A second-place preseason ranking and four players named to the preseason all-conference team were the highlights for Liberty during today's Big South Football Media Day event.
The Big South Conference jumpstarted its 15th season of sponsoring football as a championship sport today when it hosted Big South Football Media Day at Marriott Fairfield Inn & Suites in downtown Charlotte, N.C.
Defending Big South champion Charleston Southern was tabbed the preseason favorite to reclaim the conference title in the preseason poll. The poll is voted on by the league's head coaches and a select media panel.
The Buccaneers secured 106 total votes and 16 out of 18 first-place votes in the annual poll. The Flames finished second in the poll with 86 votes, including one first-place ranking. Liberty will close out its Big South schedule on Nov. 12 by hosting Charleston Southern at Williams Stadium.
Kennesaw State, who enters its second year of competition on the football field, finished in third place with 68 votes, including the final first-place vote. Monmouth finished in fourth place with 47 votes, followed by Gardner-Webb (40 votes) and Presbyterian (31 votes).
Liberty's Zac Parker (WR), JaRon Greene (DL), Chris Turner (DB) and Trey Turner (P) were the Flames four preseason all-conference selections.
Parker was an All-Big South second-team honoree in 2015. He finished the season ranked second on Liberty's roster with 49 receptions for 464 yards and a touchdown. He also led the team with 11 punt returns for 114 yards, including a 71-yard return for a touchdown against Gardner-Webb.
Greene will look to anchor Liberty's defensive line following the graduation of 2015 Big South Defensive Player of the Year Chima Uzowihe. Greene finished last year with 36 tackles (16 solo, 20 assisted), including 4.5 tackles for a loss and 2.0 sacks.
Chris Turner had a breakout first season on the field for the Flames in 2015, earning All-Big South second-team honors. He finished the year with 24 tackles (20 solo, four assisted) and ranked No. 20 in the country with four interceptions. His interception total was the highest for a Flames' freshman since Randall State finished with the same total in 1999.
Trey Turner is a two-time All-Big South honoree, earning second-team all-conference accolades in 2015. He led the Big South in punting in 2015, averaging 40.3 yards per punt and placed 16 punts inside the opponent's 20-yard line.
After its run to the NCAA FCS Playoff quarterfinals in 2015, Charleston Southern led all Big South schools with nine preseason all-conference honorees. Monmouth had six players named to the listing, followed by Liberty and Kennesaw State with four selections. Three players each from Gardner-Webb and Presbyterian rounded out the 29-man team.
Charleston Southern running back Darius Hammond was named the Big South Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, while Buccaneer defensive lineman Anthony Ellis was selected the Big South Preseason Defensive Player of the Year.
The Flames will open their fifth season under head coach Turner Gill on Sept. 3 when they travel to Blacksburg, Va., to face off against in-state foe Virginia Tech. The season-opening contest from Lane Stadium is set for a 12:30 p.m. kickoff.
Liberty will begin its quest for an eighth Big South football title on Oct. 15 when it travels to Kennesaw, Ga., for its first-ever road matchup against Kennesaw State.
2016 Big South Football Preseason Poll Ranking (first-place votes) – Points 1. Charleston Southern (16) - 106 2. Liberty (1) – 86 3. Kennesaw State (1) – 68 4. Monmouth – 47 5. Gardner-Webb – 40 6. Presbyterian – 31
2016 Big South Football Preseason All-Conference Team OFFENSE QB - Trey White, Kennesaw State, R-Sr. RB - Darius Hammond, Charleston Southern, Sr. RB - Darrell Bridges, Presbyterian, R-Jr. WR - Zac Parker, Liberty, Sr. WR - Darren Ambush, Monmouth, Sr. WR - Justin Sumpter, Kennesaw State, R-So. TE - Joseph Purter, Presbyterian, Sr. OL - Erik Austell, Charleston Southern, R-Sr. OL - Malik Letatau, Kennesaw State, Sr. OL- Jackson Williamson, Charleston Southern, Sr. OL - Alex Thompson, Monmouth, Jr. OL - Caleb Smith, Gardner-Webb, R-Sr.
DEFENSE DL - Anthony Ellis, Charleston Southern, Jr. DL - Darnell Leslie, Monmouth, Sr. DL - JaRon Greene, Liberty, Sr. DL - Obinna Ntisagwe, Presbyterian, R-Jr. LB - Chad Geter, Gardner-Webb, R-Sr. LB - Solomon Brown, Charleston Southern, R-So. LB - Aaron Cook, Gardner-Webb, Sr. LB - Payton Minnich, Monmouth, Sr. DB - Mike Basile, Monmouth, Jr. DB - Troy McGowens, Charleston Southern, Sr. DB - Taylor Hinkle, Kennesaw State, R-So. DB - Chris Turner, Liberty, So.
SPECIAL TEAMS PK - Matt White, Monmouth, Jr. P - Trey Turner, Liberty, R-Jr. LS - Joseph Smith, Charleston Southern, R-Sr. KR - Darius Hammond, Charleston Southern, Sr. PR - Darius Hammond, Charleston Southern, Sr.
PRESEASON OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR Darius Hammond, Charleston Southern, Sr., RB (Johnston, S.C.)
PRESEASON DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR Anthony Ellis, Charleston Southern, Jr., DL (Apopka, Fla.)
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