Defending Champion San Diego edges Dayton in PFL Preseason Coaches' Poll
San Diego, the four-time PFL defending champion, was picked to win the league's crown again in 2017.
San Diego, the four-time PFL defending champion, was picked to win the league's crown again in 2017.

Monday, July 24, 2017
by Cody Bush, PFL Media Relations

SAINT LOUIS – For the seventh consecutive year, the University of San Diego has been picked to win the Pioneer Football League regular-season race in a preseason vote of the league’s coaches.

The PFL will announce its preseason All-PFL teams, Tuesday.

San Diego, which won the 2016 regular-season title then advanced to the second round of the FCS Championship, again received the coaches’ nod to win the 2017 PFL title. The Toreros were chosen just ahead of Dayton in polling that was dominated by the two teams. San Diego and Dayton combined to receive all available first-place votes and also claimed all but two of the possible second-place votes (coaches could not vote for their own team).  

 Pioneer Football League
 2016 Preseason Coaches’ Poll
  Team Points
1. San Diego (9) 99
2. Dayton (2) 92
3. Marist 69
4. Drake 67
t-5. Campbell 62
t-5. Jacksonville 62
7. Butler 49
8. Morehead State 42
9. Stetson 29
10. Valparaiso 24
11. Davidson 10
  • First-place votes in parentheses.
  • 10 points awarded for a first-place vote, with one point less for each succeeding place. (Maximum score = 100)
  • Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own team.

The Toreros received nine first-place votes and a lone second-place vote to finish with 99 of the maximum 100 points possible. Dayton earned two first-place votes and eight second-place votes, finishing with 92 points.

A group of four teams – separated by just seven points – were closely bunched behind the leading duo. Marist was picked to finish third with 69 points, followed by Drake in fourth place with 67 points. Campbell and Jacksonville were picked to finished tied for fifth with 62 points each.

Behind the top six were Butler (49), Morehead State (42), Stetson (29), Valparaiso (24) and Davidson (10)..

The upcoming 2017 season marks the 25th year for the Pioneer Football League – the nation’s only non-scholarship, football-only NCAA Football Championship Subdivision conference. The league will feature 11 teams each playing an eight-game schedule to determine the league champion and recipient of the automatic bid to the NCAA FCS Championship.

The 2017 schedule gets underway Thursday, Aug. 31 when Morehead State and Campbell open their home schedules while Jacksonville opens up on the road. The league’s other eight teams begin the schedule the following Saturday.  The PFL regular-season race gets an early Week 2 start when Stetson travels to Marist, Sept. 9. The first full week of the PFL schedule follows two weeks later with a five-game slate, Sept. 23.


    All-PFL Returnees/Lost | First Team: 4/5 | Second Team: 3/1 | Honorable Mention: 1/4

San Diego, the four-time defending PFL champion, boasted both the league’s top offense and top defense in 2016. The Toreros will largely reload on the offensive side of the ball with their entire offensive line returning, including first-team All-PFL selections Miles McArdle and Daniel Cooney, in addition to first-team All-PFL quarterback Anthony Lawrence. San Diego will need to find new targets for Lawrence as both wideout Brian Riley and running back Jonah Hodges – both First-Team All-PFL selections – were lost to graduation. The USD defensive unit lost seven starters from last season, including a pair of first-team All-PFL selections. However, defensive lineman Jonathan Petersen, a unanimous first-team choice last season, returns to anchor the defensive unit.

    All-PFL Returnees/Lost | First Team: 2/6 | Second Team: 2/0 | Honorable Mention: 4/0

Dayton has posted back-to-back 7-1 records, sharing a piece of the PFL title in 2015 and finishing runner up last season. The Flyers lost 10 starters from last season’s team, six of those earning First-Team All-PFL honors. Dayton cornerback Christian Searles is one of the team’s two returning first-team nods and will get help anchoring the defensive unit from defensive lineman Nick Surges and linebacker Jack Crain – each Second-Team All-PFL choices last season. On the offensive side, quarterback Alex Jeske returns for his junior campaign after leading all PFL quarterbacks with 687 rushing yards last season – seventh among all PFL rushers. He will have wideout Jack Euritt to throw to and running back Tucker Yinger returns after playing just six games last season.

    All-PFL Returnees/Lost | First Team: 1/0 | Second Team: 4/2 | Honorable Mention: 5/2

Marist has met or exceeded its preseason expectations in each of its last six seasons and with 14 starters returning head coach Jim Parady will look to steer the Red Foxes toward their second PFL title (shared the 2013 crown). Key to mounting that challenge will be the tandem of First-Team All-PFL wideout Juston Christian and Second-Team All-PFL quarterback Mike White. White set a Marist record with 2,931 passing yards last season, finishing second in the PFL passing race to only Morehead State’s Austin Gahafer. Nearly 1,000 of those yards found Christian’s hands, with the wideout finishing second among all receivers in yards per game. Marist free safety Wes Beans, a Second-Team All-PFL choice, returns to lead the defensive unit after nabbing six interceptions last season (fifth in the FCS per game) while linebacker Willie Barrett, who also was a second-team pick, returns after finishing among the league’s Top 20 tacklers.

  1. DRAKE
    All-PFL Returnees/Lost | First Team: 0/4 | Second Team: 0/1 | Honorable Mention: 9/2

Drake finished third in the 2016 PFL race with its two losses coming to the two teams finishing ahead of it in the standings. However, the Bulldogs will face challenges with the loss of four First-Team All-PFL picks: tight end Eric Saubert, running back Conley Wilkins, offensive lineman Aaron Melton and kicker Josh Lee. However, it is not all a tale of woe for head coach Rick Fox as quarterback Grant Kraemer returns after a 23-touchdown campaign that was third among PFL quarterbacks. He will settle in behind an offensive line that features two returning honorable mention All-PFL picks: Payson Wick and Ryan Lemke. The Drake defense will be highlighted by the return of three honorable mention All-PFL honorees on the line: Mack Marrin, Nathan Clayberg and Tanner Evans.

