ROCK HILL, S.C. – Nine Carson-Newman football players have earned preseason All-South Atlantic Conference honors. The Eagles placed four offensive players on the first team and five – two offensive, three defensive – on the second team.
Only defending SAC champion Lenoir-Rhyne had more selections (11, including five on the first team).
Last season, Carson-Newman had eight preseason all-conference selections, including three first teamers.
Running back Brandon Baker (Miami, Fla.), offensive linemen Alex Taylor (Bristol, Tenn.) and Robby Ignagni (Gallatin, Tenn.), as well as kicker Curt Duncan (Morristown, Tenn.) all made the first team.
Running back Tyron Douglas (Clover, S.C.), offensive lineman Lucas Mathis (Greenwood, S.C.), safety Sean Rawson (Cape Coral, Fla.), linebacker Jaycob Coleman (Norton, Va.) and defensive lineman Javaris Neal (Columbia, Tenn.) are all second team picks.
"It's a great group of kids we get to talk about," Carson-Newman head football coach Ken Sparks said. "I can't wait to see what the Lord has in store for them this year."
Brandon Baker: Baker is a preseason All-American on the Don Hansen team. Last year he earned fist-team all-conference, all-region and all-America honors from the Don Hansen team in his junior season.
"He became our go to guy as a dependable person when the chips were down," Sparks said. "He's really worked to improve himself and we're really proud of his progress."
A two-time SAC offensive player of the week. Baker's 1,468-yard rushing season marked the third best year for an Eagle on the ground in Carson-Newman history. Only Buck Wakefield (1,515 yards in 2009) and Kenneth Tyson (1,867 yards in 1987) rank in front of Baker's season. He finished the year with 122 yards per game – tops in the SAC and 17th best nationally. Baker's 8.25 yards a carry were the best in the nation for anyone with more than 100 carries in 2012. He's also the first C-N back this century to rush for more than eight yards a carry with more than 100 carries in a season.
Baker finished the year with four straight games with more than 140 yards on the ground. The junior has 2,452 yards for his career – 1,704 away from Robert Thomas' (1988-1991) career record of 4,156. Baker finished the season with 13 touchdowns. He rushed for a career high 219 yards and three scores in the Eagles' opener against Glenville State (8/30).
Carson-Newman was 7-1 in games in which he rushed for 100 yards. Came within a touchdown of the single game scoring record with four rushing touchdowns against Tusculum (11/3). Rushed for 104 yards against L-R (9/15), 121 versus Catawba (10/6), 102 at UNCP (10/20), 185 at Tusculum (11/3), 190 in the regular season finale versus Mars Hill (11/10), 145 against L-R in the second round of the playoffs (11/24) and 155 in the quarterfinals against Valdosta State (12/1). Caught is first career pass for 18 yards against Tusculum. Baker only fumbled once on 178 carries.
Alex Taylor: Taylor starts out 2013 much like he started 2012, as a first team preseason All-SAC pick at right tackle. Taylor earned postseason second team all-conference honors last year. He started all 12 games at right tackle and has started 34 consecutive games - most among all C-N players.
"He's learned to finish and be consistent," Sparks said. "He's just a strong, intelligent football player that's in the position to make some things happen for us."
In each season of his C-N career, has helped clear the way for a rushing attack that has ranked top five in the nation, including the 2012 iteration which outrushed everyone at all levels with the exception of Georgia Southern to the tune of 378 yards a game. Taylor helped account for a nation-best 52 rushing touchdowns, tops among all levels of collegiate football.
Robby Ignagni: With Taylor, forms a formidable right side of the Eagles' offensive line. A newcomer to the preseason all-conference team, Ignagni started all 12 games for the Eagles last season after making the switch from defensive tackle.
"There's no question that he's the most improved football player since he's gotten here," Sparks said. "Arguably, he's one of our best interior players."
Curt Duncan: Duncan starts 2013 as a preseason BSN All-American and a member of the Fred Mitchell Award Watch List for the nation's best kicker among the lower divisions. A first team all-SAC and all-region selection and four-time SAC player of the Week in 2012, Duncan was tops for Carson-Newman in scoring, leading the team with 102 points – the most points scored in a season by a kicker in school history.
