According to at least one national sports publication, the University of Minnesota Duluth will again be one of the teams to beat in NCAA Division II football this fall as the The Sporting News slotted the defending NCAA Division II national champion Bulldogs third in its 2009 preseason poll.
In addition, three Bulldogs -- junior running back Isaac Odim, senior cornerback Cole Strilzuk and senior offensive tackle Sam Whitney -- were named to the Sporting News Division II Preseason All-American Team. Odim, a 2008 Football Gazette All-American (third team), established Bulldog single season records for both rushing touchdowns (26) and per carry average (7.3 yards) as a sophomore and also finished as the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference's leading ground gainer. Strilzuk, responded to his first year of starting duty in 2008 by pacing the Bulldogs in interceptions (six) en route to receiving All-NSIC recognition (second team) while Whitney, who also made his starting debut last year, was an All-NSIC honoree (honorable mention) as well.
UMD, which will enter the 2009 season sporting a 16-game winning streak, retains the services of 49 letterwinners from last year's 15-0 club, including six starters on offense and five on defense. The Bulldogs will face just one team which landed in the Sporting News Preseason Poll -- No. 10 Central Washington University -- in a nationally televised home game on Sept. 3.
UMD defeated both of the poll's top two-ranked clubs -- Grand Valley State University (No. 1) and Northwest Missouri State University (No. 2) -- on its way to the 2008 NCAA II championship.
2009 SPORTING NEWS DIVISION II PRESEASON TOP 25
1. Grand Valley State
2. Northwest Missouri State
4. Delta State
6. Pittsburg State
9. Central Oklahoma
10. Central Washington
11. North Alabama
15. Abilene Christian
17. Chadron State
18. Minnesota State-Mankato
19. Valdosta State
21. Seton Hill
22. Indiana (Pa.)
23. American International
24. Arkansas Tech
SPORTING NEWS DIVISION II ALL-AMERICA TEAM
Quarterback: Billy Cundiff, Ashland. Running Backs: LaRon Council, Northwest Missouri State; Isaac Odim, UMD. Wide Receiver: Johnny Spevak, Central Washington; Logan Masters, Wayne State (Neb.); Jeremiah Watts, Merrimack. Offensive Linemen: Tony Washington, Abilene Christian; J'Marcus Webb, West Texas A&M; Jared Veldheer, Hillsdale; Sam Whitney, UMD; Nate Nurse, California (Pa.). Athlete: Scott Buisson, Arkansas-Monticello. Kicker: Mark Petro, Hillsdale.
Defensive Linemen: Danny Richard, Grand Valley State; Marc Schiechl, Colorado School of the Mines; Drew Berube, Hillsdale; Jamaal Steamer, Tarleton State. Linebackers: Lardester Hicks-Green, Delta State; Michael Johnson, North Alabama; John Jacobs, Saginaw Valley State; Matt Freed, East Stroudsburg, Defensive Backs: Cole Strilzuk, UMD; Myles Burnsides, Northwest Missouri State; Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, Indiana (Pa.); Jake Mandelko, Nebraska-Kearney. Punter: John Gregory, Tusculum.
Courtesy: UMD Athletics