2016 CAA Football Preview

By CRAIG HALEY

STATS FCS Senior Editor

(STATS) - Opinions vary on how strong New Hampshire will be in what is expected to be a particularly good season across CAA Football.

The Wildcats dipped to fifth in the conference's preseason poll, but they also had the second-most first-place votes behind preseason favorite Richmond.

Those voters certainly aren't discounting what coach Sean McDonnell has accomplished up in Durham. His program has qualified for the FCS playoffs in 12 straight seasons, the nation's longest active streak and twice that of the next-best run (by a certain team known as North Dakota State).

But to make the streak turn a lucky 13, the Wildcats will have to exceed some expectations. They return only half of last year's starters, including just four on defense. And the CAA placed a national-high six teams in the STATS FCS Top 25, including UNH.

"It starts the first day in camp," said McDonnell, the two-time FCS coach of the year. "We talk (that) it's a clean slate, now you've got to go back to work, you have to do what is needed to do to become a very good football."

With a much different starting lineup - beginning with senior quarterback Adam Riese - McDonnell says he's seeking "effort by committee, leadership by committee."

The Wildcats will receive an added boost from the energy that will go along with the inaugural season inside the new Wildcat Stadium, which they christen on Sept. 10 against Holy Cross.

Even in seasons in which it has looked like UNH might miss the playoffs - the Wildcats opened last season with a 3-4 record and were in trouble - it has found a way back to them. The 'Cats lost in the first round a year ago after reaching the national semifinals in both 2013 and '14.

Following is a team-by-team breakdown of the 2016 CAA Football race and STATS' predicted order of finish:

1. Richmond

2. William & Mary

3. James Madison

4. Villanova

5. Towson

6. New Hampshire

7. Delaware

8. Maine

9. Stony Brook

10. Albany

11. Elon

12. Rhode Island

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TEAM CAPSULES

1. RICHMOND SPIDERS

LOCATION: Richmond, Virginia

STADIUM: Robins Stadium

COACH: Danny Rocco (33-18 in four seasons at Richmond; 80-38 overall)

LAST SEASON: 10-4 overall, 6-2 CAA (Tie/1st)

STARTERS RETURNING: 16 (8 offense/8 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Jacobi Green, RB; Reggie Diggs, WR; Nick Ritcher, LT

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Kyle Lauletta, QB, R-Jr. (241-for-391, 3,598 yards, 19 TDs, 15 INTs; 78 carries, 116 yards, 7 TDs)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: David Jones, DB, Sr. (97 TT, 3 TFL, 9 INTs, 3 sacks, 1 FR, 1 FF)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Gordon Collins, RB, Jr.; James Pavlik, FB, Sr.; Brian Brown, WR, Sr.; Porter Abell, WR, Jr.; Garrett Hudson, TE, Jr.; Thomas Evans, OL, Sr.; Nicholas Vergos, OL, Sr.; Winston Craig, DL, Sr.; Andrew Clyde, DL, Sr.; Omar Howard, LB, Sr.; Selton Hodge, LB, Sr.; Jarriel Jordan, DB, Jr.; Jevaris Little, DB, R-Sr. (Illinois transfer); Ricky Segers, PK, R-Jr. (Old Dominion transfer)

OUTLOOK: Coming off a share of the conference title and a run to the FCS semifinals, the conference favorite returns the most CAA preseason players (seven), including the two predicted players of the year in QB Lauletta and S Jones. Lauletta threw for the second-most passing yards in the FCS and Brown was third in receiving yards (1,450). The big loss is All-CAA RB Green, although Collins flashed his potential during spring practices. John Garrett, the older brother of Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, has replaced offensive coordinator Charlie Fisher, now Western Illinois' head coach. The defense is excellent at keeping opposing offenses off-balance. With Craig and Clyde drawing attention up front, LB Howard (136 tackles) and Jones (nine interceptions) are able to roam and make plays. The road portion of the CAA schedule is manageable, so the Spiders are set up for a big season.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 3, at Virginia

