By Alan Grosbach, Manager of Communications and Sports Information
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Defending national champion Grand View (Iowa) is the unanimous No. 1 in the 2014 NAIA Football Coaches’ Spring Top 25 Poll, the national office announced Monday. The Vikings, who received 13 first-place votes and 288 total points, won the Tom Osborne Trophy for the first time in program history on Dec. 21, 2013 with a 35-23 win at the 58th annual Russell Athletic-NAIA Football National Championship at Barron Stadium in Rome, Ga. Grand View finished 2013 as the NAIA’s only unbeaten team at 14-0.
Grand View, led by AFCA Coach of the Year Mike Woodley, returns 14 starters on offense and defense, including second team All-Mid States Football Association Midwest League quarterback Derek Fulton. Fulton, who was named the Outstanding Offensive Player of the Game at the 2013 championship, ranked third in the NAIA in total offense (4,158) and fifth in total passing (3,451) a season ago. The dual-threat quarterback was also the team leader in rushing with 707 yards on 166 attempts, including five touchdowns.
Perennial powerhouse Carroll (Mont.), who fell to eventual runner-up Cumberlands (Ky.) in overtime of the NAIA Football Championship Series (FCS) semifinals, 34-27, checks in at No. 2 with 270 points. All-Americans Sean Blomquist and Dustin Rinker highlight the returners for the Fighting Saints. Blomquist led a defense that ranked third in scoring defense (16.2 points per game) with 124 tackles, including 91 solo stops, and 19 tackles for loss. Rinker was the cornerstone of Carroll’s rushing attack, tallying 1,960 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns on 364 attempts.
Cumberlands (Ky.) claims the No. 3 position with 262 points. The Patriots led the NAIA in rushing offense (4,978), rushing offense per game (355.6) and total scoring (616) last year.
Rounding out the top five are No. 4 Morningside (Iowa) and No. 5 Baker (Kan.) with 259 points and 244 points, respectively. The Mustangs eliminated Baker in the FCS quarterfinals before falling to in-state rival Grand View in the semifinals. Morningside returns quarterback Ryan Kasdorf, who led the team with 3,335 yards and 42 touchdowns, but will be without wide receiver and NAIA National Player of the Year Kyle Shuck due to graduation. The Wildcats return 16 starters from a season ago with eight coming back on either side of the ball.
Minimal movement occurred within the poll. No. 16 Saint Xavier (Ill.) making the biggest improvement with a two-spot jump, while no team fell more than two positions since the postseason poll. No. 24 Southern Oregon is the only newcomer.
The poll was voted upon by a panel of head coaches representing each of the conferences and independents.
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NOTES (all information dates back to 1999): The Spring Top 25 Poll has been produced since 2007 … Only one program has been ranked No. 1 in the Spring Top 25 and eventually won the national title that same year – former NAIA member Sioux Falls (S.D.) did so in 2009 … Five teams have received the No. 1 ranking in the spring poll: Grand View (Iowa), Marian (Ind.), Saint Xavier (Ill.), Sioux Falls and Carroll (Mont.) … There were 45 different programs ranked in 2013 … Thirteen teams were ranked in all 13 polls … Three teams held the No. 1 ranking: Morningside (Iowa), Cumberlands (Ky.) and Grand View … Cumberlands, Morningside and Saint Francis (Ind.) were ranked in the top 10 in every poll …Carroll leads all institutions with 57 all-time first-place rankings and is followed by former member Sioux Falls (55), Georgetown (25), Saint Xavier (14) and former member Northwestern Oklahoma State (11) … Saint Francis boasts the longest consecutive stretch of being named in the Coaches’ Top 25 Poll with 181 … Following the Cougars in consecutive appearances are Carroll with 168, Missouri Valley with 103, Morningside with 87 and Saint Xavier with 76 … Morningside holds the longest streak of top 10 rankings, having been ranked among the top 10 teams for 35-straight polls dating back to Sept. 19, 2011.2014 NAIA Football Coaches’ Spring Top 25 Poll (April 14)
|RANK||LAST TIME*||SCHOOL (1ST PLACE VOTES)||2013 RECORD||TOTAL POINTS|
|1||1||Grand View (Iowa) (13)||14-0||288|
|6||6||Saint Francis (Ind.)||9-3||236|
|10||11||Rocky Mountain (Mont.)||9-4||183|
|T16||18||Saint Xavier (Ill.)||7-4||111|
|T16||16||St. Ambrose (Iowa)||7-4||111|
|18||19||Lindsey Wilson (Ky.)||8-3||100|
|20||21||St. Francis (Ill.)||7-4||65|
|21||20||Dakota Wesleyan (S.D.)||8-3||64|
|23||24||Peru State (Neb.)||7-4||33|
Others receiving votes: Eastern Oregon 25; Reinhardt (Ga.) 8; Siena Heights (Mich.) 7.
* Top 25 ranking from 2013 Postseason Top 25 on Dec. 23.