BALTIMORE -- Stony Brook won four straight Big South Football titles, reached the second round of the FCS playoffs the past two seasons and is ranked as high as 14th in one preseason poll, but that doesn't impress their new neighbors in the Colonial Athletic Association. SBU was voted seventh in the CAA preseason poll and placed no players on the preseason all-conference teams.
That vote of coaches and sports information directors should send a message to the Seawolves about the jump up in class they are facing.
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"I'm excited," said senior running back Marcus Coker, who was second-leading rusher in the Big Ten at Iowa in 2011 before transferring. "It's a new level of competition. Everybody on our team has a chip on their shoulder, and we're ready to go out there and prove what we've got."
Preseason favorite Villanova received 11 of 21 first-place votes and returns quarterback John Robertson, who won the Jerry Rice Award as top FCS freshman last year. Stony Brook defeated the Wildcats in the first round of the FCS playoffs last year.
"We had a taste of what it was about last year against Villanova," Seawolves linebacker Jawara Dudley said Wednesday at CAA media day. "Playing better teams, nationally known teams, will help us. Hopefully, that will get us to the next round of the playoffs instead of the second round. We'll be in battles week in and week out."
The depth of competition in the CAA, which put three teams in the FCS playoffs last year and got five bids in 2011, will be the real test for newcomers Stony Brook and Albany, which is moving from the NEC. Richmond coach Danny Rocco, who arrived a year ago from Liberty of the Big South, said Seawolves coach Chuck Priore has built a program capable of making the jump.
"What Chuck has done is phenomenal," Rocco said. "He's got a deep, talented roster, and I think the best thing he's got going is he has a physical football team. You can't go through the CAA and trick people. I think his team will be very much on an even keel with the teams in our league that are competing to be in the upper echelon."
Having built a nationally ranked football program, Priore said this is "the right time" for Stony Brook to make the move to CAA football. The seventh-place finish in the preseason poll didn't bother Priore, who said he placed the Seawolves in the middle of the pack, too.
But the coach added, "I have confidence we'll be playing our last couple games of the year for an opportunity to be in the playoffs. I have total confidence in that. I don't think we'll be defined by whether we make the playoffs. We'll be defined by those outcomes each Saturday and how we competed."