All-PFL Returnees/Lost | First Team: 1/1 | Second Team: 0/2 | Honorable Mention: 3/4

Aaron Blockmon, the PFL’s only 1,000-yard receiver and a First-Team All-PFL choice in 2016, returns to marshal Campbell through its final season in the PFL. Blockmon’s accomplishment was made more remarkable as the Camels used a pair of quarterbacks to get through the season. Both senior Anthony Robbins and redshirt-sophomore Elijah Burress return and one will supply a key answer to Campbell’s offensive direction during the upcoming season. Meanwhile, Campbell’s defense finished second in yardage allowed last season and will return several key pieces. Leading that unit will be linebacker Jack Ryan who led Campbell in tackles last season despite only playing eight games.

All-PFL Returnees/Lost | First Team: 0/2 | Second Team: 2/2 | Honorable Mention: 7/4

Jacksonville returns its two-headed monster at the wide receiver position in the form of Second-Team All-PFL pick Brian Burnett and honorable mention All-PFL choice Prince Gray – the PFL’s ninth and 10th ranked receivers who combined for 1,266 receiving yards in 2016. That is a boon for quarterback Rylan Wells, who finished last season as the PFL’s second leading rusher among quarterbacks and fifth in total offense. Meanwhile, the Dolphins defense will look for answers after losing First-Team All-PFL linebacker Grady Redding and Second-Team All-PFL defensive lineman Justin Horton. Jacksonville will turn to Harrison Rodormer, an honorable mention All-PFL nod, to step into the void.

    All-PFL Returnees/Lost | First Team: 0/1 | Second Team: 2/1 | Honorable Mention: 4/3

Butler returns both its leading rusher and leading receiver from last season’s squad, but will enter 2017 seeking a voice at quarterback. Wide receiver Pace Temple and fullback Duvante Lane, who were both Second-Team All-PFL selections last season, return to lead the Bulldogs offense after combining for 1,694 all-purpose yards last season. However, quarterback Malcolm Weaver was lost to graduation and Butler boasts seven quarterbacks on its preseason roster. Butler also lost its quarterback on defense with linebacker Sean Horan graduating. However, the Bulldogs will see linebacker Ethan Brunhofer return as well as defensive back Isaak Newhouse, who were each honorable mention All-PFL choices last season.

    All-PFL Returnees/Lost | First Team: 0/1 | Second Team: 2/2 | Honorable Mention: 2/4

Where does Morehead State go after seeing nearly its entire offense walk across the graduation stage last spring? The Eagles saw quarterback Austin Gahafer, the league’s most prolific passer, wideouts Jake Raymond and Darius Pritchett as well as kicker Matt Ward all depart. Part of the answer to that pressing question may lie in the development of running back Trevor Jones who had 500 yards and nine touchdowns in a pass-dependent offense last season. The key for the Eagles will be on the lines where Second-Team All-PFL offensive lineman Liam Malone and Second-Team All-PFL defensive lineman Colt Briggs will roam the trenches.

    All-PFL Returnees/Lost | First Team: 0/2 | Second Team: 1/1 | Honorable Mention: 0/4

Entering its fifth season, Stetson saw its first recruiting class depart the scene after last season’s campaign, including three-time PFL Defensive Player of the Year safety Donald Payne and First-Team All-PFL defensive lineman Davion Belk. In fact, Second-Team All-PFL linebacker Jeb Boudreaux is the lone Hatters player returning who earned any All-PFL honors last season. But may have been the Hatters unsung hero defensively. last season, leading the team in tackles and tackles for loss last season. Offensively, Stetson will see quarterback Collin McGovern return after missing last season due to injury and he will compete for the starting job against returnees Nick Andreas and Cole Martin.

    All-PFL Returnees/Lost | First Team: 0/0 | Second Team: 1/0 | Honorable Mention: 4/2

Will the Crusaders be the “Most Interesting Team in the PFL?” The Crusaders return 16 starters from a team that posted the program’s best PFL finish since 2003 and its best overall win total since 2007. Quarterback Jimmy Seewald returns for his second campaign under center and will have plenty of familiar faces around him as Valparaiso returns nine starters on offense. Among those returning starters are wide receiver Frank Catrine and running back Jarrett Morgan – both honorable mention All-PFL picks last season after leading Valparaiso in receiving and rushing, respectively. The Crusaders defensive unit will be led by linebacker Drew Snouffer, also an honorable mention All-PFL choice, who returns after leading the team in tackles and sacks last season. And don’t sleep on Second-Team All-PFL return specialist Bailey Gessinger, who racked up a pair of kickoff returns for touchdowns in 2017.

    All-PFL Returnees/Lost | First Team: 0/0 | Second Team: 0/0 | Honorable Mention: 3/4

Quarterback Stockton McGuire, the reigning PFL Freshman Offensive Player of the Year, returns to lead Davidson into the 2017 campaign. The Wildcats will look to make a step forward with their sophomore signal caller, who amassed moe than 1,000 passing yards in his rookie year. Making that step forward easier to take will be returning honorable mention All-PFL wideout Jaris Scott, who posted more than 600 receiving yards last season. The Davidson defense with turn to linebackers Boo Jordan and Ryan Samuels to lead the way. Jordan was fourth among all PFL tacklers with six sacks in 2017 while Samuels is Davidson’s leading returning tackler.