(STATS) - The way Northeast Conference football programs are expanding their national recruiting was evident with the preseason team on Thursday.
The 25-member team featured players from 12 different states, including Saint Francis junior wide receiver and 2016 NEC offensive player of the year Kamron Lewis, who hails from California. That was up from nine states on last year's preseason team.
"If you look back to the early days of the league," said Ralph Ventre, the NEC's director of communications and social media, "it was probably just New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania."
The preseason coaches poll tabbed Duquesne as the favorite for the second straight year. The Dukes and Saint Francis tied for the 2016 title, but the Red Flash earned the NEC's automatic bid to the FCS playoffs as the result of a 14-10 win in the head-to-head meeting.
Both teams had a conference-high six preseason selections. Duquesne will feature running back A.J. Hines, the 2016 Jerry Rice Award winner as the FCS freshman of the year, but Saint Francis has the other choice at running back, Marcus Bagley.
Wagner was picked third in the poll and had five preseason selections, followed by Central Connecticut State as the fourth-place pick with four preseason selections. Sacred Heart was fifth, Bryant sixth and Robert Morris seventh, each with two preseason selections.
NORTHEAST CONFERENCE FOOTBALL PRESEASON POLL=
Head Coaches Poll
1. Duquesne (4 first-place votes)
2. Saint Francis (1)
3. Wagner (2)
4. Central Connecticut State
5. Sacred Heart
7. Robert Morris
NORTHEAST CONFERENCE FOOTBALL PRESEASON TEAM=
QB - Alex Thomson, Wagner, Sr.
RB - Marcus Bagley, Saint Francis, Sr.
RB - A.J. Hines, Duquesne, So.
WR - Joey Fields, Central Connecticut State, Sr.
WR - Kamron Lewis, Saint Francis, Jr.
WR - John Williams, Wagner, Sr.
TE/H-Back - K.J. Smith, Central Connecticut State, Jr.
OL - Matt Diaz, Wagner, Sr.
OL - Christian Eubanks, Saint Francis, Jr.
OL - Matt Fitzpatrick, Duquesne, Jr.
OL - Mederick Flavius, Saint Francis, Jr.
OL - Ben Huss, Duquesne, Sr.
DL - Dylan Ackerson, Sacred Heart, Sr.
DL - Jordan Baskerville, Wagner, Sr.
DL - Dillon Guthro, Bryant, Jr.
DL - Andy Struttmann, Duquesne, Sr.
LB - Kevin Barry, Sacred Heart, Gr.
LB - Randall Laguerre, Central Connecticut State, Sr.
LB - Gee Stanley, Robert Morris, So.
LB - Nathan Stone, Duquesne, Sr.
DB - Delondo Boyd, Saint Francis, Sr.
DB - Malik Duncan, Saint Francis, Sr.
DB - Jevon Elmore, Central Connecticut State, Sr.
DB - Abner Roberts, Duquesne, Jr.
PK - James Cooper, Wagner, Gr.
P - Adam Check, Robert Morris, Jr.
RS - Matt Sewall, Bryant, Sr.