Campbell and North Carolina A&T will be doing something this season that Monmouth and Hampton showed last season is a difficult assignment.
They’ll try to navigate through the weekly grind of the CAA Football schedule after joining the conference out of the Big South.
The additions of Campbell and N.C. A&T have raised the CAA to 15 football members, making it the biggest conference in the 46-year history of Division I FCS. The change is so grand the CAA has made a name change to the Coastal Athletic Association from the Colonial Athletic Association, with its football programs located in 10 states which stretch from Maine to North Carolina.
William & Mary was made a prohibitive favorite over fellow 2022 co-champ New Hampshire in the CAA’s preseason coaches poll on Tuesday. The Big South-to-CAA leap reflects in the poll with Monmouth in the eighth and middle spot, N.C. A&T 10th, Campbell 12th and Hampton 15th. Monmouth went 3-5 and Hampton 1-7 in their first tour around the CAA last season.
The CAA has long been noted for the difficulty of its eight-game conference schedule. Kevin Callahan, the only head coach in Monmouth’s 31-season history, talked during CAA virtual media day about what the new programs may encounter playing-wise.
“Size and strength. As we got into the Big South many years ago, it became very apparent early on that we needed to be faster,” Callahan said. “And we spent a lot of time improving our team speed in all positions. And by the time we left the Big South, I would say we were arguably the fastest team – maybe us and maybe one other team were up there.
“As we entered the CAA, it became very apparent that we were fast enough to play in the CAA. As a matter of fact, we may have been faster than a lot of teams in the conference. We didn’t have the size, particularly in the front seven on defense. And that’s where you see the size differential, where in the Big South you could play with maybe a 260-pound defensive lineman. In the CAA, they better be 290 or you’re going to have trouble.”
A stocked offensive line aids in defending the CAA pass rushers. Campbell returns 6-foot-7, 355-pound Mike Edwards and N.C. A&T has 6-6, 300-pound Tairiq Stewart, who both earned spots on the CAA preseason team. Campbell also boasts quarterback Hajj Malik-Williams, who’s expected to open a fifth straight season as the starting quarterback, while N.C. A&T’s key returning players include cornerback Karon Prunty, an CAA preseason selection.
William & Mary (11-2), which last season advanced the furthest among five CAA playoff qualifiers by reaching the quarterfinal round for the first time since 2009, had the most selections on the conference’s preseason team with seven. Included was reigning CAA defensive player of the year John Pius, who finished second in voting for the Buck Buchanan Award, which honors the national defensive player of the year.
New Hampshire was second with five preseason honorees, including running back/punt returner Dylan Laube, who, like Pius, made the Stats Perform FCS All-America first team a year ago. Running back Jaden Shirden, the FCS rushing leader, also was a first-team All-American and returns as the CAA offensive player of the year.
William & Mary and New Hampshire aren’t scheduled to play each other again in the large CAA schedule. They last met in 2017.
CAA Preseason Poll
- William & Mary (2022: 11-2, 7-1), 195 points (13 first-place votes)
- New Hampshire (9-4, 7-1), 179 (1)
- Richmond (9-4, 6-2), 159
- Delaware (8-5, 4-4), 149 (1)
- Elon (8-4, 6-2), 146
- Rhode Island (11-2, 7-1), 135
- Villanova (6-5, 4-4), 129
- Monmouth (5-6, 3-5), 94
- Towson (6-5, 4-4), 85
- North Carolina A&T (7-4, 4-1 Big South), 70
- UAlbany (3-8, 2-6), 64
- Campbell (5-6, 2-6 Big South), 62
- Maine (2-9, 2-6), 40
- Stony Brook (2-9, 1-7), 38
- Hampton (4-7, 1-7), 30
Preseason Offensive Player of the Year
Jaden Shirden, RB, Monmouth
Preseason Defensive Player of the Year
John Pius, LB, William & Mary