CCU picked to defend title; Backus, Hazel named POYs

After winning a share of last year’s conference title and earning the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Division I FCS Championship, Coastal Carolina has been picked as the preseason favorite to win the 2013 Big South title, the league announced today at the annual Big South Football Media Day.

In addition, the league’s coaches and media tabbed Coastal Carolina senior wide receiver Matt Hazel as the Preseason Offensive Player of the Year and junior linebacker Quinn Backus the Preseason Defensive Player of the Year.

Joining Hazel and Backus on the 27-player 2013 Big South Football Preseason All-Conference team were running back Lorenzo Taliaferro, wide receiver and punt returner Niccolo Mastromatteo, offensive lineman Chad Hamilton, offensive lineman Jamey Cheatwood, offensive lineman Drew Herring, linebacker Mike McClure and defensive back Johnnie Houston.

Coastal, under second-year head coach and reigning Big South Coach of the Year Joe Moglia, garnered nine of the 15 first place votes with six second-place votes for 84 points. Liberty received six first place votes and a total of 80 points, followed by Gardner-Webb (58), Charleston Southern (39), VMI (27) and Presbyterian (27).

Last season, Coastal Carolina was 8-5 overall, 5-1 in league play, won the program’s first NCAA playoff game and, for the first time since 2006, was ranked among the nation’s top 25 in both polls – coming in at 24th.

Hazel, a two-time All-Big South selection, tied Jerome Simpson’s CCU single-season record with 61 receptions last season. Making the feat more impressive is the fact that teammates Mastromatteo and DeMario Bennett added 47 and 43 catches, respectively, which rank third and fourth on the CCU single-season list. Hazel tallied 799 receiving yards, which ranks second on the CCU single-season list. He ranked third in the Big South in receptions per game (4.69) – 80th in the NCAA – and in receiving yards per game (61.46) – 77th in the NCAA.

Hazel’s best game last season came on CCU’s biggest stage, catching nine passes for 155 yards, which ranks third on the CCU single-game list, and two touchdowns at Old Dominion. In three seasons, Hazel ranks second on the CCU career lists for receptions (113), receiving yards (1563) and touchdown receptions (19) and needs 49 receptions to surpass Simpson (161) as the school’s all-time leader.

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