2017 CAA Football Season Preview

Publish date:

(STATS) - Donnie Kilpatrick, James Madison's offensive coordinator, has stressed to the Dukes that when a team wins a national championship, the rest of their conference reacts both on and off the field.

In CAA Football, the rest of the conference knows JMU best, and some realize they competed well with the 2016 FCS champion. They don't feel the gap is as big as people outside the conference would believe.

"Everybody takes it up a notch," senior quarterback Bryan Schor said. "We expect to see a really competitive CAA this year."

The 12-team CAA was already strong enough before the Dukes took Frisco, Texas, by storm in January. That was their second national title, and the conference's fifth since 2003. Four others have made it to the championship game and lost.

James Madison finished 14-1, losing only to North Carolina, in coach Mike Houston's first season. This year, the teams picked second (Richmond), third (Villanova) and fifth (Delaware) behind the Dukes in the CAA's preseason poll have new coaches.

Houston will want his players to focus game by game, but make no mistake: The Dukes have their eyes on a return trip to Frisco.

Following is a team-by-team breakdown of the 2017 CAA Football race and STATS' predicted order of finish:

1. James Madison

2. Richmond

3. Villanova

4. New Hampshire

5. Albany

6. Maine

7. Delaware

8. Stony Brook

9. William & Mary

10. Towson

11. Elon

12. Rhode Island




LOCATION: Harrisonburg, Virginia

STADIUM: Bridgeforth Stadium

COACH: Mike Houston (14-1, one season; 57-20 overall)

2016 RECORDS: 14-1, 8-0 CAA (1st); No. 1 in final STATS FCS Top 25

STARTERS RETURNING: 13 (4 offense/9 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Khalid Abdullah, RB; Rashard Davis, WR/PR; Taylor Reynolds, CB

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Bryan Schor, QB, Sr. (217 of 297, 3,002 yards, 29 TD, 6 INT; 126 carries, 569 yards, 10 TD)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Andrew Ankrah, DE, R-Sr. (44 TT, 6 TFL, 3.5 Sacks, 3 PBU, 2 QBH, 1 FF)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Marcus Marshall, RB, Jr. (Georgia Tech transfer); Cardon Johnson, RB, R-Sr.; Trai Sharp, RB, Jr.; Terrence Alls, WR, R-Sr.; John Miller, WR, Sr.; David Eldridge, WR, Jr. (Virginia transfer); Jonathan Kloosterman, TE, Sr.; A.J. Bolden, OL, R-Sr.; Aaron Stinnie, LT, R-Sr.; Darrious Carter, DL, R-Jr.; Simeyon Robinson, DL, R-Sr.; Dimitri Holloway, LB, Jr.; Brandon Hereford, LB, Sr.; Kyre Hawkins, LB, R-Sr.; Gus Little, LB, R-So. (Maryland transfer); Raven Greene, S, R-Sr.; Jimmy Moreland, CB, R-Jr.; Rashad Robinson, CB, Jr.; Curtis Oliver, CB, Jr.; Jordan Brown, S, R-Sr.; Tyler Gray, PK, Jr.; Robert Carter, ST, Jr.

OUTLOOK: No offense, North Dakota State, but the defending national champs enter the season as a No. 1-ranked favorite to repeat. This despite some senior losses and early-season suspensions that will sideline starters Kloosterman and Hereford. But there are standouts galore and Houston filled in quite nicely with transfers, including Marshall, Georgia Tech's leading rusher in 2015. Schor is a true leader behind center and will seek a second straight CAA offensive player of the year award. He has so many offensive weapons at his disposal, with the Dukes averaging 46.7 points per game a year ago. Defensively, Ankrah and Greene are preseason All-Americans. The Dukes are favored to beat an FBS opponent, East Carolina, and, unlike last season, they will play the other top CAA contenders at Bridgeforth Stadium.


