Chattanooga and Furman went in opposite directions this off-season in hiring coaches who will face vastly different challenges.
The Mocs, winners of three straight SoCon titles from 2013-15, went with a brand new name while replacing Russ Huesman. Chattanooga hired Tom Arth, best known as a backup quarterback to Peyton Manning with the Indianapolis Colts, for his first Division I gig.
Furman, meanwhile, dug back into its proud history to hire former Paladins offensive lineman Clay Hendrix. Hendrix, an assistant coach at Air Force for the last 10 years, will try to rebuild a program that boasts 13 SoCon titles, but has just one winning record in the last five years.
Arth, who was 40-8 in four seasons at Division III John Carroll (his alma mater), benefits from the work of Huesman, who inherited a 1-11 team in 2009 and compiled a 59-37 record in eight seasons.
How loaded are the Mocs? They graduated five FCS All-Americans from last year's 9-4 team, yet still placed 10 players on the preseason all-SoCon team.
"I look at this as a very positive thing, a very humbling opportunity to come into a place like Chattanooga that's had so much success and such great players," Arth said. "It's a fantastic opportunity for us, and we're excited about the high expectations and hope we live up to those."
Hendrix, meanwhile, must recharge the Paladins' recruiting efforts. Only one Paladin, senior offensive lineman Matthew Schmidt, made the first-team preseason all-conference squad.
"It's my school, and I spent a long time there and had a lot of success," Hendrix said. "We've got a ways to go, we really do, but I like our team, and for us it's just about re-creating our identity."
Wofford at The Citadel (Oct. 14): The two SoCon favorites met twice last season. The Citadel won by 24-21 in overtime in Spartanburg thanks to Kailik Williams' "Pitch Six" miracle, while Wofford chocked off the Bulldogs' offense in a 17-3 playoff win in Charleston.
Samford at Wofford (Oct. 21): Picked third in the SoCon this season, Samford eked out a 28-26 win over Wofford last season as the Terriers failed on a 2-point conversion in the final minutes.
The Citadel at Samford (Sept. 30): The Citadel required some remarkable plays to edge Samford by 37-34 in OT last season. Tyler Renew rushed for 285 yards, second-best in Citadel history; Cam Jackson's 63-yard run sparked The Citadel when it trailed by 10 in the fourth quarter; Cody Clark made a tying field goal with three seconds left; and Samford bounced a field goal off the upright in OT.
Players to Watch
• Samford QB Devlin Hodges was second in the nation in passing yards per game last year at 340.7, and threw for 36 touchdowns against just eight interceptions.
• Citadel defensive back Kailik Williams (he plays the "rover" position) turned in the SoCon play of the year against Wofford, picking off a pitchout by the Terriers' QB and returning it 13 yards for a tying TD in the fourth quarter to force overtime. Williams had 103 tackles last year with 10 tackles for loss, two interceptions and five passes broken-up.
• Wofford linebacker Datavious Wilson, a 6-1, 235-pound sophomore, was a force as a freshman, leading the Terriers with 96 tackles, with six tackles for loss and two sacks. He should do even more damage this season.
• Mercer and The Citadel will have instant-replay capability for game officials at their home games this season. All SoCon teams should have instant replay by 2019.
• Chattanooga transfers Kareem Orr (from Arizona State) and Markell Boston (from Auburn) should bolster the Mocs' secondary. Transfer running back C.J. Leggett from Georgia Tech is now at Mercer.
• FBS games for the SoCon include VMI at Air Force (Sept. 2); Chattanooga at LSU (Sept. 9); Mercer at Auburn (Sept. 16); Samford at Georgia (Sept. 16); Furman at N.C. State (Sept. 16); and on Nov. 18, Wofford at South Carolina, Mercer at Alabama, The Citadel at Clemson and Western Carolina at North Carolina.