Sept. 10, Norfolk State

Sept. 17, at Stony Brook*

Sept. 24, Colgate

Oct. 1, Towson*

Oct. 8, at Albany*

Oct. 15, Villanova*

Oct. 22, at Elon*

Nov. 5, James Madison*

Nov. 12, Delaware*

Nov. 19, at William & Mary*

* - CAA Football game

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2. WILLIAM & MARY TRIBE

LOCATION: Williamsburg, Virginia

STADIUM: Zable Stadium

COACH: Jimmye Laycock (238-174-2 in 36 seasons at William & Mary)

LAST SEASON: 9-4 overall, 6-2 CAA (Tie/1st)

STARTERS RETURNING: 14 (8 offense/6 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Tyler Claytor, DT; Luke Rhodes, LB; DeAndre Houston-Carson, FS

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Kendell Anderson, RB, Sr. (240 carries, 1,418 yards, 16 TDs)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Trey Reed, CB, Sr. (59 TT, 1 TFL, 3 INTs, 7 PBU)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Steve Cluley, QB, Sr.; DeVonte Dedmon, WR/RS, Jr.; Andrew Caskin, TE, Jr.; Jerry Ugokwe, OL, Sr.; Chris Durant, OL, Jr.; Connor Hilland, OL, Jr.; Domenic Martinelli, OL, Sr.; Peyton Gryder, DE, Sr.; Isaiah Stephens, DT, Jr.; Marcus Harvey, LB, Sr.; Aaron Swinton, CB, Jr.; Corey Parker, CB, R-Fr.; Nick Dorka, Jr., PK, Jr.; Hunter Windmuller, P, Sr.

OUTLOOK: The Tribe return a lot of talent on offense and special teams. For a change, the questions are on the defensive side of the ball. The leaders of that unit, Rhodes and Houston-Carson (the CAA's co-defensive player of the year), were lost to graduation. The Reed-led secondary will remain solid, especially with Swinton back from injury. While the defense matures, the offense can bail it out at times. The offense is stocked as Cluley (222-for-354 yards, 2,768 yards, 16 TDs, 10 INTs) is coming off a strong junior season and RB Anderson, WR/RS Dedmon and TE Caskin expect to put up big numbers. The offensive line is experienced as well. On special teams, it's possible PK Dorka and P Windmuller form the best kicking tandem of any FCS program.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 1, at North Carolina State

Sept. 10, at Hampton

Sept. 17, Norfolk State

Sept. 24, Elon*

Oct. 1, at New Hampshire*

Oct. 8, at James Madison*

Oct. 15, Delaware*

Oct. 29, Maine*

Nov. 5, at Stony Brook*

Nov. 12, at Towson*

Nov. 19, Richmond*

* - CAA Football game

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3. JAMES MADISON DUKES

LOCATION: Harrisonburg, Virginia

STADIUM: Bridgeforth Stadium

COACH: Mike Houston (first season at James Madison; 43-19 overall)

LAST SEASON: 9-3 overall, 6-2 CAA (3rd)

STARTERS RETURNING: 16 (7 offense/9 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Vad Lee, QB; Deane Cheatham, TE; Alex Mosley, DL

ONES TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Khalid Abdullah, RB, Sr. (194 carries, 975 yards, 13 TDs) and Cardon Johnson, RB/KR, R-Jr. (161 carries, 1,037 yards, 10 TDs)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Andrew Ankrah, DE, R-Jr. (56 TT, 11 TFL, 10.5 sacks, 1 QBH, 1 FR, 5 FF)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Bryan Schor, QB, Jr.; Connor Mitch, QB, R-Jr. (South Carolina transfer); Mack Waldman, QB, R-So. (Northeastern Oklahoma A&M transfer); Brandon Ravenel, WR/KR, Sr.; Rashard Davis, WR, Sr.; Domo Taylor, WR, Sr.; Mitchell Kirsch, OL, R-Sr.; Simeyon Robinson, DL, R-Jr.; Brandon Brown, DL, R-Jr.; Gage Steele, LB, R-Sr.; Kyre Hawkins, LB, R-Jr.; Justin Wellons, LB, R-Sr.; Raven Greene, S, Sr.; Taylor Reynolds, CB, R-Sr.; Aaron Stinnie, OL, R-Jr.; Gunnar Kane, P, R-Sr.

