2012 NAIA Football Coaches? Spring Top 25 Poll Announced
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – With 340 total points, Saint Xavier (Ill.) is the No. 1 unanimous decision in the 2012 NAIA Football Coaches’ Spring Top 25 Poll, the national office announced Wednesday. The Cougars won their first national championship on Dec. 17, 2011 and finished the season with a school-record 14-1 mark. St. Xavier got off to a 9-0 start last year and was ranked on top of the poll for eight-straight weeks.
St. Xavier became the first program since Carroll (Mont.) in 2002 to win the national title in its first championship game appearance. Senior quarterback Jimmy Coy, a First-Team All-Mid-States Football Association Mideast Division performer, led the NAIA last year in passing yards (4,261) and total offense (4,530). Head coach Mike Feminis, with a 116-41 record in 13 seasons, has his Cougars ranked in the top five for the 30th-consecutive time.
No. 2 Carroll, who fell to St. Xavier in the title game by a 24-20 score, collected 327 votes. The Fighting Saints, who ended the year with a 13-2 record, have made eight national championship game appearances since 2002. That total is tied for the second-most amount of any NAIA team. Senior running back and 2011 Rawlings-NAIA National Football Player of the Year Chance Demarais brings back over 1,800 rushing yards.
National semifinalists, Marian (Ind.) and Georgetown (Ky.), sew up the Nos. 3 and 4 positions. Marian earned 313 total points, while the Tigers ended with 301. The Knights ranked No. 1 in the NAIA in four major team defensive categories, including total defense (208.9 yapg) and scoring defense (7.4 papg). Georgetown returns a solid linebacker corps as the defense held five opponents in 2011 to 10-or-fewer points.
Sliding up one position is No. 5 MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.) with 285 points. Powered by a 10-3 record, the Pioneers appeared in their fifth-straight Football Championship Series. They ended up bowing out in the quarterfinals to St. Xavier. MidAmerica Nazarene returns an all-conference quarterback and 1,000-yard rusher from a squad that was in the top 10 in scoring offense and total offense.
Movement was very minimal within the poll. No. 14 Northwestern (Iowa) made the biggest jump with a three-spot hop. No. 24 Bethany (Kan.) and No. 25 Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) were the newcomers. Bethany was ranked nine times in 2011 with the last coming on Nov. 7.
In its third-year of varsity existence, Lindsey Wilson captured its first-ever Top 25 spot. The Blue Raiders tied for second in the Mid-South Conference East Division with a 7-3 overall record. All-league performer Branden Cresap returns at quarterback after tossing for over 2,700 yards and 21 touchdowns.
The poll was voted upon by a panel of head coaches representing each of the conferences and independents.
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 member Sioux Falls (S.D.) did so in 2009… Saint Xavier (Ill.) joins Sioux Falls and Carroll (Mont.) as the three teams to boast the No. 1 spring ranking in history… There were 41 different teams ranked in 2011, with 14 of those being listed in each poll… No. 5 MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.) has been ranked in the top 10 for the last 33-straight polls, dating back to the middle of the 2009 season… Carroll leads all institutions with 56 first-place rankings and is followed by Sioux Falls (55), Georgetown (Ky.) (23), Northwestern Oklahoma State (11) and Saint Xavier (10)… Carroll extended its streak of consecutive top-five appearances with 91… No. 7 Saint Francis (Ind.) leads the NAIA with 155-straight mentions in the Top 25, the last time the Cougars were not ranked was on Oct. 19, 1999… Following Saint Francis among consecutive appearances is Carroll with 141, MidAmerica Nazarene with 67, No. 8 Morningside (Iowa) with 60 and St. Xavier with 47.
|RANK||LAST WEEK^||SCHOOL (1ST PLACE VOTES)||2011 RECORD||TOTAL POINTS|
|1||1||Saint Xavier (Ill.) (15)||14-1||340|
|5||6||MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.)||10-2||285|
|6||7||Saint Francis (Ind.)||9-3||272|
|7||8||St. Francis (Ill.)||11-3||257|
|13||15||William Penn (Iowa)||9-2||182|
|15||16||Valley City State (N.D.)||9-2||145|
|16||18||Grand View (Iowa)||8-4||137|
|20||22||St. Ambrose (Iowa)||7-3||96|
|25||NR||Lindsey Wilson (Ky.)||7-3||27|
Others receiving votes: Campbellsville (Ky.) 9; Friends (Kan.) 1; Olivet Nazarene (Ill.) 1; Montana State-Northern 1; Midland (Neb.) 1; Hastings (Neb.) 1.
