Football

Pioneer League Preview: Davidson WR among top players

Davidson senior wide receiver William Morris (89) is a preseason All-American who already holds lots of career receiving records for the Wildcats. He caught 98 passes for 1,224 yards in 2014 – both single season records.
Davidson senior wide receiver William Morris (89) is a preseason All-American who already holds lots of career receiving records for the Wildcats. He caught 98 passes for 1,224 yards in 2014 – both single season records. jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com

FAVORITE

San Diego: For the fourth straight season, PFL coaches pick the Toreros to finish first. San Diego has 13 starters back from last year’s 9-3 league championship team. An experienced offensive line anchors an explosive offense.

TOP CONTENDERS

Dayton: The Flyers (8-3 in 2014) are the league’s historically dominant team, winning 11 of the 23 all-time PFL titles. They haven’t won one since 2010, but a stout defense usually keeps Dayton in the conversation. That’s the case this season.

Drake: The Bulldogs finished 7-4 last season and were the stingiest team in the PFL at giving up yardage (318 a game). They finished third in both rush and pass defense last season and should be as good this season.

FIVE TO WATCH

William Morris, Davidson, WR, SR (6-2, 178). Preseason All-American already holds lots of career receiving records for the Wildcats and caught 98 passes for 1,224 yards in 2014 – both single season records.

Connor Kaczor, Dayton, RB, SR (6-0, 211). One of only five 1,500-yard rushers from 2014 returning on FCS teams this fall. (1,547 yards and 17 touchdowns). Last year’s PFL Offensive Player of the Year.

Donald Payne, Stetson, S, JR (6-1, 217). Preseason All-American and last year’s PFL Defensive Player of the Year. Tied an FCS single-game record with 30 tackles last season against Campbell.

Kade Bell, Jacksonville, QB, SR (6-1, 185). The son of Dolphins’ head coach Kerwin Bell, he threw for 3,181 yards and 31 touchdowns last season. He led the PFL in passing efficiency rating.

Ugonna Awuruonye, Campbell, DL, SR (6-5, 260). Former Charlotte prep standout (First Assembly Christian) is a first team All-PFL defensive team pick in preseason. Last year’s stats included 68 tackles, including 12 for loss, and eight quarterback sacks.

DON’T MISS THIS GAME

Oct. 10: San Diego at Dayton. Flyers get the home field advantage this year in the matchup of the top two teams in the PFL preseason poll. Dayton won 45-38 in double overtime the last time the two teams played here.

OUTLOOK

The Pioneer League is an interesting assortment of college football programs from all across the U.S. Playing styles and approach to the game vary widely. The only thing that’s predictable is that results can be unpredictable from week to week. But once again, San Diego seems to be the team to beat.

Keith Cannon

Previewing college football

Conferences that include schools from the Carolinas:

Pioneer

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