OUTLOOK: Coach Everett Withers departed after last season to take over the Texas State program, but his two successful years left Dukes fans still wanting more considering they went 0-2 in playoff games - both at home. Houston arrived from The Citadel, and after running a triple option offense there, he has kept the Dukes in their high-scoring spread. The defending CAA tri-champs are still settling the quarterback spot between Schor, who starred four games after Lee was lost to injury last season, and South Carolina transfer Mitch. There are plenty of weapons on offense as Johnson went over 1,000 rushing yards last season and Abdullah nearly matched him. Ravenel is an All-CAA wideout and Kirsch an All-America lineman. The defense is deep as well with DE Ankrah, LB Steele and CB Reynolds bringing a standout to each unit. The Dukes have to stop the run better, having ranked 10th in the conference a year ago. There shouldn't be any letdown in Harrisonburg.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 3 Morehead State

Sept. 10, Central Connecticut State

Sept. 17, at North Carolina

Sept. 24, at Maine*

Oct. 1, Delaware*

Oct. 8, William & Mary*

Oct. 15, at New Hampshire*

Oct. 29, Rhode Island*

Nov. 5, at Richmond*

Nov. 12, at Villanova*

Nov. 19, Elon*

* - CAA Football game

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4. VILLANOVA WILDCATS

LOCATION: Villanova, Pennsylvania

STADIUM: Villanova Stadium

COACH: Andy Talley (221-133-1 in 31 seasons at Villanova; 249-151-2 overall)

LAST SEASON: 6-5 overall, 5-3 CAA (Tie/4th)

STARTERS RETURNING: 10 (5 offense/5 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Gary Underwood, RB; Kevin Gulyas, WR; Don Cherry, LB

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Zach Bednarczyk, QB, R-So. (122-for-210, 1,396 yards, 10 TDs, 7 INTs; 106 carries, 515 yards, 5 TDs)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Tanoh Kpassagnon, DE, Sr. (33 TT, 9.5 TFL, 6.5 sacks, 1 INT, 1 QBH, 1 FR, 1 FF, 2 BK)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Matt Gudzak, RB/KR, Jr.; Javon White, RB, Sr.; Jarrett McClenton, WR, So.; Ethan Greenidge, OT, So.; Brad Seaton, OT, Sr.; Nico D'Angelo, OG, Sr.; Austin Calitro, LB, Sr.; Ed Shockley, LB, Jr.; Corey Majors, LB, Sr.; Trey Johnson, CB, Jr.; Malik Reaves, CB, Jr.; Rasaan Stewart, S, Jr.; Rob Rolle, S, Jr.

OUTLOOK: Talley, 73, has announced his retirement following this 32nd season with the Wildcats, and they want to get him to the FCS playoffs one final time after last season was sabotaged in September by quarterback John Robertson's season-ending knee injury. However, the injury allowed the 'Cats to get a jump on this season with Bednarczyk working behind center as a redshirt freshman. He's cut from the same run-pass mold as Robertson. Gudzak and White will tag-team at running back to provide support to Bednarczyk. The defense comes back solid after ranking second in the CAA in scoring. NFL scouts will be watching 6-foot-7, 275-pound pass rusher Kpassagnon, and Calitro led the team in tackles last season despite the presence of All-American Cherry. It helps the Wildcats that two of last year's CAA playoff representatives, William & Mary and New Hampshire), aren't on the schedule.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 3, at Pittsburgh

Sept. 10, Lehigh

Sept. 17, Towson*

Sept. 24, at Lafayette

Oct. 1, at Elon*

Oct. 8, Rhode Island*

Oct. 15, at Richmond*

Oct. 22, Albany*

Nov. 5, at Maine*

Nov. 12, James Madison*

Nov. 19, at Delaware*

* - CAA Football game

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5. TOWSON TIGERS

LOCATION: Towson, Maryland

STADIUM: Johnny Unitas Stadium

COACH: Rob Ambrose (43-41 in seven seasons at Towson; 46-48 overall)