^ Top 25 ranking from 2011 Postseason Top 25 on Dec. 19, 2011
Spring 2012 Team Capsules
Written by Jake Knabel, NAIA Communications & Sports Information Intern
1. Saint Xavier (Ill.): 2011 Record: 14-1 … Conference finish: 2nd … Starters returning/lost: 21/5 … The Cougars won their first national championship in school history in 2011 by knocking off six-time champion Carroll (Mont.), 24-20, in the title game on Dec. 17 … Saint Xavier avenged its only loss of 2011, a 27-9 defeat to Marian (Ind.) on Nov. 5, with a 30-27 triumph over Marian in the semifinals of the Football Championship Series … Quarterback Jimmy Coy, the Offensive Player of the Game in the national championship win, returns for his senior season in 2012 after leading the nation in both passing yards (4,261) and total offense (4,530) as a junior … Behind Coy, the Cougar offense ranked No. 1 in total passing (4,902), second in scoring (44.0 points per game) and third in total offense (474.0 yards per game) … Coy will again team with top receiver Shane Zackery, who finished second in the NAIA with 95 receptions and also added 1,208 yards and 18 touchdowns … Head coach Mike Feminis returns for his 14th season, boasting a career record of 116-41.
2. Carroll (Mont.): 2011 Record: 13-2 … Conference finish: 1st … Starters returning/lost: 12/14 … The Saints’ attempt at their second-straight national title and seventh overall was thwarted by Saint Xavier in the Dec. 17 title game loss … Carroll’s three postseason wins in 2011 pushed its all-time total to 39, three more than former NAIA member Sioux Falls (S.D.) for the most in NAIA history … Running back Chance Demarais, the 2011 Rawlings-NAIA National Football Player of the Year, returns for his senior season after piling up an NAIA best 1,805 rushing yards last season … Demarais also ranked second in total scoring (126 points) and third in all-purpose yards (1,861) … Departing quarterback Dane Broadhead (2,346 pass yards, 29 TD, 5 INT) fueled a passing game that ranked as the second most efficient in the NAIA (163.7) … The Saints had one of the nation’s top defenses in 2011, finishing first with 42 sacks, seventh in scoring defense (14.7 points per game) and eighth in total defense (267.3 yards per game) … Head coach Mike Van Diest owns the highest winning percentage in NAIA history with an .877 clip (157-22 in 13 years).
3. Marian (Ind.): 2011 Record: 12-1 … Conference finish: 1st … Starters returning/lost: 13/13 … The Knights enjoyed a perfect 10-0 regular season, including a Mid-States Football Association Mideast title, before marching to the semifinals where they lost to eventual champ Saint Xavier (Ill.), 30-27 … Marian’s 2011 appearance in the Football Championship Series marked its second straight after making it for the first time in school history in 2010 … The Knights lose First Team All-American defensive back Dustin Craig but return 5-foot-9 sophomore-to-be running back Tevin Lake, who led the nation with 22 total touchdowns as a freshman … Lake also ran for 1,248 yards on 223 carries and caught 22 passes for 348 yards … Adam Wiese (2,484 passing yards, 23 TD, 10 INT) will provide senior leadership under center for the Knights … Wiese’s play steadied the most efficient pass offense (165.3) in the NAIA … Defensively, Marian ranked No. 1 in pass efficiency allowed (79.0), rushing defense (72.4 yards per game), total defense (208.9 yards per game) and scoring defense (7.4 points per game).