Sept. 2, at East Carolina

Sept. 9, East Tennessee State

Sept. 16, Norfolk State

Sept. 23, Maine*

Sept. 30, at Delaware *

Oct. 14, Villanova*

Oct. 21, at William & Mary*

Oct. 28, New Hampshire*

Nov. 4, at Rhode Island*

Nov. 11, Richmond*

Nov. 18, at Elon*

* - CAA Football game



LOCATION: Richmond, Virginia

STADIUM: Robins Stadium

COACH: Russ Huesman (first season; 59-37 overall)

2016 RECORDS: 10-4, 5-3 CAA (Tie/4th); No. 8 in final STATS FCS Top 25

STARTERS RETURNING: 16 (8 offense/8 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Brian Brown, WR; Winston Craig, DT; Omar Howard, LB

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Kyle Lauletta, QB, R-Sr. (220 of 349, 3,022 yards, 24 TD, 8 INT)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Tafon Mainsah, CB, R-Sr. (39 TT, 1.5 TFL, 3 INT, 12 PBU, 1 FR, 1 FF)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Kevin Johnson, QB, Jr.; Deontez Thompson, RB, So.; Xavier Goodall, RB, So.; Gordon Collins, RB, R-Jr.; Tyler Wilkins, WR, Jr.; Jarmal Bevels, WR, R-Jr.; Jeremiah Brown, WR, R-Fr. (Wake Forest transfer); Garrett Hudson, TE, R-Sr.; John Yarbrough, OG, Jr.; Alex Light, LT, Sr.; Patrick Kliebert, RT, R-Sr.; Brandon Waller, DL, Sr.; Andrew Clyde, DE, R-Jr.; Chad Wiggins, DE, R-Jr.; DeAnthony Muse, DT, Sr.; Justin Rubin, LB, Jr.; Brendan Coniker, S, R-Sr.; Micah Keeles, CB, Jr.; Griffin Trau, PK, Jr.

OUTLOOK: With coach Danny Rocco having moved on to Delaware, the Spiders were thrilled to bring back Huesman, the architect of their FCS championship defense in 2008, from Chattanooga. They aren't just seeking a fourth consecutive playoff bid for the first time; they have CAA and national title aspirations. The major change is on defense, which switches from a 3-4 base alignment to a 4-2-5. With Clyde and Waller causing damage up front and the secondary a deep unit, the Spiders are confident in the switch. The offense will be outstanding again if it has enough depth on the offensive line. Lauletta, who missed the playoff run to the quarterfinals with an ACL tear, has surpassed 3,000 passing yards twice. He has a tall set of wide receivers and a standout tight end, Hudson, as well as super soph Thompson (1,001 yards, nine TDs) leading the running game. The All-American Trau converted 23 of 26 field-goal attempts as a sophomore.


Aug. 27, at Sam Houston State

Sept. 9, at Colgate

Sept. 16, Howard

Sept. 23, Elon*

Oct. 7, Albany*

Oct. 14, at Towson*

Oct. 21, at Delaware*

Oct. 28, Stony Brook*

Nov. 4, at Villanova*

Nov. 11, at James Madison*

Nov. 18, William & Mary*

* - CAA Football game



LOCATION: Villanova, Pennsylvania

STADIUM: Villanova Stadium

COACH: Mark Ferrante (first season)

2016 RECORDS: 9-4, 6-2 CAA (Tie/2nd); No. 11 in final STATS FCS Top 25

STARTERS RETURNING: 15 (9 offense/6 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Brad Seaton, OT; Tanoh Kpassagnon, DE; Austin Calitro, LB

