Yellow Jackets Earn Eight First Place Votes
FOREST, Va. --- Last season's coaches survey featured two ties in arguably one of the toughest to predict seasons in league history. The same is not true in 2019...at least on paper.
Reigning ODAC champion Randolph-Macon College is the overwhelming favorite at the top of the 2019 ODAC Football Preseason Poll. The Yellow Jackets earned eight first place votes on the way to 64 points. Bridgewater College sits second with 51 tallies and the remaining top nod, while Hampden-Sydney College and Ferrum College are separated by just two points for third with 46 and 44 markers, respectively.
Randolph-Macon put together a strong effort en route to tying Emory & Henry College for the most football titles in league history with its 11th crown in 2018. R-MC posted an 8-2 overall record thru the regular season that included a 6-1 mark in league play. Head coach Pedro Arruza earned ODAC Coach of the Year laurels for leading his Yellow Jackets to their fourth appearance in the national tournament.
R-MC made some noise in the bracket of 32 teams as they went on the road in the first round and picked up the program's first victory in the Division III tournament. The Yellow Jackets made the trip north to John Carroll University just outside of Cleveland, Ohio. They earned a 10-6 lead at the half and opened up a 16-6 advantage with a little more than three minutes to play in the third quarter. That edge would last until about the same time on the clock on the fourth quarter with both teams putting up points in the waning moments. Randolph-Macon held on for a 23-20 victory and a date in the second round.
The win marked the first triumph for an ODAC team in the NCAA Tournament since Hampden-Sydney toppled Maryville (Tenn.), 42-34, in 2013.
R-MC's second round opponent was Muhlenberg College (Pa.). The Yellow Jackets traveled to the Mules' campus north of Philadelphia and held strong early on, but Muhlenberg rattled off 28 unanswered points after allowing R-MC its lone touchdown with just under six minutes on the clock in the opening frame. MC won the contest, 35-6.
RELATED: 2018 ODAC Standings | 2018 NCAA Tournament Results
ODAC fans will recognize plenty of familiar faces dotting rosters of league teams in 2019. A whopping 50 of the 79 All-ODAC honorees from 2018 are back, making it the largest returning contingent in at least the last five years. The split is nearly identical from one side of the ball to the other with 26-of-40 offensive honorees and 24-of-39 defensive award winners returning for another go-round. That breakdown includes eight players each from the All-ODAC First Team Offensive and First Team Defensive squads.
Nobdy welcomes back more talent than top-ranked Randolph-Macon, which has helped the Yellow Jackets earn a #24 ranking in the D3football.com Top-25 Preseason Poll. The Yellow Jackets feature three first team offensive returners in tight end Sam Turner, offensive lineman Jake Wernle, and kicker Chris Vidal. Defensive lineman Steve McNair and defensive back Anthony Williams were also first team choices. Running back Tre Frederick was R-MC's lone All-ODAC Second Team offensive returnee, while linebacker Bryan Sullivan and defensive back Calvin Whitehead add two more defensive stalwarts from the second team. Lineman Connor Denning and running back Jordan Hall further bolster the Yellow Jackets ground game as both were All-ODAC Third Teamers in 2018. The same is true of defensive back De'Angelo Barr. Randolph-Macon also welcomes back quarterback Burke Estes, who earned ODAC/Virginia Farm Bureau Insurance Scholar-Athlete of the Year honors.
Bridgewater is buoyed by the return of three first teamers. Offensive lineman Will Hoffman will help protect quarterback Jay Scroggins and open holes for running back Demetreus Jalepes, while 2018 ODAC Defensive Player of the Year, linebacker Re'Shaun Myers, and defensive back Matt Dang will help shut opposing offenses down.
Guilford College and Hampden-Sydney feature a pair of first teamers each. The Quakers two standouts are defensive disruptors in linemand Jarrod Russ and 100-plus tackle linebacker Bryce Smith. The Tigers enjoy the return of standout receiver Major Morgan as well as two-time first team linebacker Griffin Davis spearheading the other side of the ball.
The remaining four All-ODAC First Team returners appear on each of the four remaining league members from 2018. Emory & Henry welcomes back offensive lineman Tyler Weterrings, while Ferrum features 1,600-yard rusher Brian Mann in the offensive backfield. Shenandoah University must find a new quarterback for first team receiver Casey Stewart following the graduation of record-setter Hayden Bauserman -- now on staff at SU. Washington and Lee University's returning first teamer is a specialist in punter Bo Sheridan.
The two positions to watch offensively in 2019 -- and for different reasons -- are quarterback and running back. At least three teams will feature new signal callers this season, some of which might mean a switch in offensive focus. As for ball-carriers, all but two squads have a proven rusher has that has shown they can take over games, albeit for some it is with limited experience.
Two of those rushers earned D3football.com Preseason All-America recognition. Ferrum's Mann earned a second team spot, while R-MC's Frederick was tabbed to the third team. Frederick will be aided by second team tackle Wernle. The spotlight, however, belongs on the other side of the ball as BC linebacker Myers is the highest ranking ODAC preseason All-American as he appears on the first team.
RELATED: 2018 All-ODAC Awards | D3football.com Preseason All-America Team | D3football.com Preseason Top-25
For the second straight year, the ODAC football ranks have increased by one team. Southern Virginia University opens its first season of competition in the ODAC as an associate member for football in 2019. The Knights, led by second-year head coach Ed Mulitalo, competed previously out of the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC). SVU went 3-7 last season, including 2-7 in league play. The offense is powered by 1,000-yard rusher Akiva Wedge, who earned All-NJAC First Team honors last year. Safety Neil Davis also was a first team choice after racking up 86 tackles and pulling in three interceptions.
The 2019 season kicks off Thursday, September 5 and Saturday, September 7, with non-conference play for all but one school with Ferrum opening on a bye. The first league contests are slated for Saturday, September 21, and will continue throughout the remainder of the schedule. The final week of the regular season is Saturday, November 16, with the NCAA Tournament following thereafter. If you can't make it to the games, be sure to check the schedules online for live video, audio, and statistics links.
Listed below is the 2019 ODAC Football Preseason Poll. Be sure to check out the preseason capsules for each team as well (online version only click HERE for the online release).
For more information on ODAC football, visit the websites of any of the participating schools, or go to the ODAC's home on the Internet at www.odaconline.com. Don't forget to become a fan of the ODAC on Facebook and follow @odacathletics on Twitter and Instagram.