"He's the campus ping pong champ, he plays on the tennis team, he was All-Africa in field hockey," Sparks said. "He's a cultural changer who is going to make a difference in this world."
Duncan broke a 14-year-old record set in 1998 by Ryan Fleming, who scored 92 points in that season. He connected on 14 of his 15 field goals and all 60 of his extra points. The 54-yard field goal he blasted against Tusculum (11/3) as time expired in the first half was the longest in school history.
He also became the first C-N kicker to make four field goals in a game (a school record) for the first time since 1984 – he accomplished that feat twice this year, against Lenoir-Rhyne (9/15) and in the quarterfinals of the DII playoffs against Valdosta State (12/1).
Duncan set the single game scoring record for a kicker against L-R with 17 points (four field goals, five extra points). Included in that scoring was C-N's first 50-yard field goal in 15 years. The 17 points also matched his father Alan's school record which he set for the University of Tennessee in a win over Kentucky in 1978 (the elder Duncan did it with five field goals and two extra points).
Duncan was 6-6 on field goals within 29 yards, 3-4 from 30-39 yards out, 3-3 from 40-49 yards out and 2-2 on field goals beyond 50 yards. In handling kickoff duties for the Eagles, he nailed 26 touchbacks while only pushing one kick out of bounds. Duncan pinned opponents to an average start of their own 25 yard line. He was also third on team in special teams stops with eight.
Tyron Douglas: A second team All-SAC selection who started six of 11 games at tailback for the Eagles. Douglas finished the year as C-N's third leading rusher with 812 yards on 142 carries. He scored 10 touchdowns and averaged 5.7 yards a carry and 73.8 yards a game.
"He's had his ups and downs. He's struggled with mistakes in his past," Sparks said. "But I believe he's turned the corner and will be a better player and person because of it. He's not one I'd want to tackle, that's for sure. He's a tough rascal."
Douglas turned in three 100-yard rushing performances. He rushed for 117 yards on 19 carries and two scores against UNCP (10/20) before turning in back-to-back 100 yard games to finish the season. He had a season high 130 yards on a season high 27 carries in the playoff meeting with Lenoir-Rhyne (11/24) before gaining 124 yards on 14 carries in the quarterfinal meeting with Valdosta State (12/1).
Douglas scored a hat trick in the Eagles' playoff clinching win over Mars Hill.
Lucas Mathis: The third of Mike Turner's offensive lineman to merit preseason All-SAC honors in 2013. He started all 12 games last year for C-N at left guard. He ranks second on the team in consecutive starts with 23 – only behind Taylor's 34.
"Last year, I wanted to shoot him because of his leadership," Sparks said. "This year I want to kiss him because of his leadership. He's really come along."
Sean Rawson: Rawson was Carson-Newman's leader in interceptions from a year ago with three. He tied for fourth on the team in tackles with 40. He won the coaches award for Most Improved at the annual Carson-Newman athletic banquet.
"He brings so much to the table as a person," Sparks said. "He's multi-gifted. He'll have to recover from shoulder surgery. Regardless, he needs to improve on his tackling."
Rawson started nine and played in 11 of the Eagles games. He made a career high eight tackles twice, against Brevard (10/27) and Lenoir-Rhyne (11/24) in the playoffs. Had five solo tackles in each of those instances.
Rawson turned in five tackle performances against Valdosta State (12/1) and North Greenville (10/13). Snagged interceptions against Catawba (10/6), Brevard and Tusculum (11/3) and returned them a combined 49 yards. His INT against Brevard stopped a late Tornado first half drive that would have given Brevard the lead.
Jaycob Coleman: Last year, Coleman was Carson-Newman's fourth leading tackler in spite of going down with a shoulder injury against North Greenville. He finished the year with 40 tackles, including five for a loss with a sack. He Returned two fumbles for 61 yards and forced another fumble.
"He's not big enough, he's not fast enough, but he just goes out there and makes plays," Sparks said. "Those are the kind of guys that you love to coach. He's grown tremendously too."
Coleman notched a career high 11 tackles in a road loss to Newberry (9/22). Had a then career high nine tackles in the opener against Glenville State (8/30). Followed that up with eight stops, including seven solo tackles, against Lenoir-Rhyne (9/15).