LAST SEASON: 7-4 overall, 5-3 CAA (Tie/4th)

STARTERS RETURNING: 18 (10 offense/8 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Connor Frazier, QB; Jon Desir, DE; Donnell Lewis, DB

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Darius Victor, RB, Sr. (207 carries, 1,021 yards, 15 TDs)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Jordan Mynatt, LB, Sr. (60 TT, 11.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 4 PBU, 4 QBH, 1 FR, 1 BK)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Morgan Mahalak, QB, R-So. (Oregon transfer); Shane Simpson, RB, R-Fr.; Emmanuel Holder, FB, Sr.; Andre Dessenberg, WR, Sr.; Christian Summers, WR, Sr.; Max Tejada, DL, Sr.; Zain Harps Upshur, DL, Jr.; Chris Tedder, LB, So.; Diondre Wallace, LB, So.; Eric Handy, LB, Sr.; Monty Fenner, DB, R-So.; Lyrics Klugh, CB, So.; Keon Paye, DB, R-Fr.; Jake Ryder, P, Sr.

OUTLOOK: On selection day last November, the FCS playoff committee announced Towson and North Dakota were the last two teams to miss at-large playoff bids. Not only do the Tigers come back motivated, but most of their starting lineup is intact. The one switch on offense is at quarterback, where there are high hopes for the dual-threat Mahalak, who spent the last two seasons at Oregon. The lineup already features two-time 1,000-yard running back Victor, who is healthier this year after undergoing surgery on some nagging injuries. In fact, injuries have forced Ambrose to utilize a lot of players, especially on both lines. The Tigers are loaded at linebacker with Mynatt, the team's top-returning tackler, Handy and Tedder, the CAA's 2015 co-defensive rookie of the year. Traveling to Villanova and Richmond is a tough way to start the CAA schedule, but the veteran Tigers think this could be their year.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 3, at South Florida

Sept. 10, Saint Francis

Sept. 17, at Villanova*

Oct. 1, at Richmond*

Oct. 8, Stony Brook*

Oct. 15, at Dartmouth

Oct. 22, New Hampshire*

Oct. 29, at Delaware*

Nov. 5, Elon*

Nov. 12, William & Mary*

Nov. 19, at Rhode Island*

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6. NEW HAMPSHIRE WILDCATS

LOCATION: Durham, New Hampshire

STADIUM: Wildcat Stadium

COACH: Sean McDonnell (133-78 in 17 seasons at New Hampshire)

LAST SEASON: 7-5 overall, 5-3 CAA (Tie/4th)

STARTERS RETURNING: 11 (7 offense/4 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Sean Goldrich, QB; Jullian Turner, DT; Akil Anderson, LB

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Dalton Crossan, RB/KR, Sr. (172 carries, 885 yards, 13 TDs; 46 receptions, 341 yards, 3 TDs)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Casey DeAndrade, CB/PR, Sr. (76 TT, 7 TFL, 2 sacks, 2 INTs, 10 PBU, 1 FR; 11.3-yard punt return average, 1 TD)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Adam Riese, QB, Sr.; Trevor Knight, QB, So.; Trevon Bryant, RB, Jr.; Donald Goodrich, RB, Jr.; Rory Donovan, WR, So.; Kyon Taylor, WR, Sr.; Jordan Powell, TE, Sr.; Andrew Lauderdale, LT, Sr.; Tad McNeely, C, Sr.; Alexander Morrill, LG, Sr.; Cam Shorey, DE, Sr.; Jae'Wuan Horton, DE, So.; Ryan Farrell, LB, Sr.; DeVaughn Chollette, LB, Sr.; D'Andre Drummond-Mayrie, S, Jr.; Patrick Mensah, CB, Jr.

