BRIDGEPORT – The Shepherd Rams have been picked to win a fourth-straight Mountain East Conference football title after a vote conducted by the league’s coaches. Shepherd received 94 points and was picked to finish first on six of the 11 ballots.
The Rams went 10-1 last year and made a third-straight appearance in the NCAA Playoffs. Head coach Ernie McCook, who replaces the legendary Monte Cater, will lead Shepherd in 2018. SU will have to replace the MEC Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year from last year, but still returns several key playmakers including wideout Ryan Feiss (95 receptions, 1,391 yards, 9 TDs), Chrys Lane (33 tackles, 5 TFL) and DeJuan Neal (30 tackles, 2 interceptions).
Fairmont State was picked to finish second earning 88 points and receiving three first-place votes. Notre Dame was third by just a point with 87 points and also receiving a first-place vote.
Both teams carried postseason hopes until the final week of the regular season in 2017, but finished just outside of the playoff picture.
Fairmont State brings back nine starters on offense and seven more on defense as it looks to make a push for a conference championship. Notre Dame graduated productive quarterback Malik Grove, but running back D.J. Greene and wideout Marvelle Ross provide playmaking ability behind the steady offensive line led by Michael Kyle and Austin Treneff.
The University of Charleston was slotted fourth with 63 points and earning the remaining first-place vote, followed closely by West Virginia State with 61 points. West Liberty was sixth with 45 points, just ahead of UVa-Wise (44) and West Virginia Wesleyan (42). Glenville State (35), Urbana (34) and Concord rounded out the poll.
The 2018 season begins with three games on Thursday, Aug. 31: West Liberty at Urbana, Glenville State at UVa-Wise and West Virginia State at Charleston. The first week of the regular season concludes on Saturday, Sept. 1, with Shepherd at Notre Dame and Concord at West Virginia Wesleyan.
2018 MEC Preseason Poll
1. Shepherd (6) — 94
2. Fairmont State (3) — 88
3. Notre Dame (1) — 87
4. Charleston (1) — 63
5. West Virginia State — 61
6. West Liberty — 45
7. UVa-Wise — 44
8. West Virginia Wesleyan — 42
9. Glenville State — 35
10. Urbana — 34
11. Concord — 12
() indicates first-place votes
* Coaches not able to vote for own team