ASU coach Mike White, right, is interviewed Tuesday in Atlanta at the conference’s annual kickoff luncheon.
SPECIAL TO THE HERALD
ATLANTA — In a surprise move to some within the conference — all except for the residents within the Golden Rams’ locker room — Albany State was honored as the preseason favorite to win the East Division. This announcement was made at the conference’s annual media day kickoff luncheon.
Albany State received three first-place votes by the coaches and conference governing board. Coming in second in the preseason picks is defending East Division champion Fort Valley State, which earned two first-place votes.
The remaining predicted order of finish in the division, respectively, includes Morehouse College, Benedict College and Clark Atlanta University.
Despite falling below their normal expectations of excellence in 2012 with a 6-4 record, the Golden Rams will buckle up their chin straps this fall with the hopes of regaining their stature as one of the premiere programs in the conference and Division II.
“We have improved from last season, and I will accept this honor. Just for us to get back to our old level would be a major improvement,” head coach Mike White said.
“We want to build off last year. We thought we were better than a 6-4 team. We want to put out a well-rounded team and play Albany State style of football. We want to be champs in this conference, but we want to think about the bigger picture and play more than just 10 games this season.”
Perhaps one of the driving forces behind Albany State’s preseason pick is the return of offensive coordinator Steve Smith. During the times when the famed play caller donned the headset, his offenses lit up the scoreboard, and his reemergence with the school gives hope for a promising 2013 campaign.
Albany State’s status as the favorite to win the East Division not only speaks volumes to the coaching staff, but to the overall depth of the squad. This year’s group features only three players selected on the preseason All-Conference Teams. Senior safety Dexter Moody (30 tackles, 7 interceptions in 2012) and junior wide out Jessie Atkins (32 catches, 553 yards, 2 TDs), a Camilla native, were named to the First Team, while senior linebacker Marcavius Dudley was selected to the Second Team.
“Dexter Moody is a great all-around athlete who plays very in coverage and against the run,” Smith said. “Jessie Atkins is a great receiver, and he’s had a great offseason of training to prepare himself the competition this year. But I’m interested to see the fire that will be lit under the guys that didn’t make the list.”
Albany State kicks off the year at North Greenville University on Sept. 7, but the measuring stick for the 2013 season takes place in a Week 2 tilt when the Golden Rams host Tuskegee.
Tuskegee was not only predicted to win the West Division, but it is favored to repeat as the last team standing in the SIAC at season’s end.
“Tuskegee is going to be a huge contest, and knowing them, we’re going to have to be ready to play. If we want to win the conference, it starts with our first league game,” said Smith.
Following behind Tuskegee in the West Division is Miles College, Stillman College, Kentucky State, Lane College and conference newcomer, Central State.
The conference has partnered with Bounce TV, which will broadcast five conference games in 2013. Albany State is slated to appear on the network when it faces East Division foe, Fort Valley State, on Nov. 9 in the Fountain City Classic in Columbus.
2013 preseason All-Conference teams
QB — David Thomas, Miles
RB — Floyd Graves, Miles
RB — Justin Williams, Kentucky St.
OL — Devonte Jones, Tuskegee
OL — Christopher Tolbert, Tuskegee
OL — Drew Wilkins, Morehouse
OL — Richard Washington, Morehouse
OL — Terrance Owens, Miles
WR — Antonio Pitts, Miles
WR — Jessie Atkins, ASU
TE — Zach Thomas, Central St.
K — Eduardo Hernandez, Benedict
KR — Thomas Williams, Morehouse
DL — Bernard Little, Fort Valley State
DL — Clarence Christian, Morehouse
DL — Devin Gainer, Benedict
DL — Peter Dele, Stillman
LB — Bernard Williams, Clark Atlanta
LB — LeRon Furr, Fort Valley
LB — Quavon Taylor, Tuskegee
DB — Carlos Wilson, Stillman
DB — Joe Beckham, Miles
DB — Dexter Moody, ASU
DB — Jack Howard, Lane
P — Temitayo Agoro, Morehouse
PR — Dondre Purnel, Stillman
QB — Justin Nared, Tuskegee
RB — Devonta Parker-Johnson, Miles
RB — Michael J. Thornton, Tuskegee
OL — Michael D. Thornton, Tuskegee
OL — Marquis Franklin, Fort Valley
OL — Aderus Hood, Miles
OL — Derrick Miles, Stillman
OL — Matt Reese, Tuskegee
WR — Marquel Franklin, Tuskegee
WR — DJ Fife, Miles
TE — Stephen Clements, Tuskegee
K — Cade Berryman, Kentucky State
KR — Dondre Purnel, Stillman
DL — Jordan Paige, Central State
DL — Kevdrick Blue, Tuskegee
DL — Reginald Woods, Tuskegee
DL — Kenneth Townsend, Kent. St.
LB — El-Malik Chinn, Tuskegee
LB — Marcavius Dudley, ASU
LB — Reginald Virges, Miles
DB — Thomas Wolfe, Fort Valley
DB — Duron Furr, Fort Valley
DB — Tracey White, Fort Valley
DB — Joseph Blount, Central State
P — Brian Currey, Benedict
PR — Desmond Reese, Tuskegee
2013 predicted order of finish
Conference champion: Tuskegee
Albany State (3)
Fort Valley State (2)