OUTLOOK: After a cross-country trip to San Diego State, the Wildcats will return home to open new Wildcat Stadium, which has replaced Cowell Stadium. The old stadium treated the Wildcats well as they have made 12 straight playoff appearances - by far the longest active streak in the FCS. Continuing the run won't be easy, though, considering the key graduation losses. QB Riese is asked to grow into the starting job with efficient play. He has a touchdown-maker to rely on in Crossan, one of the better all-around threats in the CAA. Powell has All-America skills, but the senior tight end is suspended for the first six games due to a violation of team rules. The defense returns only four starters, although it has a playmaking star in CB DeAndrade. Shorey (7.5 sacks) is a sure thing up front as a pass rusher. The CAA's unbalanced schedule helps the Wildcats, who don't face Richmond, Villanova and Delaware.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 3, at San Diego State

Sept. 10, Holy Cross

Sept. 17, at Dartmouth

Sept. 24, at Rhode Island*

Oct. 1, William & Mary*

Oct. 8, at Elon*

Oct. 15, James Madison*

Oct. 22, at Towson*

Oct. 29, Stony Brook*

Nov. 12, Albany*

Nov. 19, at Maine*

* - CAA Football game

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7. DELAWARE BLUE HENS

LOCATION: Newark, Delaware

STADIUM: Delaware Stadium

COACH: Dave Brock (17-18 in three seasons at Delaware)

LAST SEASON: 4-7 overall, 3-5 CAA (Tie/7th)

STARTERS RETURNING: 17 (9 offense/8 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Ben Curtis, OT; David Tinsley, DE; Eric Enderson, P

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Thomas Jefferson, RB, So. (178 carries, 890 yards, 7 TDs)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Charles Bell, LB, Jr. (96 TT, 3 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 1 INT, 1 FR, 1 FF)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Joe Walker, QB, R-So.; Jalen Randolph, RB, Sr.; Wes Hills, RB, Jr.; Kareem Williams, RB, Jr.; Diante Cherry, WR/PR, Jr.; Brandon Whaley, TE, Jr.; Connor Bozick, OT, Sr.; Brody Kern, C, Jr.; Bilal Nichols, DT, Jr.; Blaine Woodson, DT, Jr.; Troy Reeder, LB, So. (Penn State transfer); Nasir Adderley, CB, So.; Ray Jones, FS, So.; Justin Watson, CB, Jr.; Malcolm Brown, CB, R-So.

OUTLOOK: Brock has a losing record in his first three seasons, but this could be a bounce-back campaign for the Blue Hens. Brock has set a playoff berth - which would be their first since reaching the 2010 FCS championship game - as a goal. They have 17 returning starters and many more players from the second unit, but they have to play with more consistency. An experienced offensive line will pave the way for the many running backs (Jefferson, Williams, Hills and Randolph returning from injuries), but the offense still needs QB Walker to improve a lot after the Blue Hens averaged an FCS-low 67.1 passing yards last season. The defense got a big lift from LB Reeder transferring in from Penn State to team with Bell, the Blue Hens' tackle leader last season. While the defense is full of key sophomores and juniors, including standout DT Woodson, Delaware isn't looking toward the future - it wants to win now.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 1, Delaware State

Sept. 10, at Lafayette

Sept. 17, at Wake Forest

Oct. 1, at James Madison*

Oct. 8, Maine*

Oct. 15, at William & Mary*

Oct. 22, Stony Brook*

Oct. 29, Towson*

Nov. 5, at Albany*

Nov. 12, at Richmond*

Nov. 19, Villanova*

* - CAA Football game

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8. MAINE BLACK BEARS

LOCATION: Orono, Maine

STADIUM: Alfond Stadium

COACH: Joe Harasymiak (first season at Maine)

LAST SEASON: 5-6 overall, 4-4 CAA (Tie/5th)

STARTERS RETURNING: 16 (10 offense/6 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Bruce Johnson, C; Trevor Bates, DE; Cabrinni Goncalves, LB

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Micah Wright, WR, So. (61 receptions, 818 yards, 5 TDs)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Pat Ricard, DL, Sr. (53 TT, 16.5 TT, 7 sacks, 2 PBU, 3 FF)

