July 25, 2013
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - 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.
Backus was a third team All-American and the 2012 Big South Defensive Player of the Year last season. He set a league record by being named Big South Defensive Player of the Week five times and he was a two-time National Defensive Player of the Week honoree. The Greenwood, S.C., native set a Coastal Carolina record with 139 tackles, which ranks second on the Big South single-season chart, while his 70 assisted tackles ranks second on the CCU single-season list and the 69 unassisted tackles is third. Nationally, Backus ranked 16th in the NCAA in tackles (10.69 per game) thanks to having at least 10 tackles in eight games and leading the Chants in stops seven times. He was the only player ranked among the NCAA FCS in tackles to have at least: 100 tackles (139/10.69 avg.), 5.0 tackles for losses (8.0), 2.0 sacks (2.5), two interceptions (2), two forced fumbles (3), two fumble received (2) and two pass break-ups (4). In the Big South final statistics, Backus ranked second in tackles (10.69 average), seventh in tackles for losses, ninth-tied in sacks, ninth-tied in interceptions, first-tied in fumbles forced and first-tied in fumbles received.
Mastromatteo is cementing himself as one of the Big South's greats. Already a three-time All-Big South pick as a punt returner and adding all-league honors as a wide receiver last season, the senior is picked to once again be a two-time honoree. He led the Big South and ranked 13th in the NCAA FCS by averaging 11.36 yards per punt return. As mentioned, he caught 47 passes last season to rank third on the CCU single-season list despite missing two games due to injury. Mastromatteo holds the Big South and Coastal Carolina records for punt returns (61) and punt return yards (538). He also ranks third on the CCU career lists for kickoff returns (47) and kickoff return yards (995) while ranking seventh on the CCU career all-purpose yards list with 2,128 with his 108 combined punt/kick returns ranking third on the Big South career list and 1,533 combined punt/kick return yards ranking fifth. In back-to-back weeks last season, Mastromatteo earned national recognition for his play as both receiver and punt returner. First, he was named CollegeSportsMadness.com Big South Offensive Player of the Week and honorable mention for National Wide Receiver of the Week by CollegeFootballPerformance.com for his play at Garner-Webb, catching four passes for 151 yards and two TDs. The 151 receiving yards ranks fourth (was third at the time) on the CCU single-game list and his 171 all-purpose yards ranks seventh. Of his four catches, one was 26-yard third down conversion, one was a 22-yard first down, one was a 22-yard TD and the last was an 81-yard TD to mark the longest reception in CCU history. Then he was named National Punt Returner of the Week by CollegeFootballPerformance.com for his play at Presbyterian. He had three punt returns for 93 yards, including an 87-yard return for a TD to become the Big South's all-time leader in punt return yards. In addition to his play on the field, Mastromatteo should garner numerous academic honors in 2013 as well, owning a 3.938 GPA in philosophy with his sights set on medical school.
Hamilton - a second team All-Big South pick last season, Cheatwood, a two-time second team All-Big South pick, and Herring were instrumental in Coastal's offense being among the nation's best in numerous categories while having one of the best seasons in the 10-year program history. Coastal rushed for 2,590 yards - second-best total in program history, averaged 199.23 yards per game to rank 25th in the nation; passed for 3,101 yards - second-best total in program history; average 238.54 yards per game - first in the Big South and 34th nationally; and posted a school-record 5,691 yards of total offense, ranking first in the Big South and 18th nationally with an average of 437.77 yards of total offense per game. Coastal also set a school record with 58 touchdowns scored and rushing for at least 200 yards in seven straight games while having its second-best season marks for passing TDs (26), 63.1 pass completion percentage and 145.0 pass efficiency.
McClure was tabbed second team All-Big South while playing alongside Backus. McClure ranked fourth in the Big South in tackles (7.08) and his 92 total stops rank ninth on the CCU single-season list, while his 59 assisted stops ranks third, He led the team with 8.5 tackles for loss - ranking sixth in the Big South, tying a CCU single-game record with 3.5 TFL versus North Carolina A&T. The following week, McClure made a critical play at Furman, picking off a Paladin pass on an attempted two-point play at the goal line and returning it 100 yards to give CCU two points.
Houston, a senior, closed the season in impressive fashion. He finished with 53 tackles, 5.5 tackles for losses, two interceptions, two pass breakups and three forced fumbles. He was named National co-Defensive Player of the Week by CollegeFootballPerformance.com in leading the CCU defense in a playoff win at Bethune-Cookman. While he only had four tackles, Houston had two forced fumbles, a half sack and a 68-yard interception return for a TD. The 68 yard interception return ranks as the second-longest in CCU history. For good measure, he made a key play on special teams, recovering a Bethune-Cookman on-side kick and Coastal ran out the clock to seal the CCU victory. The following week at Old Dominion, Houston added a forced fumble and a pass breakup.
2013 Big South Football Preseason All-Conference Team
OFFENSE SCHOOL YR
QB Josh Woodrum Liberty R-Soph.
RB Teddy Allen Charleston Southern Sr.
RB Lorenzo Taliaferro Coastal Carolina Sr.
WR Matt Hazel Coastal Carolina Sr.
WR Kenny Cook Gardner-Webb R-Jr.
WR Niccolo Mastromatteo Coastal Carolina Sr.
TE Seth Cranfill Gardner-Webb R-Jr.
OL Chad Hamilton Coastal Carolina R-Jr.
OL Jamey Cheatwood Coastal Carolina R-Sr.
OL Hunter Steward Liberty R-Sr.
OL Will Lucas VMI Sr.
OL Drew Herring Coastal Carolina R-Sr.
DEFENSE SCHOOL YR
DL Preston Pemasa Gardner-Webb Sr.
DL Matt Goods Gardner-Webb R-Sr.
DL Cory Freeman Liberty R-Sr.
DL Francis Bah Liberty R-Sr.
LB Quinn Backus Coastal Carolina Jr.
LB Tanner Burch Gardner-Webb Jr.
LB Nick Sigmon Liberty R-Jr.
LB Mike McClure Coastal Carolina Sr.
DB Walt Aikens Liberty R-Sr.
DB Elijah Lee Charleston Southern Sr.v DB Kevin Fogg Liberty R-Sr.
DB Johnnie Houston Coastal Carolina R-Sr.
SPECIAL TEAMS SCHOOL YR
PK John Lunsford Liberty Soph.
P Grant Bowden Liberty Sr.
LS Hudson Smith Gardner-Webb R-Sr.
Richard Wright Liberty R-Sr.
KR J.J. Hubbard Gardner-Webb Jr.
PR Niccolo Mastromatteo Coastal Carolina Sr.
PRESEASON OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Matt Hazel, Sr., WR, Coastal Carolina
PRESEASON DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Quinn Backus, Jr., LB, Coastal Carolina
2013 Preseason Poll (first-place votes) 1 2 3 4 5 6 Points
1. Coastal Carolina (9) 9 6 -- -- -- -- 84
2. Liberty (6) 6 8 1 -- -- -- 80
3. Gardner-Webb -- 1 11 3 -- -- 58
4. Charleston Southern -- -- 2 7 4 2 39
T-5. VMI -- -- 1 2 5 7 27
T-5. Presbyterian -- -- -- 3 6 6 27
Note: points are based on a weighted system, with first-place votes receiving 6 points, followed by 5 points for second-place, and so on.