Rock Hill, S.C. – Linebacker Michael Gruber and offensive lineman Andrew Velazquez lead five Brevard College football players named to the 2013 Preseason All-SAC Team, which was released by the league office on Tuesday.
Gruber set a Brevard College record for total tackles in a single season with 117 in 2012, while Velazquez helped pave the way for a BC rushing attack that finished 14th in NCAA Division II last season.
Defensive lineman Rommie Fairchild, linebacker Billy Muscatello and long snapper Chase Lewis were all named to the Second Team Defense. Muscatello finished fourth in the SAC with 110 total tackles last season, while Fairchild had 37 tackles and a pair of sacks.
Defending SAC football champion Lenoir-Rhyne leads the conference with 12 selections, including six first-team picks. SAC preseason favorite Carson-Newman has the second-most selections with a total of nine, followed by Catawba and Newberry with seven. Mars Hill, Tusculum and Wingate placed six players on the team.
Headlining the first-team offense is Tusculum quarterback Bo Cordell, who last season became the SAC’s all-time leader in passing yards and total offense. Cordell – who passed for 3,244 yards and 23 touchdowns in 2012 - enters the season 2,388 yards shy of breaking the Division II career passing yards record.
After helping their teams finish first and second in the nation, respectively, in rushing offense last season, Carson-Newman’s Brandon Baker and Lenoir-Rhyne’s Jarrod Spears are first-team selections at running back. Baker – a member of the BSN Preseason All-America Team – led the SAC in rushing last year with 1,468 yards, while Spears ranked third with 994.
Also earning a first-team running back selection is Mars Hill’s Shaikel Davis, the No. 2 rusher in the SAC in 2012 with 1,173 yards.
Mars Hill’s Dimitri Holmes and Duenta Jennings and Newberry’s Corey Washington are the preseason first-team wide receivers, and Wingate’s Mark Clyburn is the first-team tight end. Holmes finished 2012 with 71 receptions for 992 yards and eight touchdowns, Jennings had 46 receptions for 886 yards and six scores, and Washington caught 51 passes for 776 yards and nine touchdowns.
Joining Velazquez on the First Team Offensive Line are Carson-Newman’s Alex Taylor and Robby Ignani, Mars Hill’s Nick Allison, and Lenoir-Rhyne’s Parker Murray.
Carson-Newman’s Curt Duncan is the first-team kicker and Catawba’s LJ McCray the first-team return specialist. Both are selections to the BSN Preseason All-American Team, while Duncan is also a member of the Fred Mitchell Award watch list for the nation’s best kicker.
The first-team defense is led by a pair of BSN Preseason All-Americans – Mars Hill lineman Troy Harris and Lenoir-Rhyne linebacker Tanner Botts. Harris was the SAC Co-Defensive Player of the Year in 2012 after recording 84 tackles, five sacks and two forced fumbles, while Botts ranked third in the conference with 113 tackles.
Joining Harris on the first-team defensive line are Catawba’s Jacob Hanes, Newberry’s Letavious Williams and Wingate’s Nick Napolitano. Napolitano led the SAC with 7.5 sacks in 2012, while Hanes and Williams each had three sacks.
Joining Gruber and Botts on the first-team linebacker corps are Tusculum’s Brian Alexander and Mars Hill's Jasper Mason.
Making up the first-team defensive backfield are Lenoir-Rhyne’s Michael Green and Myer Nolan, Wingate’s Timmy Rogers and Catawba’s McCray. Nolan finished tied for the SAC lead with six interceptions in 2012, while Green had four, McCray had two and Rogers had one.
Rounding out the first-team defense are Catawba punter Chad Hollandsworth, who averaged 37.2 yards per kick last season, and Newberry long snapper Austin Crook.
Other notable second-team selections include Lenoir-Rhyne running back Isaiah Whitaker, a 2012 Don Hansen First-Team All-American, and Carson-Newman defensive lineman Javaris Neal, last year’s SAC Defensive Freshman of the Year.
The Tornados were picked to finish 8th in the SAC Football Preseason Coaches’ Poll.