OTHER PLAYERS: Dan Collins, QB, Sr.; Drew Belcher, QB, Jr.; Nigel Beckford, RB, Jr.; Zaire Williams, RB, So. (Temple transfer); Jordan Dunn, WR, Sr.; Jared Osumah, WR, Jr.; Jeremy Salmon, TE, Sr.; Darius Greene, DL, Sr.; Christophe Mulumba Tshimanga, LB, Sr.; Sterling Sheffield, LB, So.; Najee Goode, DB, Jr.Darius Hart, DB, Jr.; Sinmisola Demuren, DB, So.; Jason Matovu, DB, Jr.; A.J. Dawson, DB, Jr.; James DeMartini, PK, Sr.

OUTLOOK: The 30-year-old Harasmymiak is the youngest head coach in Division I football after he succeeded Jack Cosgrove, who went 129-135 with three conference championships and five playoff appearances in his 23 seasons. With the new energy, the Black Bears believe they can make a quick rise in the CAA standings. The offense will be more fast-paced as it switches to a pro-style approach behind new coordinator Liam Coen. Harasymiak was the defensive coordinator the last two seasons, so there will be tweaks to the unit but not a significant overhaul under new coordinator Corey Hetherman, last year's D-line coach. QBs Collins (135-for-273, 1,542 yards, 6 TDs, 10 INTs) and Belcher (78-for-120, 728 yards, 4 TDs, 2 INTs) have plenty of help in the skills positions with RBs Beckford and Williams and WRs Wright and Dunn. The defense doesn't return as much, but DE Ricard and LB Tshimanga, a fourth-year starter, will keep the unit physical.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 1, at Connecticut

Sept. 10, at Toledo

Sept. 24, James Madison*

Oct. 1, at Bryant

Oct. 8, at Delaware*

Oct. 15, Albany*

Oct. 22, at Rhode Island*

Oct. 29, at William & Mary*

Nov. 5, Villanova*

Nov. 12, at Stony Brook*

Nov. 19, New Hampshire*

* - CAA Football game

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9. STONY BROOK SEAWOLVES

LOCATION: Stony Brook, New York

STADIUM: LaValle Stadium

COACH: Chuck Priore (62-52 in 11 seasons at Stony Brook; 103-61 overall)

LAST SEASON: 5-5 overall, 3-5 CAA (Tie/7th)

STARTERS RETURNING: 16 (8 offense/8 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Victor Ochi, DE; Julian Quintin, LB; Naim Cheeseboro, DB

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Ray Bolden, WR, So. (68 receptions, 765 yards, 5 TDs)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Aaron Thompson, DE, Sr. (23 TT, 10 TFL, 8.5 sacks)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Joe Carbone, QB, So.; Stacey Bedell, RB, R-Jr.; Donald Liotine, RB, Jr.; Jordan Gowins, RB, So. (Boston College transfer); Tim Keith, WR, Grad; Sherman Alston Jr., WR, Jr. (Boston College transfer); Cal Daniels, TE, So.; Timon Parris, LT, Jr.; Johnathan Haynes, OL, So. (West Virginia transfer); Josh Valentin, DT, So.; Ousmane Camara, DL, Jr.; Shayne Lawless, LB, So.; Tyrice Beverette, LB, Jr.; Noah McGinty, LB, So.; Kye Morgan, DB, Jr.; Darin Peart, DB, Jr.

