and 33 letterwinners. The Lumberjacks’ explosive offensive will be led by running back Gus Johnson and wide receiver Tyler Boyd.
Lamar returns 14 starters and 46 letterwinners to a team than finished sixth with a 2-5 league mark. Lamar will be led by running back Kade Harrington, last season’s top freshman, and wide receiver Reggie Begelton, an all-conference selection.
Abilene Christian, which returns for its first season of Southland football since 1972, was picked eighth in both polls followed by Nicholls in the ninth slot. UIW and Houston Baptist were picked 10th and 11th, respectively, as both programs get set to begin its first football season in the league.