4. Georgetown (Ky.): 2011 Record: 12-1 … Conference finish: 1st … Starters returning/lost: 13/13 … The Tigers advanced to the semifinals of the 2011 Football Championship Series, falling 35-3 to national runner-up Carroll (Mont.) … Georgetown’s 17 appearances in the Football Championship Series tie former NAIA member Westminster (Pa.) for the most all-time, second only to Carroll’s 20 … Georgetown, which boasted the No. 6 scoring defense in the NAIA last season (14.2 points per game), welcomes back one of the nation’s top linebacker units headed by senior-to-be Zach Goebel and junior-to-be Brock Messina … Goebel, an AFCA First Team All-America selection, led the team with 78 tackles, including 6.5 for loss … Messina paced the team with 13 sacks, a figure that ranked third in the nation … Quarterback Neal Pawsat returns under center for his sophomore campaign after rating eighth nationally in pass efficiency (151.8) and 13th in passing yards per game (240.6), spurring the Tigers to 32.5 points per game (20th in the NAIA).
5. MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.): 2011 Record: 10-2 … Conference finish: T-1st … Making their fifth-consecutive trip to the Football Championship Series in 2011, the Pioneers defeated Southern Nazarene (Okla.), 40-28, in the first round prior to a 29-14 loss to eventual champ Saint Xavier (Ill.) in the quarterfinals … AFCA First Team All-American and four-time Heart of America Athletic First Team All-Conference tight end Juan Redmon (51 catches, 694 yards in 2011) departs … MidAmerica Nazarene will rely on all-conference returnees in quarterback Sean Ransburg (904 passing yards, 430 rushing yards, 15 total TDs), running back Greg Gates (1,107 career rush yards in two seasons), receiver Brett Houchen (31 catches, 413 yards), defensive lineman Demarco Kemp (8 career sacks in 25 games) and defensive back Dantren Anderson … The Pioneers, who ranked second nationally with 41 sacks in 2011, must also replace the nation’s sack leader in Brandon Smith (14 sacks in 2011) … MidAmerica Nazarene ranked eighth in both scoring offense (38.0 points per game) and total offense (421.2 yards per game) last season.
6. Saint Francis (Ind.): 2011 Record: 9-3 … Conference finish: 3rd … Starters returning/lost: 18/8 … In 2011, the Cougars qualified for the Football Championship Series for the 12th time in 13 years and advanced to the quarterfinals where they lost 26-14 to Georgetown (Ky.) … Saint Francis brings back 40 of 52 letterwinners, including star linebacker Brody Kalbaugh, who collected 122 tackles, two sacks and two interceptions in 12 games in 2011 … Tailback Antoine Campbell and receiver Austin Coleman, both Mid-States Football Association All-Conference performers last season, also return … Coleman led an offense that ranked ninth in the NAIA in scoring (37.5 points per game) and a kickoff return team that was second with a 27.4 average.
7. St. Francis (Ill.): 2011 Record: 10-3 … Conference finish: T-1st … Starters returning/lost: 17/9 … The Fighting Saints ended a 24-year Football Championship drought in 2011 and recorded their first FCS win with a 21-17 first-round victory over Morningside (Iowa) … St. Francis then lost 49-7 to Marian (Ind.) in the quarterfinals… The Fighting Saints will again count on electrifying junior-to-be quarterback E.J. White, the 2011 Mid-States Football Association Midwest Player of the Year … White (34 TD passes, 16 INTs, 2,457 passing yards) ranked fourth in the NAIA in total offense (3,341 yards), sixth in pass efficiency (154.3) and 28th in rushing yards (884) … Behind White, St. Francis finished fifth nationally in scoring offense (38.8) and fifth in total offense (449.2 yards per game).
8. Morningside (Iowa): 2011 Record: 9-2 … Conference finish: 1st … Starters returning/lost: 15/11 … The Mustangs made their eighth-straight and eighth overall appearance in the Football Championship Series in 2011 as they lost in the first round, 21-17, to St. Francis (Ill.) … Morningside captured the 2011 Great Plains Athletic Conference championship, losing only once during the regular season when it fell victim to Nebraska Wesleyan on Sept. 17 … AFCA First Team All-America defensive back Colby Henderson headlines a group of 67 returning letterwinners … Henderson, the GPAC Defensive Player of the Year, set a school record with 11 interceptions, while adding 50 tackles, six pass break ups and two blocked kicks … Henderson led a defensive unit that finished 10th in the NAIA in scoring defense (15.9 points per game) and 11th in total defense (271.5 yards per game) … First Team All-GPAC running back Fred Jones (1,157 rushing yards) also returns.
