The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga was picked to finish fourth this season in a vote of Southern Conference football coaches at the league's annual media gathering Monday in Spartanburg, South Carolina. The Mocs also placed six players on the preseason all-conference teams, including four first-team selections, tying East Tennessee State for the most.
UTC junior wide receiver Bryce Nunnelly, senior linebacker Marshall Cooper and junior defensive backs Jerrell Lawson and Brandon Dowdell were voted to the first team, while offensive lineman Cole Strange and running back Tyrell Price were voted to the second team.
Two-time defending SoCon champion Wofford received seven of the nine coaches' first-place votes to earn the top preseason spot, followed by Furman and ETSU, each with one first. The Mocs were next, with Mercer, Samford, The Citadel, Western Carolina and VMI rounding out the predicted finish.
"It's about where I thought we would end up, with this being my first year taking over a group that was 6-5," UTC coach Rusty Wright said. "Being two years removed from the league, it's kind of hard to tell where the league is talent wise. It will be interesting to see how it plays out."
Coaches also voted Western Carolina quarterback Tyrie Adams as the league's preseason offensive player of the year, with ETSU defensive lineman Nasir Player projected as the defensive player of the year.
Adams in 2018 became just the 11th player in Football Championship Subdivision history and the fourth SoCon player to rush for at least 1,000 yards and throw for at least 2,000 in the same season. Adams led the league in rushing at 91.5 yards per game, totaling 1,006, and ran for 10 touchdowns. Adams also went 188-for-300 through the air for 2,417 yards and 16 touchdowns, notching 311.2 yards of total offense per game to rank second in the SoCon and eighth in the FCS.
ETSU's Player notched 43 tackles last season, with 11 for loss and six sacks. He also forced three fumbles and tallied 11 quarterback hurries and a pair of pass breakups and earned several All-America honors.
Nunnelly was a first-team All-SoCon selection after leading UTC with 79 catches for 1,237 yards and seven touchdowns. Cooper led the Mocs in tackles with 98, Lawson had 53 and Dowdell had 40 plus three interceptions.
"It was a great honor to be first-team preseason," Lawson said Monday. "It really doesn't mean much, but it's always good to be respected. I'm just ready to get out there with my guys and show what we can do."
A notable exception on the preseason player list was UTC quarterback Nick Tiano, who was not voted on either team despite passing for 2,710 yards and 15 touchdowns a year ago. Wright said not to put much weight on the snub.
"Somebody asked me about that earlier," he said of Tiano, who joined Lawson as UTC player representatives Monday. "Everybody in the league is represented at some spot, so it's not always evaluated across the board from coach to coach. Quarterback gets scrutinized more than any other position, and there are only two of them. I think that will take care of itself during the season."
Also earning preseason second-team selections were a pair of former Calhoun High School players, offensive lineman Drew McEntyre from The Citadel and Wofford linebacker Jireh Wilson.
Contact Lindsey Young at email@example.com or at 423-757-6296; follow on Twitter @youngsports22.