OUTLOOK: The Seawolves won their final three games last year to gain momentum for the offseason. They are still trying to turn the corner in the CAA, having gone 10-14 in conference games since joining in 2013. Their defense has been among the CAA's best in recent seasons, including a conference-best scoring defense (15.7) that also ranked sixth nationally a year ago. With Ochi off to the NFL, Thompson will move from defensive tackle to the edge to keep the pass rush strong. While the offense has sputtered in recent seasons, it should be much more dangerous with the return of RB Bedell. He was injured for much of last season, which allowed Liotine (708 yards, 5 TDs) to emerge into a threat. Plus, Bolden and Boston College transfer Alston will keep opponents busy in the pass game, so QB Carbone has the weapons to prove he can run the Seawolves effectively. The schedule is tough, starting with an interesting intersectional matchup against North Dakota.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 1, North Dakota

Sept. 10, at Temple

Sept. 17, Richmond*

Sept. 24, Sacred Heart

Oct. 8, at Towson*

Oct. 15, Rhode Island*

Oct. 22, at Delaware*

Oct. 29, at New Hampshire*

Nov. 5, William & Mary*

Nov. 12, Maine*

Nov. 19, at Albany*

* - CAA Football game

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10. ALBANY GREAT DANES

LOCATION: Albany, New York

STADIUM: Bob Ford Field

COACH: Greg Gattuso (10-13 in two seasons at Albany; 107-45 overall)

LAST SEASON: 3-8 overall, 2-6 CAA (11th)

STARTERS RETURNING: 19 (11 offense/8 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Sam Gray, DL; S Jamal Merritt, S; Patrick Toole, PK

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks, RB, So. (104 carries, 609 yards, 2 TDs)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Julian Cox, LB, R-So. (94 TT, 6 TFL, 3 sacks, 1 INT, 2 PBU, 2 QBH, 2 FR, 2 FF)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: D.J. Crook, QB, R-Jr.; Neven Sussman, QB, So.; Anthony Manzo-Lewis, FB, Jr.; Brad Harris, WR, R-Jr.; Zee Roberson, WR, So.; Nic Ketter, TE, R-Jr.; Kevin Malloy, OL, R-Sr.; Adam Wierbinski, OL, R-Sr.; Malachi Hoskins, DL, Jr.; Michael Nicastro, LB, R-Jr.; Neil Morrison, LB, Sr.; DaSharnte Thompson, LB, R-So.; Jamal Robinson, CB, Jr.; Rayshan Clark, CB, R-Sr.; Jon Martin, P, R-Sr.

OUTLOOK: After losing a strong senior class following the 2014 season, it wasn't surprising the Great Danes took a step back in the deep CAA during Gattuso's second season. But they're seeing a difference in recruiting classes, so the Danes have the long range in mind as they enter their third campaign in the conference. The 19 returning starters are the high among CAA teams. On offense, their younger nucleus includes sophomores at quarterback (Sussman, if he supplants Crook), running back (Ibitokun-Hanks) and wide receiver (Roberson). The defense, which must do a better job against the run, has a young anchor in LB Julian Cox, the CAA's co-defensive rookie of the year last season. Perhaps no team is helped more by the CAA's unbalanced schedule than Albany, which won't face James Madison, Towson and William & Mary, who went a combined 25-11 last year.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 2, at Buffalo

Sept. 10, at Rhode Island*

Sept. 17, Holy Cross

Sept. 24, Saint Francis

Oct. 8, Richmond*

Oct. 15, at Maine*

Oct. 22, at Villanova*

Oct. 29, Elon*

Nov. 5, Delaware*

Nov. 12, at New Hampshire*

Nov. 19, Stony Brook*

* - CAA Football game

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11. ELON PHOENIX

LOCATION: Elon, North Carolina

STADIUM: Rhodes Stadium

COACH: Rick Skrosky (5-18 in two seasons at Elon)

LAST SEASON: 4-7 overall, 3-5 CAA (Tie/7th)

STARTERS RETURNING: 13 (9 offense/4 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Rob Sullivan, DL; Corey Mitchell, LB; Miles Williams, DB

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Connor Christiansen, QB, So. (136-for-233, 1,246 yards, 7 TDs, 4 INTs)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Chris Blair, DB, Jr. (90 TT, 1.5 TFL, 1 INT, 3 PBU, 1 FR, 1 FF)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Malcolm Summers, RB, So.; Corey Joyner, WR/KR, So.; Tre Lennon, WR, Jr.; Demetrius Oliver, WR, Jr.; Tereak McCray, WR, So.; Alex Higgins, OL, So.; O'Shane Morris, OL, Sr.; Ikenna Nwokeji, OL, Jr.; C.J. Toogood, OL, So.; Oli Udoh, OL, So.; Johnathan Jackson, LB, Jr.; John Silas, LB, Sr.; Warren Messer, LB, So.; Adrian McClendon, DB, Sr.; John Gallagher, PK, Sr.; David Petroni, P, Sr.

