For the first time in the history of the league, the winner of the PFL regular season will receive an automatic bid to the FCS playoffs and vie for a chance at the national championship. The automatic bid adds an excitement about the league that hasn't existed in the past.
The narrow favorite in preseason voting is San Diego, one of three teams that split the PFL crown at the end of last season. Ties for the season title will now go by the wayside with the automatic bid (all three teams can't make the national playoffs on one bid, you know), so be prepared for some form of tiebreaker if necessary.
Mason Mills, who led the FCS in completion percentage in 2012 (70 percent), returns as the signal caller for the Toreros with some solid depth and experience at wide receiver. But a talented quarterback is the common denominator for the top three projected teams this season.
Jacksonville returns Kade Bell, who started as a redshirt freshman last season and racked up 1,401 passing yards with 12 touchdown tosses. His father and Jacksonville coach Kerwin Bell said earlier this month that he picked Kade because of his playmaking ability, which should be even greater this season with experience under his belt.
The PFL's 2012 offensive player of the year, Butler's Matt Lancaster, also returns for another stint with the Bulldogs. Lancaster not only passed for 21 touchdowns, but ran for another eight on his way to top honors.
There's a "new" feeling to the PFL in 2013 as well. The competition gets a little tougher this year with the addition of Mercer and Stetson to the now 12-team league, while half of the team's coaches are entering their first season with their respective squads.
While San Diego first-year coach Dale Lindsey enjoys the idea of potentially receiving an automatic bid to the postseason, it's not the first thing on his mind. First, he said his team must deal with the PFL.
"If we can't get through the tough guys in the PFL, then we don't deserve to be there. Let's play the PFL, and worry about the FCS when we get there," he said.
Following is a team-by-team breakdown of the 2013 Pioneer Football League race.
The Sports Network's predicted order of finish:
1. San Diego
7. Morehead State
1. SAN DIEGO TOREROS
LOCATION: San Diego
COACH: Dale Lindsey (first season at San Diego; 0-0 overall)
LAST SEASON: 8-3 overall, 7-1 PFL
STARTERS RETURNING 11 (6 offense/5 defense)
OFFENSIVE STAR: QB Mason Mills, RS-Sr. (252/360 passing, 3,106 yards, 20 TD)
DEFENSIVE STAR: LB Zach Devaney, Sr. (62 TT, 1.5 sacks, 4 TFL, 2 QBH, 2 PD)
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: RB Dallas Kessman, So. (95 carries, 472 yards, 7 TD; 9 receptions, 72 yards)
RB Joe Ferguson, Sr. (92 carries, 450 yards, 4 TD; 20 receptions, 194 yards, 1 TD)
FB Lawrence Larivee, RS-Sr. (7 receptions, 83 yards, 2 TD)
WR/RS Sam Hoekstra, Sr. (54 receptions, 788 yards, 4 TD)
WR Reggie Bell, R-Jr. (47 receptions, 736 yards, 6 TD)
WR Brandon White, Jr. (43 receptions, 514 yards, 5 TD)
OL Tobin Gramyk, So.
OL Pono Keni, So.
OL Cody Tescher, R- Sr.
DE Steve Garguilo, R-Sr. (39 TT, 5.5 sacks, 11.5 TFL, 11 QBH)
DE Blake Oliaro, R-Sr. (39 TT, 7 sacks, 8.5 TFL, 6 QBH, 5 PD, 1 FF)
DT Clint Johnson, R-Jr. (30 TT, 1.5 sacks, 4 TFL, 2 PD, 1 INT)
CB Toney Sawyer, Jr.
S Robbie Beathard, R-Sr. (44 TT, .5 TFL, 1 PD, 1 INT)
S Troy McClelland, R-Jr. (40 TT, 3 TFL, 7 PD)
BIG LOSS: LB Zach Dunaj (73 TT, 2 sacks, 3.5 TFL, 5 PD, 3 FF, 1 INT)
2012 TEAM RANKINGS: Rushing Offense, 138.64 (73 in FCS, 7 in PFL); Passing Offense, 295 (13 in FCS, 3 in PFL); Total Offense, 433.64 (21 in FCS, 3 in PFL); Scoring Offense, 29.36 (39 in FCS, 2 in PFL); Rushing Defense, 120 (15 in FCS, 1 in PFL); Passing Defense, 224.45 (77 in FCS, 7 in PFL); Total Defense, 344.45 (39 in FCS, 4 in PFL); Scoring Defense, 19.27 (14 in FCS, 2 in PFL)
OUTLOOK: There's a lot to be excited about at San Diego this season. The Toreros, led by QB Mills, were picked as narrow favorites to win the league under Lindsey, a first-year head coach at the age of 70. Couple that with the fact the PFL champion will receive an automatic berth in the FCS postseason means every league game is vital. The Toreros start the year at Cal Poly and then return home for two out-of-conference games (separated by an open week Sept. 14). Plenty of emphasis will be placed on taking out league newcomers Stetson and Mercer before the schedule gets difficult with back-to-back games against Dayton and Butler in late October, and Drake to end the regular season. Mills, who led the FCS in 2012 with a 70 percent completion rate, can be dangerous this season with returning wideouts Hoekstra, Bell and White spanning the outter offense.
Aug. 31 - at Cal Poly
Sept. 7 - vs. Western New Mexico
Sept. 21 - vs. Harvard
Sept. 28 - at Stetson
Oct. 5 - vs. Mercer
Oct. 12 - vs. Marist
Oct. 19 - at Dayton
Oct. 26 - vs. Butler
Nov. 2 - at Valparaiso
Nov. 9 - at Morehead State
Nov. 16 - vs. Drake
2. JACKSONVILLE DOLPHINS
LOCATION: Jacksonville, Fla.