9. Missouri Valley: 2011 Record: 9-2 … Conference finish: T-1st … Starters returning/lost: 15/11 … Head coach Paul Troth improved his career mark to 115-51 in 15 seasons as he led the Vikings to their ninth Football Championship Series in school history in 2011 … Missouri Valley bowed out in the first round with a 28-14 defeat to Saint Francis (Ind.) … The Vikings must replace a pair of departing defensive stalwarts in defensive end Richard Wick, a two-time AFCA First Team All-American, and linebacker Adam Maher, a 2011 unanimous Heart of America Athletic All-Conference choice … Missouri Valley welcomes back first team all-league performers in offensive lineman Stephon Kelly and cornerback Tyler Davis (6 INTs in 2011) … Davis served as the key cog for a defensive backfield that ranked No. 1 nationally in pass yards allowed per game (132.0) and pass efficiency defense (79.0).
10. Ottawa (Kan.): 2011 Record: 9-3 … Conference finish: 1st … Starters returning/lost: 19/7 … The Braves’ sixth all-time appearance in the Football Championship Series in 2011 resulted in a first-round loss as they dropped a 49-26 decision to Azusa Pacific (Calif.) … Ottawa loses AFCA First Team All-America receiver Clarence Anderson (279 catches, 4,329 yards, 49 TDs in four-year career), but brings back do-everything senior-to-be wide out Shane Gimzo … Gimzo also saw time at quarterback and put up 585 receiving yards, 475 passing yards and 436 rushing yards as a virtual Swiss army knife … Senior-to-be defensive back Donald Anderson (53 tackles, 5 INTs, 25 pass break ups) is also back in the fold after a Kansas Collegiate Athletic First Team All-Conference season … The Braves ranked among the top 10 nationally in several statistical categories, including first in punt return average (20.5) and third in pass efficiency defense (81.8).
11. Benedictine (Kan.): 2011 Record: 9-3 … Conference finish: 3rd … Starters returning/lost: 16/10 … The Ravens returned to the Football Championship Series in 2011 for the first time since 2003 and suffered a 21-7 first-round loss to Georgetown (Ky.) … Head coach Larry Wilcox (229-126 career record) returns for his 33rd season at the helm of Benedictine … The Ravens, 22nd in the NAIA last season with 31.8 points per game, will again employ a potent set of skill players with the return of quarterback Bill Noonan and Heart of America Athletic Conference first teamers in running back Cameron Fore and receivers Geoff Akporn and Jordan Jackson.
12. Bethel (Tenn.): 2011 Record: 8-3 … Conference finish: 1st … Starters returning/lost: 19/7 … The Wildcats ventured back to the Football Championship Series in 2011 for just the third time in program history … Bethel was overmatched in the first round, 51-13, by eventual champ Saint Xavier (Ill.) … Five Mid-South All-Conference performers are back in 2012, including running back Cordarious Mann, who rushed for 1,045 yards and 11 touchdowns last season while earning AFCA First Team All-America honors for special teams … First-year head coach Chris Elliott will lean on senior-to-be quarterback Wilson Masoud, who racked up 1,788 passing yards and 21 total touchdowns (8 rushing) in 2011.
13. William Penn (Iowa): 2011 Record: 9-2 … Conference finish: 3rd … Starters returning/lost: 18/8 … The Statesmen will gun for their first Football Championship Series appearance since 1975 after narrowly missing out in 2011 … William Penn will again come after opponents with a powerful running game as it returns two-time 1,000-yard rushers each in quarterback Taylor Parsons (1,026 rushing yards and 13 TDs in 2011) and fullback Shawn Davis (957 rushing yards and 7 TDs) … The duo led a rushing attack that topped the nation in yards on the ground with 330.4 per game … On defense, safety Jacob Batterson, who has started every game in his two seasons, is back in the fold after leading the team with five interceptions last season.
