The Big South has an entirely new feel in 2022 with traditional contenders Kennesaw State (ASUN) and Monmouth (CAA) no longer being the members to control the conference championship chase by default.
More league membership turnover is forthcoming in 2023 along with an automatic-bid-preserving partnership with the Ohio Valley Conference. In the meantime, the free-standing Big South appears to be wide open for a new occupant to take what has been KSU and Monmouth’s throne to lose (and trade). Case in point, the Owls and Hawks went from 2017 to 2021 losing only to each other in conference play.
Returning All-Conference Players
From last season
Bryant – 7: DL Jack Daly (1st team NEC), DL Kenny Dyson, Jr. (2nd team NEC), LB Joe Andreessen (1st team NEC), LB Ryan Saddler (1st team NEC), OL Trevor Smith (2nd team NEC), QB Zevi Eckhaus (1st team NEC), WR David Zorrilla (2nd team NEC)
Charleston Southern – 4: DB Hombre Kennedy (2nd team), DL Anton Williams (2nd team), LB Garrett Sayegh (1st team), WR Cayden Jordan (2nd team)
Campbell – 4: DL Brevin Allen (1st team), KR Josh McNeely (2nd team), OL Tyler McLellan (1st team), TE Julian Hill (1st team)
Gardner-Webb – 4: DL Ty French (1st team), LB William McRainey (1st team), OL Gabriel Thompson (2nd team), RB Narii Gaither (1st team)
North Carolina A&T – 2: LB Jacob Roberts (2nd team), OL Dacquari Wilson (2nd team)
Robert Morris – 2: DL Ricardo Watson (2nd team), LB Jamar Shegog (2nd team)
Returning HERO Sports All-Americans
From last season
Gardner-Webb – 2: DL Ty French (Soph.), LB William McRainey (Soph.)
Bryant – 1: QB Zevi Eckhaus (Fresh.)
Campbell – 1: DL Brevin Allen (3rd team)
North Carolina A&T – 1: LB Jacob Roberts (Soph.)
Teams With The Most D1 Transfers
Charleston Southern – 9 (2 FBS, 7 FCS)
Campbell – 8 (7 FBS, 1 FCS)
North Carolina A&T – 7 (4 FBS, 3 FCS)
Robert Morris – 3 (3 FCS)
Names To Know
TOP OFFENSIVE PLAYER: Zevi Eckhaus, Bryant QB — Eckhaus completed the most prolific passing season by a freshman in Bryant history, as his 216.18 passing yards per game were good for top-35 nationally and notably exceeded the marks of Jake Dunniway, Zerrick Cooper, and Chris Oladokun in that category. A Jerry Rice Award finalist (fourth-place finisher), Eckhaus’ sparkling 21:3 TD:INT ratio, his four 300-yard passing games, and his multiple touchdown tosses in each of the Bulldogs’ last eight games in fall 2021 combine to suggest Walter Payton Award and program-altering upside.
TOP DEFENSIVE PLAYER: William McRainey, Gardner-Webb LB — McRainey accrued 108 total tackles (55 solo), three sacks, three pass deflections, two forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery in fall 2021. He will have the chance to impress with similar work across the stat sheet in The Webb’s whopping three FBS games this season (at Coastal Carolina, Marshall, and Liberty).
THE NFL PROSPECT: Brevin Allen, Campbell DL — Allen is a terror to opposing backfields. Campbell’s single-season record-holder for sacks, Allen was the (arguably runaway) 2021 Big South DPOY. He led the conference in tackles for loss with 17.5 while notching a sack in seven games. The Fighting Camels may be recruiting future studs left and right with their success in the most recent commitment cycle, but the 6-4, 265-pound Allen will be first to get the call from the pros.
Predicted Order of Finish
2. North Carolina A&T
4. Charleston Southern
6. Robert Morris
“We will win the Big South championship.” – Campbell quarterback Hajj-Malik Williams, Big South media day
This P.O.O.F. heeds Williams’ aggressive forecast, but to fulfill it, the Fighting Camels have to navigate midseason, consecutive road games at (projected 2) North Carolina A&T and (3) Bryant. If Campbell falters in either, it clears the way for the Aggies or Bulldogs to swoop in to the Big South automatic bid. That’s not to mention the Camels’ junket to Jackson State immediately before the A&T/Bryant pair of games.
Campbell and Bryant are each seeking a program-first FCS playoffs appearance. Also in this club is Gardner-Webb, which could be the closest dark horse candidate one can find in the league. The Runnin’ Bulldogs’ 10 preseason All-Big South selections, keyed by preseason OPOY RB Narii Gaither, matched Campbell’s total to tie the league lead. G-W returns 24 starters from a team that lost five games when it led or was tied in the final four minutes (standing out are one-possession decisions at Georgia Southern and Kennesaw State).