The Press Box Sports

2017 Big South Football Preview, Preseason Rankings, Awards

Charleston Southern Football

The Big South Football Conference might be small conference, but the teams can pack a punch. Actually, it’s one of the smallest FCS football conferences with only six teams. The Liberty Flames will play in conference play, but they are not eligible for the FCS football playoffs as they transition to the FBS in 2018.

Charleston Southern and Kennesaw State are neck-and-neck in who’s favored to win the Big South. Charleston Southern won the conference last season and look to repeat as conference champions. The Buccaneers without a doubt have the best defense in the Big South. Anthony Ellis will lead the defensive line and is one of the best d-linemen in FCS football. Last season, Ellis recorded 7 sacks and was voted as the Big South Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight season. Linebackers Solomon Brown and Zane Cruz help Buccaneers field the best defense in the Big South. Watch out for Kameron Brown at receiver. While Charleston Southern doesn’t have a strong passing game, Brown caught 27 passes for 540 yards last season. Mark Tucker will try to lead Charleston Southern to a second straight conference title in his first season as the head coach.

Anthony Ellis Charleston Southern Football

Anthony Ellis, Charleston Southern Buccaneers

Kennesaw State has performed exceptional for a time that is going into their third football season ever. The Owls will return 20 starters this season making them not only a favorite to win the Big South, but also a favorite to go deep in the FCS football playoffs. Quarterback Chandler Burks will look to improve upon some success from last season. Burks threw for 1,250 yards and rushed for another 799 yards last season. His favorite target in Justin Sumpter will also be returning this season. Tonarius Portress will lead an experienced defense this season will being the main contributor on the line. The Owls have the talent to take the Big South title this year. They’ll have to get by Charleston Southern, but they do play them at home this season.

Chandler Burks Kennesaw State Football

Chandler Burks, Kennesaw State Owls

Gardner-Webb will greatly improve upon their 5-6 record in 2016. Quarterback Tyrell Maxwell is by far the best player at the position in the Big South. A Walter Payton Award finalist last year, Maxwell was voted as the 2017 Big South Offensive Player of the year. In 2016, Maxwell scored 31 total touchdowns while throwing for 1,657 yards and rushing for another 965 yards. The Runnin’ Bull Dogs will rely on Maxwell’s outstanding performance to lead them to a winning season this season.

Tyrell Maxwell Gardner-Webb Football

Tyrell Maxwell, Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bull Dogs

The Monmouth Hawks are heading into their fourth season of Big South football. It’s no surprise that Reggie White Jr. is one of the best players for the Hawks. It’s in his blood. The son of NFL Hall of Famer Reggie White and leading receiver for Monmouth caught 69 passes last season for 934 yards and 7 touchdowns. That’s good news for quarterback Kenji Bahar. In nine games last season, Bahar threw for 964 yards and had a 58 percent completion percentage. He has to make better decisions to improve on his 6 interceptions to just 4 touchdowns. On defense, Mike Basile will be dangerous in the secondary. Don’t look for many passes to be thrown his way. The Hawks have a good shot at a .500 record this season, but don’t expect much more than that.

Reggie White Jr. Monmouth Hawks Football

Reggie White Jr., Monmouth Hawks

It looks to be another long season for Presbyterian College. The Blue Hose will have a tight three-way battle at starting quarterback between Ben Cheek, Will Brock, and John Walker. Early projections show that Brock will most likely start the season. Both, the offensive and defensive lines are undersized and a young defense will have a hard time stopping offenses this season. The good news for Presbyterian is that new head coach Tommy Spangler is devoted to turn things around. The team is young and expect the Blue Hose to become a better football team, but not this season.

Will Brock Presbyterian Blue Hose Football

Will Brock, Presbyterian Blue Hose

The Liberty Flames will be competing in their last season of Big South football. Well, sort of. The Flames are not eligible for any post season play or the conference title this season, but players can still earn individual awards. Stephen Calvert returns as a solid quarterback for the Flames. As a freshman last season, Calvert threw for 1,931 yards and 15 touchdowns. He should progress nicely as Liberty moves to the FBS. The flames will also feature a triple threat at running back with Carrington Mosley, Todd Macon, and Frankie Hickson. The defense will be led by Juwan Wells on the line and Chris Turner in the secondary. It doesn’t really matter how well the Flames perform this year, they can’t really win anything. Still, expect for Liberty to win around eight games. A first week battle with Baylor could be a test to see if Liberty can be competitive right away in the FBS.

Carrington Mosley Liberty Flames Football

Carrington Mosley, Liberty Flames

 2017 Preseason Poll (first-place votes)  Points
 T-1. Charleston Southern (9)  80
 T-1. Kennesaw State (9)  80
 3. Gardner-Webb  54
 4. Monmouth  36
 5. Presbyterian College  20
 — Liberty *  n/a

* – not eligible for preseason poll due to transition to FBS

2017 Big South Football Preseason All-Conference Team

OFFENSE
QB – Tyrell Maxwell, Gardner-Webb, Sr.
RB – Carrington Mosley, Liberty, Sr.
RB – Darnell Holland , Kennesaw State, Jr.
WR – Reggie White Jr., Monmouth, R-Jr.
WR – Justin Sumpter, Kennesaw State, R-Jr.
WR – Kameron Brown, Charleston Southern, R-Soph.
TE – Jake Powell, Monmouth, Soph.
OL – Frank Cirone, Charleston Southern, Sr.
OL – Dontae Duff, Liberty, R-Soph.
OL – Will Millikan, Gardner-Webb, Jr.
OL – Zach Mitchler, Kennesaw State, R-Jr.
OL – Alex Thompson, Monmouth, Sr.

Kameron Brown Charleston Southern Football

Kameron Brown, Charleston Southern Buccaneers

DEFENSE
DL – Anthony Ellis, Charleston Southern, Sr.
DL – Tonarius Portress, Kennesaw State, Sr.
DL – Desmond Johnson, Kennesaw State, R-Soph.
DL – Juwan Wells, Liberty, Jr.
LB – Solomon Brown, Charleston Southern, R-Jr.
LB – Zane Cruz, Charleston Southern, Sr.
LB – Anthony Gore Jr., Kennesaw State, R-Jr.
LB – Izzy Sam, Kennesaw State, R-Sr.
DB – Mike Basile, Monmouth, Sr.
DB – Taylor Henkle, Kennesaw State, R-Jr.
DB – Shadarius Hopkins, Charleston Southern, Jr.
DB – Chris Turner, Liberty, R-Jr.

Juwan Wells Liberty Flames Football

Juwan Wells, Liberty Flames

SPECIAL TEAMS
PK – Alex Probert, Liberty, Soph.
P – Trey Turner, Liberty, Gr.
LS – Hunter Winstead, Liberty, Gr.
KR – Frankie Hickson, Liberty, R-Soph.

PRESEASON OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Tyrell Maxwell, Sr., QB, Gardner-Webb

PRESEASON DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Anthony Ellis, Sr., DL, Charleston Southern

 

 

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