14. Northwestern (Iowa): 2011 Record: 9-2 … Conference finish: T-2nd … Starters returning/lost: 21/5 … The Red Raiders missed out on the Football Championship Series but finished the season with eight-straight wins, including three over ranked teams … Northwestern led the Great Plains Athletic Conference in total offense (420.2 ypg) and defense (256.4 ypg), scoring offense (36.5 ppg), rush offense (222.5 ypg) and pass defense (156.6 ypg) … 2011 First Team All-American senior-to-be defensive lineman Jordan Carlson is back after making 70 stops last season, including 14.5 for loss … The Red Raiders welcome back two additional 2011 Great Plains Athletic All-Conference performers in running back Brandon Smith (2,792 rush yards and 34 TDs in career) and offensive lineman Nathan Nieuwendorp.
15. Valley City State (N.D.): 2011 Record: 9-2 … Conference finish: 1st … Starters returning/lost: 12/14 … The Vikings ended a 10-year absence at the Football Championship Series with their seventh appearance in school history in 2011 … Valley City State was drubbed 47-0 by Carroll (Mont.) in the first round to fall to 1-7 all-time in FCS action … Three of the Vikings’ seven 2011 First Team All-Association of Independent Institutions selections return, including quarterback Tommy Zinke (2,284 passing yards, 24 TDs, 10 INTs), tight end Ken Eliacin (35 catches, 516 yards, 7 TDs) and strong safety Jake Thurston (85 tackles, 4 sacks) … Thurston anchors a pass defense that ranked No. 4 in the NAIA last season in terms of yards per game (140.0) … Valley City State must replace A.I.I. Defensive MVP Jordan Maher, a disruptive defensive lineman who recorded 12 sacks last season.
16. Grand View (Iowa): 2011 Record: 8-4 … Conference finish: 1st … Starters returning/lost: 14/12 … The Vikings made their first appearance at the Football Championship Series in school history in 2011 and fell, 31-0, to Marian (Ind.) … Seven starters return for a defensive unit that ranked fifth nationally in total defense (245.0 ypg), seventh in rushing defense (91.0 ypg) and 11th in scoring defense (16.2 ppg) … Grand View loses four-year starting quarterback Greg Charles (1,908 passing yards, 17 TDs, 10 INTs in 2011) and AFCA First Team All-America offensive lineman Tyler Wells but welcomes back three Mid-States Football Association First Teamers, including last season’s team tackles leader in linebacker Jason Gladfelder (72 tackles).
17. Eastern Oregon: 2011 Record: 8-3 … Conference finish: 2nd … Starters returning/lost: 16/10 … The Mountaineers will renew their quest for their first Football Championship Series appearance as they get set for 2012, but they will have to do it without two of the school’s all-time greatest players … Departing quarterback Chris Ware broke 28 school records as he finished with 11,064 career passing yards and 109 touchdown passes … Also gone is running back Kevin Sampson, who set new school marks for rushing yards in a season (1,309 in 2010) and for a career (2,756) … A defense that ranked in the top 50 in total defense (360.2 ypg) returns the Frontier Conference’s leading tackler in linebacker Howard McDonald (108 tackles).
18. Doane (Neb.): 2011 Record: 8-2 … Conference finish: T-2nd … Starters returning/lost: 16/10 … The Tigers enter 2012 looking for their first Football Championship Series berth since 1999 … Doane says goodbye to key weapons in the passing game as quarterback Anthony Dunn, the school’s all-time passing leader with 7,716 yards, and receiver Jeremiah Saffold (51 catches, 875 yards, 10 TDs in 2011) depart … The Tigers, who climbed into the rankings in 2011 for the first time in nine years, will look to mammoth 325-pound offensive lineman and junior-to-be Dillon Carmichael (2011 First Team Great Plains Athletic All-Conference selection) and junior-to-be running back Alex Dose (Second Team Great Plains Athletic All-Conference), who ran for 609 yards last season, to carry the load.
19. Baker (Kan.): 2011 Record: 7-3 … Conference finish: 4th … Starters returning/lost: 21/5 … The Wildcats ended the 2011 season with four-straight wins and return 10 starters from an offense that ranked No. 11 in the nation in scoring at 35.7 points per game … Quarterback and senior-to-be Jake Morse will again serve as signal caller after throwing for 2,120 yards with a 17-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio in 2011 … Running back Scott Meyer, who ran for 656 yards in 2010, looks to fill the void left by John Babb, the Heart of America Athletic Conference’s leading rusher in 2011 … Baker led the nation in turnover margin (plus-25) and field goals per game (1.5) and ranked No. 1 in the HAAC in passing yards.