COACH: Kerwin Bell (43-24 in six seasons at Jacksonville)
LAST SEASON: 7-4 overall, 5-3 PFL
STARTERS RETURNING: 16 (10 offense/6 defense)
OFFENSIVE STAR: QB Kade Bell, R-So. (106-of-177, 1,401 yards, 12 TD, 5 INT; 57 carries, 130 yards, 1 TD)
DEFENSIVE STAR: DL Juan Pimienta, Sr. (43 TT, 8 sacks, 12.5 TFL, 4 QBH, 1 PBU, 2 FF, 2 FR
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: RB Johnnie Hicks, R-So. (63 carries, 329 yards, 2 TD)
WR Dorian Guy, Sr. (40 receptions, 465 yards, 1 TD)
WR Adrian Riley, Sr. (27 receptions, 266 yards, 1 TD)
WR D'Andre Randle, So. (27 receptions, 406 yards, 6 TD)
WR Terrance Bryant, So.
C Tramell Williams, R-Jr.
OL Dylan Bostick, Sr.
DL T.J. Jenkins, Jr. (25 TT, 2 sacks, 3 TFL, 3 QBH, 2 PBU, 1 FR)
LB Tre Davis, R-Jr. (53 TT, 7 TFL, 3 PBU, 1 INT)
LB Blythe Weaver, Jr. (20 TT, 2.5 TFL, 1 FF)
DB Jordan Dewhirst, R-Sr. (57 TT, .5 TFL, 1 QBH, 6 PBU, 1 FF, 2 FR, 1 INT)
DB Andre Addison, Sr. (39 TT, 1.5 TFL, 2 QBH, 3 PBU, 1 FF, 2 INT)
DB Antonio McRae, R-So.
K Dylan Lynch, Sr.
BIG LOSS: RB Keith Dawson (101 carries, 550 yards, 4 TD)
2012 TEAM RANKINGS: Rushing Offense, 143.18 (67 in FCS, 6 in PFL); Passing Offense, 217 (53 in FCS, 8 in PFL); Total Offense, 360.18 (68 in FCS, 7 in PFL); Scoring Offense, 25 (67 in FCS, 5 in PFL); Rushing Defense, 129.91 (30 in FCS, 4 in PFL); Passing Defense, 184 (26 in FCS, 1 in PFL); Total Defense, 313.91 (14 in FCS, 1 in PFL); Scoring Defense, 21.73 (32 in FCS, 5 in PFL)
OUTLOOK: Last preseason, Jacksonville coach Kerwin Bell had a difficult decision to make. When there was some heated competition for the starting quarterback spot, the job ultimately went to his son, Kade. Not for the reason of being the coach's son, though. The job was Kade's because he was the best playmaker the Dolphins had on the roster. This year, Kade returns from having a year of experience under center, and will look to improve on a solid freshman season with a very talented receiving corps around him. The search will be on, however, for the next Dolphins' running back. After Dawson's departure, the job could fall to a number of guys who haven't proven much on the field - much like last year's quarterback scenario. The defensive unit is led by a few key players, namely Pimienta and Davis, who were beasts in 2012 when it came to disrupting plays. The Dolphins have a very difficult start to the season with Delaware and Jacksonville State in back-to-back road games. After that, they could very well win out, all while not having to play San Diego.
Aug. 29 - at Delaware
Sept. 7 - at Jacksonville State
Sept. 14 - vs. Morehead State
Sept. 21 - vs. Warner
Sept. 28 - vs. Butler
Oct. 5 - at Drake
Oct. 19 - at Campbell
Oct. 26 - vs. Davidson
Nov. 2 - at Marist
Nov. 9 - at Mercer
Nov. 16 - vs. Stetson
3. BUTLER BULLDOGS
COACH: Jeff Voris (41-37 in seven seasons at Butler; 56-71 overall)
LAST SEASON: 8-3 overall, 7-1 PFL
STARTERS RETURNING: 17 (9 offense/8 defense)
OFFENSIVE STAR: QB Matt Lancaster, Sr. (217-of-361, 2,708 yards, 21 TD, 3 INT; 111 carries, 408 yards, 8 TD)
DEFENSIVE STAR: DE Jeremy Stephens, Sr. (71 TT, 8.5 sacks, 14 TFL, 1 PBU)
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: RB Trae Heeter, Sr. (166 carries, 1,103 yards, 10 TD; 18 receptions, 122 yards, 1 TD)
WR Brendan Shannon, Sr. (62 receptions, 864 yards, 8 TD)
WR J.T. Mesch, Jr. (45 receptions, 575 yards, 3 TD)
WR Tom Judge, Sr. (25 receptions, 357 yards, 1 TD)
TE Matt Jensen, Sr.
OL Greg Ambrose, Jr.
OL Charles Perrecone, Sr.
OL David Tiwari, R-So.
