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LU is League Favorite; Eight Players Honored
For the second-straight year, Liberty was tabbed the Big South's preseason favorite to hoist the conference trophy at the end of the season. The Flames garnered 12 out of 13 first-place votes, in a poll conducted by the league's head football coaches and a select media panel.
Liberty had 77 points in the preseason ranking, finishing ahead of Coastal Carolina, who garnered 58 points. Gardner-Webb was predicted to finish third with 52 points, while league newcomer Stony Brook grabbed the No. 4 spot with 38 points. Charleston Southern (30 points) and VMI (18 points) rounded out the annual league forecast in fifth and sixth place, respectively.
Individually, senior running back Rashad Jennings was named the Big South's Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, while the Flames dominated the preseason all-conference squad with eight selections.
Last year, Jennings led the Big South in rushing yards per game (123.7), rushing touchdowns (15) and scoring (104 points). The reigning Big South Offensive Player of the Year and honorable-mention All-America selection rushed for 1,113 yards, posting his second-straight season with 1,000 or more rushing yards since joining Liberty's roster.
Jennings was joined by seven other Flames on the preseason all-conference squad, marking the second most preseason selections in program history. Last year, Liberty dominated the annual preseason squad with 11 honorees.
Besides Jennings, quarterback Brock Smith and offensive linemen Mike Godsil and Britt Stone were offensive selections. On the defensive side of the field, defensive lineman Colin Dugan, linebacker Nick Hursky and defensive back Patrick Calvary were honored. All-American Dan Pope rounded out Liberty's preseason all-conference honorees at long snapper.
Head coach Danny Rocco and his Flames will open up preseason training camp next week when the players report on Wednesday, while the two-time Big South Coach of the Year will conduct his squad's first practice on Thursday afternoon.
Liberty will open its second-ever 12-game football schedule on Aug. 30 when the Flames host North Greenville in Lynchburg at Williams Stadium under the lights at 7 p.m.
Liberty will begin it Big South title defense on Oct. 4 when it concludes a three-game road swing against Coastal Carolina in Conway, S.C.
2008 Big South Football Preseason All-Conference Team
QB - Brock Smith, Liberty, Sr.
RB - Rashad Jennings, Liberty, Sr.
RB - Conte Cuttino, Stony Brook, Jr.
WR - Dee Brown, Charleston Southern, Sr.
WR - Lynell Suggs, Stony Brook, Sr.
WR - Dobson Collins, Gardner-Webb, Sr.
TE - Scott Fambrough, Coastal Carolina, Jr.
OL - Demario Deese, Gardner-Webb, Sr.
OL - Britt Leggett, Coastal Carolina, R-Sr.
OL - Mike Godsil, Liberty, Sr.
OL - Britt Stone, Liberty, R-Sr.
OL - Alex Bragg, Charleston Southern, R-Sr.
DL - Colin Dugan, Liberty, Sr.
DL - Phillip Oboh, Coastal Carolina, Jr.
DL - Adam Soivilien, Stony Brook, Sr.
DL - Jake Killeen, Charleston Southern, Sr.
LB - Mario Brown, Gardner-Webb, Sr.
LB - Nick Hursky, Liberty, Sr.
LB - D.J. Rice, Coastal Carolina, Sr.
LB - Josh Mitchell, Charleston Southern, R-Sr.
DB - Marrio Norman, Coastal Carolina, R-Sr.
DB - Cedric McGowan, Gardner-Webb, Jr.
DB - Daniel Cooke, Gardner-Webb, Sr.
DB - Patrick Calvary, Liberty, Sr.
PK - Luke Gaddis, Stony Brook, Sr.
P - Michael Hanna, Gardner-Webb, Sr.
LS - Dan Pope, Liberty, R-Sr.
KR - Tim Maypray, VMI, Jr.
PR - Dobson Collins, Gardner-Webb, Sr.
Preseason Offensive Player of the Year
Rashad Jennings, RB, Sr., Liberty
Preseason Defensive Player of the Year
Mario Brown, LB, Sr., Gardner-Webb
Predicted Order of Finish (Points)
1. Liberty (77)
2. Coastal Carolina (58)
3. Gardner-Webb (52)
4. Stony Brook (38)
5. Charleston Southern (30)
6. VMI (18)