OUTLOOK: Last year's win total was Elon's highest since 2011, so the Phoenix are energized for Skrosky's third season - also their third in the CAA. They have a young nucleus on offense, with the sophomore Christiansen expected to hold off Daniel Thompson to remain the starting quarterback. Still, the unit ranked second-to-last in the conference in both scoring offense and total offense last season. The defense lost a lot, including all of the starters on the D-line. Blair was third on the team in tackles as a sophomore. On special teams, Petroni is one of the CAA's top punters. Elon finished 3-3 on the road last season and it beat Charlotte in 2014, so the non-conference schedule offers the chance for a good start before the Phoenix move into the difficult CAA schedule.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 3, Gardner-Webb

Sept. 10, at Charlotte

Sept. 17, Fayetteville State

Sept. 24, at William & Mary*

Oct. 1, Villanova*

Oct. 8, New Hampshire*

Oct. 22, Richmond*

Oct. 29, at Albany*

Nov. 5, at Towson*

Nov. 12, Rhode Island*

Nov. 19, at James Madison*

* - CAA Football game

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12. RHODE ISLAND RAMS

LOCATION: Kingston, Rhode Island

STADIUM: Meade Stadium

COACH: Jim Fleming (2-21 in two seasons at Rhode Island; 23-22 overall)

LAST SEASON: 1-10 overall, 1-7 CAA (12th)

STARTERS RETURNING: 15 (9 offense/6 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Tyler Catalina, LT; Tim Wienclaw, S; Myles Holmes, CB

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Harold Cooper, RB/RS, Jr. (172 carries, 746 yards, 3 TDs; 29 receptions, 267 yards, 2 TDs)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Adam Parker, LB, Sr. (76 TT, 8.5 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 PBU, 1 FR, 1 FF)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Jordan Vazzano, QB, R-Fr.; Wesley McKoy, QB, So.; Deshawn Collins, RB, Fr.; Markey Clarke, RB, Jr.; Sam Benjamin, WR, Grad (Temple transfer); Khayri Denny, WR, So.; Charlie McKeeman, TE, R-Jr.; Derek Allen, OL, R-So.; Mike Ezirike, DT, R-Jr.; Jose Duncan, DL, Jr.; Dave Steinmetz, RT, Jr.; Dwayne Scott, C, R-Fr.; Tez Wilson, LB, So.; Justin Hogan, LB, So.; Ahkema Evans, CB, So.; Abdul Ibrahim, CB, R-Jr.; D.J. Stewart, S, So.; Nas Jones, S, So.

OUTLOOK: Underscoring the continued struggles of URI's program, Fleming's 21-1 record at Sacred Heart (2010-11) is nearly the reverse of what he has faced during his first two seasons with the Rams. But he's optimistic he can make a change with the Rams. It didn't help his cause that Catalina departed as a graduate transfer, although WR Benjamin joined the program as a graduate transfer from Temple. The young talent at QB (Vazzano and McKoy) is something to build around and the team's best player, RB Cooper, has two more seasons of eligibility. Cooper, an All-CAA selection as a return specialist, is coming off a broken leg in the season finale last year. The youth movement on defense features LB Hogan and Wilson. With some home games that offer better possibilities for wins, URI hopes improvement is in the immediate future.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 3, at Kansas

Sept. 10, Albany*

Sept. 16, at Harvard

Sept. 24, New Hampshire*

Oct. 1, Brown

Oct. 8, at Villanova*

Oct. 15, at Stony Brook*

Oct. 22, Maine*

Oct. 29, at James Madison*

Nov. 12, at Elon*

Nov. 19, Towson*

* - CAA Football game

Updated August 17, 2016

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