BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. — The Shepherd Rams were picked to win the inaugural Mountain East Conference football championship following a vote of the MEC's 11 coaches, the league announced Tuesday.
Shepherd collected eight of 11 possible first-place votes and compiled 117 points.
Charleston received 101 points, with two first-place votes, to land in second place, ahead of Concord (94), Glenville State (83), West Liberty (79), Urbana (75 points, one first-place vote), Fairmont State (51), Notre Dame College (40), Virginia-Wise (31), West Virginia State (28) and West Virginia Wesleyan (27).
Shepherd returns eight starters on both offense and defense from a team that went 8-3 and earned a berth in the NCAA playoffs. The Rams will have to replace starting quarterback Bobby Cooper, but they return their entire offensive line that will pave the way for Jihad Rasheed and Allen Cross. The Rams also boast a stout defense that led the country in rushing defense each of the past two seasons and boasts All-America candidates Howard Jones (defensive lineman) and Keon Robinson (cornerback/return specialist).
Virginia-Wise has 15 starters (nine on offense and six on defense) back from last season's team that went 3-8 in its final year of NAIA play. The returnees include running back Zach Cochran (301 yards, five touchdowns), wide receiver Terrance Younger (24 receptions for 516 yards) and safety Marcus Jones (65 tackles, six for a loss).
The first season of MEC football opens Sept. 5, with conference play beginning Sept. 14.
2013 Mountain East Conference Preseason Poll
(first-place votes in parentheses)
1. Shepherd (8) 117
2. Charleston (2) 101
3. Concord 94
4. Glenville State 83
5. West Liberty 79
6. Urbana (1) 75
7. Fairmont State 51
8. Notre Dame College 40
9. Virginia-Wise 31
10. West Virginia State 28
11. West Virginia Wesleyan 27
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