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Zach Bednarczyk, QB, Jr. (178 of 297, 2,158 yards, 19 TD, 10 INT; 126 carries, 539 yards, 2 TD)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Rob Rolle, S, Sr. (63 TT, 0.5 TFL, 7 INT, 5 PBU, 1 FR)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Aaron Forbes, RB, Jr.; Matt Gudzak, RB, Sr.; Taurus Phillips, WR, Sr.; Jarrett McClenton, WR, Jr.; Jarrett McClenton, WR, Jr.; Ryan Bell, TE, Sr.; Ethan Greenidge, LT, Jr.; Louis Csaszar, RG, Jr.; Matt Donoghue, C, Sr.; Bryan White, DT, Jr.; Jeff Steeb, MLB, Jr.; Ed Shockley, LB, Sr.; Drew Wiley, LB, So.; Malik Reaves, CB, Sr.; Rasaan Stewart, S, Sr.; John Hinchen, P, Sr.

OUTLOOK: Ferrante has been putting his stamp on the 'Nova program, having spent the last 30 seasons coaching under the retired Andy Talley, most recently guiding the offensive line. Four of his first five games are on the road. The Wildcats are coming off a season in which they reached the second round of the FCS playoffs and there's no reason they can't at least duplicate that feat. The dual-threat Bednarczyk is a third-year starter and the running game is strong with Forbes and Gudzak. The defense suffered bigger losses, including Kpassagnon, the first FCS player taken in the 2017 NFL draft (Kansas City Chiefs, second round). But the returnees come back to a unit that ranked No. 1 in the FCS in points allowed per game (15.0). Rolle tied for the national high with seven interceptions last season and Steeb and Stockley are a terrific duo at linebacker.


Sept. 2, at Lehigh

Sept. 9, at Temple

Sept. 16, Lafayette

Sept. 23, at Albany*

Sept. 30, at Towson*

Oct. 7, Maine*

Oct. 14, at James Madison*

Oct. 28, Elon*

Nov. 4, Richmond*

Nov. 11, at Rhode Island*

Nov. 18, Delaware*

* - CAA Football game



LOCATION: Durham, New Hampshire

STADIUM: Wildcat Stadium

COACH: Sean McDonnell (141-83, 18 seasons)

2016 RECORDS: 8-5, 6-2 CAA (Tie/2nd); No. 17 in final STATS FCS Top 25

STARTERS RETURNING: 13 (6 offense/7 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Dalton Crossan, RB; Andrew Lauderdale, OL; Casey DeAndrade, CB

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Neil O'Connor, WR, Jr. (58 receptions, 834 yards, 6 TD)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Pop Lacey, S, So. (82 TT, 2 INT, 5 PBU, 1 FR, 1 FF)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Trevor Knight, QB, Jr.; Evan Gray, RB, So.; Malik Love, WR, So.; Kieran Presley, WR, Jr.; Dayne Herron, LT, Jr.; Jake Kennedy, C, Sr.; Will McInerny, RT, Sr.; Jae'Wuan Horton, DE, Jr.; Kyle Reisert, DE, Jr.; Ryan Sosnak, DT, Jr.; Rick Holt, DT, Sr.; Quinlen Dean, LB, So.; Jared Kuehl, LB, Jr.; Prince Smith, Jr., CB, So.; Michael Balsamo, SS, So.; Rick Ellison, WS, So.; Morgan Ellman, PK, Sr.

OUTLOOK: Another year, another FCS playoff bid? Well, the Wildcats made it 13 straight last season, whipping Lehigh before losing to James Madison. They incorporated some younger players into the lineup and will challenge for the CAA title next season, if not this one. Knight is fast and athletic, but he needs to be more consistent on offense. His top receivers, O'Connor and Love, are productive. Unfortunately for the offense, Trevon Bryant, the expected No. 1 running back, suffered a knee injury during spring practice, and the Wildcats are replacing three multi-year starters on the offensive line. The sophomores who dot the secondary, especially Smith (five interceptions) and Lacey, form the strength of the defense. The schedule is more interesting than usual because UNH hosts rival Maine in the opener.


