BRIDGEPORT, W. Va. – Urbana University has been picked 10th in the Mountain East Conference preseason football poll, released this week at the league’s annual media day. The Blue Knights tied UVa-Wise after receiving 18 points in a vote by the MEC head coaches.
UU head coach Tyler Haines, who enters his second season, was present at the Bridgeport Conference Center and addressed the media.
“We are taking the next step as a program; using hard work from last spring and building consistency every single day,” Haines said. “We look forward to a big-time year at Urbana University.”
UU returns 33 letterwinners and 13 starters from last year’s team that went 2-9 overall and 1-9 against MEC opponents.
Junior wideout Trevon Saunders, an All-MEC Second Team selection, is the top returner on offense. In 2015, the speedy Saunders recorded eight touchdowns and averaged 144 all-purpose yards per game. Also, four starters are back on the offensive line which includes All-MEC Honorable Mention performer Andrew Garland.
Junior Tajuan Green finished last season as the starting quarterback and sits atop the depth chart heading into preseason camp. Senior Cale Burdyshaw will also fight for playing time behind center, along with transfer Rob Walton. Burdyshaw started the first four games last season before suffering a season-ending injury.
Defensively, six starters return for the Blue Knights. Leading the way will be senior defensive back Andre Cliff (58 tackles, two interceptions), junior defensive end Clayton Bullard (61 tackles, 3.5 sacks), junior linebacker Josh Dillard and sophomore defensive lineman Isaiah Turner.
The Blue Knights begin practice in two weeks and open the season in a prime-time matchup at Glenville State in the MEC Game of the Week on Thursday, Sept. 2. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. at I.L. & Sue Morris Stadium with the contest set to air on the West Virginia MetroNews Network.
The Shepherd Rams have been picked to win the 2016 Mountain East Conference football title after being picked to finish first on nine of the 11 ballots.
The Rams were followed closely in the poll by the University of Charleston. The Golden Eagles finished with 92 points and the remaining two first-place votes. Both Shepherd and UC represented the MEC in the NCAA playoffs in 2015.
Concord was chosen third with 74 points, followed in a pack by Glenville State (61), Fairmont State (58), Notre Dame (58), West Liberty (55) and West Virginia State (49). West Virginia State (23), UU (18) and UVa-Wise (18) rounded out the poll.