VIDEO: Mike Turner Interview
ROCK HILL, S.C. – For just the sixth time in 30 years, Carson-Newman's football team hasn't been selected to win the South Atlantic Conference.
Carson-Newman comes into 2017 off a 4-7 record and was picked fifth by the league's coaches in the annual preseason poll released by the league office Wednesday.
"This means we've got some work to do," first-year head coach Mike Turner said. "At the same time, I understand the poll. We were young last year and started quite a few freshmen. Like any football coach though, it doesn't matter where it starts, but where it ends at the conclusion of the season."
This is just the second time since 1980 that C-N has been picked to finish lower than second in the preseason poll.
The last time it happened – 2012 – the Eagles earned a first round bye for the NCAA playoffs before traipsing their way to the NCAA quarterfinals before bowing out to Valdosta State.
Newberry was picked to win the league for the first time in its history. The Wolves took home their first South Atlantic Conference Football Championship since 2008 as it claimed the 2016 Title. Newberry finished the 2016 season ranked No. 16 in the country by the American Football Coaches Association with a 10-2 record and an unblemished mark in SAC play.
"My main concern is us taking care of what we're supposed to be doing day-to-day," Turner said. "We need to make sure we believe in everything we're doing from the meeting room, to the class room to the field. We will focus our eyes on what's really important."
Wingate and Mars Hill both collected first-place votes and sit second and third, respectively. Catawba occupies the spot in front of the Eagles in fourth.
"If you sit there as a fan or player and think 'we're picked fifth,'" Turner said. "If you believe we're better then we're going to keep seeking and knocking to make sure that we believe that we are going to get better. Believe in yourself, your teammates your program and most importantly, the God that created you, things are going to go well."
Carson-Newman rival Tusculum sits in sixth while Lenoir-Rhyne and first-year associate member Limestone were tied for seventh.
The Eagles open the season under the lights at Burke-Tarr Stadium on Aug. 31 at 7 p.m. against Pikeville. Coverage of the contest will be available on the Eagle Sports Network beginning with the AEC Tailgate Show at 6 p.m. on Joy 620 (WRJZ-AM, Knoxville), Mountain Country 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) and online at cneagles.com/live.
2017 SAC Football Preseason Poll
Rank School (first-place votes) Points
1. Newberry (6) 55
2. Wingate (1) 47
3. Mars Hill (1) 42
4. Catawba 39
5. Carson-Newman 33
6. Tusculum 26
7. Lenoir-Rhyne 19