SPARTANBURG, S.C. - The Georgia Southern Eagles have been selected the preseason favorite in the Southern Conference for 2012 in balloting conducted by the league's head football coaches. It is the first time the Eagles have been picked in the top spot of the coaches poll since 2003.
GSU earned 63 points with seven first-place votes. Georgia Southern won the league championship in 2011 with a 7-1 mark. Georgia Southern returns eight offensive starters and seven defensive starters, including the league's reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Brent Russell.
Appalachian State was picked second with 57 points and two first-place votes. The Mountaineers finished in a tie for second place in the conference standings last season with a 6-2 mark. Appalachian State made its seventh consecutive appearance in the FCS Playoffs last year.
Wofford was slotted third after finishing 2011 with an 8-4 (6-2 SoCon) record. The Terriers have earned a berth in the FCS Playoffs in four of the last five years and return Eric Breitenstein, the 2011 Southern Conference Offensive Player of the Year.
The Chattanooga Mocs (44) were slotted fourth. Head Coach Russ Huesman returns eight starters on both sides of the ball in his fourth year at the helm of his alma mater.
Furman, under second-year head coach Bruce Fowler, placed fifth. The Paladins had a league-high five players named to the preseason all-conference first team.
Samford (27), which returns 50 lettermen from last year's squad, was picked sixth while Elon (24) enters the second year of the Jason Swepson era with seven returning starters on both sides of the ball.
The Citadel was tabbed eighth. Head Coach Kevin Higgins enters his eighth season with the Bulldogs and returns nine offensive starters from 2011.
Western Carolina was selected ninth in the preseason balloting. Head Coach Mark Speir takes over the Catamounts after spending the last nine seasons with Appalachian State. Speir previously worked as an assistant at WCU from 1991-96. The Catamounts return eight offensive starters for 2012.
2012 SoCon Football Preseason Coaches Poll
School (First-place votes) Points
1. Georgia Southern (7) 63
2. Appalachian State (2) 57
3. Wofford 48
4. Chattanooga 44
5. Furman 36
6. Samford 27
7. Elon 24
8. The Citadel 17
9. Western Carolina 8
NOTE: Coaches were not permitted to vote for their own team