20. St. Ambrose (Iowa): 2011 Record: 7-3 … Conference finish: 4th … Starters returning/lost: 16/10 … Consecutive losses to end the 2011 season prevented the Bees from reaching the postseason for the first time since 2008 … Behind junior-to-be Cole Kelly’s Mid-States Football Association Midwest-leading 883 rushing yards and the play of senior-to-be and AFCA First Team All-America offensive lineman Carl Meister, St. Ambrose ranked 18th nationally in rushing with 190.8 yards per game … The Bee defense brings back defensive lineman Sean Santiago (5.5 tackles for loss) from a unit that last season ranked No. 5 in the NAIA in scoring defense (13.7 ppg), 11th in pass efficiency defense (98.8), 12th in pass defense (149.4 ypg) and 27th in total defense (304.9 ypg).
21. Langston (Okla.): 2011 Record: 7-3 … Conference finish: T-1st … Starters returning/lost: 14/9 … The Lions bring back 38 letterwinners from a squad that tied for the Central States Football League title in 2011 … The biggest void is left by the departure of running back Carlos Ross, a four-time First Team All-Central States Football League selection, who is the school’s all-time leading rusher with 3,590 yards … Langston will lean on returning first team all-conference offensive linemen Kendrick Rice and Shaquille Roberson to pave the wave for a rushing attack that ranked 25th in the nation last season (167 ypg).
22. Cumberlands (Ky.): 2011 Record: 7-3 … Conference finish: 2nd … Starters returning/lost: 20/6 … The Patriots fell short of the Football Championship Series in 2011 for the first time in the last five years, but finished the season with five-straight wins … Cumberlands returns the bulk of its 2011 roster (50 of 62 letterwinners), including First Team All-Mid-South Conference performers in receiver Willie Gibson (37 catches, 637 yards, 8 TDs), offensive lineman Colby Hitchcock and defensive back Brendan Kelly (6 PBUs, 4 INTs) … Junior-to-be Terrence Cobb (904 rush yards in ’11) led a backfield that ranked fourth in the NAIA in rushing (249.6).
23. Cumberland (Tenn.): 2011 Record: 7-3 … Conference finish: T-2nd … Starters returning/lost: 19/7 … The Bulldogs rose as high as No. 14 in the polls in 2011 after a 7-1 start to the season, but lost their final two games … Versatile junior-to-be running back/receiver James McClain (398 rush yards, 645 receiving yards, 561 return yards) heads a return game that rated amongst the nation’s best in 2011 … Sophomore-to-be quarterback Reed Gurchiek (31st in the NAIA with a 124.8 pass efficiency rating) directs an offense that averaged 31.1 points per game last season (24th in the NAIA).
24. Bethany (Kan.): 2011 Record: 8-3 … Conference finish: 3rd … Starters returning/lost: 15/11 … The Swedes raced out to a 5-0 start and No. 14 national ranking before finishing at 8-3 … Bethany welcomes back senior-to-be running back Junior Allen (2,836 rush yards in two seasons at Bethany), who led the nation in all-purpose yards per game (170.9) and was second in rushing (1,404 yards) in 2011 … Quarterback Darby House also returns for his senior season after throwing for 2,475 yards and 21 touchdowns last season.
25. Lindsey Wilson (Ky.): 2011 Record: 7-3 … Conference finish: T-2nd … Starters returning/lost: 25/1 … No team in the nation returns more starters than the 25 the Blue Raiders have back in the fold in 2012, the program’s third season sponsoring a varsity program … Lindsey Wilson welcomes back three Mid-South Conference East Division first-teamers in quarterback Branden Cresap (2,752 passing yards, 21 TDs), receiver Chaz Barnes (33 catches, 559 yards, 8 TDs) and offensive lineman Jon Smith … Cesap leads a passing game that was fifth in the nation last season with 285.8 yards per game.