By Alan Grosbach, Manager of Communications and Sports Information
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – With 10 first-place votes and 284 points, defending national champion Marian (Ind.) claims the No. 1 position in the 2013 NAIA Football Coaches’ Spring Top 25 Poll, the national office announced Monday. The Knights won their first-ever national crown on Dec. 13, 2012 with a 30-27 overtime victory at the 57th annual Russell Athletic-NAIA Football National Championship at Barron Stadium in Rome, Ga. Marian finished 2012 with a 12-1 record and held the top-spot six times last season.
Marian, whose victory in the title game made it the second-straight program to win the national championship in its first championship game appearance, returns 13 starters from a year ago, including 2012 AFCA-NAIA All-American running back Tevin Lake. Lake ranked third in the NAIA with a program record 1,594 yards in 2012, upping his career total to 2,842 in two seasons with the Knights. Head coach Mark Henninger is entering his first season at Marian.
No. 2 Morningside (Iowa), who fell to Marian in the title game, collected the final three first-place votes and 279 points. The Mustangs, led by AFCA Coach of the Year Steve Ryan, finished the year with a program-best 13-1 record, which also led the NAIA, en route to their second-straight Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC) championship. Wide receiver Kyle Schuck and slot back Joel McCabe headline the Morningside offensive returners. McCabe led the team and ranked top-five nationally with 88 catches for 1,284 yards, while Schuck led all receivers with 20 touchdowns.
National semifinalists Missouri Valley and Saint Xavier (Ill.) claim the Nos. 3 and 4 positions with 265 and 257 points, respectively. The Vikings, who led the NAIA in scoring defense (13.2 points per game) and were fourth in total defense (263.8 yards per game), return six starters on defense, including All-American cornerback Tyler Davis and the NAIA’s reigning sack leader Ty Phillips. Saint Xavier returns 10 starters from 2012 with four coming back on an offense that was second in total passing (4,254) and fourth in total offense per game (475.7).
Rounding out the top five is No. 5 Southern Oregon with 241 points. The Raiders, powered by one of the NAIA’s most explosive offenses, made its fourth appearance – first since 2002 – in the Football Championship Series and closed the season with a 9-3 record after falling to Morningside in the quarterfinals. Quarterback Austin Dodge, who set seven school records a year ago and led the NAIA in passing yards (5,076) and total offense (5,176), returns to lead the squad.
Minimal movement occurred within the poll. No. 18 Carroll (Mont.) made the biggest improvement with a three-spot jump, while no team fell more than one position since the postseason poll. No. 25 Robert Morris (Ill.) 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 … Four teams have received the No. 1 ranking in the spring poll: Marian (Ind.), Saint Xavier (Ill.), Sioux Falls and Carroll (Mont.) … There were 41 different programs ranked in 2012 … Fifteen teams were ranked in all 13 polls … Three teams held the No. 1 ranking: Marian, Saint Xavier and Georgetown (Ky.) … Marian, Morningside (Iowa), Missouri Valley, Saint Xavier and Georgetown were ranked in the top 10 in every poll … Carroll (Mont.) leads all institutions with 57 first-place rankings and is followed by Sioux Falls (55), Georgetown (25), Saint Xavier (14) and former NAIA member Northwestern Oklahoma State (11) … No. 6 Saint Francis (Ind.) boasts the longest consecutive stretch of being named in the Coaches’ Top 25 Poll with 168 … Following Saint Francis in consecutive appearances is Carroll with 153, MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.) with 79, Morningside with 71 and Saint Xavier with 57.2013 NAIA Football Coaches’ Spring Top 25 Poll (April 15)
|RANK||LAST TIME*||SCHOOL (1ST PLACE VOTES)||2012 RECORD||TOTAL POINTS|
|1||1||Marian (Ind.) (10)||12-1||284|
|2||2||Morningside (Iowa) (3)||13-1||279|
|4||4||Saint Xavier (Ill.)||11-2||257|
|6||6||Saint Francis (Ind.)||9-3||230|
|10||10||St. Ambrose (Iowa)||9-2||182|
|12||11||MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.)||8-3||169|
|15||15||William Penn (Iowa)||9-3||143|
|17||17||Grand View (Iowa)||8-3||110|
|24||24||Valley City State (N.D.)||7-3||30|
|25||RV||Robert Morris (Ill.)||9-3||11|
Others receiving votes: Kentucky Christian 10; Bacone (Okla.) 8; Faulkner (Ala.) 4; Friends (Kan.) 4; Nebraska Wesleyan 3.
