Butler Tabbed Second In PFL Preseason Poll

Butler Tabbed Second In PFL Preseason Poll
Defensive end Jeremy Stephens

INDIANAPOLIS, IND. -- Butler, coming off a share of last year's Pioneer Football League championship, was picked second by the narrowest of margins in the PFL's preseason poll of league coaches.  The Bulldogs received four first place votes in the poll and finished one point behind preseason league favorite San Diego.

Last season, the PFL title race ended in a three-way tie, and league coaches are forecasting another tight race in 2013.  Four teams received at least one first place vote in the preseason coaches' poll and the top four teams in the poll were separated by just 12 points.

San Diego, which picked up a share of its second consecutive PFL crown last fall, received five first place votes and 111 total points in the coaches' preseason poll.  Butler picked up 110 points, while Jacksonville and Drake each received 99 points.  Jacksonville had a pair of first place votes, with Drake picking up the remaining No. 1 nod.

Dayton came in fifth in the poll with 85 points, followed by Marist (67), Morehead State (65), Campbell (49), Davidson (42), Valparaiso (32), Mercer (20) and Stetson (13).  Points were awarded on the basis of 11 for a first place vote, 10 for a second, nine for a third, etc.  Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own teams.
Butler returns 17 starters from last year's 8-3 squad, which posted a 7-1 PFL mark and tied with San Diego and Drake for the league title.  Among the returnees are two of the top offensive players in the PFL, quarterback Matt Lancaster and running back Trae Heeter.  Lancaster, who was named 2012 PFL Offensive Player of the Year, led all PFL quarterbacks in rushing with 408 yards, and he ranked second in the league in total offense with 3,116 yards.  Heeter led the PFL in rushing with 1,103 yards.  Seven additional offensive starters are on hand from last year's squad, which ranked second in the PFL in total offense.

The Bulldogs also boast three of the PFL's top returning defensive performers in defensive backs Sean Grady and Jayme Szafranski and defensive lineman Jeremy Stephens.  Grady finished 12th in the PFL in tackles (84) last fall, while Szafranski wound up 13th (81).  Stephens led all PFL linemen in tackles (71) and finished second in the league in tackles for loss (14).  The three are among eight returning defensive starters for the Bulldogs.

The 2013 season marks the 21st year for the Pioneer Football League - the nation's only non-scholarship, football-only NCAA Football Championship Subdivision conference.  The league expanded to 12 members this year with the addition of Mercer and Stetson, two schools that have re-started their football programs.  Also this season, the PFL's regular-season champion will receive an automatic bid into the 24-team 2013 NCAA Division I Football Championship.

Five PFL teams will kickoff the 2013 season on Thursday, August 29, with the remaining seven squads, including Butler, starting on Saturday, August 31.