BALTIMORE, Md. – What a difference a year makes for the Tigers’ football team.
For the first time ever, the Tigers have been selected as the Colonial Athletic Association pre-season favorites, it was announced by CAA officials at the annual CAA Football Media Day at M & T Bank Stadium on Wednesday morning.
In a poll of the 11 CAA coaches and sports information directors, the Tigers received 12 of a possible 22 first place votes. Towson edged Old Dominion University for the top spot in the pre-season. ODU received seven first place votes. Ironically, last season Towson was picked to finish 11th in the pre-season while ODU was picked to finished 10th. The Tigers and the Monarchs finished one-two in the final CAA standings.
James Madison was picked to finish third with one first place vote while New Hampshire (two first place votes) was picked fourth. Delaware was picked to finish fifth and was followed by Maine, William and Mary, Villanova, Richmond, Rhode Island and Georgia State.
“It is a humbling honor to have earned the respect of the football community in being picked as the top team in our incredible league,” says Towson Coach Rob Ambrose who led the Tigers to their first-ever CAA championship last season. “It’s great that we have been recognized for what we did last year but in truth, last year is gone. Every game is a war in this league and when we strap it up, rankings, predictions and accolades mean very little.”
Last year, the Tigers were predicted to finish last in the CAA. Towson had posted a 1-10 record in 2010 and was winless in the CAA. However, the “Turnaround Tigers” were the most improved team in Division I football, improving by 7.5 games. The Tigers, who entered last season with 26 losses in their 28 previous CAA games, won the CAA titles with a 7-1 record, beating six nationally-ranked CAA teams on their road to the championship. The Tigers clinched the CAA title with a 28-17 victory at Rhode Island on November 19.
When the Tigers earned the CAA’s automatic bid to the NCAA FCS playoffs, Towson became the first program ever to earn NCAA post-season bids at the Division II, Division III and FCS levels.
One of five CAA teams to earn an NCAA FCS playoff berth in 2011, the Tigers finished the year as the ninth-ranked team in NCAA FCS football.
While the Tigers were tabbed as the CAA’s pre-season favorite, sophomore running back Terrance West, senior defensive end Frank Beltre and senior defensive back Jordan Dangerfield represented Towson on the Pre-Season All-CAA team.
The only Tiger named to the Pre-Season All-CAA offense, West was named as the CAA Pre-Season Offensive Player of the Year. As a freshman, West was honored as the winner of the Jerry Rice Award, which is presented to the top freshman in FCS football. West, who was also the CAA Rookie of the Year in 2011, rushed for 1,294 yards as a first-year freshman and averaged 6.7 yards per carry. The second-leading rusher in the CAA, he scored 29 touchdowns to set an NCAA FCS record for freshmen. The top scorer in the NCAA FCS last season, he also set a Towson single season record with 29 TD’s. He was also named as a Walter Camp first team All-American.
A repeat selection as an All-CAA Pre-Season selection, Beltre is a third-year starter at defensive. Last season, he ranked among the team leaders with 68 tackles. He also led Towson with 12 tackles for lost yardage and had four sacks. Beltre, who has made nearly 200 tackles in his college career, was also named to the All-CAA first team after last season. He was also named to the 2012 Pre-Season All-America team by The Sports Network.
A two-year starter at free safety, Dangerfield (below) has led the Tigers in each of the last two seasons. Despite missing two games last season, he led the team with 93 tackles, a mark that placed him second among all CAA defensive backs. He also intercepted two passes, forced two fumbles and recovered a pair of fumbles. Honored as a pre-season All-American third team selection by The Sports Network, Dangerfield was one of the Tiger co-captains last season. A first team All-CAA selection last year, he made a team-leading 96 tackles as a sophomore.
Delaware, Old Dominion and Maine led all schools with five selections on the Pre-Season All-CAA team. James Madison had four honorees while Towson had three. New Hampshire, William and Mary and Villanova each placed two players on the Pre-Season All-CAA team.
TIGER TALES: This marked the sixth consecutive season that the CAA held its Football Media Day in Baltimore … Prior to being selected first this season, Towson had been predicted to finish last four years in a row … Last season, William and Mary was the pre-season favorite … Villanova was the pre-season favorite to win the 2010 CAA championship.
While West was chosen as the CAA’s Pre-Season Offensive Player of the Year, linebacker Matt Evans of New Hampshire was the CAA’s Pre-Season Defensive Player of the Year … In January, both Evans and West were in Frisco, Texas where they earned two of the top awards in FCS football … Evans was the winner of the Buck Buchanan Award as the top defensive player in FCS football while West was honored as the winner of the Jerry Rice Award … Coach Rob Ambrose of Towson was also honored as the winner of the Eddie Robinson FCS Coach of the Year in Frisco.
With the selection of Beltre, Dangerfield and West as Pre-Season All-CAA selections, it marked the first time that Towson had more than one representative on the Pre-Season All-CAA team.
Towson opens its season on August 30 at Kent State at 7 p.m.