Somerset, N.J. - With six first-place votes, UAlbany was chosen to repeat as Northeast Conference Champions, as announced by the NEC office during the 2012 Preseason Teleconference on Thursday, August 2. The Great Danes, who made their first-ever appearance in the NCAA FCS Playoffs last season, earned their first preseason number one ranking since 2009. In addition to the preseason team rankings, UAlbany placed six players on the All-NEC Preseason Team, led by wide receiver Ryan Kirchner and punter Paul Layton.
"It means that [the other coaches] think we have enough talent to repeat," offered UAlbany head coach Bob Ford, who is entering his 40th varsity season at the helm of the Great Dane program. "We have a tough conference because any team can beat you any given weekend."
UAlbany was followed by Duquesne and Bryant. The Bulldogs are in their first season of FCS playoff eligibility after joining the NEC three seasons ago. Central Connecticut finished fourth in the preseason rankings, followed by Monmouth and Robert Morris. Wagner, Sacred Heart and Saint Francis (Pa.) rounded out the nine-team poll.
"If you look at the NEC non-conference schedule compared to five years ago, it is vastly different," said Ford, who is the active wins leader at the Division I level with 246 career victories. "Everyone is playing up. Many of our teams have gotten better. We are increasing scholarships and you can see we are putting a better product on the field. Not just with the starters, but with second string players as well."
Layton and Kirchner were repeat preseason all-conference picks, as both earned the distinction last season as well. Both were recently named to the National Football Performance Awards Watch Lists at their respective positions, along with fellow preseason all-NEC honoree Kadeem Williams, an offensive lineman. Three student-athletes from the defensive side of the ball earned preseason all-conference distinction, led by linebackers Jon Morgan and Kyle Jordan. Cornerback Leon Saddler joined his teammates as a preseason selection as well.
UAlbany will kick off practice for the 2012 season on Monday, Aug. 6. The Great Danes will open up the season at home for the first time in seven years, hosting Colgate of the Patriot League on Sept. 1, 2012.