FOREST, Va. – Guilford College earned the third spot in the 2016 Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) Football Coaches’ Preseason Poll released Monday. The Quakers received one first-place vote and 41 total points. Defending league champion Washington and Lee University collected six first-place votes and 48 points to lead the poll. Hampden-Sydney College sits second with one top nod and 41 points.
Head coach Chris Rusiewicz begins his sixth Guilford season with nine returning All-ODAC performers and 16 starters back from last year’s 9-1 unit, which set the school record for wins and league wins (6) in a season. He has 64 returning letter winners in preseason camp, including 22 seniors, the biggest senior class in school history. Guilford was ranked 20th in NCAA Division III according to Lindy’s College Football Preview and received votes in the D3football.com Top 25 Poll.
The Quakers will miss the experience and talent of graduated All-Americans Tyler Hunt ’15 (kicker/punter), Matt Pawlowski ’15 (quarterback), and Adam Smith ’15 (receiver), each a 2015 Third Team selection according to D3football.com. However, Guilford’s cupboard is far from empty as Third Team All-American De’Eric Bell (Jackson,
Ga./Jackson) returns for his junior campaign joined by fellow First Team All-ODAC honorees Hunter Hoots (Winston-Salem, N.C/North Davidson), Wes Johnson (Wilmington, N.C./Laney), Ty Shwallon (Richlands, N.C./Richlands) and Gibson Ziah (Snellville, Ga./Snellville).
Bell, who made D3football.com’s preseason All-America squad as a second-team kick returner, was a First Team All-ODAC all-purpose back in 2015. The 5-6, 200-pound running back set school and ODAC records last year for single-season all-purpose yardage (2,235), which ranked second in NCAA Division III. Bell led the Quakers and ranked third in the ODAC with 943 rushing yards, seventh-best in school history. He set the Guilford standard with 736 kickoff return yards and his league-leading 30.7-yard kickoff return average ranked fourth nationally. He starts the year ranked 12th in career rushing yards (1,416) and sixth in kickoff return yards (953).
Bell has the luxury of running behind an offensive line that features seven returning starters. The 2015 starting line supported an offense that set school records for passing touchdowns (43), total offensive yards (5,231) and points (452). Johnson, a 6-2, 280-pound senior, captured First Team All-ODAC honors as a junior and second-team
recognition in 2013. The team captain missed the 2015 season due to injury. Shwallon, a 6-1, 290-pound junior, was Guilford’s highest-graded lineman in six of 10 games last season at his right tackle position. All-ODAC linemen Pat Charvat (Greensboro, N.C./South Central) and Steven Gordon (Greensboro, N.C./Western Guilford) also return to the fold.
Hoots, a senior linebacker, is back after leading Guilford in tackles (84) a year ago. He ranked fifth among 2015 ODAC tackles per game leaders and was a Third Team All-South honoree in 2014. Ziah, also a two-time all-league standout, ranked third among ODAC sacks leaders (4.5) and 15th in tackles per loss (7.5). The 6-2, 220-pound defensive end was a third-team all-conference player as a freshman. Senior safety Karl Roberts (Charlotte, N.C./North Mecklenbuug) and junior lineman Patrick Volk (Durham, N.C./Riverside) are other returning all-league performers on the Quakers’ defense.
Rusiewicz’s Quakers open the season with the 20th annual Gate City Soup Bowl against Greensboro College Sept. 3 at 7:00 p.m. on Guilford’s Appenzeller Field in the Armfield Athletic Center.
Old Dominion Athletic Conference Football Coaches’ Poll (first-place votes in parentheses)
1. Washington and Lee (6) 48, 2. Hampden-Sydney (1) 41, 3. Guilford (1) 35, 4. Emory & Henry 31, T5. Bridgewater 23, T5. Randolph-Macon 23, 7. Shenandoah 16, 8. Catholic 7.