Sept. 2, Maine*

Sept. 9, at Georgia Southern

Sept. 16, at Holy Cross

Sept. 23, Rhode Island*

Sept. 30, Bryant

Oct. 14, at Stony Brook*

Oct. 21, Towson*

Oct. 28, at James Madison*

Nov. 4, at William & Mary*

Nov. 11, Elon*

Nov. 18, at Albany*

* - CAA Football game



LOCATION: Albany, New York

STADIUM: Bob Ford Field

COACH: Greg Gattuso (17-17, three seasons; 114-49 overall)

2016 RECORDS: 7-4, 4-4 CAA (Tie/6th)

STARTERS RETURNING: 13 (6 offense/7 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Kevin Malloy, LT; Michael Nicastro, LB; Rayshan Clark, CB

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks, RB, Jr. (247 carries, 1,388 yards, 16 TD)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Malachi Hoskins, DE, Sr. (82 TT, 11 TFL, 7 Sacks, 1 PBU, 3 FF)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Will Brunson, QB, R-So.; Nevin Sussman, QB/P, Jr.; Anthony Manzo-Lewis, FB/TE, Sr.; Jordan Crockett, WR, R-Jr.; Jerod Diggs, WR, Sr. (Lackawanna College transfer); Brad Harris, WR, R-Sr. (injured most of 2016); Tim Wade, OL, R-Sr.; Antoine White, DE, R-Jr. (Penn State transfer); Brian Dolce, DE/TE, R-Jr.; DaeShan Timmons, DL, R-Sr.; Julian Cox, LB, R-Jr.; Jamal Robinson, CB, Sr.; Josh Wynn, FS/PR, Jr.; Mason Gray, SS, Jr.; Ethan Stark, PK, R.-Jr.

OUTLOOK: A playoff bid is possible considering last year's team was one of the final two left out of the at-large mix. So much depends on the healthy return of Ibitokun-Hanks, a preseason first-team All-American who suffered a torn ACL in the final game and sat out spring drills. He's not helped by the fact the Great Danes are replacing four starters on the offensive line. The other storyline is about getting improvement from Sussman, the incumbent QB, and Brunson. They threw more interceptions than touchdown passes. While the defense is a strength, allowing only 18.8 points per game last season, the Great Danes lost last year's emotional leaders, Nicastro and Clark. But Hoskins is a beast up front.


Sept. 2, at Old Dominion

Sept. 9, at Morgan State

Sept. 16, Monmouth

Sept. 23, Villanova*

Sept. 30, at Elon*

Oct. 7, at Richmond*

Oct. 21, Maine*

Oct. 28, Rhode Island*

Nov. 4, at Stony Brook*

Nov. 11, at Delaware*

Nov. 18, New Hampshire*

* - CAA Football game



LOCATION: Orono, Maine

STADIUM: Alfond Stadium

COACH: Joe Harasymiak (6-5, one season)

2016 RECORDS: 6-5, 5-3 CAA (Tie/4th)

STARTERS RETURNING: 15 (8 offense/7 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Dan Collins, QB; Pat Ricard, DL; Christophe Mulumba Tshimanga, LB

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Micah Wright, WR/PR, Jr. (44 receptions, 688 yards, 7 TD; 11.1-yard punt return average, 1 TD)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Najee Goode, CB, Sr. (40 TT, 3.5 TFL, 1 Sack, 2 INT, 7 PBU, 1 FR, 3 FF)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Drew Belcher, QB, R-Jr.; Max Staver, QB, Sr. (Houston Baptist transfer); Nigel Beckford, RB, Sr.; Josh Mack, RB, So.; Jared Osumah, WR, Sr.; Jaleel Reed, WR, Sr.; Earnest Edwards, WR, So.; Isaiah Brooks, RG, Sr.; Jamil Demby, LT, Sr.; John Reddington, LG, Sr.; Cody Levy, OL, Jr.; Uchenna Egwuonwu, DL, Jr.; Dakota Tarbox, DL, Sr.; Sterling Sheffield, LB, Jr.; Manny Patterson, CB, So.; Darrius Hart, S, R-Jr.; DeAndre Scott, DB, Sr.; Jason Matovu, DB, Sr.