DL Glen Somers, Jr. (27 TT, 4.5 sacks, 5.5 TFL, 1 FF, 1 FR)
DL Kyle Annis, R-So. (42 TT, 3 sacks, 4.5 TFL, 1 FF, 1 FR)
LB Phillip Powell, Sr. (51 TT, 1 sack, 2 TFL)
DB Sean Grady, Sr. (84 TT, 8 PBU, 2 INT)
DB Jayme Szafranski, Sr. (81 TT, 2 TFL, 3 PBU, 1 FF)
DB Kevin Cook, Sr. (48 TT, 1.5 TFL, 2 PBU, 1 INT)
K Jon Treloar, So. (4-of-12 FGM, 33-OF-39 XPM, 45 points)
BIG LOSS: LB Jordan Ridley (101 TT, 1.5 sacks, 2.5 TFL, 1 INT)
2012 TEAM RANKINGS: Rushing Offense, 167.82 (42 in FCS, 2 in PFL); Passing Offense, 270.27 (21 in FCS, 5 in PFL); Total Offense, 438.09 (17 in FCS, 2 in PFL); Scoring Offense, 27.45 (51 in FCS, 4 in PFL); Rushing Defense, 149.55 (51 in FCS, 6 in PFL); Passing Defense, 223.45 (75 in FCS, 6 in PFL); Total Defense, 373 (55 in FCS, 6 in PFL); Scoring Defense, 22.09 (36 in FCS, 6 in PFL)
OUTLOOK: Like San Diego and Drake, Butler was a 2012 tri-PFL champion - its second title in four years. It helps that a healthy majority of the 2012 roster returns for another run at the league crown, including PFL offensive player of the year Lancaster under center. He threw for over 2,700 yards and proved to be a dual threat, running for 408 yards in his first year with the Bulldogs. He has a terrific teammate in the backfield in RB Heeter, who at point last season looked like he could win the PFL's top offensive honor. Butler's schedule opens with a gem of a challenge on Aug. 31, as the team will travel to face South Dakota State, a Missouri Valley powerhouse picked to finish behind two-time defending national champion North Dakota State in the league's preseason poll. But that contest shouldn't have the Bulldogs running for the doghouse. Butler opens league play at Jacksonville on Sept. 28, and plays three of its final four games on the road. Defensively, the Bulldogs return a handful of outstanding players, especially in the backfield. Stephens manning the defensive line while Grady, Szafranski and Cook key against the opponent's passing game is a scary front-back combo.
Aug. 31 - at South Dakota State
Sept. 7 - vs. Wittenberg
Sept. 14 - at Franklin
Sept. 21 - vs. Dartmouth
Sept. 28 - at Jacksonville
Oct. 5 - vs. Stetson
Oct. 12 - vs. Campbell
Oct. 19 - vs. Drake
Oct. 26 - at San Diego
Nov. 2 - at Dayton
Nov. 9 - vs. Valparaiso
Nov. 16 - at Morehead State
4. DAYTON FLYERS
LOCATION: Dayton, Ohio
COACH: Rick Chamberlin (40-16 in five seasons at Dayton; 40-16 overall)
LAST SEASON: 6-5 overall, 5-3 PFL
STARTERS RETURNING: 12 (4 offense/8 defense)
OFFENSIVE STAR: RB Connor Kacsor, R-So. (40 carries, 432 yards, 5 TD in nine games played in 2012)
DEFENSIVE STAR: CB Kyle Sebetic, R-Sr. (52 TT, 5.5 TFL, 15 PBU, 18 PD, 1 FF, 3 INT)
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Will Bardo, Sr. (152-of-306, 1.687 yards, 8 TD, 9 INT; 104 carries, 405 yards, 3 TD)
QB Luke Johnson, R-So.
RB Rob Washington, Sr. (83 carries, 485 yards, 6 TD)
WR Branden Johnson, Sr. (28 receptions, 270 yards, 1 TD in six games played in 2012)
WR Ross Smith, R-Jr. (26 receptions, 279 yards, 2 TD)
OT Ben Estey, R-Sr.
OT Tom Corcoran, R-Sr.
OG Grant Georgic, Sr.
DE Pat Dowd, Sr. (36 TT, 8.5 sacks, 10 TFL, 2 QBH, 2 FF, 1 BLK)
DT Brannon Bunn, R-Sr. (14 TT, 1.5 sacks, 2.5 TFL in six games played)
LB Colin Monnier, R-Sr. (92 TT, 2 sacks, 12 TFL, 1 PBU, 3 PD, 1 QBH, 1 INT)
LB Sean Sward, Sr.
CB Howard Savage, Sr. (33 TT, 1 TFL, 4 PBU, 6 PD, 1 FF, 1 FR, 2 INT)
CB Matt Bianco, Jr. (46 TT, 1 TFL, 1 PD, 1 FR, 1 INT)
P Kyle Pignatiello, R-So. (65 punts, 37.4 average, 63 long)
BIG LOSSES: RB Dan Jacob (127 carries, 648 yards, 6 TD) and K Pat Sankovic (7- of-12 FG, 30-of-32 PAT)
2012 TEAM RANKINGS: Rushing Offense, 196.91 (26 in FCS, 1 in PFL); Passing Offense, 165.73 (100 in FCS, 9 in PFL); Total Offense, 362.64 (66 in FCS, 6 in PFL); Scoring Offense, 22.82 (81 in FCS, 6 in PFL); Rushing Defense, 123.45 (20 in FCS, 2 in PFL); Passing Defense, 217.91 (68 in FCS, 5 in PFL); Total Defense, 341.36 (33 in FCS, 3 in PFL); Scoring Defense, 20.91 (21 in FCS, 3 in PFL)
OUTLOOK: Dayton is a team that has had so much success in the PFL and will finally get a chance to hunt down a national playoff appearance in 2013. The Flyers didn't lose a lot of production after last season, and actually gain some back with a healthy Kacsor in the backfield. But that will be the challenge this season for Dayton - staying healthy. Johnson, a deep-threat receiver, played in just six games last season. Kacsor played in nine. Dunn played in just six games. A large handful of impact players missed at least two contests in 2012. So if the Flyers aren't bitten by the injury bug again this season, they should be able to contend for the league title. Look for Sebetic, who led the FCS in passes defensed last season, to continue his strong coverage against the best receivers in the league.
