Football Championship Subdivision preview

August 29, 2012 

A quick look at FCS teams in the state:

MEAC

North Carolina A&T

2011: 5-6

Name to know: RB Mike Mayhew. The senior from East Mecklenburg needs 139 yards to become the Aggies’ career leader. He ran for 1,120 yards last season and has 2,763 in three seasons. He is a two-time All-MEAC selection and top contender to win the league’s offensive player of the year after sharing the award last season.

Outlook: The Aggies aren’t eligible for postseason play because of a poor APR score, so they’ll try to do damage during the regular season. Mayhew will carry the offense, and the defense returns 10 starters.

North Carolina Central

2011: 2-9

Name to know: Giovonie Irvine. He’s small (5-7, 161) but dangerous, particularly in the return game. Irvine was first-team preseason All-MEAC after averaging 22.2 yards per kickoff return last season. His highlight reel includes an 81-yard TD. He’s also fourth in program history with 138 catches for 1,920 yards and 13 TDs.

Outlook: Central must replace QB Michael Johnson, who led last year’s record-breaking aerial show. Redshirt junior Jordan Reid has limited experience but is the top candidate to take over. Xavier Proctor, also a preseason All-MEAC selection, anchors the defensive line. Proctor had 7.5 tackles for losses last season.

Southern Conference

Appalachian State

2011: 8-4, lost first round of FCS playoffs.

Name to know: QB Jamal Jackson. He took over early last season and still threw for a 2,001 yards, most by a sophomore in program history. Jackson has the ability to run, but at 6-3, he has the size and arm strength to shine in the pocket.

Outlook: ASU extended its FCS playoff streak to seven consecutive years, but its lopsided 34-12 home loss to Maine left everyone angry. ASU is ranked No. 5 and 6 in preseason polls, and even that’s a slight. The Mountaineers have been ranked top 3 every other year since 2005. Linebacker Jeremy Kimbrough and defensive end Demetrius McCray were on a preseason All-America team and are on watch lists for the FCS’ top defensive player.

Elon

2011: 5-6

Name to know: WR Aaron Mellette. He put up PlayStation numbers last season (113 catches, school-record and FCS-leading 1,639 yards, 12 TDs). He needs one good game (144 yards) to reach 3,000 yards for his career. Could he get it in Saturday’s opener at North Carolina? Mellette is one of 20 players on watch list for Walter Payton Award.

Outlook: Mellette figures to get his, but how much help he gets will determine whether the Phoenix can climb to .500. QB Thomas Wilson (Leesville Road) threw for 3,057 yards and 23 TDs, but the passing game needs help from the running game.

Western Carolina

2011: 1-10

Name to know: Head coach Mark Speir. He begins his head coaching career after 20 years as an assistant, most recently at Appalachian State.

Outlook: WCU is in full rebuilding mode, and Speir has said he’s going to play the young guys and let them learn. Nearly 10 freshman are on the Catamounts’ two-deep chart. Freshman Troy Mitchell is expected to start at quarterback in Thursday night’s opener.

Big South

Gardner-Webb

2011: 4-7

Name to know: RB Kenny Little. The preseason all-conference back ran for 1,042 yards and seven touchdowns last season. He has a chance to become just the second back in program history to top 1,000 yards twice.

Outlook: G-W is viewed by some as a darkhorse, based on nearly every starter returning. G-W rotated two quarterbacks last season and could do the same again. Exavier Johnson, a redshirt senior, has the most experience. The running game could get an additional boost from Garner High product Demetrius Fairley.

Pioneer Football League

Campbell

2011: 6-5

Name to know: QB Braden Smith. He played two seasons at SMU before transferring in 2010. Last season he set Campbell passing records with 1,965 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Outlook: Smith and the offense could be even more prolific in Year 2. That’s probably why the Camels were picked to finish fifth in the PCL, their highest preseason projection since they restarted football in 2008. Senior defensive backs Brandon Chandler and Steth Monroe are preseason all-conference picks and anchor the defense.

Davidson

2011: 4-7

Name to know: Matt Mumme, offensive coordinator. He’s the son of Hal Mumme and played quarterback for his father at the University of Kentucky.

Outlook: The Wildcats closed out a disappointing season with two wins, and coach Tripp Merritt spent the offseason building off that. The Wildcats finished No. 8 in FCS passing last season and will continue their throw-first, throw-some-more approach this season. Quarterback Jonathan Carkhuff passed for a school-record 3,326 yards last season. Mumme expects his TD-INT ratio (18-17) to improve in 2012.

Compiled from staff reports, media guides

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