SPARTANBURG, S.C. — In two extremely close votes, the Southern Conference’s football coaches picked Appalachian State University to edge Georgia Southern for the 2011 SoCon football championship while the league’s media tabbed GSU as a narrow favorite over Appalachian, the conference announced on Tuesday.
Appalachian beat out Georgia Southern by one point for the top spot in the coaches’ preseason poll. ASU received 5-of-8 possible first-place votes in the balloting with GSU getting three first-place nods. Coaches were not permitted to vote for their own teams.
After the Mountaineers and Eagles, Wofford, Chattanooga (who received the final first-place vote), Elon, Furman, Samford, The Citadel and Western Carolina rounded out the poll.
The media vote was also tight, with Georgia Southern edging Appalachian by a mere five points, which is the SoCon media’s closest preseason vote since ASU topped Marshall by six points in 1996. Fifteen media members picked GSU to win its first SoCon title since 2004 with 13 favoring the Mountaineers and two picking Wofford. The Terriers placed third in the media voting, followed by UTC, Furman, Elon, Samford, Western Carolina and The Citadel.
The SoCon coaches also voted for preseason all-conference teams and Appalachian was respresented by 10 players holding down 11 positions on the first and second teams. Quarterback DeAndre Presley headlines five Mountaineers on the first team, joined by offensive lineman Orry Frye, tight end Ben Jorden, defensive lineman John Rizor and defensive back Ed Gainey.
ASU’s second-team selections included Travaris Cadet at both running back and return specialist, offensive lineman Matt Ruff, wide receiver Brian Quick, linebacker Brandon Grier and punter Sam Martin.
Despite being the defending SoCon Offensive Player of the Year and the leading returning vote-getter from last year’s Walter Payton Award balloting, the SoCon’s coaches shockingly did not pick Presley as the league’s preseason Offensive Player of the Year. That honor went to Wofford running back Eric Breitenstein, who managed only 39 yards on 17 carries last November when the Mountaineers dismantled the fourth-ranked Terriers, 43-13, to clinch ASU’s record-tying sixth-consecutive SoCon championship.
Appalachian will begin preparations for its run at an unprecedented seventh-straight SoCon title on Friday, Aug. 5 when fall practice begins. The Mountaineers open the 2011 campaign on Sept. 3 at Virginia Tech.
Coming Wednesday: 2011 ASU Football Online Yearbook