Aug. 29 - at Youngstown State
Sept. 7 - vs. Duquesne
Sept. 14 - at Robert Morris
Sept. 28 - vs. Marist
Oct. 5 - vs. Davidson
Oct. 12 - at Stetson
Oct. 19 - vs. San Diego
Oct. 26 - at Morehead State
Nov. 2 - vs. Butler
Nov. 9 - at Drake
Nov. 16 - at Valparaiso
5. DRAKE BULLDOGS
LOCATION: Des Moines, Iowa
COACH: Chris Creighton (38-17 in five seasons at Drake; 133-41 overall)
LAST SEASON: 8-3 overall, 7-1 PFL
STARTERS RETURNING: 15 (6 offense/9 defense)
OFFENSIVE STAR: RB Gary Scott, Jr. (152 carries, 616 yards, 8 TD; 18 receptions, 180 yards, 3 TD)
DEFENSIVE STAR: LB John Hugunin, Jr. (99 TT, 2 sacks, 6 TFL, 1 FR)
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Andy Rice, Jr. (4-of-9, 52 yards)
RB T.J. James, Sr. (90 carries, 383 yards, 3 TD; 11 receptions, 115 yards, 1 TD)
WR Nick Rosa, Sr. (54 receptions, 804 yards, 6 TD)
WR Grahm Butler, Jr.(25 receptions, 321 yards, 3 TD)
TE Kevin Marshall, Gr. (53 receptions, 500 yards, 2 TD)
OL Matt Purdom, Sr.
OL Troy Whitmer, Sr.
DE Brandon Coleman, Sr. (41 TT, 7.5 sacks, 13.5 TFL)
DT Matt Acree, Sr. (40 TT, 3.5 sacks, 11 TFL)
DT Brett Park, Sr. (10 TT, 2 sacks, 3.5 TFL in two games played)
LB Travis Merritt, Sr. (98 TT, 5.5 TFL, 2 sacks, 3 FF)
DB Bob Quilico Jr, Jr. (63 TT, 2 TFL)
DB Brad Duwe, Jr. (32 TT, 3 TFL, 2 INT, 2 FF)
DB Mike Ratelle, Sr. (44 TT, 1 sack, 1.5 TFL, 2 INT)
DB Drew Ormseth, Jr. (24 TT, 2 INT, 1 FR)
BIG LOSS: QB Mike Piatkowski (282-of-452, 3,273 yards, 22 TD, 10 INT)
2012 TEAM RANKINGS: Rushing Offense, 110.73 (104 in FCS, 9 in PFL); Passing Offense, 302.27 (9 in FCS, 2 in PFL); Total Offense, 413 (31 in FCS, 4 in PFL); Scoring Offense, 29.27 (40 in FCS, 3 in PFL); Rushing Defense, 143.64 (45 in FCS, 5 in PFL); Passing Defense, 185.55 (28 in FCS, 2 in PFL); Total Defense, 329.18 (25 in FCS, 5 in PFL); Scoring Defense, 21.45 (28 in FCS, 4 in PFL)
OUTLOOK: For the past two years, the Drake football program has been crowned a PFL champion. For the past two years, the Drake football program has had to share that honor with at least one other team at the end of the regular season. It's safe to say the Bulldogs are eying a third consecutive league championship, this time assuring a place on the national FCS stage. That will be a little tougher to do this season as Creighton and his staff look to replace the school's all-time leader in passing yards, completions, touchdown passes, and completion percentage in Piatkowski. The junior Rice saw minimal time behind center in 2012, completing just four passes in nine attempts. The Bulldogs also are charged with replacing the PFL's defensive player of the year in linebacker Tyler Moorehead, though veterans Hugunin and Merritt should pick up a lot of the slack. With so many returning players who saw ample field time last season, the Bulldogs defense should come together quickly this season.
Aug. 29 - vs. Grand View
Sept. 7 - at Northern Iowa
Sept. 21 - vs. Indianapolis
Sept. 28 - at Mercer
Oct. 5 - vs. Jacksonville
Oct. 12 - at Davidson
Oct. 19 - at Butler
Oct. 26 - vs. Valparaiso
Nov. 2 - vs. Morehead State
Nov. 9 - vs. Dayton
Nov. 16 - at San Diego
6. MARIST RED FOXES
LOCATION: Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
COACH: Jim Parady (107-110-1 in 21 seasons at Marist)
LAST SEASON: 4-7 overall, 3-5 PFL
STARTERS RETURNING: 16 (8 offense/8 defense)
OFFENSIVE STAR: QB Chuckie Looney, Sr. (150-of-248, 2,315 yards, 18 TD, 8 INT)
DEFENSIVE STAR: DE Terrence Fede, R-Sr. (63 TT, 9 sacks, 12.5 TFL, 3 PBU, 1 FR, 1 BLK)
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: RB Atiq Lucas, Sr. (missed 2012 season due to injury)
RB Wale Onakoya, Jr. (69 carries, 379 yards, 3 TD)
WR Armani Martin, Sr. (21 receptions, 286 yards)
WR Matt Tralli, Jr. (30 receptions, 335 yards, 2 TD)
RT Phede Celestin, Sr.
