Delaware Football Picked No. 5 in Colonial Athletic Association Pre-Season Poll; Five Hens on All-CAA Team
July 25, 2012
Photo Courtesy of Nikki DeSantis, CAA
BALTIMORE, Md. -- Not too high, but not too low.
That was the position the University of Delaware football team found itself in the Colonial Athletic Association pre-season poll announced Wednesday as part of the annual CAA Football Media Day held at M&T Bank Stadium.
The Blue Hens, coming off a 2011 season in which the Hens went 7-4 and barely missed a spot in the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision playoffs, were picked in the No. 5 spot in a vote of 22 head
coaches and athletics media relations representatives from the 11 league schools.
Either way, it really didn’t matter much to head coach K.C. Keeler.
“The polls really mean nothing,” said Keeler, who will enter his 11th season at the helm of the Blue Hens this fall. “There was a year that Villanova was picked last and then won the title. We went 6-6 (2002) and I’m sure no one had us ranked very high the next year but we went on to win the national championship with a 15-1 record. Towson was picked low last year and won the title. It just is not something we take a lot of interest in.”
Defending CAA champion Towson was this year’s pre-season favorite with 12 first place votes followed by Old Dominion (7), James Madison (1), New Hampshire (2), Delaware, Maine, William & Mary, Villanova, Richmond, Rhode Island and Georgia State. Old Dominion and Georgia State will not be eligible for the conference title as both schools have announced that they will be leaving the league following the 2012 season to move to the NCAA FCS level.
In addition to the poll, the pre-season All-CAA team was announced with the Blue Hens placing five players on the squad, including junior running back Andrew Pierce, senior linebacker Paul Worrilow, junior cornerback Travis Hawkins, junior kicker Sean Baner, and senior wide receiver Nihja White. Towson running back Terrance West was named the pre-season Offensive Player of the Year while New Hampshire linebacker Matt Evans was selected as the CAA Defensive Player of the Year. Delaware, Maine, and Old Dominion were the only teams to place five players on the pre-season all-star team.
“Being here at Media Day and seeing all the coaches and watching all the highlights on the screen reminds you just how difficult this conference is,” said Keeler, who will return 13 starters from last year team that followed up a run to the national championship game in 2010 with a 7-4 record. “We have had so much success in this league over the years and several of us have won national championships. Teams like Towson and Old Dominion had great years last season. You realize you have a long road in front of you. I really like the team we have coming back. I think our defense (with nine starters back) can be very special and on offense I think we have enough pieces to the puzzle for us to be good. The kids will be back in a week so we are excited to get going.”
Delaware’s 95 players will report next Friday, Aug. 3 and begin official practice the following day. Delaware’s annual Media Day will be held on Monday, Aug. 13 at Delaware Stadium at 10 a.m.
In addition to Keeler, Pierce and Worrilow also were on hand at Media Day to meet with writers and broadcasters and talk about the upcoming season. And like their coach, neither put much stock in the pre-season rankings.
“It’s a lot of fun to come down here and talk about football,” said Worrilow. “This really kicks of the season. But we don’t worry too much about the polls or rankings. Regardless of where they put us, it’s not going to change anything.”
“As a team, we don’t pay too much attention to them,” echoed Pierce. “We are just taking things one game at a time. We’ve put a lot of work in this summer and we are excited to get going. I can’t wait.”
Pierce, the CAA Rookie of the Year in 2010, leads the offense and enters the season one of 20 official candidates for the Walter Payton Award presented to the top offensive player in the nation at the FCS level. The second team Sports Network pre-season All-American rushed for 1,279 yards and 16 touchdowns a year ago and needs just 66 yards to become only the fourth player in UD history to reach the 3,000-yard mark for a career.
White leads the passing attack after catching 50 passes for 673 yards and five touchdowns a year ago to earn second team All-CAA honors. Baner earned first team All-CAA laurels a year ago when he converted a league-high 15 field goals and was successful on all 29 extra point attempts.
Worrilow and Hawkins lead a talented and experienced defense that ranks among the top units in the CAA a year ago. Worrilow, a two-time All-CAA selection, led the team with 97 tackles a year ago while Hawkins was a second team All-CAA pick in 20011 in his first season at Delaware after transferring from Maryland. He collected four interceptions and led the team with nine pass breakups.
“All we are thinking about right now is West Chester,” said Keeler of the Hens’ opening day opponent on Aug. 30 at Delaware Stadium at 7:30 p.m. “Our mentality is to go 1-0 every day. We are just worried about winning that first game and that is how we approach the season. We have to come together in training and be ready for that first game.”
2012 Colonial Athletic Association Pre-Season Coaches/Media Relations Poll: 1. Towson (12 first place votes); 2. Old Dominion (7); 3. James Madison (1); 4. New Hampshire (2); 5. Delaware; 6. Maine; 7. William & Mary; 8. Villanova; 9. Richmond; 10. Rhode Island; 11. Georgia State.
Pre-Season All-CAA Team:
Offense - QB -Taylor Heinicke (ODU); RB - Andrew Pierce (Delaware), Terrance West (Towson); HB - Brian Barlow (JMU); WR - Nihja White (Delaware); Nick Mayers (ODU), Maurice McDonald (Maine); TE - Justin Perillo (Maine); OL - Ricky Archer (UNH), Chris Howley (Maine), Dan Shirey (Villanova), Josh Spearin (Maine), Earl Watford (JMU); RS - Dae’Quan Scott (JMU); K - Sean Baner (Delaware).
Defense - DL - Frank Beltre (Towson), Chris Burnette (ODU), Michael Cole (Maine), Antoine Lewis (Villanova); LB - Paul Worrilow (Delaware), Matt Evans (UNH), Darius McMillan (Richmond), Stephon Robertson (JMU); S - Jordan Dangerfield (Towson), Brian Thompson (William & Mary); CB - Travis Hawkins (Delaware), B.W. Webb (William & Mary); P - Jonathan Plisco (ODU).
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