OUTLOOK: Despite some significant senior losses, the Black Bears are primed for a strong season under the 31-year-old Harasymiak. That is, if they can survive a particularly tough early season schedule. Quarterback remains a big issue as up-and-down veteran Belcher and Staver, a well-traveled transfer, battle for the starting job. Otherwise, the surrounding offensive positions are solid. Sheffield is the vocal leader and both he and Goode were preseason All-CAA selections. The kicking was so poor last season (1 of 7 on field goals) that the Black Bears gave to a scholarship to a kicker (Kenny Doak) for the first time in a while.


Sept. 2, at New Hampshire*

Sept. 9, Bryant

Sept. 23, at James Madison*

Sept. 30, at Central Florida

Oct. 7, at Villanova*

Oct. 14, Rhode Island*

Oct. 21, at Albany*

Oct. 28, William & Mary*

Nov. 4, Delaware*

Nov. 11, UMass (Fenway Park, Boston)

Nov. 18, Stony Brook*

* - CAA Football game



LOCATION: Newark, Delaware

STADIUM: Delaware Stadium

COACH: Danny Rocco (first season; 90-42 overall)

2016 RECORDS: 4-7, 2-6 CAA (10th)

STARTERS RETURNING: 18 (8 offense/10 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Jalen Randolph, RB; Connor Bozick, OT; Ryan Torzsa, FS

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Brody Kern, C, Sr. (two-time All-CAA selection and fourth-year starter)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Charles Bell, LB, Sr. (94 TT, 11.5 TFL, 1 Sack, 2 PBU, 1 FR, 1 FF)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Joe Walker, QB, Sr.; J.P. Caruso, QB, Grad (Appalachian State graduate transfer); Wes Hills, RB, Sr.; Thomas Jefferson, RB, Jr.; Kareem Williams, RB, R-Jr.; Diante Cherry, WR, Sr.; Jamie Jarmon, WR/PR, Sr.; Charles Scarff, TE, Jr.; Jake Trump, OT, Sr.; Steve Robinson, LG, R-So.; Bilal Nichols, DT, Sr.; Blaine Woodson, DT, Sr.; Cam Kitchen, DE, Sr.; Troy Reeder, LB, Jr.; Anthony Jackson, LB, Sr.; Nasir Adderley, DB/KR, Jr.; Malcolm Brown, CB, Jr.; Ray Jones, SS, Jr.; Nasir Adderley, FS, Sr.

OUTLOOK: The Blue Hens' tradition-rich program will try to get it right after back-to-back 4-7 seasons - their first consecutive losing records since 1938-39. In his first season, Rocco has a large senior class to fuel the potential turnaround. Walker has struggled as a passer for two seasons, with the Blue Hens third from last in the FCS in passing yards per game last season after finishing last in 2015. But the running game is strong with Jefferson and Williams, who sat out with an injury last season. On defense, the Blue Devils return 10 starters, and the talent in the front seven is outstanding, including tackles Nichols and Woodson and linebackers Bell and Reeder. Of course, the biggest date circled on the Blue Hens' schedule is Oct. 21 versus Richmond, Rocco's former team.