LT Peter Evans, Sr.
LG Rocco Manfre, Sr.
NT Nicholas Foster, Jr. (13 TT, .5 sacks, 1.5 TFL, 1 PBU, 1 FR)
NT Kevin Stark, Sr. (19 TT, .5 TFL, 3 QBH)
MLB Paul Sakowski, Sr. (71 TT, 4 TFL, 2 PBU, 5 QBH, 2 FF, 1 FR, 2 INT)
FS Nick Kaszei, Sr. (63 TT, 1 TFL, 6 PBU, 7 PD, 2 FR, 1 FF, 1 INT)
S Tyler Ramsey, Sr.
CB Jack Marston, Sr. (62 TT, 5 PBU, 7 PD, 2 INT)
BIG LOSSES: WR Mike Rios (50 receptions, 1,173 yards, 10 TD) and K Jason Myers (5-of-10 FG, 19-of-22 PAT)
2012 TEAM RANKINGS: Rushing Offense, 150.45 (58 in FCS, 4 in PFL); Passing Offense, 244.91 (30 in FCS, 6 in PFL); Total Offense, 395.36 (47 in FCS, 5 in PFL); Scoring Offense, 22.64 (82 in FCS, 7 in PFL); Rushing Defense, 128.45 (28 in FCS, 3 in PFL); Passing Defense, 243.55 (91 in FCS, 8 in PFL); Total Defense, 372 (54 in FCS, 5 in PFL); Scoring Defense, ( in FCS, in PFL)
OUTLOOK: There's a lot to look forward to here for the Red Foxes in 2013, despite the loss of WR Rios, who was cut from the Arizona Cardinals roster just before training camp opened. Rios provided a significant portion of the offense for Marist last season, but as a wide receiver, that could also be a bad thing. Opposing defenses keyed on Rios when Looney dropped back to pass, limiting his favorite target. There will be a more balanced offense from Parady's staff this season, including distributing targets to different receivers. And with Lucas back in the lineup, the Red Foxes have an explosive three-headed rushing attack that will be tough to limit. The Red Foxes' offensive line is about as strong as it has ever been, with all five starters returning from 2012 and led by RT Celestin. Defensively, Marist didn't lose much to graduation, returning eight key starters. As long as Fede is on that defensive line, one thing can be certain: He will get into the backfield and disrupt the opponent's passing game. There is no doubt about that.
Aug. 31 - vs. Sacred Heart
Sept. 7 - at Bucknell
Sept. 14 - at Georgetown
Sept. 28 - at Dayton
Oct. 5 - vs. Valparaiso
Oct. 12 - at San Diego
Oct. 19 - at Davidson
Oct. 26 - vs. Stetson
Nov. 2 - vs. Jacksonville
Nov. 9 - at Campbell
Nov. 16 - vs. Mercer
7. MOREHEAD STATE EAGLES
LOCATION: Morehead, Ky.
COACH: Rob Tenyer (first season at Morehead State)
LAST SEASON: 4-7 overall, 3-5 PFL
STARTERS RETURNING: 12 (4 offense/8 defense)
OFFENSIVE STAR: RB Rees Macshara, Jr. (172 carries, 1,013 yards, 6 TD; 39 receptions, 307 yards, 1 TD)
DEFENSIVE STAR: LB Jordan Hendrix, Jr. (123 TT, 2 TFL, 1 PBU, 2 FR, 1 INT)
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Boone Goldsmith, Jr. (20-of-24, 399 yards, 3 TD)
QB Logan Johnson, Fr.
WR Brandon Bornhauser, Jr. (23 receptions, 406 yards, 4 TD; 33 carries, 260 yards, 4 TD)
WR Cyrus Strahm, Jr. (19 receptions, 180 yards, 2 TD)
WR Justin Cornwall, So. (9 receptions, 188 yards, 2 TD)
OL Joshua Brunner, Jr.
OL Kalvin Harrington, Sr.
OL Alex Hey, So.
DL Ronald Cooper, So. (43 TT, 2.5 sacks, 8.5 TFL, 2 QBH, 1 FF)
DL Aaron Meadows, Sr. (43 TT, 6 sacks, 12 TFL, 5 QBH, 2 FF)
DL Rob Lewis, So. (42 TT, 1 sack, 4.5 TFL, 3 QBH, 2 FF)
LB Mason Jones, So. (49 TT, 1 sack, 4 TFL, 1 QBH, 2 FF)
LB Nick McCune, Jr. (41 TT, 3 TFL, 1 PBU, 1 PD, 2 FF)
S Michael Jackson, Jr. (57 TT, 3 sacks, 5.5 TFL, 1 FF, 1 FR, 1 INT)
S John Coleman, Sr. (54 TT, 1 TFL, 1 PBU, 1 PD, 1 FF, 1 FR)
CB Eric Pugh, So. (14 TT, 1 PBU, 1PD, 2 QBH)
BIG LOSSES: QB Zach Lewis (266-of-402, 2,955 yards, 25 TD, 11 INT) and WR Donte Sawyer (81 receptions, 1,024 yards, 8 TD)
2012 TEAM RANKINGS: Rushing Offense, 166.18 (47 in FCS, 3 in PFL); Passing Offense, 305.36 (8 in FCS, 1 in PFL); Total Offense, 471.55 (6 in FCS, 1 in PFL); Scoring Offense, 38.36 (6 in FCS, 1 in PFL); Rushing Defense, 220.18 (109 in FCS, 8 in PFL); Passing Defense, 208.18 (50 in FCS, 4 in PFL); Total Defense, 428.36 (100 in FCS, 8 in PFL); Scoring Defense, 30.36 (T/86 in FCS, 7 in PFL)
OUTLOOK: Talk about a transition time for Morehead State football. First-year coach Tenyer steps up to head the program just as three key program components exit. Lewis has been a cornerstone in the PFL passing game for years, while Sawyer played the role of his go-to target. The two accounted for much of the Eagles' scoring offense in 2012. Now it'll be an open competition for the starting QB gig, with Goldsmith entering fall camp as the only other player on the roster who saw action under center last season. Add Rainer Duzan, who holds Morehead State's career record for points by a kicker, to the list of departed players, and you leave Tenyer with some work to do. Although Hendrix will be back after his school record-setting season in tackles, linebacker Dillion Blackburn, who finished right behind Hendrix last season with 118 stops, left the team for unspecified reasons. So there's a good chance roster changes will be frequent leading up to the last weekend of August as Tenyer puts together his final compilation. It's likely, however, that Hendrix and Macshara are poised to continue their upward trends.
