SMITHFIELD, R.I. – For the first time since joining the Northeast Conference in 2009, the Bryant University football team has been named the preseason favorite as it received four first place votes in the annual NEC Preseason Coaches’ Poll released on Thursday during NEC Football Media day at MetLife Stadium.
The Bulldogs were one of three teams to earn a first-place vote and are coming off a breakout season in which they went 8-3 overall and 4-2 in the NEC. Duquesne received one first-place vote to place second in the voting and two-time defending champion Sacred Heart is third after receiving the final two votes. Wagner, Saint Francis U., Central Connecticut and Robert Morris round out the preseason poll.
In addition, the Black and Gold placed four players on the NEC Preseason All-Conference team. Senior running back Ricardo McCray (Middletown, R.I.), senior wide receiver Chad Ward (Delray Beach, Fla.), senior offensive lineman Abe M’Bodj (North Beach, Md.) and junior offensive lineman George Smith (Thomaston, Conn.) were all selected to the preseason all-conference team on offense.
McCray was a Second Team All-NEC selection last fall after finishing with 814 yards and 10 touchdowns on 147 carries. He also caught 30 passes for 366 yards and four touchdowns. McCray recorded four games of 100 yards or more and surpassed the 200-yard plateau against Central Connecticut. He rushed for 243 yards and three touchdowns on just 12 carries.
Ward, a First Team All-NEC performer last season, put together a career-year in 2014, finishing 46 catches for 667 yards and five touchdowns. He averaged 60.6 yards per game and posted three 100-yard games. Ward caught game-winning touchdowns against Stony Brook and Maine and hauled in at least one pass in all 11 games.
M’Bodj and Smith were strongholds on the offensive line last season for the Black and Gold and both earned First Team All-NEC honors in the process. The two helped Bryant lead the NEC in rushing yards per game and helped the Bulldogs average nearly 200 passing yards per game.