There are 12 games on the Gardner-Webb football schedule this season, and Runnin’ Bulldogs’ junior linebacker Darien Reynolds says his team can win any or all of them.
But there’s one game Reynolds really wants to talk about.
“That opener,” he says, his face breaking into a smile. “I can’t tell you how pumped up I am for that game. We all are.”
That opener is Aug. 29, in Charlotte against the 49ers. And it means Reynolds will be playing just a few miles from home, a short distance from where he earned all-conference honors and a Shrine Bowl invitation at Vance High.
“The idea of playing a game in University City, where I grew up … I can’t wait,” Reynolds says.
Reynolds was among coaches and players who gathered Tuesday in Charlotte for the annual Big South media day. A 6-foot, 224-pounder, Reynolds was named preseason all-conference.
Gardner-Webb was picked by a panel of coaches and media to finish fifth in the Big South this season. Two-time defending champion Kennesaw State, which reached the FCS playoff semifinals last season, is the preseason favorite.
Reynolds says there’s a buzz around this football season at Gardner-Webb, with a more experienced team and left-over excitement from the Bulldogs’ run to the NCAA basketball tournament last spring.
“Our soccer team had a very good season, and then came the excitement from basketball,” said Reynolds, a second-team all-Big South selection a year ago with 75 tackles, 1.5 sacks, an interception and two fumble recoveries. “Now everyone is looking at us, to see what we can do.”
Carroll McCray, in his seventh year as head coach at Gardner-Webb, echoed the senitment: “Our football players are close to the basketball players. We saw what happened in basketball. Why not us?”
All-conference: Monmouth senior quarterback Kenji Bahar was voted preseason offensive player of the year, and Kennesaw State junior linebacker Bryson Armstrong was picked tops on defense.
Kennesaw State had eight players named to the preseason all-conference team. Campbell (seven) and Monmouth (six) were close behind. Charleston Southern and Gardner-Webb each had three, Presbyterian had two and Hampton and North Alabama had one apiece.
Steve Lyttle on Twitter: @slyttle