Aug. 29 - vs. Pikeville (Ky.)
Sept. 7 - at Youngstown State
Sept. 14 - at Jacksonville
Sept. 21 - vs. Eastern Kentucky
Sept. 28 - vs. Davidson
Oct. 5 - at Campbell
Oct 19 - at Valparaiso
Oct. 26 - vs. Dayton
Nov. 2 - at Drake
Nov. 9 - vs. San Diego
Nov. 16 - vs. Butler
Nov. 23 - vs. Charlotte
8. CAMPBELL FIGHTING CAMELS
LOCATION: Buies Creek, N.C.
COACH: Mike Minter (first season at Campbell)
LAST SEASON: 1-10 overall, 0-8 PFL
STARTERS RETURNING: 16 (10 offense/6 defense)
OFFENSIVE STAR: RB Kurt Odom, Sr. (111 carries, 489 yards, 6 TD; 24 receptions, 189 yards, 1 TD in 10 2012 games)
DEFENSIVE STAR: DE Issac Scott, Jr. (60 TT, 7.5 sacks, 12 TFL, 3 FF, 1 FR)
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Dakota Wolf, Sr. (97-of-181, 801 yards, 3 TD; 161 carries, 617 yards, 7 TD)
RB Dalton Dillon, So. (45 carries, 146 yards, 1 TD)
WR A.J. Artis, So. (18 receptions, 162 yards, 1 TD)
WR Darius Carter, So.
WR Jordan Hildreth, Jr. (17 receptions, 159 yards, 1 TD)
TE Alex Green, Sr, (11 receptions, 53 yards, 1 TD)
OL Will Sawyer, Jr.
DL Lucas Smith, Jr. (52 TT, 4 sacks, 6 TFL, 1 FR)
DL Dwan Hanshaw, So. (26 TT, .5 TFL)
LB Matt Farris, Jr. (88 TT, 2 sacks, 5.5 TFL, 2 PBU, 2 FF, 1 INT)
LB Colten Burris, Jr. (63 TT, 1 FF)
DB Justice Walker, So. (76 TT, 7 PBU, 1 FF)
DB Aaron Nichols, So. (37 TT, 3 PBU)
P Adam Lutz, Jr.
BIG LOSS: LB Paul Pizzuti (89 TT, 1 sack, 1.5 TFL, 5 PBU, 1 FR)
2012 TEAM RANKINGS: Rushing Offense, 149.27 (61 in FCS, 5 in PFL); Passing Offense, 133.36 (112 in FCS, 10 in PFL); Total Offense, 282.64 (114 in FCS, 10 in PFL); Scoring Offense, 14.18 (117 in FCS, 10 in PFL); Rushing Defense, 232.55 (114 in FCS, 9 in PFL); Passing Defense, 271.09 (115 in FCS, 9 in PFL); Total Defense, 503.64 (117 in FCS, 9 in PFL); Scoring Defense, 38.36 (111 in FCS, 9 in PFL)
OUTLOOK: The Fighting Camels are looking to bounce back in 2013 from a dismal one-win season under Minter, their new coach and the former Carolina Panthers safety. They were winless in PFL action last season. The good news for the Camels is that it's pretty much the same team (10 offensive starters returning, 16 overall), with an additional year of experience under the players' proverbial belts. Wolf, the senior quarterback, ran the ball nearly as many times as he attempted passes in 2012, but will look to spread the ball around to a slew of returning receivers this season. Odom is an explosive running back who also led the team in receptions in 2012, but was hobbled a bit by injury. He returns to a run-heavy offense as the outright favorite to receive the most attention. Defense will be the challenge for Minter's squad with six returning starters, though the younger players benefited from field time a year ago. The juniors Farris and Scott will be looked at as the leaders on this young team.
Aug. 31 - at Charlotte
Sept. 7 - vs. Virginia-Wise
Sept. 14 - vs. Charleston Southern
Sept. 28 - at Valparaiso
Oct. 5 - vs. Morehead State
Oct. 12 - at Butler
Oct. 19 - vs. Jacksonville
Oct. 26 - vs. Mercer
Nov. 2 - at Stetson
Nov. 9 - vs. Marist
Nov. 16 - at Old Dominion
Nov. 23 - at Davidson
9. DAVIDSON WILDCATS
LOCATION: Davidson, N.C.
