After winning its second conference title in three seasons, Central Connecticut football team was tabbed the unanimous favorite in the Northeast Conference preseason coaches' poll it was announced during the league's 2020 Virtual Social Media Day on Thursday. The Blue Devils also had seven players named to the Preseason All-Northeast Conference Team.
CCSU collected six first-place votes after setting a program-record with an 11-2 record in 2019 and going unbeaten in league play. The Blue Devils finished the season ranked No. 22 in the American Football Coaches Association FCS Coaches' Poll and 23rd in the Stats Perform FCS Top 25. Central earned its second trip to the FCS Playoffs and played Albany in the first round.
Central's offense, which led the conference in scoring and yardage last season, had three players named to the Preseason All-NEC Team. Senior wide receiver Tyshaun James led the NEC and ranked 23rd nationally with 14 total touchdowns last season. James, an All-NEC First Team choice as a junior, ranked 12th in the NCAA with 20.38 yards per reception and totalled 978 receiving yards. Seniors J'Von Brown and JJ Colimon return to anchor the offensive line. The Blue Devils piled up 415.9 yards per game and scored 34.3 points per game. Colimon played in 12 games and helped CCSU rank 17th nationally in rushing yards per game. Brown, a Preseason All-American and Preseason All-NEC choice in 2019, was limited to just four games due to injury.
The defensive unit had four representatives on the preseason team. Senior linebacker Tre Jones earned All-NEC First Team honors after ranking fourth in the NEC with 8.0 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss, along with 58.0 tackles. Junior linebacker Foday Jalloh had a team-high 81 tackles and earned All-Northeast Conference Second Team accolades, while junior defensive back Dexter Lawson led the league with six interceptions to earn All-Northeast Conference Second Team honors as well. Sophomore Noah Washington also earned preseason honors after recording 15.0 tackles and two sacks along the defensive line.
The Blue Devils were represented by head coach Ryan McCarthy and James and Jones at the league's kickoff event, held virtually this season. Central was undefeated against NEC opponents last year and had just one loss against FCS foes in 2019.
Central collected all six first-place votes in the preseason poll. Duquesne, Sacred Heart and Saint Francis U followed CCSU and rounded out the top four spots.