Aug. 31, Delaware State

Sept. 9, at Virginia Tech

Sept. 16, Cornell

Sept. 30, James Madison*

Oct. 7, at Stony Brook*

Oct. 14, William & Mary*

Oct. 21, Richmond*

Oct. 28, at Towson*

Nov. 4, at Maine*

Nov. 11, Albany*

Nov. 18, at Villanova*

* - CAA Football game



LOCATION: Stony Brook, New York

STADIUM: LaValle Stadium

COACH: Chuck Priore (67-58, 12 seasons; 106-67 overall)

2016 RECORDS: 5-6, 4-4 CAA (Tie/6th)

STARTERS RETURNING: 18 (9 offense/9 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Tim Keith, WR; Jaheem Woods, DB; Kye Morgan, DB

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Timon Parris, LT, Sr. (first-team All-CAA, 33 consecutive starts)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Tyrice Beverette, LB, Sr. (98 TT, 9 TFL, 4.5 Sacks, 4 INT, 4 PBU, 1 FR, 4 FF)

OTHER KEY PLAYERs: Joe Carbone, QB, Jr.; Tyquell Fields, QB, R-Fr.; Stacey Bedell, TB, Sr.; Jordan Gowins, TB, Jr.; Donald Liotine, WR, Jr.; Ray Bolden, WR, Sr.; Cal Daniels, TE, Jr.; Armani Garrick, LG, Sr.; Jackson Miller, RT, Sr.; John Haggart, DE, Sr.; Ousmane Camara, NT, Sr.; Shayne Lawless, LB, Jr.; Noah McGinty, LB, Jr.; Chris Cooper, S, Sr.; Darin Peart, FS, Sr.; Travon Reid-Segure, CB, Sr.; Marc Nolan, P, Jr.

OUTLOOK: A 5-2 start unraveled with a four-game losing streak last season, so the Seawolves' veteran team wants to make amends. But they have to solve their inconsistency since joining the CAA in 2013. The offensive and defensive lines both need improvement, although the O-line features All-America tackle Parris. He will help pave the way for Bedell, who ranks seventh in school history with 2,119 rushing yards. Carbone threw 12 interceptions and only three touchdowns, so Fields has been considered as the starting QB. On defense, Lawless, McGinty and Beverette form an exceptional linebacking unit. James Madison and Villanova aren't on the Seawolves' favorable CAA schedule.


Sept. 2, at South Florida

Sept. 9, at Rhode Island*

Sept. 16, Sacred Heart

Sept. 23, Towson*

Sept. 30, at William & Mary*

Oct. 7, Delaware*

Oct. 14, New Hampshire*

Oct. 28, at Richmond*

Nov. 4, Albany*

Nov. 11, Wagner

Nov. 18, at Maine*

* - CAA Football game



LOCATION: Williamsburg, Virginia

STADIUM: Zable Stadium

COACH: Jimmye Laycock (243-180-2, 37 seasons)

2016 RECORDS: 5-6, 3-5 CAA (Tie/8th)

STARTERS RETURNING: 10 (5 offense/5 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Steve Cluley, QB; Kendell Anderson, RB; Jerry Ugokwe, RT

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: DeVonte Dedmon, Sr., WR/KR (35 receptions, 533 yards, 5 TD)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Isaiah Stephens, DT, Sr. (37 TT, 2 TFL, 1 PBU, 2 QBH, 1 FF)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Tommy McKee, QB, Jr.; Brandle Battle, QB, So.; Albert Funderburke, RB, So.; Noah Giles, RB, R-Fr.; Jack Armstrong, WR, Jr.; Daniel Kuzjak, WR, Sr.; Andrew Caskin, TE, Sr.; Chris Durant, LT, Sr.; Connor Hilland, LG, Sr.; Nick Wimmer, C, So.; Gavin Johnson, DE, So.; Matt Ahola, DE, Sr.; Arman Jones, LB, So.; Nate Atkins, LB, So.; Isaiah Laster, S, So.; Corey Parker, FS, So.; Aaron Swinton, CB, Sr.; Jesse Anderson, LS/SS, Sr.

