SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Samford quarterback Devlin Hodges has been named the Southern Conference Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, while Citadel defensive back Kailik Williams has been tabbed the Defensive Player of the Year in preseason voting by the league’s nine head coaches, who chose Wofford as the favorite to win the SoCon in their annual predictive poll.
The coaches also selected all-conference first and second teams and were not allowed to vote for their own student-athletes or teams in the voting process.
The Terriers, who reached the FCS Playoff quarterfinals last season, picked up seven of the nine first-place votes in the preseason poll, totaling 63 points. Wofford, which has won the league four times, is the preseason pick to win it for the first time. Head coach Mike Ayers, entering his 31st season at the helm, last led the Terriers to a SoCon title in 2012.
Two-time defending SoCon champion The Citadel was second with 54 points and the remaining two first-place votes to edge Samford, which was picked third with 52 points.
Chattanooga finished fourth in the poll with 41 points, followed by Mercer (32), Western Carolina (27), Furman (26), ETSU (17) and VMI (12).
Samford’s Hodges paced the SoCon and finished second nationally in total offense last season, averaging 359.2 yards per game. The redshirt junior from Kimberly, Alabama, also finished third nationally in passing yards per game with 340.7. In all, he totaled 4,088 yards in the air and threw for 36 touchdowns, adding 222 yards on the ground and running for four more scores. Hodges went 375-for-530 with just eight interceptions and posted a league-best efficiency rating of 154.9. He helped the Bulldogs to their first FCS Playoff berth since 2013 and a top-25 ranking at season’s end.
The Citadel’s Williams totaled 103 tackles last season, helping the Bulldogs to their first-ever undefeated SoCon slate at 8-0 and a top-10 national finish. The senior from Ormond Beach, Florida, had 10 tackles for loss, including half a sack, forced a fumble and intercepted two passes, returning one 13 yards for a score against Wofford to tie the game with less six minutes remaining before The Citadel would go on to win in overtime. Williams helped the Bulldogs finish second in the league in passing defense at 169.5 yards allowed per game and third in total defense at 302.6 yards per game.
Chattanooga led all teams with 10 preseason all-conference selections, putting four on the first team and a league-best six on the second team. Wofford and Samford shared league-high honors with five each on the first team, with the Terriers boasting eight total selections and Samford six. The Citadel also had six total selections, with three first-team and three second-team preseason all-conference picks. Due to ties in the voting, there was an extra linebacker on the first team and an extra defensive lineman and defensive back on the second team.
The 2017 FCS season kicks off Aug. 26 when Chattanooga takes on Jacksonville State in the Guardian Credit Union FCS Kickoff in Montgomery, Alabama. The contest will air nationally on ESPN.
2017 Preseason Southern Conference Coaches Poll
Team (1st-place votes) Total
1. Wofford (7) 63
2. The Citadel (2) 54
3. Samford 52
4. Chattanooga 41
5. Mercer 32
6. Western Carolina 27
7. Furman 26
8. ETSU 17
9. VMI 12
2017 Preseason All-Southern Conference Football Teams
Offensive Player of the Year: Devlin Hodges, R-Jr., QB, Samford
Defensive Player of the Year: Kailik Williams, Sr., DB, The Citadel
First Team Offense
QB Devlin Hodges, R-Jr., Samford
RB Cam Jackson, Sr., The Citadel
RB Detrez Newsome, Sr., Western Carolina
OL Tyler Davis, Jr., The Citadel
OL Matthew Schmidt, Sr., Furman
OL Thomas Marchman, Sr., Mercer
OL Josh Cardiello, Sr., Chattanooga
OL Roo Daniels, Sr., Wofford
TE Sam Walker, R-Jr., Mercer
WR Kelvin McKnight, Jr., Samford
WR Terryon Robinson, R-Sr., Western Carolina
First Team Defense
DL Ahmad Gooden, R-Jr., Samford
DL Isaiah Mack, Jr., Chattanooga
DL Miles Brown, Jr., Wofford
DL Tyler Vaughn, Sr., Wofford
LB Shaheed Salmon, Sr., Samford
LB Dale Warren, Sr., Chattanooga
LB Allan Cratsenberg, Sr., VMI
LB Datavious Wilson, So., Wofford
DB Kailik Williams, Sr., The Citadel
DB Omari Williams, Sr., Samford
DB Lucas Webb, Sr., Chattanooga
DB Devin Watson, Jr., Wofford
First Team Specialists
PK Cole Fisher, Jr., Mercer
P Ian Berryman, R-Jr., Western Carolina
RS Detrez Newsome, Sr., Western Carolina
Second Team Offense
QB Alejandro Bennifield, Sr., Chattanooga
RB Antonio Wilcox, Sr., Furman
RB Richardre Bagley, Sr., Chattanooga
OL Alex Rios, Sr., ETSU
OL Caleb Yates, Sr., Mercer
OL Malcolm White, So., Chattanooga
OL Nathan Dalton, R-Jr., Western Carolina
OL Ross Demmel, Jr., Wofford
TE Chandler Gouger, Sr., Wofford
WR Marquise Irvin, Jr., Mercer
WR James Stovall, Sr., Chattanooga
Second Team Defense
DL Ken Allen, Jr., The Citadel
DL Jonathan King, Sr., The Citadel
DL Jaylan Reid, R-Jr., Furman
DL Isaiah Buehler, R-Jr., Mercer
DL Taylor Reynolds, Sr., Chattanooga
LB Myles Pierce, Sr., The Citadel
LB Dylan Weigel, R-Jr., ETSU
LB Ryan Francis, R-Sr., VMI
DB Aaquil Annoor, Jr., Furman
DB Trevor Wright, Sr., Chattanooga
DB Greg Sanders, Sr., VMI
DB Keion Crossen, Sr., Western Carolina
DB George Gbesee, So., Wofford
Second Team Specialists
PK JJ Jerman, Jr., ETSU
P Austin Barnard, R-Sr., Samford
RS Chandler Curtis, Sr., Mercer
NOTE: Coaches were not permitted to vote for their own players.