* Top 25 ranking from 2012 Postseason Top 25 on Dec. 18.
Spring 2013 Top 10 Capsules
Written by Travis Rae, NAIA Communications and Sports Information Intern
1. Marian (Ind.): 2012 Record: 12-1 … Conference finish: T-1st … Starters returning/lost: 13/13 … The Knights won their first-ever national championship on Dec. 13 by defeating Morningside (Iowa), 30-27, in overtime. Marian returns 2012 AFCA-NAIA All-American running back Tevin Lake, who set the programs career rushing yards (2,842) and career rushing touchdowns record (36) last season for the Knights. Lake also set the school’s single-season rushing record with 1,594 yards. Behind the running of Lake, Marian was 12th in scoring offense averaging 35.2 points per game. The Knights look to replace quarterback Adam Wiese, who leads Marian in career touchdown passes (51) and passing yards (5,707). Head coach Mark Henninger is in his first season with the Knights.
2. Morningside (Iowa): 2012 Record: 13-1 … Conference finish: 1st … Starters returning/lost: 14/13 … The Mustangs enjoyed its best season in school history during the 2012 campaign, finishing the year 13-1 for the most wins in school history and advancing to a programs first title game. Morningside has made nine consecutive post-season appearance. The Mustangs return slot back Joel McCabe for the 2013 season. McCabe pulled in 88 receptions for 1,284 years and 18 touchdowns. He ranked fourth in the nation in receiving yards and fifth in receptions. Along with McCabe the Mustangs return Kyle Schuck, who was ninth in the NAIA in receiving yards with 1,062. Morningside loses first-team All-Great Plains Athletic Conference quarterback Joel Nixon, who was first in the NAIA in passing efficiency (174.1), second in total offense (329.7 ypg) and seventh in passing (274.5 ypg).
3. Missouri Valley: 2012 Record: 12-1 … Conference finish: 1st … Starters returning/lost: 14/12 … Missouri Valley won its second-straight Heart of America Athletic Conference (HAAC) championship last season. The Vikings appeared in their third NAIA Championship Series semifinal - first since 2007 - but was defeated by eventual national champion Marian (Ind.), 20-17. Missouri Valley achieved the highest ranking ever in the NAIA Football Coaches’ Top 25 Poll at No. 2. The Vikings return AFCA-NAIA All-American Tyler Davis. Davis was the HAAC Defensive Player of the Year and led the HAAC with eight interceptions. Also returning on the defensive side of the ball is Ty Phillips, who led the nation in sacks with 19. Signal caller Bruce Reyes and wide receiver Seth Martinko return on the offensive side of the ball. Reyes collected 2,491 total yards on the season and finished second in the HAAC in passing yards (2,316). Martinko finished the year with 838 receiving yards and seven touchdowns.
4. Saint Xavier (Ill.): 2012 Record: 12-2 … Conference finish: T-1st … Starters returning/lost: 10/16 … Saint Xavier advanced as far as the semifinals last year before being eliminated by national runner-up Morningside (Iowa),47-19, on Dec. 1. Saint Xavier has made the semifinals in six of the last seven years, including winning the 2011 national championship. The Cougars are looking to replace 2012 NAIA Player of the Year Jimmy Coy, who threw for 3,427 yards and 35 touchdowns last season. Saint Xavier is returning First Team All-Conference running back Nick Pesek. Pesek set the school record for most career rushing yards with 2,383. First team All-Conference Zack Dolph, who set the single season school record with 128 tackles, also returns.
5. Southern Oregon: 2012 Record: 9-3 … Conference finish: T-1st … Starters returning/lost: 16/10 … Southern Oregon’s season came to an end on Nov. 24 in a 47-44 overtime loss to Morningside (Iowa). Southern Oregon returns quarterback Austin Dodge, who was first-team All- Frontier Conference last season. Dodge set school records in passing yards (5,076), total offense (5,176), pass attempts (549), season completions (359) and touchdown passes (42). Dodge’s 5,076 passing yards is second-most in NAIA history. Dodge loses a trio of wide receivers, who complied 3,980 yards and 254 receptions last season, in Cole McKenzie, Patrick Donahue and Mike Olson. The Raiders also lose second-team All-Conference running back Manny Barragan, who led the team with 1,341 rushing yards.