OUTLOOK: Laycock enters the 2017 season just seven wins shy of 250 in his career, but the Tribe don't figure to be much better than a year ago. The offense is replacing a three-year starting quarterback (Cluley) and a two-time all-conference tailback (Anderson), whose backup (Funderburke) is still recovering from a knee injury. McKee hopes to take over at QB after serving as the backup for two seasons. The dangerous Dedmon (110 career receptions) and Caskin provide the top receiving options. Like the offense, the defense returns only five starters. The Tribe have to develop edge rushers, but they're strong in the middle with Stephens. Parker, at free safety, is one of the terrific young talents in the CAA.


Sept. 2, at Virginia

Sept. 9, at Norfolk State

Sept. 16, Bucknell

Sept. 30, Stony Brook*

Oct. 7, at Elon*

Oct. 14, at Delaware*

Oct. 21, James Madison*

Oct. 28, at Maine*

Nov. 4, New Hampshire*

Nov. 11, Towson*

Nov. 18, at Richmond*

* - CAA Football game



LOCATION: Towson, Maryland

STADIUM: Johnny Unitas Stadium

COACH: Rob Ambrose (47-48, eight seasons; 50-55 overall)

2016 RECORDS: 4-7, 3-5 CAA (Tie/8th)

STARTERS RETURNING: 16 (6 offense/10 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Christian Summers, WR; Jordan Mynatt, LB; Jake Ryder, P

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Shane Simpson, RB/RS, So. (141 carries, 784 yards, 3 TD; 26.9-yard KO return average, 1 TD)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Chris Tedder, LB, Jr. (74 TT, 6 TFL, 2 Sacks, 1 PBU, 2 FF)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Morgan Mahalak, QB, Jr.; Sam Gallahan, WR, R-Jr.; Trey Kilgore, WR, R-Sr.; Antonio Harris, LG, R-Sr,; Matt Kauffmann, RT, R-Jr.; Andrew Garnett, LT, R-Fr.; Zain Harps Upshur, DL, Sr.; D'Sean Cummings, DE, R-Sr.; Diondre Wallace, LB, Jr.; Keon Paye, LB, R-So.; Robert Heyward, LB, R-So.; Monty Fenner, S, R-Jr.; Lyrics Klugh, CB/K, Jr.; Justice Pettus-Dixon, CB, R-So.; Will Hayes, LS, Sr.; Aidan O'Neill, PK, So.

OUTLOOK: The Tigers disappointed last season, but they won their final three games to bring momentum into the 2017 season. The future is now with the versatile Simpson, who was the CAA offensive freshman of the year last season. But the offense has to develop some more weapons for the highly touted Mahalak, who missed six games because of injury last season. The Tigers lose only one starter on defense, but the unit has to improve behind Tedder and Wallace, two of their top three tacklers a year ago. O'Neill is a long-range kicker, winning the season's final game with a 55-yard field goal as time expired.


Sept. 2, Morgan State

Sept. 9, at Maryland

Sept. 16, at Saint Francis

Sept. 23, at Stony Brook*

Sept. 30, Richmond*

Oct. 14, Villanova*

Oct. 21, at New Hampshire*

Oct. 28, Delaware*

Nov. 4, at Elon*

Nov. 11, at William & Mary*

Nov. 18, Rhode Island*

* - CAA Football game



LOCATION: Elon, North Carolina

STADIUM: Rhodes Stadium

COACH: Curt Cignetti (first season; 53-17 overall)

2016 RECORDS: 2-9, 1-7 CAA (Tie/11th)

STARTERS RETURNING: 14 (9 offense/5 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: John Silas, LB; John Gallagher, PK; David Petroni, P

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Malcolm Summers, RB/KR, Jr. (108 carries, 513 yards, 2 TD; 21.5-yard KO return average)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Chris Blair, S, Sr. (79 TT, 1.5 TFL, 2 INT, 8 PBU, 1 QBH, 1 FR)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Daniel Thompson, QB, Jr.; Davis Cheek, QB, Fr.; Jalen Greene, QB, Fr.; De'Sean McNair, RB, So.; Breylnd Cyphers, RB, R-Fr.; Tereak McCray, WR, Jr.; Corey Joyner, WR, Jr.; Cole Taylor, CB, So.; John Luke Arrington, TE, Jr.; Ikenna Nwokeji, LT, Sr.; Alex Higgins, C, Jr.; C.J. Toogood, LG, Jr.; Oli Udoh, RT, Jr.; Daniel Everett, DE, Jr.; Dondre Howell, DE, Sr.; Johnathan Jackson, LB, Sr.; Warren Messer, LB, Jr.; Matt Baker, LB, Jr.; Malcolm Galloway, S, Sr.

