CHARLESTON, S.C. – The Citadel football team was picked second in the 2016 Southern Conference Preseason Poll balloting by the conference’s coaches and media, it was announced Wednesday.
The defending Southern Conference co-champions garnered 52 points and one first-place vote in the coaches poll and 208 points with two first-place votes in the media poll for their highest position in the preseason polls since being picked second in 1982. Last season, with head coach Brent Thompson as the Bulldogs’ offensive coordinator, The Citadel finished 9-4 overall with a 6-1 mark in conference play to earn the program’s first conference title since 1992. The Bulldogs ended the regular season with a 23-22 win at South Carolina and won a road playoff game for the first time in school history with a 41-38 triumph at Coastal Carolina.
Seven Bulldogs were selected to the preseason All-Southern Conference teams, including four on the first team. Senior linebackers Joe Crochet and Tevin Floyd, returning All-American defensive back Dee Delaney and junior offensive lineman Isaiah Pinson earned first-team acclaim, while 2015 All-American B-Back Tyler Renew, senior offensive lineman Ryan Bednar and senior defensive back Malik Diggs received second-team recognition.
Crochet started all 13 games last season and recorded 44 tackles, including 6.0 for loss with 3.0 sacks, four pass breakups, two quarterback hurries, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble. He tied for first in the SoCon and for 26th in FCS with two fumble recoveries and ranked sixth in the conference with 3.0 sacks in conference play. Crochet was named a first-team Academic All-American, the first Bulldog to earn first-team honors since 1989. The Stone Mountain, Georgia, native collected a career-high seven tackles, including 0.5 for loss, with one forced fumble in the second round of the FCS Playoffs.
Floyd has started 26 consecutive games, including every game in 2014 and 2015, and was named the Bulldogs’ Defensive MVP and second-team All-Southern Conference last season. The Tallahassee, Florida, native recorded 91 tackles, including 8.5 for loss with 2.0 sacks, three interceptions, two interception return touchdowns, two forced fumbles, two pass breakups, one fumble recovery and one quarterback hurry. He tied for first in FCS in interception return touchdowns, ranked first in the SoCon and third in FCS with 132 interception return yards and was third in the conference in interceptions. He was the SoCon Defensive Player of the Month in November and was one of two in the conference to earn multiple SoCon Defensive Player of the Week honors.
Delaney started all 13 games at cornerback in 2015 and registered 46 tackles, including 1.0 for loss, five interceptions, eight pass breakups, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and one blocked kick. The junior from Beaufort, South Carolina, was named a Walter Camp All-American, first-team STATS All-American and a second-team All-American by the Associated Press and College Sports Madness. He also earned the College Football Performance Awards Elite Defensive Back Award and was a first-team All-Southern Conference selection. His interceptions total led the SoCon, tied for eighth in FCS and tied for sixth on The Citadel’s single-season list. His 13 passes defended also tied for sixth on the program’s single-season list. He led the Southern Conference in total passes defended and in passes defended in conference play with nine. Delaney has seven interceptions in his career and is tied for ninth on The Citadel’s all-time career list.
Pinson has started all 25 games of his collegiate career at left tackle. He helped produce one of the most prolific rushing offenses in the country, blocking for The Citadel’s offense that led the Southern Conference and ranked in the top five in FCS in rushing yards per game, yards per completion, sacks allowed, tackles for loss allowed, rushing touchdowns and yards per carry. The Wellford, South Carolina, native has helped the Bulldogs break or tie 18 offensive records in the past two seasons. In last season’s playoff win at Coastal Carolina, The Citadel produced four 100-yard rushers in the same game for the first time in school history. The Bulldogs’ rushing total of 524 yards was the highest in a playoff game since 2012 and the second-highest total in FCS in 2015 behind The Citadel’s 535 yards in the season-opening win against Davidson.
Renew was a first-team STATS All-American in 2015 after he appeared in all 13 games with nine starts and compiled 839 yards and five touchdowns on 162 carries. He ranked seventh in the Southern Conference in rushing yards, and his 5.18 yards-per-carry average was eighth. The Columbia, South Carolina, native had his best game in his hometown, rushing for a career-high 174 yards and a career-high two touchdowns in the Bulldogs’ win at South Carolina to earn SoCon Offensive Player of the Week honors. His rushing total was the highest allowed by the Gamecocks at home since Darren McFadden rushed for 219 yards in 2006 and was higher than five teams’ rushing totals against South Carolina in 2015. The next week, Renew was one of a school-record four 100-yard rushers in The Citadel’s win at Coastal Carolina, gaining 129 yards with one touchdown on a career-high 28 carries.
Bednar was the Bulldogs’ starting center in 2015, starting all 13 games, and has 20 starts in his career. He blocked for The Citadel’s offense that led the Southern Conference and ranked in the top five in FCS in rushing yards per game, yards per completion, sacks allowed, tackles for loss allowed, rushing touchdowns and yards per carry. The Glassport, Pennsylvania, native anchored an offensive line that allowed The Citadel to produce four 100-yard rushers in the same game for the first time in school history in the Bulldogs’ playoff win at Coastal Carolina. The Bulldogs’ rushing total of 524 yards was the highest in a playoff game since 2012 and the second-highest total in FCS in 2015 behind The Citadel’s 535 yards in the season-opening win against Davidson.
Diggs started all 13 games in 2015 at safety and has 23 starts in his career. Last season, he recorded 86 tackles, including 1.0 for loss, two interceptions, four pass breakups, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. The Laurinburg, North Carolina, native made a career-high 11 tackles and one pass breakup in the Bulldogs’ win against Wofford and matched his tackle total while adding one forced fumble at No. 9 Chattanooga. His 86 tackles ranked third on the team, and his four pass breakups tied for fourth.