Returned a fumble 61 yards for a score against Glenville State, also recovered a fumble against Newberry (9/22). Made a career high two tackles for loss before his injury against the Crusaders. Registered a tackle for loss in every game in which he played with the exception of the Catawba game.
Javaris Neal: Neal was the SAC's 2012 Defensive Freshman of the Year. He ranked as the Eagles' leading tackler among linemen and seventh on the team overall with 39 takedowns. Neal ranked second in tackles for loss with seven.
"He's got a ton of ability," Sparks said. "Every once and a while he'll take two steps forward and one back. But he's another that's starting to turn the corner."
Neal opened the year with a six tackle day against Glenville State (8/30) and closed it with a six tackle day versus Valdosta State (12/1). Both games he had four solo tackles and two assists. Set his career high for tackles with seven against Brevard (10/27). Had a career high and C-N best three tackles for loss against the Tornados. Neal forced and recovered his only fumbles in the playoffs. He picked one up against Lenoir-Rhyne (11/24) and forced one against Valdosta State.
FIRST TEAM OFFENSE
QB - Bo Cordell, Tusculum &
RB - Brandon Baker, Carson-Newman *#
RB - Jarrod Spears, Lenoir-Rhyne *
RB - Shaikel Davis, Mars Hill *
WR - Dimitri Holmes, Mars Hill *%
WR - Corey Washington, Newberry *
WR - Duenta Jennings, Mars Hill ^
TE - Mark Clyburn, Wingate ^
OL - Nick Allison, Mars Hill *%
OL - Alex Taylor, Carson-Newman ^%
OL - Andrew Valazquez, Brevard ^
OL - Parker Murray, Lenoir-Rhyne ^
OL - Robby Ignagni, Carson-Newman
PK - Curt Duncan, Carson-Newman *
RS - LJ McCray, Catawba *&
SECOND TEAM OFFENSE
QB - W.T. Murden, Newberry
RB - Isaiah Whitaker, Lenoir-Rhyne ^%
RB - Tyrone Douglas, Carson-Newman ^
RB - Graham Duncan, Lenoir-Rhyne
WR - Nate Charest, Catawba
WR - Jason Livinstone, Newberry
WR - Justin Houston, Tusculum
TE - Wesley Powell, Tusculum
OL - Lucas Mathis, Carson-Newman
OL - Zach Bunn, Lenoir-Rhyne
OL - Jamal Ellis, Newberry
OL - David Davis, Tusculum
OL - Mike Miller, Wingate
PK - Zach Neumann, Lenoir-Rhyne ^
RS - Michael Green, Lenoir-Rhyne ^%
FIRST TEAM DEFENSE
DL - Troy Harris, Mars Hill *
DL - Jacob Hanes, Catawba ^
DL - Letavious Williams, Newberry ^
DL - Nick Napolitano, Wingate ^
LB - Tanner Botts, Lenoir-Rhyne *
LB - Michael Gruber, Brevard *
LB - Brian Alexander, Tusculum ^
LB - Jasper Mason, Mars Hill
DB - Michael Green, Lenoir-Rhyne *$
DB - Myer Nolan, Lenoir-Rhyne *
DB - Timmy Rogers, Wingate ^
DB - LJ McCray, Catawba *
LS - Austin Crook, Newberry
P - Chad Hollandsworth, Catawba
SECOND TEAM DEFENSE
DL - Damien Lee, Catawba ^
DL - Javaris Neal, Carson-Newman
DL - B.J. Woodley, Lenoir-Rhyne
DL - Rommie Fairchild, Brevard
LB - Jaycob Coleman, Carson-Newman
LB - Jason Taylor, Catawba
LB – BJ Mazyck, Newberry
LB - Billy Muscatello, Brevard
DB - Sean Rawson, Carson-Newman
DB - David Davis, Newberry
DB - Kaytron Becton, Tusculum
DB - Jakeem Polk, Wingate
LS - Chase Lewis, Brevard
P – Austin Anthony, Wingate
* 2012 All-SAC First Team
^ 2012 All-SAC Second Team
$ 2011 All-SAC First Team
% 2011 All-SAC Second Team
& 2010 All-SAC First Team
# 2010 All-SAC Second Team