July 1, 2013
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - You don't have to look far to find the talent in the Football Championship Subdivision.
The Sports Network FCS Preseason All-America Team, released Monday, is 98 players deep and comes from 59 different schools and all 13 conferences, highlighted by a third team distinction for junior wide receiver Sam Hoekstra.
It's a standout three teams that feature running backs, offensive linemen and, well, two-time defending FCS champion North Dakota State.
Eleven players on the preseason first team were selected to the 2012 FCS All- America first team which was announced last December. Another 24 from the second and third teams are back as well, marking the second straight year in which 35 players returned to the following season's preseason team.
Returning to the first-team offense are South Dakota State junior running back Zach Zenner, Eastern Illinois senior wide receiver Erik Lora, Tennessee State junior tight end A.C. Leonard, three offensive linemen - Stony Brook's Michael Bamiro, North Dakota State's Billy Turner and South Dakota State's Bryan Witzmann, all seniors - and Murray State senior all-purpose standout Walter Powell.
Back to the first-team defense are Illinois State senior defensive end Colton Underwood, North Dakota State senior cornerback Marcus Williams, Samford junior safety Jaquiski Tartt and Northern Arizona senior punter Andy Wilder.
Williams, who leads all returning FCS players with 18 career interceptions, has been a first-team All-American in each of the last two seasons. He will try to help North Dakota State win a third straight national title, which only the 2005-07 Appalachian State squads have accomplished on the FCS level.
Williams, Turner and senior linebacker Grant Olson give NDSU a national-best three first-teamers on the preseason squad. Senior punt returner Ryan Smith is on the second team and senior defensive tackle Leevon Perry is on the third team, and the five overall also give the Bison the national high.
"These five players - Marcus, Billy, Grant, Ryan and Leevon - have not only played but have started in a lot of football games for North Dakota State during their careers," coach Craig Bohl said. "Not only are these young men outstanding players, but they are excellent teammates. All five of these young men put the team first in everything they do. That's why they have been successful as individual players, but, more importantly, it's why North Dakota State has been successful as a football program."
The Missouri Valley Football Conference, home to North Dakota State, features many of the nation's top players. The conference's nine selections on the first team and 17 overall lead the way.
The Big Sky and Southern conferences both have 15 selections and CAA Football follows with 14. Next up are the Ohio Valley Conference with eight and the Southland Conference seven.
Running back is such a deep position this season that three made the preseason first team. Zenner led the FCS with 2,044 rushing yards last season, Indiana State senior Shakir Bell was the 2011 national rushing champion and a first- team All-American, and Sam Houston State senior Timothy Flanders is closing in on becoming the Southland Conference's all-time leading rusher and made the All-America second team in 2011 and the third team last season.
The trio would have the right blockers on the offensive line as Bamiro (6- foot-8, 345 pounds), Turner (6-6, 300) and Witzmann (6-7, 300) form a mountainous group with Montana senior tackle Danny Kistler (6-8, 315) and Youngstown State senior center Chris Elkins (6-4, 290).
The first-team quarterback, Montana State senior DeNarius McGhee, already is a three-time finalist for the Walter Payton Award and leads all active players in total yards (10,017).
Rounding out the first-team offense are Georgia Southern junior fullback Dominique Swope, Appalachian State sophomore wide receiver Sean Price, Southern Utah senior place-kicker Colton Cook and Samford senior kickoff returner Fabian Truss.
Linebacker is always a deep position on the FCS level. In addition to Olson, who had 29 tackles in North Dakota State's playoff win over Wofford last season, the first-team selections are three other seniors, Duquesne's Dorian Bell, James Madison's Stephon Robertson and Montana's Jordan Tripp.
Up front are Underwood and fellow defensive end Davis Tull of Chattanooga, who was the Southern Conference's co-defensive player of the year as a sophomore last season, and senior tackles Antoine Lewis of Villanova and Caraun Reid of Princeton.
Tennessee State cornerback Steven Goldbolt and Missouri State safety Caleb Schaffitzel join Williams and Tartt in the secondary. The other first-teamers are Wilder, Liberty senior long snapper Richard Wright and North Carolina A&T senior punt returner D'Vonte Graham.
The full preseason All-America team can be found at http://tinyurl.com/pwhzraf.