COACH: Paul Nichols (first season at Davidson)
LAST SEASON: 2-9 overall, 2-6 PFL
STARTERS RETURNING: 13 (8 offense/5 defense)
OFFENSIVE STAR: QB Jonathan Carkhuff, Sr. (310-of-505, 3,151 yards, 16 TD, 15 INT; 57 carries, 99 yards, 2 TD)
DEFENSIVE STAR: LB Ben Prater, Sr. (54 TT, 1 sack, 6 TFL, 2 PBU)
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: RB Spencer Perry, Jr. (106 carries, 432 yards, 1 TD)
RB David Rogers, So. (72 carries, 256 yards; 25 receptions, 230 yards)
FB Colby Everett, So,
WR Garrett Diehl, Jr. (31 receptions, 315 yards, 2 TD)
WR Tim Hines, Jr. (17 receptions, 162 yards)
TE Reese Williams, Sr. (51 receptions, 522 yards, 4 TD)
TE Trey Huelskamp, Jr.
OL Adam Kurtz, Sr.
OL Nelson White, Jr.
DE Weston Hawkins, Jr. (17 TT, 1.5 TFL, 3 QBH, 1 PBU, 1 FR)
DL Jake Hall, Sr. (18 TT, 1 FF, 1 FR)
LB A.J. Pignone, Jr. (33 TT, 1 sack, 1.5 TFL, 2 QBH, 1 FF)
LB Matt Casey, Jr. (49 TT, 2 TFL, 2 FR)
DB Bryant Bednarek, Jr. (77 TT, 3 TFL, 5 PBU, 1 FF, 1 FR)
DB Dan Casey, Sr. (17 TT, 1 sack, 6 TFL, 1 PBU, 1 FF in three 2012 games before injury)
BIG LOSS: LB Pat Moynahan (122 TT, 1 sack, 11 TFL, 1 PBU)
2012 TEAM RANKINGS: Rushing Offense, 59.27 (119 in FCS, 10 in PFL); Passing Offense, 291.27 (15 in FCS, 4 in PFL); Total Offense, 350.55 (78 in FCS, 8 in PFL); Scoring Offense, 16.09 (110 in FCS, 9 in PFL); Rushing Defense, 216.09 (108 in FCS, 7 in PFL); Passing Defense, 203.73 (43 in FCS, 3 in PFL); Total Defense, 419.82 (93 in FCS, 7 in PFL); Scoring Defense, 30.36 (T/86 in FCS, 7 in PFL)
OUTLOOK: At 32, Nichols is the youngest head coach in Division I. He assumes the team with Carkhuff, the school's all-time leading passer, taking snaps, although Carkhuff's primary weapon, Lanny Funsten, graduated last year. The quarterback position aside, Nichols, a Davidson 2003 graduate, has his hands full when it comes to making roster decisions. Perry was Davidson's top rusher in 2012, averaging just 45.7 yards per game. He's been competing with Rogers for the starting job, while a slew of wide receivers have looked to become Carkhuff's new top target. Defensively, the team struggled during last year's 2-9 campaign, giving up 334 total points to opponents while the Wildcats offense managed just 177. Nichols made it the team's preseason goal to focus on building off-the-field character and a winning attitude first, which will then transfer over to the field in 2013.
Sept. 7 - at Georgetown
Sept. 14 - vs. Lenoir-Rhyne
Sept. 21 - at Johnson C. Smith
Sept. 28 - at Morehead State
Oct. 5 - at Dayton
Oct. 12 - vs. Drake
Oct. 19 - vs. Marist
Oct. 26 - at Jacksonville
Nov. 2 - vs. Mercer
Nov. 9 - at Stetson
Nov. 23 - vs. Campbell
10. VALPARAISO CRUSADERS
LOCATION: Valparaiso, Ind.
COACH: Dale Carlson (2-31 in three seasons at Valparaiso; 112-134-3 overall)
LAST SEASON: 1-10 overall, 1-7 PFL
STARTERS RETURNING: 18 (9 offense/9 defense)
OFFENSIVE STAR: RB Jake Hutson, So. (152 carries, 753 yards, 8 TD)
DEFENSIVE STAR: DB Alex Grask, Sr. (113 TT, 4 TFL, 3 PBU, 4 PD, 3 FR, 1 INT)
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Eric Hoffman, Sr. (230-of-351, 1,943 yards, 9 TD, 9 INT)
WR Tanner Kuramata, Jr. (27 receptions, 218 yards, 3 TD)
WR Fred Gladney, R-Jr.
LT Stuart Barkley, R-Jr.
LG Tom Ehrlich, Jr.
RG Bill Bodzianowski, Sr.
DL John Guilford, So. (39 TT, 3 sacks, 6.5 TFL, 1 PBU)
DL Nick Moffitt, Jr.
LB Patrick Derback, Sr. (73 TT, 1 sack, 6 TFL, 1 FF)
LB Alex Green, So. (24 TT, 2.5 TFL, 1 PBU, 1 PD)
LB Francis Baker Jr., Sr.
