The Savage Storm are coming off three consecutive winning seasons. And the coaches in the Great American Conference have placed them in the upper half of the preseason poll.
Southeastern was tabbed fifth in the 2017 version of the GAC preseason coaches’ poll.
The Savage Storm went 7-4, but must replace Ronnie Green, who in 2016 set the league’s single-season rushing record and Devlon Wortham, who finished as the GAC’s all-time leading rusher. Southeastern must also replace Raheem Wilson, a First-Team All-American defensive back.
In one of the tightest votes prior to a football season, there was no clear-cut favorite.
Southern Arkansas, who earned five first-place votes, bring back 12 2016 All-GAC performers. Quarterback Barrett Renner, running back Michael Nunnery and tight end Tanner Hudson all earned All-GAC Second Team honors. Renner registered his second consecutive 3,000-yard season and threw for 27 touchdowns. Nunnery rushed for 1,110 yards and 12 touchdowns while Hudson caught 48 passes for 763 yards and nine TDs.
Harding, league champions in 2016, also garnered five first-place votes to place second in the poll. The Bisons rolled through the 2016 regular season with an unblemished record then became the first GAC program to advance to the quarterfinals of the Division II playoffs to finish 13-1 and with the most wins ever by a collegiate team in Arkansas. They return 11 starters, including eight on offense.
Henderson State picked up the final two first-place votes and took third in the voting. The Reddies bring back their two quarterbacks, Andrew Black and Evan Lassiter, who combined for 3,249 yards and 21 touchdowns. Jeremy Wilson tallied 10 rushing touchdowns as a freshman.
Southeastern fell behind Ouachita in the rankings and edged Arkansas Tech.
Southwestern is seventh in the poll and the Bulldogs return Karltrell Henderson, who has rushed for 28 touchdowns in his first two seasons with SWOSU, including 17 last year. Northwestern came in ninth, behind Arkansas-Monticello, and bring back Horatio Smith, who caught nine touchdown receptions and totaled a GAC-leading 1,495 all-purpose yards.
East Central, Oklahoma Baptist and Southern Nazarene rounded out the poll.