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2009 CAA Football Conference Preview: South Division

QB Eric Ward and the Spiders look to defend their title in '09.

Editor’s Note: This is Part Two of a two part preview of the Colonial Athletic Conference 2009 Football Season, focusing on the South Division. The North Division was featured Saturday.

Delaware Blue Hens:

 Coach K. C. Keeler and the Blue Hens enter 2009 with 12 returning starters and the motivation to improve upon their 4-8 finish last season, the most losses ever for a Delaware team. They finished dead last in total offense in the conference and gave up 355 yards on defense per game.

The Blue Hens lose six starters on offense including their quarterback and wide receiver. Look for Mark Duncan to be the playmaker on offense this year at wide receiver. He led the team in receiving last year and also returns kicks for Delaware.  Although, they lost five starters on defense, the unit should be very experienced and talented with players such as Charles Graves (Defensive Back), Anthony Walters (Defensive Back), and Matt Marcorelle (Linebacker).

Prediction: 3-9

James Madison Dukes:

The Dukes finished last season with an excellent 12-2 record including a win over the defending Champions, Appalachian State and the current champs, Richmond. Their defense was superb in only giving up 19 total touchdowns and held opponents to under 300 yards per game. They had the best offense in the conference, which averaged 419 yards per game and 42.5 points per game.

The 2009 season might not be as productive on either side of the ball. The offense loses four starters including their quarterback and running back, while the defense lost five starters. Scotty McGee, who is also one of the best kick returners in the conference, will be the leader in the secondary. Sam Daniels and Arthur Moats will anchor the defensive line, a line that last year limited opponents to 103 yards per game on the ground and totaled 20 sacks.

The offense will have to find a replacement at quarterback for Rodney Landers and at tailback for Eugene Holloman. They do return a majority of the line and two of their starting receivers from last year. The key will be to find a quarterback who is able to manage the game and distribute the ball.

Prediction: 7-4

Richmond Spiders:

 

The defending champs enter 2009 looking to defend their title. Second year head coach Mike London is returning 18 of 24 starters with a handful being named to the FCS Preseason All-American team.

Eric Ward, the newly elected captain, is back at quarterback where he led the Spiders to the fourth best scoring offense in the conference. Kevin Grayson and Jordan Mitchell will be the two main targets for Ward. Last year, both receivers combined to have 86 receptions. Justin Forte and Garrett Wilkins will compete for time in the backfield.

The top ranked defense in the CAA return nine starters where they set a team record for 29 interceptions in a single season. They will have great depth in the secondary, but they will have a couple of holes to fill on the defensive line.

Prediction: 9-2

Towson Tigers:

 

The Tigers lost their last five games of the 2008-09 season to finish with a disappointing 3-9 record that consisted of only one win in conference play. New head coach Rob Ambrose is inheriting a team that has a lot of starters returning, but will have a difficult time in replacing quarterback, Sean Schaefer.

The Tigers have great depth at the receiver position. Hakeem Moore returns as the team’s leading receiver last season with 527 receiving yards. David Newsom is also back where he had 484 receiving yards last year and two touchdowns. Matt Castor returns at running back where he led the Tigers with 567 rushing yards in 2008 and found the end zone five times.

The defense is talented and this year they must prove to the rest of the conference that they can be competitive. Ollie Thomas will be the leader in the secondary who has started the past two years and recorded 57 tackles last year. Rob Osborne will be the anchor on the line and was tied for the team lead with 2.5 sacks last year.

Prediction: 4-7

 

Villanova Wildcats:

 

The Wildcats look very impressive entering the 2009 season. They are coming off a great 10-3 season and they return eight starters on offense and seven on defense. This team has the talent, playmakers, coaching, and experience to make a push to be one of the top teams in the CAA again this season.

Christopher Whitney finished fourth in the CAA in passing efficiency and all of his weapons on offense are back with another year under their belts. Running back Aaron Ball rushed for over 1,000 yards last season and led his team with 13 touchdowns. The offensive line returns four of the five starters, so Ball should have similar success in 2009. Brandyn Harvey not only will be a prime target for Whitney, but also will be a dangerous punt returner too.

Osayi Osunde, a 2008 First Team All-CAA, returns at linebacker where he led the team with 77 tackles last season. The defense as a whole ranked first in the conference giving up 17.9 points per game and also led the conference with 25 sacks as a unit. Linebacker Terence Thomas contributed to four of those sacks while adding two forced fumbles to his efforts.

Prediction: 8-3

Williams and Mary Tribe:

 

The Tribe had a decent season last year finishing with a respectable 7-4 record. They lost in overtime by a field goal to the eventual FCS champions, Richmond, in the last game of the season. They have a few tough road games this season as they begin the season at Virginia and end the season at Richmond. In the middle of the season they play at Villanova, Northeastern, and Rhode Island.

The CAA Offensive Rookie of the Year, Jonathan Grimes, returns at running back, which is huge for the Tribe. Grimes set a school record with averaging 162 all-purpose yards per game and added seven touchdowns. D.J. McAulay and Chase Hill are back at the receiver position where they combined for 15 touchdowns and over 1,000 yards receiving.

Adrian Tracy, a senior defensive lineman, will enter this season tied for second among active players with 19 career sacks. David Caldwell will be back in the secondary where he has led the team in tackles the past two seasons. He was sixth in the conference averaging 7.1 tackles per game last season.

Prediction: 8-3

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