DB Dale Cook, Sr. (40 TT, 5 PBU, 5 PD)
DB Dylan Storm, Jr. (34 TT, 1 TFL, 1 PD, 1 INT)
BIG LOSS: P Greg Wood (69 punts, 40.9 average, long 64)
2012 TEAM RANKINGS: Rushing Offense, 116.36 (99 in FCS, 8 in PFL); Passing Offense, 218 (52 in FCS, 7 in PFL); Total Offense, 334.36 (89 in FCS, 9 in PFL); Scoring Offense, 18.36 (102 in FCS, 8 in PFL); Rushing Defense, 258.91 (117 in FCS, 10 in PFL); Passing Defense, 284.18 (118 in FCS, 10 in PFL); Total Defense, 543.09 (120 in FCS, 10 in PFL); Scoring Defense, 45.09 (120 in FCS, 10 in PFL)
OUTLOOK: Much of the offensive work in 2013 should fall on the shoulders of the sophomore Hutson, who was a Jerry Rice Award finalist and the PFL's offensive freshman of the year in 2012. But there is a key group of returning leaders aside from Hutson for the Crusaders, namely in Hoffman, Kuramata and Gladney. Hoffman's greatest concern last season was his low touchdown passes number (nine in 351 attempts) and his nine interceptions thrown. It was the defense that struggled mightily last year, surrendering 45.1 points to opponents. With Grask and Cook coming back to lead the secondary, and a solid core of linebackers who have game experience, the defense should improve some in 2013.
Aug. 29 - at North Dakota
Sept. 7 - vs. St. Joseph's (Ind.)
Sept. 14 - vs. William Jewell
Sept. 28 - vs. Campbell
Oct. 5 - at Marist
Oct. 12 - at Mercer
Oct. 19 - vs. Morehead State
Oct 26 - at Drake
Nov. 2 - vs. San Diego
Nov. 9 - at Butler
Nov. 16 - vs. Dayton
11. MERCER BEARS
LOCATION: Macon, Ga.
COACH: Bobby Lamb (first season at Mercer; 67-40 overall)
LAST SEASON: No record
STARTERS RETURNING: None
OFFENSIVE STAR: QB John Russ, R-Fr.
DEFENSIVE STAR: DE Hank Avery, R-Fr.
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: RB Caleb Brown, R-Fr.
RB Payton Usher, R-Fr.
WR Josh Jones, R-Fr.
WR J.T. Palmer, So.
TE Grant Radakovich, R-Fr.
OL Kirby Southard, R-Fr.
DE Kelly Brooks, R-Fr.
LB Tosin Aguebor, R-Fr.
DB Seth Hattaway, R-Fr.
BIG LOSS: None
2012 TEAM RANKINGS: None
OUTLOOK: The first football season for Mercer since it halted football operations for World War II is so highly anticipated that tickets for the opening game against Reinhardt sold out in 27 minutes. Lamb, the former coach at Furman, will make his debut with the Bears on Aug. 31 as part of the PFL, but Mercer will jump conferences after this season into the Southern Conference - Lamb's old conference - for the start of the 2014 campaign. It's tough to build a team from scratch after so many years of inactivity, but Lamb has put together a squad that can disrupt a few Pioneer teams looking to make a playoff push. Avery transferred to Macon after two scholarship years with the Air Force Academy, and after playing against competition such as Michigan and Notre Dame, will look to take the PFL by storm.
Aug. 31 - vs. Reinhardt
Sept. 14 - vs. Warner
Sept. 21 - vs. Berry
Sept. 28 - vs. Drake
Oct. 5 - at San Diego
Oct. 12 - vs. Valparaiso
Oct. 19 - vs. Carnegie Mellon
Oct 26 - at Campbell
Nov. 2 - at Davidson
Nov. 9 - vs. Jacksonville
Nov. 16 - at Marist
Nov. 23 - vs. Stetson
12. STETSON HATTERS
LOCATION: DeLand, Fla.
COACH: Roger Hughes (first season at Stetson; 47-52 overall)
LAST SEASON: No record
STARTERS RETURNING: None
OFFENSIVE STAR: QB Ryan Tentler, R-Fr.
DEFENSIVE STAR: LB Julius Holder, R-Fr.
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Jonathan Jerozal, R-Fr.
RB Jerami Singleton, R-Fr.
WR Chris Crawford, R-Fr.
WR Robert Coggin, R-Fr.
TE Jonathan Strahl, R-Fr.
LT Sean Gannon, R-Fr.
C Fletcher Eldemire, So.
DE Davion Belk, R-Fr.
OLB Jacob Paine, Jr.
MLB Patrick Cone, So.
FS Ryan Powers, R-Fr.
CB Jamari Haywood, R-Fr.
P James LaGamma, R-Fr.
BIG LOSS: None
2012 TEAM RANKINGS: None
OUTLOOK: The Hatters, in their first season back on the football field since the program was discontinued in 1957, have already had their fair share of injuries to potential breakout players. Holder and Singleton, who expect to top the depth chart at their respective positions come the start of the season, have missed time since fall camp opened earlier this month, but are expected to be fine by Week 1. Injuries won't stop this young start-up group from trying to make a dent in the PFL standings come midseason, however. The Hatters have an opportunity to shake up conference foe San Diego on Sept. 28, a few weeks after testing the football waters against some non-conference competition. Tentler was named a captain of the squad when training camp began, but may split time with Jerozal, who has a powerful arm, during the season. The former Princeton coach Hughes has his work cut out for him, but can turn this team into a league contender with time. To cap off their first season back on the football field, the Hatters will face Mercer, the other start-up football program new to the PFL this season.
Aug. 31 - vs. Warner
Sept. 7 - at Florida Tech
Sept. 21 - vs. Birmingham Southern
Sept. 28 - vs. San Diego
Oct. 5 - at Butler
Oct. 12 - vs. Dayton
Oct. 26 - at Marist
Nov. 2 - vs. Campbell
Nov. 9 - vs. Davidson
Nov. 16 - at Jacksonville
Nov. 23 - at Mercer