OUTLOOK: "There's no gain without strain" says Cignetti, Elon's new coach who is demanding a tougher standard within the struggling program. He had great success over six seasons at Division II Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Although the Phoenix are only 4-20 since joining the CAA in 2014, Cignetti has a young but experienced team to grow with. Thompson is trying to hold on to the No. 1 QB job, but he needs to improve a lot after throwing for only four touchdowns and nine interceptions in 297 attempts. The team's top returning rusher, Summers, is part of a deep junior class. Better time of possession - the Phoenix held it for a mere 26 minutes, 48 seconds per game - would help the defense, which is led by Blair and Messer. But the defensive front has to generate a better pass rush to get off the field quicker.


Aug. 31, at Toledo

Sept. 9, at Furman

Sept. 16, Charleston Southern

Sept. 23, at Richmond*

Sept. 30, Albany*

Oct. 7, William & Mary*

Oct. 21, at Rhode Island*

Oct. 28, at Villanova*

Nov. 4, Towson*

Nov. 11, at New Hampshire*

Nov. 18, James Madison*

* - CAA Football game



LOCATION: Kingston, Rhode Island

STADIUM: Meade Stadium

COACH: Jim Fleming (4-30, three seasons; 25-31 overall)

2016 RECORDS: 2-9, 1-7 CAA (Tie/11th)

STARTERS RETURNING: 16 (8 offense/8 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Charlie McKeeman, TE; Dave Steinmetz, RT; Adam Parker, LB

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Harold Cooper, RB, Sr. (113 carries, 463 yards, 3 TD; 25.3-yard KO return average, 2 TD)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: D.J. Stewart, S, Jr. (86 TT, 2 INT, 1 PBU)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Jordan Vazzano, QB, R-So.; Aaron Parker, WR, So.; Isaiah Coulter, WR, Fr.; Harold Buckner III, WR, Sr.; Marvin Beauvais, WR, R-Jr.; Tyler Burke, TE, Jr. (Maryland transfer); Dwayne Scott, C, R-So.; Dino Boyd, LT, R-Jr.; Jose Duncan, DE, Sr.; Tez Wilson, DE, Jr.; Mike Ezirike, DT, R-Sr.; Justin Hogan, LB, Jr.; Lorenzo Bryant, LB, R-So.; Miles Gardea, LB, Jr. (Santa Rosa Junior College transfer); Nas Jones, S, Jr.; Momodou Mbye, CB, R-So.; Rashod Dickerson, CB, So.

OUTLOOK: Fleming has found URI to be the toughest job in the CAA, but this could be his best team with eight starters returning on each side of the ball. At times last season, the Rams used seven freshmen on offense, including Vazzano. He finished strong over the final two games, but only completed 41 percent of his passes with 15 interceptions. The senior leadership comes from Cooper, one of the more dangerous all-purpose threats in the conference. On defense, the line is a strength, led by seniors Duncan and Ezrike. Seven of last year's eight leading tacklers return.


Aug. 31, at Central Michigan

Sept. 9, Stony Brook*

Sept. 16, Harvard

Sept. 23, at New Hampshire*

Sept. 30, at Brown

Oct. 14, at Maine*

Oct. 21, Elon*

Oct. 28, at Albany*

Nov. 4, James Madison*

Nov. 11, Villanova*

Nov. 18, at Towson*

* - CAA Football game