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Coaches tab Duquesne second, Robert Morris third in 2011 NEC preseason poll

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Five Colonials, four Dukes earn spots on 2011 All-NEC preseason team

Duquesne University has been picked to finish second in the Northeast Conference Football League, according to a preseason poll of the league’s nine head coaches released today. Robert Morris has been picked to finish third.

Central Connecticut State, which finished tied with Robert Morris for first place in the conference last season, was tabbed as the preseason favorite with five first place votes. Duquesne, which won four of its final five games to finish third in the league in 2010, received two first place votes. The Dukes were followed by defending champion Robert Morris (one first place vote), Albany, Bryant (one first place vote), Monmouth, Wagner, Sacred Heart and Saint Francis.

Duquesne head coach Jerry Schmitt, now in his seventh year, returns 14 starters, including eight on offense, from last year’s 7-4, 5-3 (NEC) team.

“Its an honor to be voted there [second]; we appreciate that,” said Schmitt. “But we respect the conference. Its such an outstanding conference. You can only take preseason polls for what they’re worth. We have to play all our games, play every game and get our focus on going after each game each week, play by play. We appreciate it, but we’re going to get to work on Sunday and focus on what we have to do and continue our progression over the past three years.”

Robert Morris—who earned the NEC's inaugural bid to the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) Playoffs in 2010 thanks to a 42-24 head-to-head victory over CCSU at Joe Walton Stadium—returns nine starters in 2011, including six on offense.

The Colonials enter the 2011 season having posted a record of 13-3 (.813) in their last 16 games dating back to the 2009 campaign, including a record of 12-1 (.923) against league foes over that span.

"Every year is a challenge, especially in the Northeast Conference," head coach Joe Walton said. "We had a group of players that came together last season to do something special, but this group has to form its own identity, and that starts in the locker room. The great thing is we have a group of returning players that have gone through the experience of what it takes to be a championship team, and how we come together and who steps up as leaders will ultimately determine how successful we'll be."

Duquesne, which is entering its fourth season as an associate football-only playing member of the NEC,  is coming off its best season in league play. The Dukes’ five wins were one more than they had in their first two NEC seasons combined: DU went 2-5 (6th) in the NEC in 2008 and 2-6 (t7th) in 2009.

A quartet of Dukes - senior offensive lineman Ron Dunn (Abington, Mass./Milford (N.Y.) Academy), junior running back Larry McCoy (Wytheville, Va./George Wythe), senior defensive lineman Alex Inda (San Fernando, Calif./St. Genevieve) and junior defensive back Serge Kona (Gaithersburg, Md./Gaithersburg) - were named to the NEC Football Preseason All-Conference Team.

Five Colonials were named to the 2011 All-NEC Preseason Team, including Jeff Sinclair (Natrona Heights, Pa. / Highlands). The 6'3", 190-pound junior signal caller tied an RMU single-season record for touchdown passes in 2010 with 22, finishing 128-for-257 (49.8 percent) passing for 1,920 yards. Sinclair enters the 2011 season with a record of 13-5 (.722) as RMU's starting quarterback.

Joining Sinclair on the 2011 All-NEC Preseason Team are senior tight end Shadrae King (McKeesport, Pa. / McKeesport), senior offensive lineman Logan Miles (Scottdale, Pa. / Southmoreland), junior defensive lineman Nolan Nearhoof (Gibsonia, Pa. / Mars Area) and senior return specialist Anthony Coleman (Cheltenham, Md. / St. John's College High School).

The Colonials will open the 2011 season Saturday, Sept. 3, with a noon tilt against Dayton at Joe Walton Stadium. Duquesne kicks off the 2010 season at Bucknell at 6:00 p.m. on Sept. 3.

2011 NEC Football Preseason Coaches Poll
(first-place votes in parenthesis)
1. Central Connecticut State (5)
2. Duquesne (2)
3. Robert Morris (1)
4. Albany
5. Bryant (1)
6. Monmouth
7. Wagner
8. Sacred Heart
9. Saint Francis

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