CCU picked to defend title; Ross tops All-Big South list

ccufoot-Alex Ross vs Elon 3For the third consecutive season, Coastal Carolina was selected by the league’s coached and selected media as the preseason favorite to be the Big South football champion it was announced Thursday at the annual Big South Football Media Day at the Atlanta Marriott Northwest.

The league also announced that reigning Big South Offensive Player of the Year Alex Ross is the favorite to repeat his honor while De’Angelo Henderson (RB), Bruce Mapp (WR), John Israel (WR), Voghens Larrieux (OL), Roderick Holder (DE), Calvin Hollenhorst (DE) and Devin Brown (KOR) joined Ross on the preseason All-Big South team.

Coastal Carolina received 15 of the 21 first-place votes and earned a total of 139 points to secure its spot as the preseason favorite. Liberty, which received the other six first place votes, was picked to finish second with 129 points followed by Charleston Southern (106), Presbyterian College (72), Gardner-Webb (57), Monmouth (53) and new conference member Kennesaw State (32).  Gardner-Webb defensive lineman O.J. Mau was selected as the preseason Defensive Player of the Year.

Ross, a national player of the year candidate, set conference and school single season records last season for passing yards (3,389), completions (271) and total offense (4,080) while having 691 rushing yards – second-most in a season by a Big South quarterback – and seven games with at least 300 yards of total offense – second only to CCU’s Tyler Thigpen on the Big South’s list.

Ross is on pace to become the Big South’s all-time leader in passing yards (fifth currently), rushing yards by a quarterback (fourth currently) and total offense (second currently). He already owns the Coastal Carolina all-time mark for completions (529), passing yards (6,909), total offense (8,264) and TD responsibility (67) while ranking 10th on the CCU all-time rushing list, ranking sixth on the CCU all-time rushing TDs list (16), needing just 51 pass attempts to set the CCU mark and needing just three touchdown passes to become the school’s all-time leader.

Henderson was named first team All-Big South last season after leading the league in five categories, while also ranking among the NCAA FCS leaders in rushing yards (18th with 109.6 ypg), rushing yards (ninth with 1,534), yards per rush (seventh with 6.56), rushing touchdowns (seventh with 20) and scoring (11th with 9.0 ppg). He additionally ranked second in the Big South and 31st nationally in all-purpose yards per game (130.21) as he had 33 receptions for 289 yards with a game-winning touchdown catch in overtime at Furman.

Mapp was a second team All-Big South selection last season as he set a CCU single-season record with 71 receptions while his 959 receiving yards ranks third on the CCU single-season list. He enters his junior season sixth on the CCU career lists for receptions (91) and receiving yards (1,246) while ranking eighth on the school’s career touchdown receptions list with seven. Mapp was elected the team’s Offensive MVP on three occasions (The Citadel, Presbyterian and Liberty). He ranked second in the league and 29th nationally with his 959 receiving yards while he ranked fourth in the league in both receiving yards per game (68.9) and receptions per game (5.1) as well as tying  for second in the conference with six touchdowns.

Israel, voted second team All-Big South last season, enters his senior season seventh on the CCU career receiving yards list (1,154), 13th in career receptions (63) and sixth in touchdown receptions (9) while his career average of 18.32 yards per catch currently stands as a CCU record. Last season, Israel ranked second in the league with six touchdown receptions, fourth in receiving yards (798) and ninth in receptions per game (3.3). On the CCU single-season list, his 46 receptions ranks seventh and his 798 yards is fifth. He was named Big South Offensive Player of the Week once last season as he piled up 174 yards and scored two touchdowns on just three receptions in a win versus Charleston Southern. The 174 yards is second-most on the CCU single-game list as he had TDs of 74 and 51 yards with his third catch covering 49 yards.

Larrieux is making the move from right tackle to left tackle to fill the void left by All-American Chad Hamilton. He started all 14 games last season – playing in each of CCU’s last 29 games, did not allow a sack and was whistled for just one penalty (false start). Larrieux helped Coastal lead the Big South, and rank 15th nationally, in fewest sacks allowed and rank 10th nationally in fewest tackles for loss allowed (4.07 per game).

Holder was named first team All-Big South last season. He set a Big South record by returning two fumbles for touchdowns, returning one 29 yards for a score versus South Carolina State and one for seven yards to the end zone at Charlotte. Holder additionally helped CCU set single-season team records for sacks and quarterback hurries thanks to his 6.5 sacks — second most on the CCU seasonal list and fourth in the Big South – and 12.5 tackles for losses — second most on the CCU seasonal list and  fourth in the Big South. Holder enters his senior season fourth on the CCU career sacks list (9.5).

Hollenhorst is a two-time All-Big South second team honoree. He was named team’s Defensive MVP for the Furman win as he recorded eight tackles (five solo). Overall, Hollenhorst was fourth on the team and tops among defensive linemen with 60 tackles. He returned a fumble four yards for a touchdown in the win at Florida A&M and helped Coastal’s defense set a Big South record by holding opponents to three points or less in three consecutive games (South Carolina State, Florida A&M and Elon).

Brown has earned first team All-Big South honors in each of his first two years with the Chanticleers. After ranking 35th in the FCS in kick returns to earn Freshman All-American honors in 2013, Brown ranked 10th in the FCS last season, averaging a CCU-record 27.9 yards per return. He returned two kicks for touchdowns, including a game-winning, 99-yard return at North Carolina A&T and 98-yard return in the FCS quarterfinal at North Dakota State. Brown, the only player in CCU history and just one of three in Big South history to return three kicks for scores, already owns the CCU career record with 1,440 kick return yards and his kick return average of 26.18 is currently a school record. Brown set a Coastal Carolina record with 632 kick return yards as a freshman only to better the mark with 808 kick return yards last season.

2015 Big South Football Preseason All-Conference Team

OFFENSE
QB – Alex Ross, Coastal Carolina, R-Sr
RB – De’Angelo Henderson, Coastal Carolina, R-Jr.
RB – D.J. Abnar, Liberty, R-Sr.
WR – Darrin Peterson, Liberty, Sr.
WR – Bruce Mapp, Coastal Carolina, R-Jr.
WR – John Israel, Coastal Carolina, R-Sr.
TE – Mike Estes, Gardner-Webb, R-Jr.
OL – Jonathan Burgess, Liberty, Sr.
OL – Erik Austell, Charleston Southern, R-Jr.
OL – Max Sommer, Liberty, R-Sr.
OL – Voghens Larrieux, Coastal Carolina, R-Jr.
OL – Alex Thompson, Monmouth, Soph.

DEFENSE
DL – O.J. Mau, Gardner-Webb, Sr.
DL – Chima Uzowihe, Liberty, Sr.
DL – Roderick Holder, Coastal Carolina, Sr.
DL – Calvin Hollenhorst, Coastal Carolina, R-Sr.
LB – Donelle Williams, Presbyterian, R-Sr.
LB – Aaron Brown, Charleston Southern, Sr.
LB – Aaron Cook, Gardner-Webb, Jr.
LB – John Sieczkowski, Monmouth, Sr.
DB – Mike Basile, Monmouth, Soph.
DB – Ed Britt, Presbyterian, Sr.
DB – Ivan Toomer, Gardner-Webb, R-Sr.
DB – Troy McGowens, Charleston Southern, Jr.

Photo by Bill Grammer

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