6. Saint Francis (Ind.): 2012 Record: 9-3 … Conference finish: T-1st … Starters returning/lost: 18/8 … Saint Francis suffered a season ending 45-34 loss to eventual National Champion Marian (Ind.) on Nov. 24. Saint Francis has been ranked in 168-consecutive polls, the longest current streak in the NAIA Football Coaches’ Top 25. The Cougars have earned 13 NAIA Football Championship Series berths in 15 seasons. Antoin Campbell returns to the Cougars backfield in 2013 after rushing for 1,245 yards last season. He had six games where he rushed for 100+ yards and three games with 140+ yards. AFCA All-American defensive back Taylor Brown returns. Brown was second on the team with 104 tackles last season and led the team with 49 solo stops. Signal callers David Yoder and Josh Miller return. Yoder lead the Cougars with 1,478 passing yards and 11 touchdown passes, while Miller threw seven touchdowns and completed 56.5 percent of his passes. Head Coach Kevin Donley holds the NAIA record for career victories with 263 heading into his 35th season as head coach and 16th at Saint Francis.
7. Cumberlands (Ky.): 2012 Record: 10-2 … Conference finish: 2nd … Starters returning/lost: 17/9 … Cumberlands season came to an end on No. 24 in a 35-21 loss to Saint Xavier (Ill.). Cumberlands looks to build off a successful 2012 season that saw the Patriots finish second in the Mid-South Conference East Division. AFCA All-American running back Terrance Cobb returns for the Patriots. Cobb led the nation in total rushing yards (1,991), rushing yards per game (165.9), and touchdowns (26). Mid-South Conference Defensive Player of the Year, Weston Hazelhurst returns to the Patriots. Hazelhurst led the team with 102 total tackles (43 solo and 59 assisted), 23.5tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. One key loss is offensive lineman Colby Hitchcock. He was an All-Conference player last year and leader of the offensive line that paved the way for the best offensive production in school history. The Patriots also look to replace quarterback Jay Bright, who led the team to two conference titles and three Football Championship Series appearances. Bright paced the team with 1,317 yards and 14 touchdown passes last year.
8. Georgetown (Ky.): 2012 Record: 10-1 … Conference finish: 1st … For the second-consecutive year, Georgetown went undefeated in the regular season. On Nov. 5, Georgetown received its first No. 1 ranking since Sept. 10, 2002. Georgetown fell in the first round of the Football Championship Series to Bethel (Tenn.), 55-54. Returning for the Tigers is quarterback Neal Pawsat. Pawsat threw for 3,201 passing yard and 28 touchdowns last season. Georgetown also returns first-team All-Conference Brandon Lawson, Josh Downing, Brock Messina and DJ Lemons on defense. Lawson was first on the team in interceptions and second in total tackles. Downing led the team with 91 tackles (48 solo and 43 assisted). Messina paced the Tigers with 10 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss and Lemons was third on the squad with 61 tackles (25 solo and 36 assisted).
9. Bethel (Tenn.): 2012 Record: 9-4 … Conference finish: 1st … Starters returning/lost: 10/16 … Bethel was Mid-South Conference West Division Champions with a 6-0 record last year. The Wildcats defeated Georgetown, 55-54, in the first round of the Football Championship Series and advanced to the second round for the first time since 2007. The Wildcats were defeated in the second round by Missouri Valley, 10-7, on Nov. 24. Bethel returns wide receiver/kick return Jahron Reynolds. Reynolds recorded 35 receptions for 499 yards last season, while returning 26 kick offs for 827 yards. He was a selected first team All-Conference. Running back Travis Smith (551 rushing yards and nine touchdowns) also returns to the Wildcats backfield. On the defensive side of the ball, Bethel returns defensive lineman Joey Dienye, who had 57 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks last year. Cornerback Joecquel Skinner returns, who was tied for the team lead with five interceptions.
10. St. Ambrose (Iowa): 2012 Record: 9-2 … Conference finish: 1st … Starters returning/lost: 16/10 … Making its 12th appearance in the Football Championship Series, St. Ambrose season ended in the first round as they were defeated, 45-28, by Southern Oregon. St. Ambrose returns Mid-States Football Association Midwest League Player of the Year, quarterback Eric Williamson and first team All-Conference running back Cole Kelly, on the offensive side of the ball. Williamson passed for 2,985 yards and 35 touchdowns while Kelly rushed for a team-high 847 yards and six touchdowns in eight games. Defensively, St. Ambrose returns AFCA All-American linebacker Jeremy Wallace, who led the Fighting Bees with 141 tackles (59 solo and 82 assisted). He also recorded eight tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and two intercepts. St. Ambrose loses two key members of the defensive line, Sean Santiago and Mike Tetlow, who were first and second team All-Conference.