SPARTANBURG — Last season, The Citadel’s football team was picked to finish seventh in the Southern Conference. The Bulldogs surprised by knocking off SoCon powers Appalachian State and Georgia Southern and earning a tie for fourth place.

All that earned them in this year’s preseason polls was a bump up to sixth in voting by both league coaches and media.

“It came as a shock, a little bit,” senior quarterback Ben Dupree said at SoCon media day on Wednesday. “I thought we’d be picked a little higher. But it’s just more motivation to work a little harder. If we were picked in the top three, I wouldn’t dwell on that either. It doesn’t change how I look at this season.”

Senior defensive tackle Derek Douglas said the Bulldogs, 7-4 overall and 5-3 in the league a year ago, will have to confound expectations again.

“I’ll say the same thing I said last year — someone is counting us out and making a mistake,” he said. “We proved that wrong last year, and this year we’re looking to win a conference championship and go as far as we can.”

Georgia Southern and Appalachian State were picked 1-2 in the coaches poll, but both are ineligible for the SoCon championship as they transition to FBS and the Sun Belt Conference.

But Eagles coach Jeff Monken and App State’s Scott Satterfield squelched speculation that they might redshirt players this season to save them for their Sun Belt debut in 2014.

“Nothing changes,” Monken said. “I’ve got fifth-year seniors, and we owe it to them to have the best season we can have. It wouldn’t be fair to them to redshirt everyone and say, ‘This season doesn’t count.’

“That might be the case some places, but not at Georgia Southern. We’re going to try to play the best football we are capable of playing.”

Said App State’s Satterfield, “Now, the regular season is even more important. That’s all you’ve got. You are not guaranteed anything else, so you have to play each game like it’s your last.”

With GSU and App State ineligible for the league title, Chattanooga, Wofford and Samford are seen as the top three contenders. Chattanooga was third in the coaches poll and fourth by the media; Wofford was the second pick of the media and fifth by the coaches; and Samford was fourth in both polls.

All-SoCon

Citadel defensive tackle Derek Douglas was the only Bulldog to make the coaches preseason All-SoCon first team, with four Bulldogs on the second team — fullback Darien Robinson, lineman Cullen Brown, linebacker Carson Smith and cornerback Brandon McCladdie.

App State QB Jamal Londry-Jackson was named offensive player of the year, with Samford safety Jaquiuski Tartt and Chattanooga linebacker Davis Tull sharing the defensive player award.

All-Southern Conference

First Team Offense

QB Jamal Londry-Jackson, Sr., Appalachian State; RB Dominique Swope, Jr., Georgia Southern; RB Fabian Truss, Sr., Samford; OL Kendall Lamm, Jr., Appalachian State; OL Dakota Dozier, Sr., Furman; OL Dorian Byrd, Sr., Georgia Southern; OL Ty Gregory, Sr., Wofford; OL Jared Singleton, Sr., Wofford; TE Faysal Shafaat, Jr., Chattanooga; WR Andrew Peacock, Sr., Appalachian State; WR Sean Price, So., Appalachian State; WR (tie) Kelsey Pope, Sr., Samford.

First Team Defense

DL Ronald Blair, Jr., Appalachian State; DL Derek Douglas, Sr., The Citadel; DL Derrick Lott, Sr., Chattanooga; DL Davis Tull, Jr., Chattanooga; LB Jonathan Spain, Jr., Elon; LB Wes Dothard, Sr., Chattanooga; LB Alvin Scioneaux, Sr., Wofford; DB Lavelle Westbrooks, Sr., Georgia Southern; DB Jaquiski Tartt, Jr., Samford; DB D.J. Key, Sr., Chattanooga; DB Kadeem Wise, Sr., Chattanooga.

First Team Specialists

PK Ray Earley, Sr., Furman; P Ray Earley, Sr., Furman; RS Tony Washington, Sr., Appalachian State.