ROCK HILL, S.C. - The Newberry College football team has been picked to finish sixth in the South Atlantic Conference in the annual poll of the league's head coaches, as announced by the conference office Wednesday.
The Wolves are coming off of a 4-6 season in 2010 with a 3-4 SAC record, and return 13 starters from the 2010 squad, including eight on offense and five on defense. Key starters returning include offensive linemen Chase Gamble (Dallas, N.C.), Ben Inabinet (Irmo, S.C.) and Lequawn James (North, S.C.); wide receiver Brandon Bostick (Florence, S.C.) and quarterback Bryan Ehrlich (San Antonio, Texas). Key defensive starters returning include preseason All-American defensive tackle Arterio Arnold (Greenville, S.C.), inside linebacker Apollo Stretch (Columbia, S.C.), outside linebackers Eli Charles (Green Cove Springs, Fla.) and Kelton Hall (Kinards, S.C.) and cornerback James Bostick (Estill, S.C.).
Defending South Atlantic Conference champion Wingate has been tabbed as the preseason favorite in the poll. Wingate, led by 2010 SAC Coach of the Year Joe Reich, received four of the eight first place votes and had a total of 52 points. The Bulldogs, who advanced to the second round of last season's NCAA Division II playoffs, will look to repeat as SAC champions for the first time in school history.
Just behind Wingate in the preseason poll is perennial league power Carson-Newman, which finished with 49 points. The Eagles will return 18 starters from last season's team that finished second in the SAC.
Lenoir-Rhyne received two first-place votes and finished third in the poll with 42 points. The Bears, 7-4 (4-3) a year ago, return a strong core led by defending Jacobs Blocking Trophy recipient Chandler Reardon.
Also receiving two votes for the poll's top spot was Tusculum, which was tabbed fourth by the coaches. The Pioneers (40 points) will once again feature a prolific passing attack, led by reigning SAC Offensive Player of the Year and All-American candidate Bo Cordell.
Catawba comes in fifth in the preseason poll with 38 points, followed by Newberry (33 points), Mars Hill (26 points) and Brevard (8 points).
The narrow margin separating teams in the preseason coaches' poll is indicative of what promises to be a highly-competitive year in the SAC. The season officially gets underway on Thursday, Sept. 1, with conference play starting Sept. 17.
Newberry's season kicks off on Saturday, Sept. 3, as the Wolves host North Greenville for a 6:30 p.m. kickoff.
2011 South Atlantic Conference
Football Preseason Coaches' Poll