McNeese St., SFA neck and neck in Southland preseason polls

LAKE CHARLES – The Southeastern Louisiana University football team was picked to finish seventh overall in the Southland Conference by the league’s coaches and sports information directors as the 2011 Preseason Polls were released Wednesday at L’Auberge du Lac Resort.

Southeastern was picked to finish ahead of Lamar and one point behind intra-state rival Nicholls State in the eight-team league. Southeastern, which reports for fall camp on Aug. 2, opens its season on Sept. 3 against Tulane and faces Savan-nah State in its home opener in Strawberry Stadium on Sept. 10.

Stephen F. Austin and McNeese State, which finished as the top two teams in the Southland Conference last season, were again picked as the favorites heading into the 2011 season.

McNeese State was the coaches’ preseason pick, receiving three out of a possible eight first-place votes and 44 points to edge defending champion SFA by just one point. In the SID poll, the Lumberjacks garnered four first-place votes and tal-lied 44 points to edge the Cowboys by just one point.

The Cowboys, who haven’t finished lower than second in the Southland standings since Matt Viator took over as head coach in 2006, return 10 starters and 48 lettermen, including all-conference performers Andre Anderson (running back), Desmund Lighten (defensive end), Malcolm Bronson (safety), Josh Lewis (kicker), Miguel Gauthreaux (offensive guard) and Darrell Jenkins (safety).

The Lumberjacks are coming off their first back-to-back conference titles in school history and despite the loss of quar-terback Jeremy Moses, the 2010 Walter Payton Award winner, return nine of 11 starters on offense including All-American receivers Gralyn Crawford and Cordell Roberson, and all-conference offensive linemen George Bias, John Steel and Corey Dickerson.

Central Arkansas, which finished in a three-way tie for third place in last season’s conference race, was picked third in both the coaches’ and SID polls receiving 37 and 35 points, respectively. The Bears will feature 47 players with on-the-field experience, including an experienced senior class of 19 to go along with another 17 juniors.

Picked to finish next to last in the coaches’ preseason poll last year, Sam Houston won six of its final nine games to tie for third in the league. This season, the Bearkats were selected fourth in the coaches’ poll with 36 points and fifth in the SID poll with 30 points. Second-year head coach Willie Fritz welcomes back 11 starters on offense, nine on defense and three specialist starters, plus 23 other returning lettermen.

Northwestern State, which tied for third last season with a 4-3 mark, is picked to finish fifth in the coaches’ poll with 24 points and fourth in the SID poll with 33 points. Junior linebacker Derek Rose returns after becoming the first sophomore All-American at Northwestern since current Buffalo Bills starting cornerback Terrence McGee earned that distinction as a record-setting return specialist in 2000.

The remaining sixth, seventh and eighth place teams include Nicholls State, Southeastern and Lamar, which is playing its first Southland Conference season since 1986 after restarting its program in 2010.

Nicholls was selected sixth in both the coaches’ and SID polls with 16 points in each poll. Southeastern was picked sev-enth in each poll with 15 points from both the coaches and SIDs. Lamar received nine points in the coaches’ poll and eight points in the SID poll for an eighth-place ranking.

Southland Preseason Polls

Coaches

Pl. School (First-place votes) Points

1. McNeese State (3) 44

2. Stephen F. Austin (3) 43

3. Central Arkansas (1) 37

4. Sam Houston State (1) 36

5. Northwestern State 24

6. Nicholls State 16

7. Southeastern Louisiana 15

8. Lamar 9

Sports Information Directors

Pl. School (First-place votes) Points

1. Stephen F. Austin (4) 44

2. McNeese State (2) 43

3. Central Arkansas (1) 35

4. Northwestern State (1) 33

5. Sam Houston State 30

6. Nicholls State 16

7. Southeastern Louisiana 15

8. Lamar 8

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